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U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in Hopkinsville: "Innovate, Don't Regulate"

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

"Innovate, don’t regulate." That was the ‘bumper sticker’ message U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry delivered to business leaders in Hopkinsville on Thursday.

He and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke at a Hopkinsville Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Perry said serving as Texas governor he learned there are four factors for a state to prosper: “If you want to be a place where people will move to your state, that they’ll want to be a part of that, don’t over-tax them, don’t over-regulate them, don’t over-litigate them and have a skilled workforce.”

Perry said, "most importantly," there needs to be a ‘fair and predictable’ regulatory climate. He added that both McConnell and President Donald Trump understand this.

He said federal and state governments getting regulations 'out of the way' of innovation sends a message that America is a global leader.

Hydraulic fracturing, he said, is an example of the kind of innovation federal and state governments need to make room for through deregulation. "We're the number one oil and natural gas producing country in the world because of innovation and because of American ingenuity. May we never lose sight of America's role in the world: it's to lead," he said.

'Fracking' has led to a significant increase in domestic natural gas production over the last decade but has come at some environmental cost, including a 'hot mess' in eastern Kentucky.

He criticized the Obama administration for stopping pipeline projects. In 2015, Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline project, drawing an outcry from Republican leadership, including McConnell - who later urged Trump to approve the project.

Perry said on Thursday, "This country is blessed with these natural resources... and to be able to move that around to different places can create an economic explosion in this country like we've never seen before."

Referencing the U.S. Energy Information Administration's 2017 International Energy Outlook, Perry said Perry said by 2040, 77% of the power generated in the world will still be fossil fuels. "The previous administration had a bias against coal and against nuclear energy," He said, "And they did untold harm to this country's ability to generate power." He said a goal of Trump's administration is to 're-balance this bias.'

Perry said he's heading to India in the next two weeks to discuss American resources being exported to the country, including liquefied natural gas and 'clean coal.'

Trump has pledged to revitalize the coal industry. And the Ohio Valley region has seen some recent recovery in coal production and employment. The Rhodium Group analyzed coal’s decline over the past six years. They told the Ohio Valley ReSource in January, the greatest factors were the rise of cheap natural gas, competing fuels, energy efficiency and growth in renewable energy. They said environmental regulations played a relatively small role.

Governor Matt Bevin signed a measure into law last year lifting Kentucky's ‘nuclear moratorium.'

Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS
Energy Secretary Rick Perry thanked to Senator McConnell for his friendship, support of the energy industry and service to Kentucky and the country. "We are incredibly grateful for your service," he said, garnering applause.

Trump's infrastructure plan calls for the period of time it takes to get permits and projects started reduced 'from 10 years to two years,' Perry said. "You think about the cost of a road. If you have to wait 10 years to get that project started because of regulations."

Another of President Trump's goals, he said, is for people to look at the federal government "and be proud of what they're doing," where they see a positive impact from dollars being spent by the federal government. "Senator McConnell, thank you for being a steward of that concept," Perry said.

Perry said people might be surprised to learn that the Department of Energy oversees the country's nuclear weapon supply, 17 national labs and research into dealing with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries with regard to military service. The latter, he said is an example of people seeing that 'positive impact.'

He said he envisions people 40 years from now looking back at this time as an era "when America really got back on track. When the energy that this country had been blessed with was unleashed to do good and to deliver freedom around the world." 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry as his "second favorite cabinet member" (after his wife, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao). Perry said he is okay with that, to laughter and applause.
Credit Matt Markgraf

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced Perry. In his brief remarks, he said some advantages of being the Senate Majority Leader have included leaving the Supreme Court vacancy open for President Trump to fill along with several other court vacancies. He said the new administration came to office with a record number of federal court vacancies.

"So what the President's been doing is sending up relatively young men and women who will be on the court for a generation having a huge, long-term impact on what our country is going to be like," McConnell said.

He said under the Congressional Review Act, several regulations have been taken off the books. He also touted the recent Republican-led tax reform. 

"The last year and a half, if you prefer America 'right-of-center,' the last year and a half is the best year-and-a-half since I've been in the Senate," McConnell said.

After Hopkinsville, Perry and McConnell toured the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, where remediation efforts have long been underway. While neither promised to return nuclear power to west Kentucky, they both said they were committed to funding the site's clean-up and employment. 

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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