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US lawmaker probes oil, gas sector on alleged regulatory rollback deal with Trump

Highlights

Trump sought $1 bil for campaign according to media reports

LNG pause, offshore leasing allegedly discussed

  • Author
  • Kate Winston
  • Editor
  • Gary Gentile
  • Commodity
  • Crude Oil Electric Power Energy Transition LNG Natural Gas Upstream

Citing ethical and legal issues, a key Democratic US lawmaker is demanding answers from oil and gas companies after former president Donald Trump allegedly sought $1 billion in campaign contributions from the sector in exchange for actions like unfreezing LNG export permitting and expanding oil and gas leasing.

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"Media reports raise significant potential ethical, campaign finance and legal issues that would flow from the effective sale of American energy and regulatory policy to commercial interests in return for large campaign contributions," US Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland said in letters to oil companies.

Raskin, the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, asked for any information available about alleged quid pro quo financial agreements related to US energy policy that were reportedly proposed at an April 11 campaign fundraiser dinner with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club.

The Washington Post reported that Trump allegedly asked for $1 billion in campaign contributions from oil and gas executives in exchange for a promise that he would roll back key oil and gas industry regulations if he is elected, the letter said. The Post story cited anonymous sources.

The New York Times also reported on the meeting and the alleged solicitation of contributions, citing two anonymous sources who attended the function.

Trump reportedly pledged to take action to end the pause on LNG export permits, start auctioning off more leases for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and, and rescind rules to reduce emissions from cars, the Raskin letter said.

Raskin sent the letters to Chevron, ExxonMobil, Continental Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Venture Global LNG, Cheniere Energy, EQT Corporation and the American Petroleum Institute. The letters were sent May 13 and publicly released late May 14.

API officials regularly meet with policymakers and candidates to share the group's priorities, which are the same priorities listed in its public statements, regulatory filings and court dockets, said Andrea Woods, an API spokesperson. The meeting last month was no different, she said.

"The premise of Mr. Raskin's letter is patently false and an attempt to distract from a needed debate about America's future – one that requires more energy, including more oil and natural gas," Woods said.

Biden policies at issue

The Biden administration in January announced a temporary pause on the approval of new LNG export requests to countries without free trade agreements with the US while the Department of Energy reviews whether proposed export levels are still in the national interest.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has said the review should be complete by the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

The US exported some 86 million mt of LNG in 2023, up from 78 million mt the year before, according to data from S&P Global Commodity Insights. And a top Cheniere Marketing official has said the US is still on track to become the world's first producer of 200 million mt plus/year.

Regarding leasing, the Department of Interior in December finalized the 2024-2029 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The program includes the fewest oil and gas lease sales in history, with just three auctions in the Gulf of Mexico planned over the next five years.

The plan stands in stark contrast to the Trump administration's 2018 proposal to hold 47 sales across all US coastal areas.

API has filed a lawsuit with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the Biden administrations leasing program. The group has long argued there needs to be regular auctions to provide market signals to invest and continue developing domestic resources.