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Date: 11-12-2017

Saving coal industry could cost you more for electricity; Big Sandy plant already closed for coal, new law no help...

Some power customers may need to be hit with higher electric bills in order to prop up the declining coal-mining industry, the new chairman of a federal energy board said on Thursday.

Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.

"It would not be a federal subsidy," Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee, a Kentucky native and former adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell, insisted in a conference call with Kentucky reporters.

The extra money to keep coal burning "would come from customers in that region, who need the reliability," he said. "It's in these customers' interests to keep these plants open."

Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.

USA TODAY on Oct. 8 reported that Perry argues new regulations are needed because the nation’s electricity grid is threatened with early retirements of power plants that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural or man-made disasters.

Perry's move was quickly panned by clean energy advocates who said it was a blatant attempt to prop up coal.

“This is an unprecedented effort to intervene in the electricity marketplace and provide a new subsidy, which ratepayers will foot the bill for, to coal and nuclear power facilities,” Greg Wetstone, president and chief executive officer of the American Council On Renewable Energy, told USA TODAY.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has criticized recent Department of Energy work that fails "to mention the growing threat of climate change to grid reliability and resilience, the important public health and climate benefits of renewable energy, and the enormous subsidies fossil fuels and nuclear power have received for decades."

Climate change does not factor into FERC's decision-making because it's not an environmental regulatory agency, Chatterjee said. But he said keeping carbon-free nuclear power and coal could be "carbon neutral," he added.

Coal has long been one of the nation's leading sources of heat-trapping gases.

Chatterjee said FERC may accept Perry's proposal – which he said has some "challenges" – or develop its own, and offered one as an alternative that would designate certain coal and nuclear plants as essential for grid stability.

Then, customers across a region would pay higher rates to keep those coal and nuclear plants running.

"Certain plants may be under economic pressure, but essential for reliability," Chatterjee said. "We need them because of where they are located," but may need extra compensation "to keep them open."

Details on which plants could get such a designation and how much extra customers would pay would still need to be worked out, he added.

Coal has suffered in large part from a glut of cheap natural gas. But Chatterjee said natural gas plants don't store large reserves of the fuel at their plants, unlike coal and nuclear plants.

The American Gas Association has argued that cheaper natural gas is highly reliable and that a lot of utilities actually do have underground storage for natural gas.

Chatterjee said the idea to designate essential plants for reliability would have little impact on power plants in Kentucky because most are regulated primarily by the Kentucky Public Service Commission. He said some Kentucky residents, however, could see higher rates depending on their regional grid.

It more directly could benefit Kentucky's coal mining industry, which has been flagging in recent years, he said.

The Washington Post on Oct. 19 reported that eight past FERC members including five former chairs oppose Perry's plan, arguing it would disrupt markets and raise the costs of electricity.

Chatterjee said he is looking for an option that would be "legally defensible and doesn’t distort markets."

He said he does not want to "find out down the road we actually needed the coal plants and lost them due to short-term market pressures," noting that coal production is down about 30 percent over the last decade.

President Donald Trump promised to boost coal during his 2016 campaign.


By James Bruggers
Louisville Courier Journal

 

Comments  

0 #4 Seriously 2017-11-20 11:09
Saving the coal industry? The title should say Killing the Coal Industry is costing the customers.
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+3 #3 Gator 2017-11-16 22:08
The customers are paying for the conversion to gas. Once all the plants are converted gas prices will go up. Come on people this is not about coal, it's about getting you addicted to something new. Big Pharma all over again. Soon they will band burning coal in your stove and wood in your fireplace.
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+3 #2 CapnDaylite 2017-11-16 17:58
Yeah,that 'Cheap Natural Gas' is so cheap,you can barely afford it!
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+4 #1 THINKER 2017-11-16 16:22
I know one thing for certain today--the switch to cheap natural gas is sure costing me out the hind end!!!!! I think it would be better to just turn it OFF!!
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