Coal industry joins state delegation in cheering Trump power plant order
CHARLESTON — West Virginia coal industry and business leaders are joining with the Mountain State’s congressional delegation in praising President Donald Trump’s order to keep coal-fired and nuclear power plants open.
“Without question, this is the best news in my 40-year career in the coal industry,” said Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association and co-chairman of the West Virginia Coal Forum. “It’s bigger than big. Never before in the history of mining has our state and federal political leadership been able to achieve the benefits to coal that are embodied in the Trump-Justice plan.”
The West Virginia Coal Forum is an organization representing business and labor in the coal industry.
On June 1, Trump ordered U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to halt the shutdown of coal-fired and nuclear power plants in the interests 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.”
Many West Virginia 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 has spoken with coal operators who are 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.
“President Trump and Governor Justice clearly have been working together to restore coal jobs and shore up our national energy security,” said Coal Forum co-chairman Fred Tucker. “What began with an idea from Governor Justice has become a revolutionary national energy plan.
“Coal remains our nation’s leading base fuel for securing states and countries all over the world with reliable electric power for households and industrial use.”
West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said the president’s order to keep coal-fired power plants open was “absolutely necessary” for the survival of the region’s power plants. “These plants have got some age on them,” he said.
Raney also said it is important to keep coal-fired power available even as many plants are switching to gas or as new gas-powered plants are built. If something were to happen to a natural gas pipeline, “You’re going to have a bad day,” he said.
Phil Moye, a spokesman for Appalachian Power, said the company in 2015 shut down several coal-fired power plants that 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 also are 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 added.
“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. 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,” Capito added.
“The closure of additional power plants will weaken America’s national security,” said U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. “With coal and nuclear plants already closing at alarming rates, the reliability of America’s electric grid is at risk.
“From the polar vortex to Hurricane Harvey to the growing threat of cyberattacks from foreign enemies, we’ve seen how weather and other external factors can stress our energy supply and threaten our security,” he added.
By: Rusty Marks
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