Coal, nuclear plant operator files for bankruptcy, asks Trump for a bailout

Enlarge / SHIPPINGPORT, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 27: A view of the inactive cooling towers at FirstEnergy Corporation’s Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power plant October 27, 2017 in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

On Saturday, power corporation FirstEnergy placed its coal and nuclear generation units under chapter 11 bankruptcy. Although coal and nuclear plants across the country have struggled to compete with the low prices of natural gas, FirstEnergy’s filing is unique because it stands to take on a political dimension. Just two days before FirstEnergy’s bankruptcy filing, the company petitioned the Department of Energy (DOE) for an emergency bailout, citing concerns about reliability.

The petition could reinvigorate a debate started by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who proposed a rule last year to change how coal and nuclear plants are compensated for their power. The rule was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which said that there was not enough evidence to justify changing how coal and nuclear are compensated.

FirstEnergy disparaged FERC’s decision in its Thursday petition (PDF), claiming that “As a result of FERC’s and the RTOs’ [Regional Transmission Organization’s] failure to address this crisis, swift and decisive action is needed now to address this imminent loss of nuclear and coal-fired baseload generation and the threat to the electric grid that this loss poses” (emphasis FirstEnergy’s).

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Coal, nuclear plant operator files for bankruptcy, asks Trump for a bailout