After the Energy Department conducted a reliability study previous year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed a rule that would have compensated coal and nuclear plants for their ability to store months' worth of fuel on site.
"I am glad President Trump and his Administration are considering my idea to use the Defense Production Act to save coal-fired power plants with emissions controls and protect our national security", Manchin said.
Sanders added that "impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities" pose a risk to national security, which prompted Friday's actions.
The Trump Administration has determined coal-fired are vital to the protection of the nation's energy grid, according to a statement released Friday by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
"This prudent stop-gap measure" will allow coal and nuclear plants to remain open while the department takes further steps to secure the grid, the memo said.
Over the two years in question, DoE officials would ostensibly research United States power grid network vulnerabilities, using the study as a justification to keep unprofitable and polluting power plants running as a matter of national security, according to Bloomberg.
While many of President Trump's top donors advocate for the support of struggling coal-fired power plants, it is unclear as to whether or not Trump has signed off on the plan.
The plan cuts to the heart of a debate over the reliability and resiliency of a rapidly evolving US electricity grid.
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Environmental groups, natural gas producers and Republicans and Democrats who have pushed for greater competition in electricity markets all condemned the latest signal that the administration might be moving closer to imposing the Energy Department's plan. Normally, that authority is used in natural disasters or other crises.
Coal and nuclear plants are in trouble because across much of the country they're having trouble competing with cheaper forms of electricity generated by natural gas and renewable energy.
The action by the Energy Department would represent an unprecedented intervention into US energy markets. The owner of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has said its plant has been unprofitable for six years.
A common argument among opponents is that coal and nuclear units are not infallible during stresses on the system, and that transmission and distribution issues are more often the culprit when resilience issues arise, not generation or fuel supply concerns. U.S. Defense Department installations are 99 percent dependent on the commercial power grid, one reason that electric system reliability is vitally important to national defense and homeland security, the memo asserts. "The Defense Production Act grants the president the authority to ensure that the nation's domestic industrial base is capable of providing the essential materials and resources needed to defend our nation and protect our sovereignty, and it recognizes energy production and critical infrastructure as strategic and crucial to that goal".
"We are desperate for the President to, once again, order Energy Secretary Perry to invoke Section 202 (c) of the Federal Power Act for FirstEnergy's merchant power plants", wrote Murray.
"Americans should not have to pay for dirty, uneconomic coal plants that pollute our environment and make people sick - especially when there are cleaner, more affordable energy options available", Panfil said.
That auction saw an 83% hike in the price generators will receive, and cleared a diverse mix of coal, nuclear, gas, renewable and other sources, PJM said.