The Latest: Hill Dems blast Trump energy plan

WASHINGTON — The Latest on the Trump administration's energy plan (all times local):

1:36 p.m.

Rick Perry has referred to Puerto Rico as a country at a congressional hearing, though he also repeatedly described it correctly as a U.S. territory.

When Rep. Kathy Castor asked the energy secretary about efforts to restore Puerto Rico's storm-destroyed power grid, he said she'd described a major problem facing "the territory."

Perry added, "That's a country that already had its challenges before the storm."

The Florida Democrat interrupted him, saying, "Well, it's America, there are American citizens, it's not a country."

Perry apologized "for misstating here and saying 'country.'"

The former Texas governor gained unwanted attention for the "oops" moment during his unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. During a debate, he couldn't remember the third federal agency he wanted to abolish — ironically, the Energy Department.

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12:25 p.m.

Congressional Democrats are accusing Energy Secretary Rick Perry of pushing an energy plan that unnecessarily helps the coal and nuclear industries.

Perry told a House energy subcommittee Thursday that his proposal would strengthen the country's energy supply so it can withstand storms and other crises.

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone said Perry is pushing his energy plan "under the guise of a crisis" of the electricity grid's reliability. The Energy and Commerce committee's top Democrat says Perry's proposal "props up coal and nuclear generation."

Perry says his goal is for an energy supply that's strong "if the wind quits blowing, if the sun quits shining" or natural gas transmissions lines fail.

Perry's plan would reward nuclear and coal-fired power plants for adding reliability to the nation's power grid.

11:10 a.m.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is defending his costly travel on private and government planes, saying such trips are sometimes necessary for him to do his job.

Perry told a House energy subcommittee Thursday that his agency has research labs and other facilities in many remote places. He says he also receives numerous invitations from members of Congress to visit their states.

Perry jokingly says that while he "could even hitchhike," it is sometimes most efficient for him to use private aircraft.

The Energy Department says Perry has taken at least six trips on government or private planes costing an estimated $56,000. The trips have included visits to facilities in Washington, Idaho and New Mexico.

Several Trump administration officials' travel expenses have recently attracted public attention.

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3:26 a.m.

The Trump administration says coal is back and nuclear energy is cool. But an unusual coalition of business and environmental groups says that should not be at the expense of natural gas, wind and solar.

Dow Chemical, Koch Industries and U.S. Steel Corp. are standing with environmentalists in opposing an Energy Department plan that would reward nuclear and coal-fired power plants for adding reliability to the nation's power grid. And they are pressuring the administration to shift course.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the plan is needed to help prevent widespread outages such as those caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and a 2014 "polar vortex" in the Eastern and Central U.S.

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