Donald Trump pledged an "America first" energy policy before a room full of oil and gas executives in Pittsburgh on Thursday, delivering his most extensive address yet on the oil and natural gas development that has seemingly divided parts of the country in recent years.
Trump promised to tear down the barriers to further oil and gas development by lifting the restrictions he claimed the Obama Administration has imposed. He chastised Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her party's stance on fossil fuels and what he believes that has meant for Appalachia's beleaguered coal industry and energy infrastructure projects across the country.
"Producing more American energy is a central part of my plan to making America wealthy again...America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy," he told a packed crowd that erupted in applause at the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s (MSC) Shale Insight conference. "It's all upside for this country. More jobs, more revenues, more wealth, higher wages and lower energy prices. I'm going to lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities, including right here in the state of Pennsylvania."
The Republican presidential nominee's latest visit to the state came as a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released on Wednesday showed him trailing Clinton by six points nationwide. A Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll released last week also showed him trailing her by nine points in Pennsylvania, which is considered a key battleground state. Many of his visits to the state thus far have focused on the declining coal and steel industries and what that has meant for the region's economy. Shale Insight gave the candidate a concrete chance to highlight where he stands on energy policy and high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
The MSC, West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association hosted the sixth annual conference, and organizers said they wanted to hear more about what shale development and its impact on the economy and energy security means to Trump.
"It's great to be with so many friends. You will like me so much," Trump told attendees. "All of my life this business has never had problems, but in the last seven or eight years, it's been tough. With the [Environmental Protection Agency], with all the difficulties you're going through, you are going to like Donald Trump and all of the workers that get put to work, they're going to love Donald Trump."
Trump said "trillions of dollars" of oil and natural gas reserves exist on federal lands. He said he would lift any impediments to developing them. In June, a federal judge ruled that the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management does not have the authority to enforce a rule governing fracking on public and tribal lands (see Shale Daily, June 22). The federal government has appealed that ruling (see Shale Daily, June 27).
Without providing details, Trump said he would streamline the federal permitting process and prevent the regulatory snags that have delayed or prevented pipeline projects from going forward, such as the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines (see Shale Daily, Sept. 9; Nov. 6, 2015).
He railed against the Obama administration and the regulations it's rolled out, such as the Clean Power Plan, Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and efforts to curb methane emissions from oil and gas development.
But Trump told the audience that the regulatory regime under a Clinton administration would "be beyond anything you're experiencing now." Continental Resources Inc. CEO Harold Hamm, who also serves as Trump's energy adviser, said the same during a speech he delivered at the conference on Wednesday. Hamm said the Obama administration has released hundreds of regulations to further control the oil and gas industry.
"Every day they're unloading more, and more, and more," Hamm said of regulations. "Every agency up there is unloading on us."
While the industry overall hasn't seemed to lean toward one presidential candidate this election season, Clinton has made comments about imposing conditions that would lead to the end of unconventional drilling, which has left some on edge. She has made it clear that renewable energy is a priority and suggested that some of Obama's key energy policies would be perpetuated under her administration. Yet she has also taken a more centrist approach at times, acknowledging the role natural gas has played in the nation's energy security and its ability to serve as a bridge fuel towards more renewables (see Shale Daily, April 15).
But Trump charged that her positions would jeopardize drilling on public lands, in the offshore and cost exploration and production companies more money.
"Millions of dollars in private infrastructure investment have been lost to the Obama/Clinton restriction agenda, and there are many, many billions more to follow," he said, referring to the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines and other projects that have stalled.
"Remember that every energy dollar that isn't harvested here in America is harvested in a foreign country, often foreign countries that are not very friendly to us," Trump added. "That not only means that we're sending our jobs to those countries, but it means that energy is being produced in foreign countries that lack our high environmental conservation standards, which we want to keep. That's one more reason why we should pursue the safe and responsible production of America's vast energy resources.
"We need an America first energy plan. It's going to be, from now on, America first."
Trump said he would eliminate WOTUS, which was blocked by a federal appeals court last year (see Shale Daily, Oct. 9, 2015). He also said that he would scrap the Clean Power Plan, which is also tied up in court, and open more of the nation's offshore to oil and gas drilling. He added that the EPA would focus on its "core mission of ensuring clean air and clean, safe drinking water," and said renewable energy, coal and other sources would be a strong part of his policy.
Trump left the conference for a fundraiser in the city. His remarks came as about 100 protesters gathered outside the convention center in opposition to his candidacy and to fossil fuels. The conference organizers said Clinton was also invited to speak but she declined.