FERC Regulators: There Is No Grid Emergency

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

Federal regulators threw cold water on President Donald Trump’s proposal to rescue failing coal and nuclear plants while speaking at a Senate committee meeting.

Appearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, all five members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission disputed the Trump administration’s claims that the closure of nuclear and coal plants across the country is placing the U.S. power grid at risk. Members made clear that they do not believe emergency measures are necessary to keep uneconomical power plants operational.

“There is no immediate calamity or threat to our ongoing ability to have our bulk power system operate and satisfy our energy needs,” said FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre on Tuesday, adding that existing power sources are more than enough to supply the country’s energy needs. “When it comes to resilience, we need to take a longer-term lens and ask ourselves what the future landscape of our generation mix looks like.”

His colleagues on the Commission — both Republican and Democrat — expressed similar statements during the hearing.

“I think reliability has been protected and I am confident it can continue to be if we are vigilant about any localized issues,” stated commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, a former FERC chairwoman. When asked directly if they believed the U.S. was facing a national security emergency, not a single member answered in the affirmative. (RELATED: Coal, Not Nuclear, Is Trump’s Biggest Concern In Energy Sector)

Their comments came after the Trump administration released a directive that mandates the purchase of electricity from a list of coal and nuclear plants. Arguing the issue is a matter of national security, the White House will utilize two different emergency powers — the Defense Production Act and section 202 of the Federal Powers Act — to require grid operators purchase electricity from at-risk plants. The mandate would last two years as the Department of Energy examines the vulnerabilities of the U.S. energy delivery systems.

While FERC disagreed that there is currently an emergency, members relented that threats to grid reliability could emerge in the future.

Commissioner Neil Chatterjee said that the Trump administration and Congress “should not assume that good fortune will continue.” The Republican FERC member added: “You may not get into an accident tonight. That doesn’t mean you won’t get into an accident at rush-hour tomorrow.”

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