In her view, the plan stretches the limits of the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act to achieve a political goal. Tubb equated the proposal to President Barack Obama's use of the Clean Air Act to justify his move to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Power Plan, which conservatives often frame as an abuse of authority.
"Neither are sound, principled policy and both promise harm to consumers. Instead, the President should turn dedicated attention to reversing the underlying policies that are causing the problems he wants to fix," Tubb said.
Coal and nuclear plants are closing mostly due to competition from cheap, cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable energy.
Conservative-leaning news outlet, the "Washington Examiner" called the draft proposal a "ridiculously bad idea" that could backfire for Trump and Republicans by raising prices for households ahead of mid-term elections.
"Voters will be deciding this fall whether to deprive Trump of the ability to enact his agenda and make appointments. To the extent that he pursues economy-crippling central planning policies, he risks losing that election," the Examiner said in an editorial.
The Examiner notes that nearly all of the nation's power outages are due to problems with transmission and distribution lines that carry energy from plants to consumers, not with the facilities that generate power themselves. It says Trump's plan threatens to disrupt the industry's market-based evolution: focusing on exporting U.S. supplies to countries where coal consumption is rising.
Peter Van Doren, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and editor of the journal "Regulation," said the plan threatens to wipe out the intellectual effort that went into creating deregulated, competitive power markets in many parts of the country over the last 25 years. Those markets already put in place a system that effectively makes consumers pay for excess power capacity that can be tapped in times of high demand, he said.
Meanwhile, the nation's remaining regulated markets in the South and West already have the authority to pass on the cost of keeping the plants open to rate payers.
WATCH: Regulators reject Perry's plan for coal and nuclear
"This has no intellectual basis by anybody beyond the third grade," Van Doren told CNBC.
"This is like the tariffs. Find your supporters and hand out stuff and hope," he said, referring to steel and aluminum duties that Trump is imposing on U.S. allies in order to bolster domestic mills. "If you can find anyone who's market-oriented or says they're conservative and supports this, they should turn in their badge."
The Competitive Enterprise Institute declined to comment on the Department of Energy proposal until Perry officially announces a detailed plan. However, Myron Ebell, director of CEI's Center for Energy and Environment, expressed concern about the idea of intervening in free markets.
"CEI has some concerns about President Trump's directive to Secretary Perry to keep coal and nuclear plants operating that would otherwise be shut down," said Ebell, who led Trump's transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency.
One conservative group reached by CNBC, the Heartland Institute, voiced support for the plan.
"President Trump and Secretary Perry are right to focus on the national security aspect of America's energy policy after that factor was ignored by the Obama administration," said Fred Palmer, senior fellow for energy and climate policy at The Heartland Institute.
"After years of waging a war on coal, it is reassuring to see a new administration instead intent on protecting energy freedom and putting national security over green ideology," said Palmer, who served for more than a decade as senior vice president of government relations for Peabody Energy, the largest U.S. coal company when it went bankrupt in 2016.