Trump considering FirstEnergy’s emergency plea

Source: Hannah Northey and Sam Mintz, E&E News reporters • Posted: Friday, April 6, 2018

President Trump said Thursday he’s planning to make a decision on whether to approve a request from a financially struggling utility to boost its coal and nuclear plants.

Trump said at a roundtable in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., today that he’s aware of a request made last week by FirstEnergy Solutions Corp., the power plant subsidiary of Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., for the Energy Department to use its authority under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act to compensate its struggling plants.

“We’ll be looking at that 202, you know what a 202 is? We’re trying,” Trump said. “Nine of your people just came up to me outside [and said,] ‘Could you talk about 202?’ We will be looking at that as soon as we get back.”

DOE today said a review of FirstEnergy’s application is ongoing.

Should the agency grant the utility’s request and direct grid operator PJM Interconnection to negotiate with plants for compensation, it would trigger swift legal challenges. PJM oversees grid operations in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Both PJM and federal regulators at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have stated there is no imminent crisis and no evidence that broadly compensating coal and nuclear plants is necessary for electric grid resilience in the short term.

FirstEnergy declined to comment.

At the roundtable focused on taxes, Trump also blasted Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for his positions on immigration and voting against tax reform legislation.

“Joe Manchin … he’s just not really not helped us on this stuff,” Trump said.

Republicans are eager to topple Manchin during the upcoming midterms. Two GOP candidates vying to take on Manchin — Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey — were with Trump today.

A third, convicted former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, was not there, leading observers to wonder whether the White House was signaling its displeasure with the candidacy.