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Political Clash Looms in Energy, Environment Policy

While the head of the American Petroleum Institute (API) on Wednesday hailed the advent of the Trump administration as an opportunity to fulfill America's full oil/natural gas potential globally, a major environmental organization declared war on the incoming administration's stated intent to rollback current regulations.

Separately, livestock industry groups urged President-elect Trump's administration to freeze joint state-industry-federal government efforts to protect habitat for the land-dwelling greater sage grouse in a dozen western states, while Obama administration Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ordered expedited efforts by federal agencies to support California's climate change and drought mitigation programs.

According to Jack Gerard, API CEO, there is bipartisan support for energy growth, and with "re-examination, revision and removal" of burdensome, unnecessary regulations U.S energy production and the economy will flourish. "We need smart, pro-growth energy policies that recognize the role fossil fuels can play," Gerard said Wednesday, adding that the industry also believes in the advancement of renewables.

In a press conference call at about the same time, Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said that based on the president-elect's appointees the new administration is "shaping up to be the worst executive and legislative environmental assault" in the nation's history. "If we care about leaving our children a liveable world, it is time to stand up and fight," Suh said.

Also on Wednesday, the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen's Beef Association said they will jointly push the new administration to quickly roll back both the sage grouse plans and President Obama's move last month to create new national monument designations foreclosing future oil/gas leases on federal lands in Utah and Nevada. Longer term, they want changes in federal environmental and endangered species laws.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, under Jewell's and the Obama administration's leadership, has "shifted its focus toward conservation," despite a clear directive to manage public lands for multiple use and sustained yield, Public Lands Council President Dave Eliason said.

The rancher-backed group indicated its members will push Trump to undo Obama's recent use of the federal Antiquities Act to create the Bears Ears and Gold Butte National Monuments in Utah and Nevada, respectively, and the Waters of the U.S. rule that has drawn heavy pushback by the states. Environmental groups like NRDC are just as adamant about fighting to retain these parts of the Obama administration's legacy.

"We're quite concerned about the threats in Washington, DC, and they are from all angles, so we are going to have to attack with all fronts active," said Suh. In recent times concerted and targeted attacks on environmental regulations by Congress have "not necessarily been successful" even though the attackers were part of the Republican congressional majority, Suh said.

NRDC officials are preparing to make the argument that the costs of wind and solar have come down markedly and there are now nearly a half-million jobs in those two sectors alone. "Even if the president-elect and Congress try to slow our clean energy momentum in the United States, states and cities are ready to lead in climate and clean energy," said NRDC clean energy/transportation program director Kit Kennedy, adding that three Republican governors recently took steps to move clean energy forward in their Midwest states (Illinois, Michigan and Ohio).

Gerard agreed that there are appropriate roles for states and local government to play, and that API supports the right kinds of regulations, which he described as "smart and common sense." Added methane emission and offshore regulations are examples of poor and unnecessary government intervention, he said.

Through private sector innovation and investment, Gerard said the U.S. carbon emissions from electric generation in the first half of last year reached a 25-year low, while U.S. oil/gas production now leads the world, but he nevertheless called for rolling back the Obama administration's energy and environmental policies under which many of the production and environmental advances have taken place.

"The oil and natural gas industry's innovation in the decades-old technique of hydraulic fracturing, paired with horizontal drilling, is the driving force for the American energy revolution,” he said.

In a recent discussion with news media in Washington, DC, Gerard said that studies have estimated the new energy infrastructure for the next dozen years represents potential new private sector investment of $1.1 trillion, and he is hopeful that the new president early in his administration will take actions to kick start a lot of this new investment.

"The United States is now the world’s leading producer of oil, natural gas and refined products, but we have to be able to move that product," Gerard said.


 

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