U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry used his authority to urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to quickly issue a new rule mandating that coal, nuclear and hydroelectric power plants be paid more for electricity.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been under fire by environmentally conscious groups since his campaign, when he courted the votes of workers in the coal belt, and received criticism for his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement in June.
The administration was also criticized for its budget proposal to cut Environmental Protection Agency funding, including cutting the Superfund Cleanup Program by 25 percent and cutting the agency’s Office of Science and Technology’s budget in half.
Perry said his decision was spurred by a report prepared by his staff that stated the country’s energy future is threatened by market distortions.
The report found that nationwide wholesale prices for electricity hit almost record lows, with New York’s average prices down 26 percent at $35 per megawatt.
The report points out that pricing, next to state regulations and policies, such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively forcing Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant to shut down, is the main incentive for power plants across the nation to close.
Perry’s decision provoked further criticism of the administration’s environmental policy from environmental groups and New York state officials.
“In the wake of some of the most devastating storms in our nation’s history, it’s outrageous that the Trump administration would seek to prop up our dirtiest, most expensive and climate-polluting sources of energy under the guise of promoting resiliency and reliability, said State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was also opposed to the president’s proposed EPA cuts. “States like New York have demonstrated that clean, renewable forms of energy not only enhance public health and our environment, but also add jobs, hold the line on electricity rates, and make our energy systems more secure and reliable.”
Hudson River Keeper Paul Gallay said the Northeast is at higher risk than other regions in the nation to extreme weather events and sea-level rise caused by climate change.
“[Perry’s order] is a waste of money and is bad for the environment,” Gallay said. “This just hastens the negative impacts climate change has had and will have on New York.”
Gallay called the order business as usual for the administration, saying, “This administration is obsessed with reversing anything the previous administration did, without scientific basis.”
Hudson Riverkeeper praised New York for its move toward renewable energy sources.
New York’s Clean Energy Standard, which the state adopted in August 2016, requires that 50 percent of New York’s power come from renewable sources such as solar or wind by 2030.
“Coal and nuclear energy are on their way out of New York,” Gallay said. “Those forms of energy are no longer acceptable in our current environmental situation.”
John Lange, spokesman for U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, said the Kinderhook congressman is examining the FERC policy before taking a position on the issue.
FERC has 60 days to consider the policy but is not required to take any legal action on it.