Trump Orders a Lifeline for Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants

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If the Trump administration were to invoke these two statutes, the move would almost certainly be challenged in federal court by natural gas and renewable energy companies, which could stand to lose market share.

Depending on what the Trump administration decides, an intervention to prop up unprofitable coal and nuclear plants could cost consumers between $311 million to $11.8 billion per year, according to a preliminary estimate by Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation.

Some analysts have asserted that there is an environmental case for keeping the nation’s ailing nuclear plants open, since, if they closed, their carbon-free electricity would most likely be replaced by natural gas and emissions would rise. A few states, including New York and New Jersey, have offered subsidies to their struggling nuclear plants in the name of fighting climate change.

There is no environmental argument for keeping open coal plants, which are the most carbon-intensive form of power.

The leaked memo circulating within the White House does not mention climate change. Instead, it says that the loss of both coal and nuclear plants could threaten national security, given that Department of Defense installations are 99 percent dependent on the grid.

Among other things, the report asserts that natural gas pipelines are vulnerable to cyberattacks and that coal and nuclear plants are essential during extreme weather because they can keep large amounts of fuel on-hand.

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