President Obama’s eight-year effort to rein in the energy and mining industries with environmental regulations will likely come to a halt under President-elect Donald Trump, who is poised to green-light key job-creating projects from the Atlantic Coast to Alaska.
With the election of Donald Trump -- and a transition team that includes GOP energy lobbyist Mike McKenna and outspoken climate change skeptic Myron Ebell -- both sides now see their fortunes reversing amid Trump’s promise to rescind Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan and jump-start oil, and natural gas projects.
“I think 80 percent of President Obama’s policies will be reversed very soon after Trump moves into the White House,” Robert McNally, the president of the Rapidan Group, the energy consulting firm, and former official in the George W. Bush administration, told FoxNews.com. “The Trump administration will reverse the global warming principles enacted under Obama and he will stop the politicization of infrastructure. This will definitely spur on the growth of the oil and gas industries.”
Trump's Energy Plans
- Invest in shale, oil, clean coal and natural gas reserve
- Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands
- Rescind Obama's Clean Power Plan and other executive actions
- Make the U.S. energy indpendent and create new jobs
Here are three projects that could be revived soon after Trump takes office in January:
Keystone XL Pipeline
One of the biggest environmental flashpoints of Obama’s presidency, the pipeline’s final phase – which would create a shorter route for American and Canadian crude oil coming from Alberta to Nebraska – was rejected by Obama for not serving “the national interests of the United States.”
Keystone XL faced stiff opposition from environmental groups and a minority of U.S. lawmakers amid concerns of oil spills in highly sensitive ecological terrain and worries from the Environmental Protection Agency about large increases in greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s carbon intensive oil sands.
Throughout his campaign Trump vowed to “immediately approve the Keystone XL pipeline” -- adding he believed it would have no environmental impact and would create hundreds of jobs -- and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is already pressing the president-elect to make it a priority in his first 100 days.
If I am elected President I will immediately approve the Keystone XL pipeline. No impact on environment & lots of jobs for U.S.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2015
TransCanada, the company tasked with building the pipeline, said it's hopeful that Trump will approve the project and that they’re working to convince the president-elect to move on it quickly.
“TransCanada remains fully committed to building Keystone XL,” the company said in a statement sent to FoxNews.com. “We are evaluating ways to engage the new administration on the benefits, the jobs and the tax revenues this project brings to the table.”
Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic
The Obama administration recently moved to restrict drilling in waters off the Eastern Seaboard from 2017 to 2022, but environmentalists, fishermen and those in the East Coast’s tourism industry want to make that restriction permanent before Trump comes into office.
Despite his vocal stance on U.S. energy independence and support of increased oil and gas development, Trump’s stance toward offshore drilling in the Atlantic has been vague -- saying only that he backs it when “done responsibly" -- but if he green-lights drilling in the Atlantic it would make him many friends in U.S. oil and gas companies and could open the possibility to expand drilling other U.S. waters.
Obama, however, could prevent this by invoking an obscure section of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Act that would make it difficult, maybe impossible, for future presidents to reverse the ban. He has used the act before to safeguard parts of Alaska’s Bristol Bay and parts of the Arctic.
“That’s the big question,” David Goldston, the director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told FoxNews.com. “Will the Obama administration go beyond the five-year ban?”
While a permanent ban is still in question, late last week Obama blocked the sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska for the next five years -- a move that was praised by environmentalists and largely scorned by oil industry representatives.
"Once again, we see the attitude that Washington knows best -- an attitude that contributed to last week's election results," Randall Luther, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, told The Associated Press in reference to Trump's surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s campaign promises of reviving the coal industry helped him win over voters in places like Wyoming, West Virginia and other states hard hit by declining production of the energy source. Now as he readies to enter the White House, many of the voters are looking to see when – and, maybe more importantly, how – the incoming president will fulfill that promise.
Coal production has been on the wane for a number of years as Americans move toward cheaper, cleaner alternatives like natural gas and the industry struggles to cope with tighter environmental regulations imposed by the Obama administration.
Saving the coal industry is part of Trump’s 100-day action plan and, although he has not given any specifics so far, his campaign trail promises included rescinding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule.
While those moves may delay the closure of some aging coal-fired plants, many states regardless of how they voted are opposed to new coal plants and instead actively favor renewable energy as more people become aware of the dangers of coal combustion for humans.
“Coal is a dirty power source,” Goldstone said. “The more coal we burn, the more goes into the air and the more it affects people’s lives.”
Besides the health risks, energy industry experts argue there is a more economic reason why Trump’s coal revival may face difficulty.
“Jobs in the coal industry were not lost because of environmental policies,” McNally said. “Those jobs have become mechanized and the labor overseas is cheaper. Also there is much more interest in natural gas which is both cleaner and cheaper.”
Copper and Crude
Besides Keystone XL and the coal, there a number of projects either on hold or in the exploratory phase that could move under the Trump administration -- especially in regards to copper and gold.
Pebble Mine, in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, contains one of the world’s largest deposits of copper, gold and molybdenum, but the project has been hampered since its inception over concerns from environmentalists, Native Americans and local politicians that toxic residue from the mine could harm the world’s largest population of sockeye salmon and endanger the $252 million-a-year local fishing industry.
Trump has not weighed in on the issue, but Sarah Palin -- Alaska's former governor who is rumored to be on Trump’s short list for Interior Secretary – helped ease the path for what would be one of the world’s largest open pit mines by appointing mining industry officials to lead her Department of Natural Resources and embracing resource extraction.
In southeast Arizona, the so-called Resolution Mine could supply 25 percent of the U.S.’ copper needs for the next 40 years, but stiff opposition from environmental groups like the Sierra Club and from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, which regards the land on top of the mine as one of the most sacred places on Earth, has put the project in jeopardy.
Again Trump has remained mum on the issue, but industry insiders say his massive infrastructure plans could be a good sign for the two foreign companies running the mine.
"Everyone had written copper off; now copper is absolutely motoring," Jeremy Wrath all, head of global natural resources at Investec PLC, told Investor’s Business Daily. "If you start massive infrastructure building, particularly when you start talking about modern smart-grid building, you're going to have a lot more copper use."
Then there are the massive oil reserves in the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, which would be carried to a shipping point in Illinois by the controversial Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). Environmentalists and members of Standing Rock Sioux tribe argue that the pipeline will skirt their reservation and threatens drinking water and cultural sites.
The oil industry in the upper Midwest has taken a hard hit as global oil prices have dropped to between $40 and $20 a barrel over the last year in large part due to OPEC regulation. Trump has made it clear he is no fan of OPEC and believes that U.S. oil production is key to the country’s energy independence.
“Trump has a lot of animosity toward OPEC," McNally said. “And he’s likely to buy into the U.S.-centered business thinking.”
While analysts say that the Obama administration hopes to use the "death by delay" strategy to stop DAPL, the company building the $3.8 billion pipeline -- Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners -- hopes to receive a more friendly tone from Trump.
"Dakota Access has been waiting long enough to complete this pipeline, Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren said last week.