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US business lobby aims to overhaul energy policies

11 Jan 2017, 10.30 pm GMT

US business lobby aims to overhaul energy policies

Washington, 11 January (Argus) — The US Chamber of Commerce is itching for president-elect Donald Trump to get started on his vows to roll back regulations the business trade group says are restraining economic growth and energy production.

Trump could throw out some of those policies soon after he is sworn in by rescinding executive orders issued by President Barack Obama and signing congressional resolutions blocking recent regulations. Trump said today during a press conference that there would be some "really good signings" of executive orders starting on 23 January, three days after he takes office.

But Chamber president Tom Donahue today acknowledged that rules like the Clean Power Plan, which sets limits on carbon emissions in the power sector, and a revised definition of water that is subject to federal oversight would take longer for Trump and the US Congress to roll back. As a result, he said policymakers should "get started" on rescinding regulations and also work to repeal policies limiting energy production.

"Lawmakers should work quickly to rescind and replace the restrictive energy policies of the current administration so that we can unleash more growth and more jobs for Americans," he said in a speech in Washington, DC, outlining the trade group's policy change agenda.

US oil and gas production has grown significantly under Obama, despite criticism from industry groups about the costs of new environmental regulations. US crude production averaged close to 8.9mn b/d in 2016, or nearly 80pc higher than it was when Obama took office. US natural gas production has grown nearly 35pc over the same time frame.

The Chamber is pursuing an agenda on energy policy and regulations that closely aligns with the priorities of Republicans in Congress. Donahue today played down concerns businesses have raised about Trump's unpredictable actions and instead focused on the "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to make policy changes the business group has pushed for years.

Donahue said he supported plans from Republican leaders to use a law called the Congressional Review Act to block recent federal regulations, but he declined to name which regulations the group wants to target. US policymakers should also expedite the permitting process for infrastructure, overhaul federal tax policy, remove barriers to trade and expand domestic energy development.

But the Chamber does not see eye-to-eye with Republican lawmakers on all policies. Donahue today reiterated calls to make a "modest increase" to the federal gasoline tax that have remained at 18.4¢/USG since 1993. Republican lawmakers have resisted calls to raise the gasoline tax and instead sold crude from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to pay for highway funding. Donahue said that increasing the gas tax would provide long-term and sustainable funding for needed infrastructure.

A plan from House Republicans to include a "border adjustment tax" in their tax overhaul plans have raised concerns among energy groups because its potential to raise the price of imports. The Chamber's chief policy officer Neil Bradley today called it a "major shift in how the US taxes businesses," but said the group was still trying to understand what it means for its members.


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