Coal on the Campaign trail

Source: By KELSEY TAMBORRINO, Politico • Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2018

President Donald Trump has just 21 days left to hit the campaign trail to shore up support for a slate of politically vulnerable Republicans. This week alone he’s expected to travel to Montana, Arizona and Nevada for political rallies. But it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll have a major plan in place to prop up ailing coal-fired power plants to tout, since the White House appears to have shelved an effort that’s been underway for more than a year. And Trump himself has been noticeably quiet about it, especially after he’s previously promised crowds he’d bring back coal jobs, POLITICO’s Eric Wolff and Darius Dixon report.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has pushed numerous plans that would invoke national security in order to put in place federal support for coal and nuclear plants that have been struggling to compete against cheap natural gas. Now, the White House is backing off the effort amid opposition from the president’s advisers, four people knowledgeable about the discussions told Eric and Darius. It remains unclear whether the president himself has decided against Perry’s proposal.

Even if he has, Trump has been known to quickly change his mind, the sources caution — meaning the coal bailout proposal could re-emerge in advance of the president’s own re-election campaign. In the meantime, Trump has omitted references at his rallies to a potential rescue plan recently, even while giving pro-coal speeches like at last week’s rally in Richmond, Ky. That’s a far cry from the West Virginia speech he gave this spring where Trump told a crowd, “We’ll be looking at that 202,” in reference to the section of the Federal Power Act that the Energy Department could use to set its coal plan in motion.

Of course, without a bailout, the Trump administration still has plenty of regulatory rollbacks to tout. But on the Hill, the White House’s silence has already left some frustrated. “I’m trying to find the darn plan because I understand it’s gone from the Department of Energy over to the White House, and I don’t know who in the White House would be sitting on it for whatever reason,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who faces a tough re-election battle, recently told reporters .