Oil industry is Writing Executive Orders for Trump to Sign

In preparation for a renewed reign of the insurrectionist, energy sources and their associations are writing up executive orders to reverse much of what Pres. Joe Biden has done over 4 years. If you recall, the same was done after Barack Obama left the presidency. Many or most of Obama’s initiatives were reversed by an incoming president who would have trouble writing a paragraph much less an executive order. A bit different in the latter as it took a different view of a black man in the presidency.

A Little Bold and Gross

by Ben Lefebvre

The U.S. oil industry is drawing up ready-to-sign executive orders for Donald Trump aimed at pushing natural gas exports, cutting drilling costs and increasing offshore oil leases in case he wins a second term. This according to energy executives with direct knowledge of the work.

The effort stems from the industry’s skepticism the Trump campaign will be able to focus on energy issues as Election Day draws closer. They worry the former president is unable to prepare a quick reversal of the Biden administration’s green policies. Oil executives also worry a second Trump administration will not attract staff skillful enough to roll back President Joe Biden’s regulations or craft new ones favoring the industry, these people added.

Six energy industry lawyers and lobbyists interviewed by POLITICO described the effort to craft executive orders and other policy paperwork that they see as more effective than anything a second Trump administration could devise on its own. Those include a quick reversal of Biden’s pause on new natural gas export permits and preparations for wider and cheaper access to federal lands and waters for drilling.

The initiative is just one example of the efforts underway from multiple advocacy groups with strong policy agendas — including abortion-rights opponents — to fill in the gaps for Trump’s potential return to the White House. The presumptive Republican nominee has been a vocal supporter of the oil and gas industry, but the companies often chafed at the effects of his policies as president, including his trade wars and the legal challenges that thwarted some of his pro-fossil-fuel actions.

Trump, who is spending many of his days facing trial in a Manhattan courtroom, has had little time to delve into policy issues with industry officials. In his absence, oil industry officials said they’re not sure who speaks for him on the issues they want to address. And while generally unhappy with Biden’s attempts to rein in their industry, some have expressed nervousness about what policies Trump might pursue.

“Other than what Donald Trump says off the cuff, I don’t think they’re taking much advice on energy strategy,” Frank Maisano, senior principal at the government relations firm Bracewell, said of the ex-president’s campaign. “He’s going to complain about gas prices, he’s going to complain about [natural gas], but only in the general sense because the details are complex.”

So oil industry lawyers have decided to fill the breach. Industry representatives have already prepared some executive orders for Trump to sign if he reaches the White House, said Stephen Brown, director of energy consulting firm RBJ Strategies and a former refining industry lobbyist. Undoing Biden’s actions would be a major target.

“You’ll see a lot of Biden regulations that have come out in the past six months checked one way or another,” Brown said in an interview. “It’s going to be like shooting fish in the barrel — there’s just so much to go after.”

The Biden policies they would seek to unravel include a new fee on leaks of the potent greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas equipment on federal land. The industry also wants to change an Environmental Protection Agency risk management rule focused on preventing refinery accidents, Brown said.

One energy company lawyer said he was working on executive order language on gas exports and “a real five-year plan” for offshore oil leases for a second Trump administration.

A person, who has anonymity to discuss confidential planning . . .

“Supportive industries are going to have to prop up a second Trump administration with expertise. We’re going to have to write exactly what we want, actually spoon feeding the administration. There’s 27-page drafts moving around Washington.”

The Trump campaign’s Agenda 47 website has listed broad-stroke promises: Cut taxes on oil companies, speed up work for oil and pipeline projects and reverse Biden’s pause on gas export permits. But the industry people said they’ve seen little indication from Trump or those in his orbit what actions he would take to make those promises a reality.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt declined to say who is advising Trump on energy issues, only reiterating the campaign’s previous statements that outside groups don’t reflect official strategy or policy.

