A major operator of utilities whose coal plants are at risk of shutting down said Friday it doesn't know of any potential emergency action by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to keep the plants running.
Bloomberg reported Thursday night that Perry is considering using his authority under Section 202 of the Federal Power Act to order coal plants run by FirstEnergy Solutions to remain online “to serve the public interest.”
Such action is traditionally reserved for when the nation's electricity supply is threatened by an emergency, such as war or natural disaster.
FirstEnergy denied knowing of any impending action from Perry, but said it would welcome the support.
“Though we support actions that would help preserve baseload coal and nuclear plants, I am not aware of any Section 202 effort involving FirstEnergy,” said Jennifer Young, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman, in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
Last year, the Trump administration declined a request from Ohio-based FirstEnergy and its main supplier, Murray Energy, the largest privately own coal company in the U.S., to use the little-known emergency powers to stop coal plants from closing.
"With respect to this particular case at this particular time, the White House and the Department of Energy are in agreement that the evidence does not warrant the use of this emergency authority," Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said at the time.
The agency used the authority in limited fashion last year to keep a coal plant open in Oklahoma for electric reliability reasons. The power plant had been slated for retirement due to 2011 Environmental Protection Agency regulations over conventional air pollutants.
Hynes denied that Perry is planning new forthcoming action, telling Bloomberg “that is not correct information.”
But coal supporters have asked Perry to reconsider, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied his request to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants to reward them for their ability to store energy for 90 days on-site.
The commission found there's no evidence that past or planned retirements of coal plants threaten the reliability of the nation's power grid.
Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray has advocated for the Trump administration to take action. He met with Perry on March 29 to discuss the Energy Department’s forthcoming grid study that later became part of the justification for the proposed rule that FERC help coal and nuclear plants, and expressed disappointment when it failed to pass the commission.
“We are unaware of any current action by the Department of Energy to invoke Section 202 of the Federal Power Act to secure the reliability and resiliency of our electric power grids,” said Gary Broadbent, a Murray spokesman, in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “However, invoking this provision would be an excellent action by the DOE, in light of the failure of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address the lack of reliability and resiliency in the electric power grids, and to preserve low cost electricity in America.”