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Hopes high for substance in Trump’s speech at oil conference

BISMARCK - With the region's premieroil industry conference as his backdrop, hopes are high that presidential candidate Donald Trump will offer some substance on his energy policies when he delivers his highly anticipated speech here Thursday.

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs after a rally with supporters in Albuquerque, N.M. on May 24. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

BISMARCK – With the region’s premieroil industry conference as his backdrop, hopes are high that presidential candidate Donald Trump will offer some substance on his energy policies when he delivers his highly anticipated speech here Thursday.  

The Republican presumptive nominee is scheduled to speak to more than 7,000 people at about 1 p.m. at the Bismarck Event Center, capping off the three-day Williston Basin Petroleum Conference.

About 2,650 people had registered for the conference as of Wednesday morning, and another 4,500 tickets have been sold to the public, North Dakota Petroleum Council spokeswoman Tessa Sandstrom said.

Rachel Lindstrom, the executive director of Devils Lake Economic Development, who was trying to drum up interest in the city’s industrial park from a booth in the exhibition hall Wednesday, said she normally doesn’t attend the conference events but will take advantage of her ticket to see Trump and hopes to hear him talk about workforce.

“I’m curious to see if he’s really as wild and outlandish as the national media portrays him to be,” she said.

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U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, who has endorsed Trump and is advising him on energy policy, released an op-ed piece Wednesday that may foreshadow some of Trump’s speech.

Cramer blasted the Obama administration’s new regulations on coal and warned that the administration and its allies “have their sights set on the oil and gas industry, as well.” He also drew contrasts between Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who he said “has vowed to put coal miners out of work.”

“Donald Trump gets it and millions of American voters get it. Renewable energy has its place but fossil fuels are a way of life, and we are thankful for the good-paying jobs the industry provides, and the affordable and reliable energy that powers our society,” Cramer wrote.

North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said he hopes to hear Cramer’s influence in Trump’s speech and a “North Dakota-centric, more cogent federal energy policy discussion.”

“Not so much soundbites but actually beginning to formulate a concept of what a proactive federal energy policy might look like” in terms of how a Trump administration would regulate the oil industry and deal with exports and competition with OPEC and Iran and Russia.

In an interview at the conference Wednesday, Cramer’s Democratic opponent in November, attorney and American Indian activist Chase Iron Eyes, took aim at Trump’s dismissal of climate change as a hoax.

“It’s irresponsible to deny it and act like it’s not happening,” he said.

Trump is expected to meet with most of North Dakota’s 28 unbound delegates to the Republican National Convention, but several delegates said Wednesday they don’t know how much time they will have with him. With the Secret Service handling his security, “The reality of this is they’re not going to release anything until the last minute,” state GOP chairman Kelly Armstrong said.

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Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a national delegate, said he hopes to remind Trump that states like North Dakota are still very dependent on agriculture.

“I also want to remind him that when you are in production agriculture, you depend very much on exports to countries in Asia and other places, and so trade is very important,” he said.

National delegate Bette Grande of Fargo, who chaired Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in North Dakota and still isn’t sold on Trump, said she wants to hear a full energy plan from him, including his plans for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan that’s been put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I would love to hear something a little more specific and hope that he would not change his mind after he said it,” she said.

With 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, Trump had secured 1,209 delegates as of Wednesday, with 352 still available, according to Associated Press figures.

Trump’s visit to North Dakota will be the second by a presidential candidate within two weeks. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders spoke in Bismarck on May 13 and former President Bill Clinton stumped for Hillary Clinton in Fargo last Friday.

Leaders from the Three Affiliated Tribes will be among those in attendance at Trump’s speech. The Fort Berthold Reservation has accounted for about 17 percent of oil production in the nation’s No. 2 oil-producing state.

“We listened to Bernie, we met with Hillary’s senior advisers and met Bill and now we’re going to listen to Donald Trump,” Tribal Councilman Kenneth Hall said. “We feel that we need to listen to all of them.”

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