Energy: Post-Election Update 2016
The 2016 election results have significant implications for companies across a wide range of industry sectors. From environmental policy to financial services to tax reform, President-elect Donald Trump has committed to sweeping action on a variety of fronts, and will have a Republican-controlled House and Senate to work with on priority issues. Nevertheless, the GOP-led Senate is not filibuster-proof, and many of the finer points of Trump's agenda remain unclear. Accordingly, it is important for interested stakeholders to begin thinking through how their own priorities will track with the next President and Congress.
Although there was almost zero discussion of energy policy in the presidential debates, President-elect Trump frequently cited energy policy as a cornerstone of his plans to grow the U.S. economy.
While the dust settles on this historic election and as Americans await the inauguration of their new President, those interested in energy policy can expect that questions about energy infrastructure, the power sector, the transportation sector and upstream production will be hotly debated in Washington during 2017.
Trump has made it clear that an infrastructure-driven jobs program will be his central economic priority in the initial months of his presidency. While it is premature to speculate about the exact composition of any infrastructure package, it is reasonable to expect that it will include provisions designed to fast-track the energy infrastructure (e.g. pipelines, terminals, etc.) necessary to maximize the economic benefits of domestic energy production.
Power Sector: CPP and Beyond
President-elect Trump has made it clear on the campaign trail that he intends to dismantle President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The legal challenges to CPP will still be underway even as the new President is inaugurated. As a result, there will be options to potentially change or reach settlement on the rule. That being said, even if the rule proceeds, a Trump administration can reopen the rule through rulemaking assuming their decision is based on substantial evidence in the administrative record. In any event, the regulatory burden facing the utility industry is likely to be dialed back substantially.
Transportation Sector: RFS and Beyond
The RFS has been the subject of immense amounts of discussion from the primary season in Iowa through today’s heated debates. We expect that it will continue to be a collective focus of the farm lobby; the oil industry; and the environmental community who now doubt that the program will generate significant greenhouse gas emission reductions.
While Trump has been generally supportive of ethanol, he has stated that he thinks current implementation of the renewable fuels policy has created some unfairness for refiners and small business in the unstable world of high prices for tradable credits (or RINs). There could well be action in reforming that part of the renewable fuel program and fairly soon. There is little doubt that Trump has received input on the issue at the highest levels.
Unleashing Upstream Production
A Trump administration is clearly in favor of enhanced exploration and production of oil and gas as a tenet of energy, economic and national security policy. Some of Trump's key advisors–from Oklahoma oil producer Harold Hamm to North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer–have espoused a bullish posture on oil and gas and shale development in particular.
Trump has spoken before major conferences in the Bakken and Marcellus regions delivering a message of strong growth and development. In concrete terms, this may mean that Trump is not likely to impose particular restrictions on development on public lands and may not be favorably disposed towards assertion of new EPA authority to regulate fracking or other aspects of the shale process.
He has said he would “revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies,” which may be an oblique reference to new restrictions proposed on methane emissions from oil and gas production.