Republican Party presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump electrified a crowd of more than 7,000 Thursday afternoon in the Bismarck Event Center, delivering his first major address on energy policy at the conclusion of this year’s Williston Basin Petroleum Conference.
Trump, whose support from North Dakota national convention delegates put him over the top for securing the party’s nomination earlier in the day, told the crowd he’d eliminate regulation he says is killing the fossil fuel industry as well as be favorable to additional pipeline projects and exports of American oil.
Thunderous applause greeted Trump’s declaration that in his administration there’d be an “America-first energy plan.”
“We will accomplish a complete American energy independence,” Trump said. “We’re going to turn everything around. We are going to make it right.”
He thanked the North Dakota delegates for putting him over the top.
“I will always remember that,” Trump said.
For those hoping to witness a dose of the sharp rhetoric that’s been a staple of his unconventional and eyebrow-raising campaign, he didn’t disappoint.
Trump vowed to reverse the energy policy of President Barack Obama’s administration, which he said has been devastating to industry and inflicted pain on states such as North Dakota that rely heavily on the energy sector.
“If President Obama wanted to weaken America, he couldn’t have done a better job,” Trump said.
Among the policies he’d push to undo is the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions rules targeting coal-fired power plants. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year voted 5-4 to halt implementation of the rules governing new and existing power plants for now.
“How stupid is that?” Trump said of the emissions rules.
He also slammed the Environment Protection Agency’s Waters of the United State rule, which he said would cause significant damage to American energy production and kill jobs.
Trump had the crowd in the palm of his hand, a sea of people dotted with Trump hats and shirts with his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” He drew wave after wave of raucous applause when outlining how optimistic he is at the prospect of North Dakota and the country’s energy future.
“You’re at the forefront of a new energy revolution,” said Trump, adding that the country has unlocked energy reserves previously unimaginable with new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing. “We’re loaded. We had no idea how rich we are.”
The first 100 days of a potential Trump administration also riled up the crowd: He said he’d rescind executive orders by Obama that he believes are job killers as well as work to eliminate the emissions and water rules.
When considering any federal regulations, Trump said his litmus test would be simple.
“Is this regulation good for the American worker?” Trump said.
Those who heard Trump speak gave his speech an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
“I think from what we see on TV he had a much more detailed presentation. He was really well-informed on the issues,” Whitney Bell, of New Town, said.
Bell said the crowd was fantastic and responded well to Trump's message, which he reiterated was more detailed than mere sound-bites.
Jason Bohrer, president of the Lignite Energy Council, said he was impressed with Trump’s focus on deregulation.
“I heard what I wanted to hear and more. Trump is a different kind of politician; he communicates in a way that a lot of other people don’t,” Bohrer said.
North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness said he was thrilled by how the speech went as well as the overwhelming reaction from the crowd.
“I’ve been to a lot of Class B state championships in this building; this was equal to that,” Ness said. “The energy just rolled in.”
Ness said his America-first message resonated with people and he expects it to become a staple of his campaign.
“That speech was loaded with specifics. He backed that up with a lot of numbers. I didn’t hear anything that isn’t achievable,” Ness said.
Trump tapped Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., earlier this month to help in providing him with energy policy advice. Cramer wrote a white paper on energy policy relating to federal regulations, the importance of the fossil fuel industry and other topics, which hasn’t yet been released.
Cramer was one of the first members of Congress to openly endorse Trump prior to his last opponents dropping out of the race.
North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong said he heard what he needed to hear from Trump on eliminating government regulations, reducing taxes and protecting the energy industry. As chairman, Armstrong is one of North Dakota’s 28 delegates to the national Republican Party convention July 18-21 in Cleveland.
“Tremendously good for the people of North Dakota,” Armstrong said of Trump’s positions.
Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said he didn’t hear much of anything new in Trump’s speech but will be taking time to learn more on him prior to attending the national convention.
“He’s emphasizing some really good points,” Becker said.
Becker was a staunch supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz before he ended his campaign.
“I’m still, I say, undecided,” Becker said.
On the Democratic Party side, a hard-fought delegate battle is hitting the final torrid stretch between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The Associated Press delegate count gives Clinton a 1,769 to 1,497 lead over Sanders as of Thursday. When superdelegates are factored in Clinton’s lead grows to 2,309 to 1,539; a total of 2,383 delegates are needed to secure the party’s nomination although a contested national party convention is expected.
The Democrats have six remaining states with delegates up for grabs June 7 including North Dakota. Sanders made multiple stops in the state earlier this month including Bismarck. Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, has also visited the state as well as other supporters of her campaign.