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Oct 12, 2017
Press Release

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer raised questions with Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry during a hearing today in the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy.

During the hearing, Cramer expressed his appreciation for the Secretary’s proposal to bring action to the conversation on the premature closure of baseload power plants, which impacts electrical grid reliability and resilience. “Sometimes I worry, Mr. Secretary, it will require a crisis for some people to remember how important coal and nuclear are,” said Cramer in reference to the importance of baseload power.

He also asked the Secretary to explore if North Dakota coal-fired power plants which are subject to state or local rate regulation, yet still participate in wholesale energy markets, should be included in the Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule. Further, Cramer requested mine-mouth operations, whereby the power plant and fuel source are collocated, be examined in the context of the 90-day onsite fuel supply requirement. Most North Dakota coal power plants average a 30-day onsite supply, but with coal mines close by, hundreds of years worth of coal connect to the plants.

In response to comments by Democrats intended to make it seem as though the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) opposed Perry’s work in the DOE, Cramer also recited statements made by NERC. “Higher reliance on natural gas exposes electric generation to fuel supply and delivery vulnerabilities, particularly during extreme weather conditions. Maintaining fuel diversity and security provides best assurance for resilience. Premature retirements of fuel secure baseload generating stations reduces resilience to fuel supply disruptions.”  “Coal-fired and nuclear generation have the added benefits of high availability rates, low forced outages, and secured onsite fuel. Many months of onsite fuel allow these units to operate in a manner independent of supply chain disruptions.”

Following his comments in committee today, Cramer sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expressing his concerns about the early shutdown of baseload generation.  Similar to Secretary Perry, Cramer urged the Commissioners to modify the rule to include resources subject to cost-of-service rate regulations by any state or local authority as long as they participate in organized markets which includes all generating resources in North Dakota.  However, as the proposal currently stands, only merchant generation not subject to state and local rate regulation would benefit from this rule.