Sierra Club managing attorney Elena Saxonhouse said adherence to the fossil fuel industry’s agenda would be a continuation of the previous Trump administration, Industry insiders including former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler and oil industry lawyer Dave Bernhardt were Cabinet members leading agencies dealing with energy and pollution regulations.

“It’s not surprising to me,” Saxonhouse said in an interview. “It’s absolutely what we would expect for a second Trump term. The administration would be looking out for polluters’ interests and not for public health or the environment.”

Matthew Davis, vice president of federal policy at the League of Conservation Voters and former EPA scientist, said it’s a fairly widespread norm for outside groups to write policy proposals and white papers to inform an incoming administration’s policies.

An industry writing exact language for an incoming president to sign is “beyond the pale.”

“It is not shocking, but perhaps a little bold and gross that the oil industry is writing text for executive orders,” Davis said in an interview.

In a statement, Biden’s campaign spokesperson James Singer said the president believes in building an energy economy for the future by standing up to special interests and producing record amounts of energy.

“Donald Trump is selling out working families to big oil. Oil companies get huge tax breaks while screwing over consumers and making record profits,“ he said.

Trump hosted energy executives at a dinner last month at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he criticized offshore wind power and said he would end the Biden administration’s pause on new gas export licenses, an industry lawyer who attended the event told POLITICO.

And he is using his stump speeches to blame Biden for increasing energy costs, linking those to inflation and higher interest rates.

“We must be the most affordable energy and electricity place anywhere on the planet,” Trump said in last year’s rollout of his proposed second term agenda.

“Right now we have energy that is weak, substandard and unaffordable. It’s made by the wind.”

Biden’s policies have pushed clean energy development largely through the hundreds of billions of dollars in his signature Inflation Reduction Act as well as the bipartisan infrastructure law. But oil production and natural gas exports have also reached record highs during his term.

While Biden has not delivered on his 2020 campaign promise to end new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters, his administration’s regulatory actions have raised the costs for drilling, tightened rules on methane pollution and slowed the pace of lease sales. Those actions in particular are the ones the industry would like to see rolled back first, according to oil and gas executives.

While interest groups regularly write policy frameworks and white papers for incoming administrations from both parties, it would be less common for them to write ready-made executive orders or rules for a new president to sign, said Mark Squillace, a former Interior Department official under President Bill Clinton.

“It’s not particularly surprising that they’d be engaged,” Squillace, now a natural resources law professor at the University of Colorado, said of the oil industry advocates. “These are people who have a strong interest and expertise in an issue. Sometimes the Trump administration might be inclined to sign whatever is put in front of their nose.”

Trump regularly said things that pleased the industry’s collective ears during his first term, but the industry members said the executive orders his aides wrote did little to further the companies’ goals. One specific example they cited — Trump’s executive order on “America-First Offshore Energy,” a plan to promote offshore oil drilling — had little impact amid low oil prices and his administration’s eventual failure to put together a five-year drilling plan.

That concern continues, others said. They said the industry doubts that Trump would be able to staff an A-team of experts needed to reverse the parts of Biden’s energy policies they don’t like.

“There’s a lot of skepticism on what team a new Trump administration could bring in with energy. The previous time around it was the B team, the C team. Now we’re wondering if it’s going to be the F team.”

Mandy Gunasekara, a former EPA chief of staff during the Trump administration, said the ex-president regularly talks to people in the oil industry to discuss policy ideas and doesn’t rely on any particular advisers. Gunasekara stressed she wasn’t speaking as a campaign surrogate.

What a second Trump administration would likely do upon taking office is scour the Biden administration’s policy actions and decide as they did with after President Obama. “Do we rescind it, do we amend it or do we keep it as is,” Gunasekara said in an interview. She wrote a section on reshaping the EPA for the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, a sprawling set of policy recommendations written by Trump supporters and former aides.

Trump’s main energy policy aim would be “to jump start the economy and reduce the cost burden on the American people upper 20% of taxpayers who have been feeling ever since Biden walked into the White House,” Gunasekara added.