WASHINGTON, D.C. (ABC NEWS)- In a rare move, the Trump administration confirmed Friday that it will take “immediate steps” to prevent coal and nuclear power facilities in the U.S. from closing.
A statement from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not say specifically what steps the administration would take but said that “keeping America’s energy grid and infrastructure strong and secure protects our national security, public safety, and economy from intentional attacks and natural disasters.”
“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,” Sanders said in a statement.
The National Security Council reportedly discussed a draft memo on Friday, reported by Bloomberg News, that would direct electrical grid operators to purchase electricity from coal, nuclear, or oil-fueled facilities at risk of closing.
The draft memo laying out the directive doesn’t give a specific amount operators would have to spend but says it will be enough to keep the facilities open for the next two years, saying that U.S. national security “relies on a robust U.S. domestic industrial base, of which the coal, nuclear, and oil and natural gas industries are critical strategic components.”
The Department of Energy did not respond to a request for comment on the memo.
The administration says the move will prevent coal and nuclear power plants critical to the electrical grid from closing, but opponents say the requirement is essentially a bailout for a dying industry that the president promised to save and will cause Americans’ electricity bills to get more expensive.
According to data from the Energy Information Administration, coal consumption has fallen about 20 percent compared to last year, from about 149,200,000 short tons in the first two months of 2017 to just under 119,600,000 short tons in the first two months of 2018.
The EIA also reports that nearly all power plants that retired between 2008 and 2017 were fossil fuel plants and that most plants that plan to close before 2020 use coal or natural gas. But the agency said that most of the coal powered plants that closed were “relatively old and small.”