President Trump keeps talking about “indestructible” coal, months after a fire damaged a coal power plant that FirstEnergy Solutions included in its request for a bailout from the Department of Energy. 

Trump repeated his claim that coal is “indestructible” while in Charleston for a campaign rally for West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey, who is now running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Joe Manchin.

C-Span has a full video and rough transcript of Trump’s remarks. The excerpt below has been edited for accuracy:

… but we love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal. We love it. It’s great. And you know, that’s indestructible stuff. In times of war, in times of conflict, you can blow up those windmills. They fall down real quick. You can blow up those pipelines. They go like this, and you’re not going to fix them too fast. You can do a lot of things to those solar panels, but you know what you can’t hurt? Coal. You can do whatever you want to coal. It is very important. We are working now on a military plan that will be something special.

Trump made similar comments last week at a rally in upstate New York.

Coal is of course not indestructible, as the New York Times noted in a fact check after the rally. The same is true for coal-fired power plants. Retired coal plants have been demolished using explosives, as demonstrated in this video of the demolition of the Lake Shore power plant by FirstEnergy TV:

The “military plan” that Trump alluded to is likely the bailout plan for struggling coal and nuclear plants that the National Security Council is working on, in coordination with the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In March, FirstEnergy Solutions requested that Trump’s Secretary of Energy Rick Perry use his authority under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act to bail out some of the coal and nuclear power plants found in the 13-state PJM wholesale electricity market.

“FirstEnergy Corp. has announced that the 2,510 MW Bruce Mansfield coal-fired plant is at risk of closure due to the exposure to changing market conditions,” according to the request filed by FirstEnergy Solutions.

“If action is not taken, thousands of additional megawatts of reliable baseload power will retire in the next several years, leaving PJM without fuel-secure baseload resources,” the request warned.

The request, however, did not mention a fire that damaged parts of the Bruce Mansfield power plant in January.

“Due to a fire at the Bruce Mansfield Plant on January 10, 2018, and the subsequent unavailability of Bruce Mansfield Units 1 and 2, the volume of coal required to operate the Bruce Mansfield Plant has decreased significantly,” according to a filing in the utility’s bankruptcy case.

Those units together accounted for 1,660 MW of the 2,490 MW of electricity generated by Bruce Mansfield, FirstEnergy’s largest power plant, according to a company fact sheet.

The available data suggest the number of megawatts of electricity that could be generated by the Bruce Mansfield plant after the fire may be much lower than 2,510 MW the utility listed in its bailout request to Rick Perry.

In June, Bloomberg obtained a draft memo that revealed the Trump administration’s plan to its use emergency powers under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act and other laws to bail out struggling coal and nuclear plants.

Murray Energy, which has supplied coal burned at the Bruce Mansfield plant, has also lobbied the Trump administration to use the same section of the Federal Power Act to bailout coal plants. Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, was a top donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

FirstEnergy Generation has asked the bankruptcy court to cancel a contract with a subsidiary of Murray Energy, citing a reduced need for coal in 2018 and 2019 following the fire at Bruce Mansfield

The plant has shut down at times due to lower electricity prices and competition from cleaner energy sources.  

Top: a photo of the Bruce Mansfield power plant by the Energy & Policy Institute

Posted by Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Dave has been working at the nexus of clean energy and public policy since 2008. Prior to joining the Energy and Policy Institute, he was an outreach coordinator for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also an alumnus of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection (now the Climate Reality Project). Dave’s research has helped to spur public scrutiny of political attacks on clean energy and climate science by powerful special interests, such as ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). His work has been cited by major media outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, and he has served as a speaker on panels at national solar industry conferences. Dave holds a MA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he also received a BA in Humanities.

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