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Promising pipelines and fracking, Trump rakes in millions at Texas fundraisers

Published 2024-05-23, 06:23 p/m
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks and sign an executive order on energy and infrastructure at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas, U.S., April 10, 201
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By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raised tens of millions of dollars during a fundraising swing through Texas this week, promising he would support the oil and gas industry by backing new pipelines and restoring fracking on federal land.

Trump has courted support from the energy industry with a pro-fossil fuel and anti-regulation agenda and regularly criticizes President Joe Biden's policies to accelerate the energy transition toward a low-carbon economy.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks and sign an executive order on energy and infrastructure at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

The oil and gas industry has boomed under Biden despite increased regulation and the more climate-focused administration, making record profits and pumping more oil and gas than ever before. The industry has pushed back against Biden's ban on fracking on federal land a recent halt in approving new gas export facilities. A Houston fundraiser on Wednesday was hosted by oil billionaires Jeff Hildebrand, founder of Hilcorp Energy, the largest closely held U.S. oil firm; George Bishop, founder of GeoSouthern Energy; Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources; and Kelcy Warren, head of pipeline firm Energy Transfer Partners. Trump drew standing ovations when he promised to get more natural gas pipelines built if elected and to restore fracking to areas barred under Biden, said Mark Carr, a Houston entrepreneur who was in attendance. Many oil and gas pipelines were delayed or abandoned under both Trump and Biden's administrations due to community opposition, legal challenges and lengthy permitting processes. "He's going to get energy going again in the United States," said Carr, who founded the Houston-area Christian Brothers Automotive chain. Trump said America needs to quit taking Venezuelan "tar" oil and instead use American oil, said another attendee, who declined to be named. The United States has resumed limited imports of Venezuelan crude under Biden for processing at U.S. refineries. Trump has emphasized tax cuts for the industry, "streamlining" the permitting process, and removing certain regulations, said donor and oil executive Dan Eberhart, who was in Houston for the event. "We can drill our way to energy security and low gas prices," said Eberhart. The Houston fundraiser was held by the Trump 47 Committee, a fundraising tie-up between the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, a fundraising group that has spent tens of millions of dollars on Trump's legal fees, and a raft of Republican state parties. The Houston luncheon and a smaller, more intimate roundtable with a group of about 45 executives was followed by a fundraising event in Dallas on Wednesday night. A Trump campaign official said the Texas swing brought in at least $15 million. Two sources told Reuters the various Texas events took in a total of around $40 million. Reuters was not immediately able to confirm that number. After a raft of high-dollar donor events across the country, Trump overtook Biden in fundraising last month for the first time. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate finance and budget committees on Thursday launched an investigation into Trump's reported offer to roll back a slew of environmental regulations in exchange for $1 billion in campaign contributions. The investigation came a week after the top Democratic lawmaker on a U.S. House oversight panel sought information from nine oil companies about reports about "quid pro quo propositions" made by the former president at a campaign event this spring at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The Texas events were pricy affairs: Host committee members were asked to pay $250,000 per couple and agree to raise another $500,000, according to the invitations. The chair was asked to donate about $845,000 per couple and raise another $1.69 million. An after-luncheon roundtable drew Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) CEO Vicki Hollub and Houston entertainment and sports magnate Tillman Fertitta, who owns the hotel where the event was held. They were offered a question-and-answer period with the candidate.

Also in attendance in Houston was North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a former Trump rival for the Republican nomination and now a possible running mate, according to another attendee. Teofilo Lingi, chief operating officer of EK-Petrol, said the former president was "good for the oil industry" and relations with Angola, where his trading and oil exploration company was founded. Stricter environmental regulations since Trump's term in office have "made it more difficult for us to import from Angola," Lingi said, citing customs duties.

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