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Energy, Interior secretaries tout Trump's 'world changing' energy tactics

The secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior said the Trump administration is making major changes to energy development and rolling back regulations in a way that they claim is empowering the nation economically.

"This president and this administration, what he has done on the regulatory side is nothing less than world-changing," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said of President Donald Trump. The administration has been able to "remove the regulations, [while] still protecting our environment, still protecting the things that need to be protected, but freeing up and giving stability and predictability to those that are wanting to risk their capital," Perry said Feb. 23 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.

Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reiterated how they are promoting a wide variety of domestic energy options including fossil fuels, offshore wind and technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"I'm all the above," Zinke said. "As long as it's made in America, I'm good with it."

Zinke, who hails from Montana — a state that has seen its share of major wildfires in recent years — said the Obama administration too often put the interests of environmental groups ahead of a balanced approach to land management, including by not allowing enough logging to prevent forest fires.

The U.S. had the costliest fire season on record in fiscal year 2017, paying more than $2 billion to fight wildfires, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA's Forest Service and three Interior agencies share the responsibility for managing wildfires on more than 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands.

"Communities are dying and you can't cut a tree," Zinke said. He contends the nation can use public lands and resources "in a respectful way" and according to the best available science. "But the wealth of those public lands should be accessible to communities across our country. ... If we don't have an economy, all of the rest doesn't matter."

Perry dedicated most of his time at the conference to emphasizing the importance of letting the private sector set the pace for energy technologies. "If you allow Americans to innovate, that they'll find the answer to the challenges that we face as humanity," Perry said. "If we fall into the camp of we're just going to regulate, then we're in trouble."

Perry had asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to require market regulations aimed at rescuing financially ailing coal-fired generation and nuclear power in the name of resiliency. The commission rejected the DOE's proposal to provide extra compensation to generators that can keep a 90-day fuel supply on-site, finding that the agency failed to show how the changes would satisfy legal requirements.