Murray decries FERC ‘cop-out’ on Perry grid plan

Source: Dylan Brown, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The “most important action ever undertaken” to protect the grid is dead and there will be consequences, Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray said yesterday.

Murray — whom President Trump called “my guy” — chastised the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for rejecting Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed subsidy for coal and nuclear power generation.

The five-member panel decided instead to enlist grid operators in determining how a “resilient” U.S. power supply should look (Climatewire, Jan. 9).

Murray called FERC’s decision a “cop-out” during a crisis.

“While FERC Commissioners Kevin J. McIntyre, Robert F. Powelson, Richard Glick and Cheryl A. LaFleur sit on their hands and refuse to take the action directed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry and President Donald Trump, the decommissioning of more coal-fired and nuclear plants could result, further jeopardizing the reliability, resiliency, and security of America’s electric power grids,” Murray said in a statement.

Despite voting with his colleagues, Commissioner Neil Chatterjee was spared Murray’s wrath. As FERC’s resident coal champion, the former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that some compensation may have been “prudent.”

FERC’s decision rejected Murray’s warnings about blackouts and bankruptcy. In August, Murray said his company would go under without federal intervention but retracted that in December, hailing growing coal exports (Greenwire, Dec. 21, 2017).

“The extensive comments submitted by [grid operators] do not point to any past or planned generator retirements that may be a threat to grid resilience,” FERC wrote.

The commission found no evidence that power prices were “unjust and unreasonable” and no justification that Perry’s rule wouldn’t “unduly” favor coal and nuclear.

But Murray said FERC has doomed Americans to higher electricity costs, hurting “those on fixed incomes, single mothers, and manufacturers.”

“Moderately cold weather” in the last few days, Murray said, proved coal is still vital to the grid.

“If it were not for the electricity generated by our Nation’s coal-fired and nuclear power plants, we would be experiencing massive brownouts and blackouts in this Country,” Murray’s statement said.

Coal use spiked during what weather forecasters called the “bomb cyclone,” but PJM Interconnection — the grid operator burning most of Murray’s coal — reported no problems despite the increasing use of natural gas in its system (Energywire, Jan. 9).