The Trump administration denied a request by Appalachian coal mining magnate Bob Murray to keep coal power plants from closing even if they go bankrupt.
The Energy Department's authority to issue must-run orders are typically reserved for when the flow of electricity could be impeded if a power plant is closed. But in those situations it is the power plant operator or the grid regulator, not a coal supplier, that requests the exception.
Murray, who is an outspoken Trump ally, had requested the order to keep Ohio-based First Energy's coal plants from closing early due to a number of federal environmental rules.
Murray's request said the power plant closures would result in 6,500 coal mining jobs being lost and "would be a disaster for President Trump and for our coal mining communities."
The Energy Department's authority comes from section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, designed for major problems such as war, natural disasters or increased energy demand that require federal government intervention. It appears the Energy Department's reading of the law precludes it from using the authority to save coal jobs.
Most recently, the agency used the authority in April 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.
"This administration is unified in our mission to undo the economic damage inflicted on millions of hard-working citizens during the eight-year-long war on coal," said Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes.
"We look at the facts of each issue and consider the authorities we have to address them but 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."