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Public Citizen to House Lawmakers: Trump Administration Proposal to Subsidize Nuclear and Coal Would Burden Consumers

Oct. 5, 2017

Public Citizen to House Lawmakers: Trump Administration Proposal to Subsidize Nuclear and Coal Would Burden Consumers

In Testimony, Tyson Slocum Outlines Simple Reforms Needed to Protect Consumers in America’s Power Markets

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In testimony before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, Public Citizen Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum today roundly criticized U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to subsidize uneconomic nuclear and coal power plants as “radical” and wholly without merit.

Slocum’s testimony shows that experts agree: Perry’s proposal is poorly conceived and would saddle consumers with billions in bailout costs. Slocum’s testimony (PDF) describes how utility-scale renewables, combined with distributed energy resource investments, are the path forward to ensuring a reliable, affordable, resilient and sustainable energy system.

“America’s electric power markets are in the midst of a transformation,” Slocum told the lawmakers. “This transformation is making nuclear and coal uneconomical, while renewable energy is becoming more affordable. Consumers and system reliability benefit from these changes. But coal and nuclear industry lobbyists are pushing for the U.S. Department of Energy to force consumers to pay for uneconomic power sources. This isn’t just or reasonable. “

Slocum highlighted two areas that are ripe for reform to protect consumers. The first involves private Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), which were created to administer the electricity transmission grid on a regional basis throughout North America.

The RTOs are structured in a way that makes them biased in favor of transmission and power plant owners, Slocum explained. One way to fix this would be to clearly separate the RTOs’ physical management of electricity on the grid and the RTOs’ role in administrating a complex “stakeholder” process where market reforms are developed. Such processes are too important to entrust to private organizations that remain under the sway of entrenched energy corporations, Slocum said.

The second area is equal access for consumers. Public Citizen has led a national coalition and petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to create and fund an Office of Public Participation. The primary duty of such an office would be to coordinate assistance to the public, and provide compensation for reasonable attorney’s fees, expert witness fees and other costs of intervening or participating in any proceeding before the commission. The office would help the public participate in complicated rulemakings about issues that affect their pocketbooks.

Read Slocum’s testimony (PDF).