White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Bloomberg News in a statement that the president had ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to take the measures due to a national security interest in securing the national power grid's resilience.
DOE did not respond to requests for comment.
According to Bloomberg, the memo added that these coal and nuclear plants are being replaced by natural gas and renewable power generation that is not secure or resilient. The National Security Council was set to meet Friday to discuss the Energy Department's latest idea for shoring up the facilities.
The Sierra Club explains that FirstEnergy Solutions, which recently filed for bankruptcy, had asked the DOE for its emergency powers to bail out plants "whose high costs have rendered them obsolete in an energy market in which modern clean energy resources like solar, wind and energy efficiency are more affordable", the group says.
While the DoE draft memo is not yet official, the move is seen by Capitol Hill insiders as an indication that Trump advisors - particularly those representing the energy sector - are getting serious about doing whatever it takes to keep coal and nuclear power afloat in the country.
The idea of declaring an emergency under the Defense Production Act of 1950 (used by President Harry Truman for the steel industry) and section 202 of the Federal Power Act has been promoted by the chief executives of the coal mining firm Murray Energy and OH utility First Energy, both of whom have contributed heavily to President Trump's political activities.
The Trump administration's claims of energy security for keeping coal and nuclear plants online is not supported by the facts, as multiple power networks, including PJM, one of the biggest U.S. independent systems, point to a recent extremely cold "bomb cyclone" weather event in the U.S. northeast that showed the regional grid operating efficiently despite coal power plant closures, cited by Ars Technica.
Murray has been seeking emergency action to boost his industry since a year ago and has met with Trump to argue that federal help was needed to avert thousands of layoffs and maintain the reliability of the electric grid up and down the East Coast. One independent group that manages the electricity grid that serves more than 65 million people said that it could be bad for consumers if the federal government intervenes in the market.
Federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity.
"Energy Secretary Perry is being forced to issue another unnecessary and unprecedented emergency order to favor coal and nuclear over more economic electricity suppliers, including renewables".
As recent extreme weather events show, the ongoing loss of additional coal-fired and nuclear power will pose a significant risk to the electric grid because these units provide resilience and essential reliability services to our nation's electric grid - indispensable attributes to the delivery of electricity in our country.
The Energy Department can invoke its Section 202 authority under the Federal Power Act after determining a grid emergency exists because of spiking demand, electric shortages or other issues. It relies on authorities given to the executive branch in the Defense Production Act of 1950 and the Federal Power Act.