CHARLESTON — Some state business and industry leaders say it’s a good thing that President Donald Trump has ordered a halt to shutting down coal-fired power plants.
On June 1, Trump ordered U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to halt the shutdown of coal-fired and nuclear power plants in the interest of national security. Trump issued the order in part under the Defense Production Act, a Cold War era law intended to protect the country’s power grid in times of war.
Gov. Jim Justice had been urging the president to keep coal-fired power plants open around the country in order to provide backup power to the power grid in times of emergency.
“I have been in constant dialogue and discussions for months with President Trump and Secretary Perry about this, and we embrace this good news from the White House and the fact that the Justice plan is now moving forward,” Justice said. “We’re not across the finish line yet, but we embrace this good news and this certainly indicates that it is on its way.”
On Monday, some state business and industry leaders said they thought ordering the power plants to remain open was a good move on the president’s part.
Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said he spoke with two coal operators after news broke of the president’s order, and both were encouraged by the news.
“What was said was, on the whole, optimistic,” Roberts said.
He said coal industry executives believe keeping coal-fired power plants open will add stability and predictability to the market for thermal coal, because operators will have a better idea of how much coal will be needed for the plants.
“They were telling me that pricing for thermal coal is moving up slightly,” Roberts said.
Phil Moye, a spokesman for Appalachian Power, said the company shut down several coal-fired power plants in 2015 which had been in operation since the 1950s. He said those plants could not be updated to meet modern pollution standards.
However, the coal-fired plants Appalachian Power is currently operating meet modern standards and will be in operation well into the future, Moye said. He said those plants are not affected by the president’s order.
Members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation were pleased with the news.
“I am glad President Trump and his administration are considering my idea to use the Defense Production Act to save coal-fired power plants with emissions controls and protect our national security,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
“The security of our homeland is inextricably tied to the security of our energy supply. The ability to produce reliable electricity and to recover from disruptions to our grid are critical to ensuring our nation’s security against the various threats facing our nation today — whether those threats be extreme weather events or adversarial foreign actors.
“The Defense Production Act grants the President the authority to ensure that the nation’s domestic industrial base is capable of providing the essential materials and resources needed to defend our nation and protect our sovereignty and it recognizes energy production and critical infrastructure as strategic and crucial to that goal,” Manchin said.
“I am very supportive of the administration’s decision to take action to preserve our coal-fired and nuclear power plants,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. “The recent series of winter storms caused thousands of power outages and drove up rates due to reduced supply, highlighting just how important it is that we have access to affordable and reliable energy sources.
“As it has done time and time again over the years, coal proved to be exactly what we needed to power the country, demonstrating its importance in keeping the lights on when other resources were unavailable” Capito said.
“I am encouraged by the president’s actions to protect our nation from these plant closures and ensure coal power is available to address future weather, market, and cybersecurity challenges. Doing so will be vital to our state’s economy and to our nation’s viability, security, and independence.”