Trump administration seeks to subsidize coal, keep old plants burning

(© Sanjay Suchak)

President Trump is seeking to subsidize over-budget nuclear reactors and outdated coal facilities while ordering his energy secretary to halt the closures of uneconomical coal plants, turning back the clock on years of energy advances and economic trends.

The two jarring announcements were reported Friday and mark a stunning level of free-market hypocrisy, even from an administration that consistently elevates the wants of fossil-fuel lobbyists above the needs of citizens.

This unprecedented market intervention takes aim at a thriving clean-energy industry, not to mention the harm it will do to communities that have long suffered from coal’s toxic air pollution,” said Frank Rambo, SELC’s Air and Energy Team leader. “It’s surreal, like a throwback to when some doctors recommended cigarettes.”

These intrusive coal and nuclear subsidies are being floated by an administration that falsely decried the landmark rule by the Obama EPA to control carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel fired power plants as meddling in energy markets. 

Bloomberg also reported Friday that President Trump has ordered his energy secretary to put a stop to the trend of utilities retiring old, outdated, and unprofitable coal plants, under the guise that closing the aging and polluting plants “is putting the nation’s security at risk.”

Keeping these antiquated coal plants open has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with President Trump pandering to coal executives and lobbyists,” Rambo said. “This ill-advised order will not only be bad for our health and environment, but bad for our economy. We are seeing the shift to cleaner energy optionsbecause that’s what the economy is dictating. If President Trump props up the energy of the past, he will surely risk the future of energy.”

The six states served by SELC – Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama – have been disproportionately harmed by the South’s reliance on coal. Coal burning has polluted the atmosphere with toxics like mercury that then settle into water, and coal ash storage has polluted rivers, groundwater, and drinking-water sources across the region.

In the past decade in the south, according to SELC research, more than 125 outdated coal plants have been retired or will be by 2020. Utilities, driven by market forces, vastly reduced reliance on coal in favor of cheaper power sources, like natural gas and renewable energy.

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