(CN) — President Donald Trump touted environmental deregulation and railed against Democrats during his visit to the heart of the U.S. oil industry in West Texas on Wednesday.
Trump toured oil and gas facilities during his 16th visit to the Lone Star State as president, boasting about his administration’s history of fast-tracking federal permitting, cutting environmental regulations and incentivizing private investment in energy infrastructure.
Joined by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and other GOP allies, Trump began his Texas trip at the Odessa Marriott Hotel with a private fundraising luncheon hosted by his re-election campaign and the Republican Party.
He then addressed workers, investors, industry members and others in a large air-conditioned tent outside Double Eagle Energy in Midland, expressing pride over oil and gas production in the U.S.
Trump attributed much of the sector’s success to his administration’s rollbacks of longstanding environmental regulations — conservation policies that he says were damaging to American energy efforts.
Over the past three and a half years, many environmental groups have sued the administration over these rollbacks and regulatory overhauls because of their potential negative impact on the environment and certain endangered species.
“Under the last administration, America’s energy industry was under relentless and unceasing attack,” Trump told the crowd, noting that his administration canceled an Obama-era plan that aimed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
“I approved the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline immediately upon assuming office,” he added.
Trump on Wednesday also announced that export authorizations for liquefied natural gas will go through 2050 as he signed four permits for pipeline and rail transport of fossil fuels.
“This will include two permits allowing the export of Texas crude to Mexico, a giant victory for the workers of this state,” he said.
Opponents of Trump’s visit say his political focus on Wednesday was inappropriate due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases in Texas compounded by the impacts of Hurricane Hanna.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state has counted nearly 5,900 fatalities, according to health officials.
“Both the continued Covid-19 surges and Hurricane Hanna’s impact must be met with swift action from the state and federal government,” presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said a statement Wednesday in response to the president’s trip.
“Mr. President, now isn’t the time for politicking or photo-ops,” Biden added. “Texans need a president with the experience and vision to fight for families no matter how many catastrophes reach our shores.”
Trump mentioned the virus during his visit Wednesday, stating that the U.S. government is sending Texas 500 cases of the antiviral drug remdesivir. However, the president downplayed the outbreak in Texas, claiming that statewide, “the number of new cases has begun to substantially decline.”
Trump won Texas in 2016 by 9 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton, but recent polls show the state could swing either way in November’s election.
The incumbent Republican contends the election in Texas will go his way this time around too, especially since he has been an ally of the fossil fuel industry that, according to the American Petroleum Institute, supports 9.8 million jobs nationwide.
But a poll released last week by Quinnipiac University shows 45% of registered voters in Texas support Biden for president, while 44% say they back Trump.
“With crises swirling through American society and a country deeply divided, there’s no other way to slice it. It’s a tossup in Texas,” Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement about the results.