Gas, renewable groups oppose U.S. DOE’s call to support nuclear, coal

Source: By Timothy Gardner, Reuters • Posted: Tuesday, October 3, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The main U.S. oil and gas lobbying group joined forces with 10 other energy industry groups on Monday to oppose a call by the U.S. energy secretary for federal regulators to offer incentives for struggling nuclear and coal power plants.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Friday called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a rule within 60 days to give many coal and nuclear plants incentives for providing reliable electricity to the nation’s grid.

The Trump administration has pushed a policy of “energy dominance” for energy companies to produce as much fossil fuel as possible to supply domestic markets and allies abroad. But the opposition to Perry’s call by the 11 groups that include lobbyists for natural gas, solar and wind power and power consumers is an indication the Trump policy could put industries in direct competition with one another.

The American Petroleum Institute, the Natural Gas Supply Association, the American Wind Energy Association and eight other industry groups filed a motion at the FERC opposing Perry’s request.

The motion says the deadlines in Perry’s request for a so-called interim final rule are “wholly unreasonable and insufficient” and should be extended should FERC “decide to proceed with a rulemaking of this type at all.” It calls for a 90-day comment period followed by a conference for stakeholders to understand Perry’s proposal and provide input.

Dena Wiggins, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, one of the groups that filed the motion, said that Perry’s request of FERC was a “dramatic departure” from normal rulemaking procedures and she did not see an easy way for him to “short circuit” the process.

Both nuclear and coal power plants have suffered a rash of permanent shutdowns in the face of competition from cheap, plentiful natural gas and stagnant electricity demand. Perry’s plan would benefit some coal and nuclear plants that have 90 days of fuel on site.

Perry’s plan said that coal and nuclear power have fared well in recent storms and that they should be rewarded for reliability. The Trump administration has criticized wind and solar power, both expanding rapidly, as being too dependent on weather.

But natural gas groups say that gas plants are also resilient and provide benefits to the grid. Wiggins emphasized fuel diversity and said Perry’s proposed rule seemed to favor certain parts of the nation’s fuel mix that could disadvantage natural gas.

FERC did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Monday’s filing by the groups.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman