Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump is coming up empty handed on his promises to bolster America’s ailing coal and nuclear power industries.

The big picture: For a president who has aggressively pushed the legal and political boundaries to make good on policy priorities, particularly immigration, the lack of action in this area is striking two years into Trump’s administration.

Between the lines: Political and legal issues are at play, according to people familiar with the dynamics.

  • Trump’s positions on immigration appeal to his supporters' emotions more than his positions on coal, and the issue cuts more deeply and widely across the president’s conservative base than coal. Nuclear, meanwhile, has never been a top-tier political concern for Trump.
  • White House officials have successfully argued that any big actions to prop up economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants would be woefully indefensible in court.

Where it stands: It’s a messy road to nowhere, for now.

  • Nuclear power and coal don’t share many attributes in common other than they’re both economically struggling for similar reasons: competition from cheap natural gas and, to a lesser extent, renewables.
  • On top of inaction, trade policies under consideration could make matters even worse for the nuclear industry — like new restrictions on uranium they use for fuel. (More on that later.)

For the last year and a half, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been trying — but failing — to find a way to help the wave of ailing coal and nuclear power plants across the Eastern United States.

  • He asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent government agency, to take action. He was rejected.
  • He considered using a little-known law called the Defense Production Act to invoke national security to save certain plants. That’s been on ice for months after White House resistance.
  • More than a year ago, Bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions asked Perry to keep open certain coal and nuclear plants in the name of national security. Representatives of the firm said they have no updates to share, and an Energy Department spokeswoman didn’t have a comment other than to say it’s still pending.

“I’ve thrown a lot of jello over at the wall on this one trying to find some solutions that we can all, or at least a majority of us can get behind to support that,” Perry said at an energy conference last month.

The other side: This is a triumph of a diverse and broad set of energy interests — ranging from natural gas to wind — that rallied together to oppose the administration's efforts, arguing any such moves would upend market forces and could increase electricity prices for consumers.

The Trump administration is taking some steps to help nuclear power and coal, such as research investments for new technologies and unprecedented regulatory rollbacks.

  • A White House official said coal has been buoyed by numerous executive actions the administration has taken and regulations it is repealing, particularly at the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The official also pointed to the funding of Energy Department initiatives and laws streamlining permitting processes that president has backed to help nuclear power.
  • But these steps are just not significant enough to change the prevailing declining direction of either sector, and especially the plants under economic duress.

Meanwhile, the nuclear power industry is now among the long list of sectors concerned about Trump’s protectionist trade agenda.

  • The administration is considering imposing quotas requiring a certain percentage of uranium — the fuel used in nuclear plants — to be sourced domestically in the name of national security.
  • A coalition of utilities say such a move could hurt the very same economically struggling reactors Trump says he wants to help, pushing them over the edge and forcing them to shut down.
  • The Commerce Department faced a Sunday (yesterday) deadline to send its recommendation on the matter to Trump. He now has 90 days to decide.

What we’re watching: As Trump’s reelection campaign picks up, the president could likely raise the issue of saving coal and nuclear plants again, which puts policy experts within the administration in a bind because they’ve exhausted most options.

  • “They’re totally stuck. I don’t know how they’re going to fix it,” said one person familiar with the dynamics. “The likelihood that Trump comes back to them at some point and says ‘do something’ is pretty high.”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dems' immigration plan hits major roadblock

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Sunday that Democrats cannot include pathways to citizenship in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, per a copy of the ruling obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: It's a blow to Democrats who hoped to provide pathways for millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Using reconciliations would have allowed them to pass politically contentious immigration changes with only 50 votes, as opposed to the usual 60 required.

FBI says human remains found in Wyoming likely Gabby Petito

Gabby Petito. Photo: FBI

Human remains found in Teton County, Wyoming, are "consistent with the description of" missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito, said FBI Denver official Charles Jones at a news conference Sunday.

Details: The cause of death had yet to be determined, but Jones said: "Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100% that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery." Authorities said they're continuing the search for her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.

Pelosi calls raising the debt ceiling a bipartisan responsibility

Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a "dear colleague" statement Sunday evening, calling on Congress to act in a bipartisan manner to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

Why it matters: Congress is fast approaching an October deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown. But the issue has become a thorny partisan stand-off.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!