Donald Trump promised to lift environmental regulations, open federal lands to oil and gas production and ease permitting for oil pipelines during a speech at a fracking conference in Pittsburgh on Thursday in which he accused Hillary Clinton of wanting to kill the energy industry.
"I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities — including right here in Pennsylvania," Trump told shale industry leaders. "The shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for American workers and families."
Trump cast his energy policy as part of his larger economic agenda, which includes a major reduction of the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 15%, renegotiation of major trade deals and an end to many federal regulations.
Trump's proposals would add $5.3 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, significantly more than Clinton's, whose plans would increase the debt by about $200 billion over the same time, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said in a new report.
Trump said his stance on hydraulic fracturing and coal is at odds with Clinton's agenda, which he said would devastate the economy with added taxes and regulations. He cited Clinton's statement earlier this year that she would "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business," though she was marking a larger point about taking care of workers left behind by the changing economy.
"She's not only declared war on the miners but on all oil and natural gas production," Trump said. "It's war."
Trump said Clinton would devastate Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, "where shale energy and coal production are critical parts of the economy." He said it would also hurt the economy in four other presidential battleground states — Colorado, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina — by killing their access to off-shore drilling.
Fracking, which uses drilling and massive amounts of high-pressure water to extract gas, has grown in recent years with technological advances that have made it easier. But it has also drawn controversy from those worried about chemicals polluting the groundwater. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on the practice in his state in 2014.
Trump is counting on his support for fracking to help him in key states with large shale reserves and large numbers of blue-collar voters who have been a key part of his coalition of support. Two of those states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are battlegrounds where Trump likely needs to win if he hopes to become president. Polls show Trump behind in Pennsylvania by an average of 6.6% and ahead in Ohio by an average of 1.8%.
Clinton had supported fracking, launching the Global Shale Gas Initiative as secretary of State to promote the industry in other countries. But, facing a tough Democratic primary challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who strongly opposed fracking, she added tough restrictions to her stance. She said in a March debate that she would give localities the final say, add regulations requiring more disclosure and that she would oppose fracking when there is evidence of water contamination.
"By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place," Clinton said during the debate.
Trump said in July that he supports hydraulic fracturing, but offered a position that mirrored that of many Democrats, calling for voters to decide at the state and local level.
"Voters should have a big say in it," he told a local Denver television station. "I mean, there's some areas, maybe, that don't want to have fracking, and I think if the voters are voting for it that's up to them."