Trump's team rebuffs coal industry bid to ensure plants stay open

Matthew Brown / AP

The Trump administration has rejected a coal industry bid for the sweeping use of federal emergency powers to keep coal-fired power plants operating, according to a detailed Associated Press report.

  • The story focuses on a request for assistance from the coal mining company Murray Energy, whose CEO Robert Murray is a major Trump backer, for a two-year moratorium on coal-fired power plant closures.
  • But AP also notes there has been broader coal industry interest in a federal moratorium.
  • Why it matters: The pleas are a sign that administration steps to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations won't be enough, on their own, to save some coal plants as cheap natural gas, as well as renewable energy, eats into coal's market share.

Another is that the rejection of the Murray Energy CEO's request signals that while the administration is aggressively paring back regulations, there are limits to how far White House and other officials can or will go to directly prop up the sector.

In a statement to Axios, a White House spokesperson said:

"President Trump has followed through on his unwavering commitment to the nation's coal miners. Whether through repealing the Clean Power Plan and the 'Waters of the U.S. Rule,' removing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, or signing legislation to overturn rules and policies designed to stop coal mining, President Trump continues to fight for miners every day. Invoking Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act in this manner at this time is not an appropriate use of this authority."

From AP: "The Energy Department says it considered issuing the order sought by companies seeking relief for plants it says are overburdened by environmental regulations and market stresses. But the department ultimately ruled it was unnecessary, and the White House agreed, a spokeswoman said."

The backstory: AP obtained letters from Murray to the White House claiming that President Trump had previously committed to the federal action in private talks with officials from Murray Energy and the power company FirstEnergy Solutions Corp.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has already used the Federal Power Act twice in "narrow ways" at utilities' request to keep old coal-fired power plants running past their planned retirement dates, due to concerns that shutdowns could create power shortages, according to AP.

What's next

New York Times endorses Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for president

Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warrenand Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the December 2020 debatein Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The New York Times editorial board has endorsed Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for president, in a decision announced on national television Sunday night.

Why it matters: The board writes in its editorial that its decision to endorse two candidates is a major break with convention that's intended to address the "realist" and "radical" models being presented to voters by the 2020 Democratic field.

Go deeperArrow1 hour ago - Media

What's next in the impeachment witness battle

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senators will almost certainly get to vote on whether or not to call impeachment witnesses. The resolution laying out the rules of the trial, which will be presented Tuesday, is expected to mandate that senators can take up-or-down votes on calling for witnesses and documents.

Yes, but: Those votes won't come until the House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team deliver their opening arguments and field Senators' questions.

Inside Trump's impeachment strategy: The national security card

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Trump officials say they feel especially bullish about one key argument against calling additional impeachment witnesses: It could compromise America's national security.

The big picture: People close to the president say their most compelling argument to persuade nervous Republican senators to vote against calling new witnesses is the claim that they're protecting national security.