American Oversight and the Environmental Working Group formally petitioned the Department of Energy today to release all communications between senior officials and the energy industry over the Trump administration’s proposed bailout of failing coal and nuclear power plants.
In September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to fast-track consideration of a rule that would force regional electricity grid operators to subsidize qualifying coal and nuclear plants, even if sources such as solar, wind or natural gas are available at a lower price. Analysts at Energy Innovation estimate the forced ratepayer subsidies would increase Americans’ utility bills by up to $10.6 billion a year, with 80 to 90 percent of the windfall going to 10 or fewer companies.
In August, the Associated Press obtained a letter to a Trump aide from the CEO of Murray Energy, a leading coal mining company, urging an emergency bailout for his largest customer, FirstEnergy. That particular request was not answered, but soon after, Perry announced his broader proposal to prop up the coal and nuclear sector. Federal data compiled by EWG show that utilities propose to close 75 coal and nuclear generating units by 2020.
“The American people deserve nothing short of a full explanation of how the Trump administration hatched this scheme to prop up these dirty, dangerous and expensive sources of energy that will force consumers to pay higher utility bills,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “The influence coal companies have in this administration is well-known, but this unprecedented proposal and how the industry pushed it through the DOE are beyond appalling, even for President Trump. We want the truth.”
“From day one, President Trump has filled his administration with industry insiders and special interests, opening the door to unprecedented access and conflicts of interest,” said American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers. “Many of these energy companies and executives were major donors to President Trump, and if they now have excessive influence in shaping energy policy that would be a serious problem.”
The FOIA request filed by EWG and American Oversight seeks records related to Perry’s proposal for FERC to require regional electricity suppliers to buy above-market-rate power from coal and nuclear plants. Specifically, it asks for communications, emails and calendar entries for meetings between senior DOE officials and corporations including Peabody Energy and Murray Energy, as well as lobbying groups such as the Edison Electric Institute, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the American and National Coal Councils.
Numerous senior political appointees at the DOE have worked for coal and nuclear energy companies and lobbying groups, according to resumes obtained by American Oversight.
Support for Perry’s proposal is virtually nonexistent outside of the coal and nuclear industries. An unprecedented coalition of energy industry groups, from the American Council on Renewable Energy to the American Petroleum Institute, are opposed to the scheme.
EWG and American Oversight asked the DOE to produce all relevant documents within 20 business days of today’s FOIA filing.