President Donald Trump on Friday formally threw his weight behind an administration push to compel power companies to keep their coal-fired and nuclear plants operating in the name of national security — an effort that has stirred criticism from environmentalists, the oil and gas industry and some free-market Republicans.
Trump “has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Friday.
The White House has yet to spell out details of what those steps would entail.
Sanders added that Trump believes "keeping America's energy grid and infrastructure strong and secure protects our national security… Unfortunately, impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation's energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid.”
The statement came five months after Perry failed to persuade federal grid regulators to adopt an earlier proposal to keep economically ailing coal and nuclear power plants operating. That proposal would have overwhelmingly benefited mining magnate Bob Murray, an outspoken Trump supporter whose operations supply coal to several endangered plants in the Midwest and Northeast, according to a POLITICO analysis.
The National Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss a draft memo that outlines a plan to require grid operators to buy power from coal-fired and nuclear plants for 24 months while a more detailed national security study is under way. The memo argues that "fuel security" is crucial for protecting the grid against possible disruption from physical or cyberattacks on pipelines.
However, grid operators and utilities have said the vast majority of the nation faces no near term threat from supply disruption.
Bloomberg first reported on the memo late Thursday.