Trump Meets With Energy CEOs Discouraged by Fracking Remarks

Updated on
  • Republican isn’t pressed on fracking comments before media
  • His July comments disappointed some in the energy industry

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump applauds supporters after his campaign speech in Loveland, Colorado, on Oct. 3, 2016.

Energy executives in Denver on Tuesday warned Donald Trump, who has said he supports letting local residents vote on fracking bans, that state regulations are thwarting oil and gas development.

The Republican presidential nominee’s meeting could be designed to assuage industry concerns provoked when he told a Denver television station in July that “if a municipality or state wants to ban fracking, I could understand that,” adding that “voters should have a say” in the issue.

During the roughly eight-minute portion of the Tuesday meeting open to journalists, more than a dozen executives didn’t push Trump to provide further details about his view of local drilling regulations, but some described state restrictions as one reason they’re beginning to look outside Colorado.

“My partner and I pretty much left Colorado for that reason,” Scott Stewart, a managing partner of Gilbert-Stewart Operating, said. There’s a “little better environment” in Kansas, but “a few more steps and they’ll be in the same place.”

QuickTake Fracking

He said the state-by-state energy regulations are “a mixed kind of a can of worms.”

Regulations, Taxes

Colorado has been a major battleground in the fight over fracking as environmentalists and local residents push for limits on the post-drilling process that has unlocked vast stores of oil and gas across the U.S. but is suspected of endangering water supplies. Colorado activists have sought more distance between drilling and residential communities, in part to keep noise at bay. Environmentalists also have pushed for bans to reduce the risk that fracking fluids can spill or gas can leak out of poorly designed wells and contaminate local water supplies.

Activists tried but failed to get enough signatures to put two measures restricting fracking on the ballot in Colorado this year, the latest defeat in a years-long crusade to reduce drilling in the oil- and gas-rich state. Colorado’s high court struck down two local fracking regulations in May, including a moratorium in Fort Collins and a ban in Longmont.

“The energy business is being decimated,” Trump said Tuesday at the roundtable meeting at the Denver offices of K.P. Kauffman Company Inc., an independent oil and gas firm.

“So before we start, let me guess, you’re having tremendous problems with regulations,” Trump said. “And high taxes are a big problem?”

‘Closing Up’

Several executives agreed, but some remained silent.

Trump said he meets with many people in the energy industry “and they’re closing up” or getting rid of thousands of employees.

“They can’t compete with regulation and they can’t compete with foreign,” Trump said.

John Harpole, chief executive officer of Mercator Energy LLC, a Littleton, Colorado-based gas broker, said the U.S. “shale revolution” has unlocked domestic energy resources and lowered the the price of natural gas, delivering a multibillion-dollar annual savings in household electricity bills. Low-income households benefit most because energy is a big share of their budget, Harpole said, arguing that fracking is an effective anti-poverty program.

“I can’t comprehend how this issue didn’t come up” in the Sept. 26 debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Harpole said.

Trump answered, “I talk about it.”

After reporters were escorted out of the room, the discussion focused on issues affecting the energy industry in Colorado, including exports of liquefied natural gas and how the fossil fuel can be burned to provide steady, reliable electricity, backing up intermittent wind and solar power, Harpole said. He said Trump asked the executives to describe the regulations affecting the industry at the federal, state and local level.

"He was very familiar with the lost opportunity and the lack of leadership -- that we had handed the national politicians the greatest geopolitical victory in the shale revolution and it has been totally fumbled," Harpole said in an interview after the closed-door session.

In a statement after the meeting, Trump’s campaign said he’d make the U.S. the “world’s dominant leader in energy production" and said he supports "safe hydraulic fracturing" and "energy production on federal lands in appropriate areas."

Colorado’s nine electoral votes appear increasingly out of reach for Trump, according to recent poll data. Clinton leads him there by 11 percentage points, said a Monmouth University poll released Monday.

Clinton is sending her running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, to the state on Oct. 10 to host a concert with musician Dave Matthews and urge residents to register to vote.

Clinton and Trump meet for their next debate Sunday in St. Louis.