Perry defends FERC request as ‘not a directive’

Source: Hannah Northey and Niina Heikkinen, E&E News reporters • Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Energy Secretary Rick Perry today defended his request for market reforms to boost coal and nuclear plants that critics have called a “grenade” for existing energy markets.

Perry told attendees at the Veterans in Energy event in Arlington, Va., that his request for reforms was meant to serve as a conversation starter.

“That 403 that we signed that we sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider, it wasn’t a directive,” Perry said.

“Let’s have this conversation about making sure we have an energy foundation that is stable, resilient, and I happen to think that coal and nuclear should be a part of that.”

The secretary’s request for FERC to craft a rule is facing pushback from a large contingent in the energy sector and has raised eyebrows among Republicans in both chambers of Congress.

Perry today criticized the Obama administration for overlooking coal and nuclear while focusing solely on renewables. The secretary said the 2014 polar vortex, in which coal piles froze in the Northeast, showed a lack of baseload power.

But independent experts have said competition from natural gas is what has hurt coal and nuclear the most. And they said more natural gas pipelines would have addressed problems related to the freeze.

The proposed rulemaking will formally go into the Federal Register on Tuesday, meaning that following a 60-day timeline set by DOE, FERC will have until Dec. 9 to take final action.

What exactly FERC will do, though, remains a mystery: The agency could finalize the rule or reject it, and some experts have argued that it could also extend the time frame or restart things altogether with a new proposal.

Reporter Sam Mintz contributed.