Trump's Own Picks Block His Subsidies for Coal Power Plants

01_09_TrumpCoal
President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., January 8. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

After President Donald Trump promised to bring back "beautiful" coal power plants, a group of his appointees ruled against the idea Monday on the grounds that subsidies that would favor struggling plants would interfere in energy markets.

Trump appointed four of the five officials that sit on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who rejected the plan Secretary of Energy Rick Perry submitted in September, arguing it would discriminate against producers of other sources of energy.

It has "not been shown that the remedy in the Proposed Rule would not be unduly discriminatory or preferential," said the panel in an order rejecting Perry's proposal, noting it could impact the price of electricity and would require power producers to "have a 90-day fuel supply on-site."

01_09_TrumpCoal
President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., January 8. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Perry's fuel supply condition "would appear to permit only certain resources to be eligible for the rate, thereby excluding other resources" that would contribute to a resilient power grid, the order said.

"Resource turnover is a natural consequence of markets, and the reduced prices that result from greater competition are a benefit to customers, not a problem to solve, unless reliability is compromised," wrote Cheryl LaFleur, the only holdover from the Obama administration on the panel, in the decision. The panel regulates energy markets.

Since 2009, the cost of solar power generation has dropped 85 percent, making it competitive with the price of natural gas, according to a report by the asset management firm Lazard.

Trump's former 2016 campaign chief Corey Lewandowski accused the appointees on the commission of being members of "the deep state" on Twitter Tuesday, arguing they are just "more government officials who don't support the Trump agenda"—even though the president was the one who appointed them.

Throughout the 2016 election and into his administration, Trump has vowed to bring back the U.S. coal industry, which has languished for years as power suppliers have switched to cheaper natural gas and renewable power sources.

Read more: Bitcoin mining on track to consume all of the world's energy by 2020

The president has fought against environmental policies like the Paris climate accord, which he withdrew from over the summer, because they could impact the fossil fuel industry.

"We're lifting restrictions on American energy and we've ended the war on coal," Trump said as he delivered remarks about deregulation on December 14, 2017.

"They said, oh coal will never come back. Now we're opening up lines and we're drilling and we're doing all sorts of things," Trump noted during a rally in Pensacola, Florida, days earlier, adding that renewable energy from windmills is "wonderful, but you know what, when the wind doesn't blow they really do cause problems."

That's not what his appointees at the energy regulator found. "To the contrary," wrote Trump appointee Commissioner Richard Glick in the group's decision, "the addition of a diverse array of generation resources, including natural gas, solar, wind, and geothermal, as well as maturing technologies, such as energy storage, distributed generation, and demand response, have in many respects contributed to the resilience of the bulk power system."

"The record in this proceeding," Glick wrote, "does not demonstrate any need for the Commission to interfere with the continued evolution of the bulk power system."

Trump's Own Picks Block His Subsidies for Coal Power Plants | U.S.