Trump’s 2 sentences on energy

Source: Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2018

President Trump gave only passing mention to energy and natural resources issues during his first State of the Union address last night, despite the administration’s efforts over the past year to make reversing Obama-era environmental regulations a centerpiece of its energy dominance agenda.

“I think there was like two sentences,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told E&E News after the speech.

She was right.

“We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world,” Trump said, adding that his administration has “eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.”

U.S. EPA and the Interior Department have largely driven those efforts. In Congress, Murkowski netted a major win for her state late last year when lawmakers approved oil and gas drilling in a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a longtime goal for the congressional delegation.

“I thought it was a strong speech,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan. “There wasn’t a lot of energy talk,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot of things he needs to get into his speech.”

Still, Republicans, and at least one Democrat, were happy with those two lines in a speech that focused on the administration’s tax cuts enacted into law last year, a four-pronged immigration reform plan and national security issues.

When Trump uttered his lines on energy, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin flashed a big smile, gave a thumbs-up and then stood to applaud — one of the few Democrats to do so.

Manchin aside, most of the applause in the chamber during the speech came from Republicans, with many Democrats sitting silently and grim-faced or audibly pushing back on certain sections, particularly those dealing with immigration.

“Look, to the extent there was policy content in the speech, there was a series of one-liners with no backup plan,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), an appropriator and member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “What we’ve learned is, watch what this president does, not what he says — that changes day to day.”


The president made a much-anticipated plug for his infrastructure plan, which he expects to generate more than $1 trillion in investment from various sectors over the next decade (see related story).

“I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve,” Trump said. “Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.”

Sullivan, echoing the view of many in his party, said, “The focus on infrastructure and permitting reform I think is important.”

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said Trump “understands that we must modernize onerous and duplicative federal permitting requirements for any infrastructure package to succeed,” including reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act.

The top Democrat on Natural Resources, Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, criticized the president’s plan after the speech for the very reasons many Republicans liked it.

“We’ve heard these same substance-free talking points about the miracles of deregulation for years. This isn’t a bridge to the future, it’s a tunnel back to the Gilded Age,” he said.

“Republicans in Washington seem to think our economy won’t function until big corporations can do whatever they want regardless of the consequences,” said the Democrat.

Interest groups

Green groups and energy industry associations weighed in on the administration’s “energy dominance” initiatives and regulatory rollbacks.

So far, Trump’s “actions to roll back protections for public lands and reverse progress on pollution control and climate change all point to the administration’s goal: selling out public lands owned by all Americans in the pursuit of dirty energy, so a handful of private interests can profit,” the Wilderness Society said.

Skeptics also pointed to the limits of the president’s actions. Ken Bone, the man who asked the president a question during one of the 2016 election debates, tweeted, “I work in the coal industry. Very little has changed.”

For their part, energy groups like the Independent Petroleum Association of America praised the administration for helping lead an energy resurgence in the United States.

“This growth in both economic progress and energy production comes as industry’s commitment to the environment has resulted in new technologies and practices to further limit our footprint on the land and air we all cherish,” CEO Barry Russell said in a statement released before the speech.

Even if brief, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said about Trump’s energy message, “I liked it.” Barton, who worked on facilitating exports of American crude, added, “It would have been nice if he had said, ‘Thank you, Joe Barton, for repealing the ban on crude oil exports.'”

Reporter Geof Koss contributed.