Let’s just agree that it’s impossible to keep up with all of the affronts that the current U.S. administration is perpetuating on every environmental front — whether it’s advocating an industry-led framework for regulating toxic chemicals, turning off the faucet on clean water policies or pulling the plug on support for clean power research and incentives. This list could go on, but even cyberspace has limits.
One saga that I’m watching with particularly keen interest surrounds Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s ongoing attempts to force the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to declare that coal and nuclear plants must live on in the interest of national security. Apparently, the White House’s friends in the coal industry didn’t like the memo issued last year shrugging off that argument. So they’re asking for a do-over review.
I worry about this assault because it could threaten competitive wholesale markets by paying money-losing coal and nuclear generators to stay online. That could make it more economically difficult for state commissions to support the ongoing transition to clean power. Just last week, FERC issued rulings related to a closely PJM proposal that could disrupt the whole notion of capacity markets. In short, the disruption is just beginning.
One of the more ironic twists of all this bickering, in my mind, is that it’s focused mainly on generation capacity as the hallmark of resilience. Newsflash: If electric wires and substations and transmissions are knocked out in a storm, it doesn’t matter if you have 30 days of coal stockpiled to save the day.