In Senate hearing, Oregon's Ron Wyden elicits testimony from Trump energy regulator that rates could rise $32 billion or more nationally.

PHOTO COURTESY: PGE - Portland General Electric's Boardman coal plant is slated to stop producing coal energy by 2020. It's the lone operating coal plant in Oregon. At a hearing before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, a Portland Democrat, asked a federal energy regulator if the Trump administration's proposal to subsidize uncompetitive coal plants would raise utility rates.

In response, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) member Richard Glick told Wyden the administration's effort would "clearly" raise utility rates across the country. "The question is how much," Glick said, according to Wyden's office.

Last fall, Trump's energy secretary, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, directed FERC to issue a rule that would force grid operators to buy coal from old coal plants, which Wyden argues would throw competitive electricity markets into disarray and force consumers to pay increased costs.

FERC rejected the Department of Energy's proposal after Wyden and other lawmakers slammed the effort. But two weeks ago, the administration started circulating a memo outlining plans to issue an emergency order to subsidize coal and nuclear companies.

"The administration is reaching into Americans' pocketbooks only to hand that hard-earned money to mismanaged utilities and uncompetitive coal companies, many of whom are Trump donors," Wyden stated.

Glick, who was appointed to the FERC by Trump, said the Trump administration's emergency order could raise utility rates anywhere from $32 billion, or about $250 more per year for the average American household, to $65 billion, or about $500 more per year, for no added benefit.

Wyden said such an emergency order also could thwart Oregon's commitment to phase out use of coal power in the state and achieve an energy mix by 2040 that's 50 percent renewable power.

In addition to trying to prop up failing coal plants, the Trump administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, is loosening environmental safeguards affecting coal plants, which are significant sources of air and water pollution, in addition to generating tremendous carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

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