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Energy & Environment

Donald Trump expected to address energy policy at WBPC in Bismarck

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When it comes to energy, presidential candidate Donald Trump has left a lot to the imagination. But today he’s traveling to Bismarck to address energy industry professionals from all across the country. North Dakota is the second largest oil producing state in the U.S (TK).  There’s many issues troubling the industry right now, from low energy prices to new federal regulations. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports.

Outside the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, a table is covered in swag. 

“Grab a couple. Take more than one!”

More than one sunscreen, wristband, or sticker. Its all from the Laborers’ International Union of North America, or LiUNA (lie-YOU-na). Pam Link Is the director of business development for LiUNA (lie-YOU-na) in North Dakota and Minnesota. They mostly work on infrastructure projects.

:For years our bread and butter has been pipelines and also the power plants.”

So it’s no surprise that Link feels strongly about keeping fossil fuels in the mix.

“We don’t want coal to go away. We listen to what’s happening in WY with hundreds being laid off in the Gillette area. “

As of April, the US had lost around 10 thousand jobs in coal mining and 17 thousand in oil and gas in just one year. Although LiUNA has already endorsed Hillary Clinton, Pam Link is wondering… what IS Trump’s plan??

“We want something way more in depth when he shows up here. To tell us. Where does he stand on coal? Where does he stand on oil? Where does he stand on natural gas?”

Just inside the event center, the conference is underway. Trump is the headliner later today. Here’s Ron Ness, the president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council- they’re one of the host groups.  Ness wants to hear Trump talk about reining in federal environmental regulations...

“The BLM fracking rules, the BLM flaring and venting rules…”

He says they come at a high cost to oil and gas producers.

“You're getting bombarded. It becomes a mental fatigue issue as much as a resource issue where you’re fighting with your own govt at a time when you’re fighting for survival.”

And they are fighting… 2 years ago there were 191 active drilling rigs in the state, now there are just 28.  You can see those tall idled rigs stacked up in fields near oil boomtowns, like a bizarre city skyline. 

But away from the conference ... at the Bismarck Public Library, the talk was not of rig counts and employment numbers, but of protest planning….

“As long as we don’t break any of those disorderly conduct laws, I think we should be okay.”

In front of a handful of people, organizer Austin Klein is going over details of what to do and what NOT to do during a protest. It’s the first one he’s ever put together.

“I’m very excited. This is huge. I’m… I can’t  contain it. Yea.”

Klein says this protest is not only anti-Donald Trump.

“I’m not against oil extraction, I just want it to be done in the right way.”

He’s planning to highlight some of the problems that have come along with energy development… like increased crime, sex trafficking, environmental issues, and worker safety. Inside Energy found that in 2014, working in oil and gas was almost seven times more fatal than other industries.

"I would like to see rational policies that respect ppl and respect the environment. I would want to vote for someone who would take that into consideration when they're making these energy policies."

And what does Derrick Braaten, one of North Dakota’s only environmental lawyers, think about Trump’s visit?

“Hahaha. I dont know what i think. I’m gonna go and watch him though.”

Braaten works mostly with farmers and ranchers. He questions what sort of power the president really has to really do much about many of these energy issues on the ground.

“I guess what I would like to see of anything I could say on a broad level is a president that acknowledges climate change is real. If we could just start with that. “

Donald Trump has been dismissive of climate change, calling it an expensive hoax and has promised to renegotiate the Paris Climate accord.  He’s being advised on energy policy - unofficially, by North Dakota Representative Kevin Cramer, also a climate skeptic who believes fossil fuels are "a way of life."

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