Five Takeaways from Trump’s America First Energy Plan

February 19, 2017

The Trump administration released the America First Energy Plan shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Here are the five key policy takeaways from the plan:

  1. Eliminating burdensome policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule, which would increase American wages by more than $30 billion over the next seven years, according to the administration.[1]

Announced in 2013 by Obama at Georgetown University, the Climate Action Plan (CAP) has twin domestic goals of cutting U.S. carbon emissions over the next decade and preparing federal agencies for climate change.[2] Continuing under CAP would have a significant impact on the coal industry. It is projected that CAP could cause employment to fall by 500,000 jobs by 2030 and natural gas prices to rise by 42% as the resource is shifted from manufacturing uses to energy production.[3] Internationally, CAP positioned the U.S. to lead in negotiations of the Paris Agreement.[4] The pact between 200 nations to reduce carbon emissions was ratified in September 2016.[5] President Trump has not yet taken any action with respect to the Paris Agreement.

The Waters of the U.S. rule was issued in 2015 under the Obama administration to define the water resources under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.[6] The technical, 297-page document expands the reach of the Clean Water Act and would establish whether environmental protection laws are triggered in specific instances, such as if a farmer blocks a stream to create a pond for livestock.[7] Senator Vitter has said that small businesses were “inappropriately excluded from the rule-making process” and will be significantly impacted by this rule.[8]

The Trump administration proposes to eliminate such burdensome policies under the America First Energy Plan. In addition, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch may have an impact on the elimination of similar policies, such as the Clean Power Plan.[9] A stay has been placed on the Clean Power Plan until an appellate court decision comes down.[10] If the case then gets appealed to the Supreme Court, Gorsuch could be the deciding vote.[11]

  1. Take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands owned by the American people. The revenues from energy production will be used to rebuild public infrastructure and schools.

In the first week of his presidency, Trump signed off on the construction of Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline, with the condition that American steel would be used.[12]

When completed, Keystone XL will run from Canada to Nebraska, where it will join an existing pipeline.[13] It is expected to transport both U.S. and Canadian-produced oil, decreasing dependency on Middle Eastern supplies.[14] Trump has said that Keystone XL will generate around 28,000 construction jobs and lower energy costs.[15] Two environmental impact studies by the State Department have found that the Keystone XL pipeline could be better for the environment than the alternative of rail transport.[16]

The Dakota Access Pipeline is projected to run between North Dakota and Illinois.[17] Most of the Dakota Access has already been completed, but a section north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota was held up in December 2016.[18] Following Trump’s permit approval, the Secretary of the Army has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite its review of the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline.[19] North Dakota Senator John Hoeven has said that the easement “will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream.”[20]

  1. Promoting clean coal technology.

NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration completed construction of Petra Nova, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system, in January 2017.[21] The $1 billion Petra Nova project was completed on-schedule and on-budget, and will likely serve as an example for other clean coal plants throughout the Trump administration.

The complex just southwest of Houston can capture more than 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide a day, the equivalent of taking over 350,000 cars off the road.[22] The carbon dioxide is then sent to an oil field, where it can be used to draw crude oil out of the ground.[23]

  1. Boosting domestic energy production and achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel, while working with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy.

Saudi Arabia energy minister Khalid Al-Falih has praised President Trump’s energy policy and sees no problem with growth in U.S. oil production as long as it is in line with demand.[24] Al-Falih has also said that he is looking forward to working with Trump’s respective nominees for Secretary of Energy and Secretary of State, Rick Perry and former Exxon Mobil Corporation Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson.[25]

In addition, Al-Falih has indicated that Saudi Arabia may be increasing investment in the American energy sector as a result of the Trump administration’s policies.

  1. Preserving our natural reserves and resources and refocusing the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.

Trump’s EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, current Oklahoma attorney general, has been confirmed by the Senate committee.[26] He will likely be confirmed by the full Senate as he has the universal support of the GOP.[27] Pruitt has stated that he would follow the recommendations of the E.P.A.’s ethics office with respect to making decisions in cases brought against the E.P.A. while he was attorney general.[28]

These key policy points of the America First Energy Plan support three overarching goals of the Trump administration in energy policy: (1) stimulation of our economy, (2) ensuring our security and (3) protecting our health.


[1] An America First Energy Plan (2017), The White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-energy.

[2] Climate Action Plan, National Archives and Records Administration, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/image/president27sclimateactionplan.pdf.

[3] David Kreutzer et al., Cost of a Climate Policy: The Economic Impact of Obama’s Climate Action Plan (2013),

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/06/climate-policy-economic-impact-and-cost-of-obama-s-climate-action-plan.

[4] Id.

[5] Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,  http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9444.php.

[6] Jenny Hopkinson, Obama’s Water War (May 28, 2015), Politico, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/epa-waterways-wetlands-rule-118319.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Ken Silverstein, How Gorsuch Could Mean Change For U.S. Energy Sector (Feb. 1, 2017), Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2017/02/01/even-trump-is-making-the-oval-office-spin-is-energy-policy-next-with-the-gorsuch-pick/#31bc434a3376.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Brian Naylor, Trump Gives Green Light to Keystone, Dakota Access Pipelines (Jan. 24, 2017), NPR, http://www.npr.org/2017/01/24/511402501/trump-to-give-green-light-to-keystone-dakota-access-pipelines.

[13] Keystone XL Pipeline: Why is it so disputed? (Jan. 24, 2017), BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-30103078.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Stanford Levin, Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines: Good for the environment and the U.S. (Feb. 2, 2017), Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-keystone-xl-dakota-access-pipelines-perspec-0131-md-20170130-story.html.

[17] Dakota Pipeline: What’s behind the controversy? (Jan. 24, 2017), BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37863955.

[18] Id.

[19] Office of U.S. Senator John Hoeven, Hoeven: Secretary of the Army Speer Directors Corps to Proceed with Easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline (Jan. 31, 2017), https://www.hoeven.senate.gov/news/news-releases/hoeven-secretary-of-the-army-speer-directs-corps-to-proceed-with-easement-for-the-dakota-access-pipeline.

[20] Id.

[21] NRG Energy, JX Nippon Complete World’s Largest Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Facility On-Budget and On-Schedule (Jan. 10, 2017), NRG Press Release, http://investors.nrg.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=121544&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2236424.

[22] Mark Chediak, NRG, JX Nippon Open $1 Billion Clean Coal Power Project in Texas (Jan. 10, 2017), Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-10/nrg-jx-nippon-open-1-billion-clean-coal-power-project-in-texas.

[23] Id.

[24] Dana Khraiche, Saudi Energy Minister Praises Trump’s Pro-Fossil-Fuel Policies (Feb. 1, 2017), Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-01/saudi-energy-minister-praises-trump-s-pro-fossil-fuel-policies.

[25] Id.

[26] Coral Davenport, Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Is Approved by Senate Committee (Feb. 2, 2017), NY Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/us/politics/scott-pruitt-epa-senate.html.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

Becca Chang is a second year law student at The University of Texas School of Law. She graduated summa cum laude at the University of Central Florida with a double major in Economics and International and Global Studies. She will be returning to Baker McKenzie this summer to join the Corporate & Securities groups in the Dallas and Sydney offices.