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Trump rejects use of emergency authority to help coal plants

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Trump rejects use of emergency authority to help coal plants

The Trump administration has denied a coal company’s request to invoke a little-used authority to stop coal-fired power plants from closing.

Murray Energy Corp. CEO Bob Murray, an outspoken advocate for coal and a close ally to President Trump, had asked for a federal order to stop a major utility from closing any plants, even if it goes bankrupt.

Such an order from the Energy Department would have, among other effects, exempted FirstEnergy Solutions Corp.’s plants from numerous environmental standards.

The Associated Press first reported the Murray request and Trump administration denial Tuesday, citing a series of letters Murray sent to administration officials.

The decision shows there are limits to Trump’s promises on the campaign trail and while in office to save the endangered coal industry, which has suffered for years due to competition from natural gas, environmental rules and other factors.

“This administration is unified in our mission to undo the economic damage inflicted on millions of hard-working citizens during the 8-year-long war on coal,” Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement.

“We look at the facts of each issue and consider the authorities we have to address them but with respect to this particular case at this particular time, the White House and the Department of Energy are in agreement that the evidence does not warrant the use of this emergency authority.”

Murray said in his letters that Trump told him multiple times in July and August that he wanted Energy Secretary Rick Perry to invoke the emergency authority. The department did not comment on that assertion.

He wrote that without it, 6,500 Murray coal mining jobs would be terminated “promptly,” and each one of those jobs supports 11 outside the industry.

“This would be a disaster for President Trump and for our coal mining communities,” Murray wrote.

The Energy Department’s authority comes from section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, designed for major problems like war, natural disasters or increased energy demand that require federal government intervention.

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