By Robert A. Vella
Coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp. slammed a trio of green groups Tuesday for saying that it played a central role in the writing of a Trump administration proposal to require higher payments for coal-fired power plants.
The fiery response from the largest privately-held coal mining company came in response to a letter that the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week.
At issue is a news story from In These Times that showed photos of Murray CEO Bob Murray meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry earlier this year.
The Energy Department does not itself have the authority to create the rule.
Instead, Perry is relying on a little-used authority he has under a 1977 law to formally call upon FERC to issue the regulation. While FERC commissioners are appointed by the president, the agency is otherwise independent and not obligated to follow through on Perry’s request.
Under Perry’s proposal, independent system operators and regional transmission organizations — the entities that operate regional electric grids — would be required when signing wholesale electricity contracts to allow certain “resilient” power plants to get a “fair rate of return,” even when prices would otherwise be lower.
Currently, grid operators in most of the country use competitive markets, in which the lowest-cost power sources usually get contracts.
Since FERC’s rules must not choose one power source over another, Perry’s proposal would apply to plants with a 90-day on-site fuel supply and “be able to provide essential energy and ancillary reliability services.”
That definition appears to apply to coal, nuclear and hydroelectric power. Natural gas plants usually receive fuel via pipeline, but could ostensibly store a 90-day supply.
In February, Murray reiterated his claim that global warming is a “hoax.” In April, he asserted that Trump can “bring back coal” and that the president “is doing wonderful things for coal.” Murray predicted in June that Trump “will restore even more coal jobs,” and boasted in October that the president “will save thousands of coal mining jobs.” During the 2016 election cycle, Murray Energy donated nearly $2 million to Republican Party organizations, GOP candidates (including Donald Trump), and outside conservative advocacy groups (i.e. Super PACs).
In addition to the above cited backlash by environmental groups, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued the following statement:
“In the wake of some of the most devastating storms in our nation’s history, it’s outrageous that the Trump administration would seek to prop up our dirtiest, most expensive, and climate-polluting sources of energy under the guise of promoting resiliency and reliability.
States like New York have demonstrated that clean, renewable forms of energy not only enhance public health and our environment, but also add jobs, hold the line on electricity rates, and make our energy systems more secure and reliable.
Given that the leading cause of power outages is extreme weather—which is exacerbated by climate change— the Trump administration’s head-in-the-sand approach would actually undermine grid resiliency and reliability while promoting climate change and its catastrophic impacts.
My office will forcefully oppose this and other efforts of the Trump administration to put the interests of special interests ahead of the health, safety, and wallets of New Yorkers.”