Donald Trump doesn’t know where to find the money for his infrastructure program. He doesn’t have a clue about how to fund his budget. But he has a very good idea of where to get the dollars to save his friend, the coal baron.
After failing to win a bailout for cash-strapped coal plants, some Trump administration officials are considering emergency orders that could keep at least some coal generators online, people familiar with the discussions said.
To make this work, Trump would have Rick Perry dip into Section 202 of the Federal Power Act. It would seem to be a fairly restricted authority which allows the secretary of Energy to step in during emergencies to authorize power companies to operate plants that might otherwise be closed. It’s been used in the past to bring on line plants after floods and hurricanes, to reroute power during widespread system failures, and to address manipulation of the market in California that was causing rolling blackouts. But 202 doesn’t just allow Perry to order a plant back on that might otherwise be off. It allows the DOE to pay companies for following the order.
… may prescribe by supplemental order such terms as it finds to be just and reasonable, including the compensation or reimbursement which should be paid to or by any such party.
So in an emergency, the government can act to keep the lights on, and can reward companies for cooperating. Which seems like a good idea. But in this case, it’s a different kind of emergency.
Coal mogul Bob Murray, an outspoken advocate for the bailout plan and a Trump supporter, had previously called on Perry to use his emergency authority to save the FirstEnergy Solutions plants but was shot down. He’s warned that his company, which supplies some of the units, may face default if they shut.
Trump can’t turn on the lights for Puerto Rico, but he’s not about to let them go off for Bob Murray.
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