Coal rule killed by U.S. Congress, others near chopping block

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By Lisa Lambert | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Congress moved swiftly on
Thursday to undo Obama-era rules on the environment, corruption,
labor and guns, with the Senate wiping from the books a rule
aimed at reducing water pollution.

By a vote of 54-45, the Senate approved a resolution already
passed in the House of Representatives to kill the rule aimed at
keeping pollutants out of streams in areas near mountaintop
removal coal-mining sites.

The resolution now goes to President Donald Trump, who is
expected to sign it quickly. It was only the second time the
Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to stop newly
minted regulations in their tracks, has been used successfully
since it was passed in 2000.

The Senate then turned to an equally controversial rule
requiring mining and energy companies such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron to disclose taxes and other payments
they make to governments at home and abroad. Democrats, who
cannot filibuster the resolution, attempted to slow the process
by pushing debate late into the night, with a vote scheduled for
shortly after 6:30 a.m. on Friday.

Republicans are using their control of Congress and the
White House to attack regulations they believe hurt the economy.
They cast the stream protection rule as harming industry and
usurping state rights.

“The Obama Administration’s stream buffer rule was an attack
against coal miners and their families,” said the top Senate
Republican, Mitch McConnell, adding it had threatened jobs in
his home state of Kentucky.

Environmental activists and many Democrats said it would
have made drinking water safer by monitoring for pollutants such
as lead.

“Given that many of these toxins are known to cause birth
defects, developmental delays, and other health and
environmental impacts, this basic monitoring provision was
essential,” said Jeni Collins, associate legislative
representative for environmental group Earthjustice.

The coal industry hopes the repeal will lead Trump to
overturn a moratorium by former President Barack Obama’s
administration on some coal leases.

Senator Joe Manchin, who represents West Virginia,
historically coal country, was one of the few Democrats who
supported killing the rule. He told CNN more than 400 changes
had been made to the regulation as it was drafted.

“There’s nobody in West Virginia that wants dirty water and
dirty air, but you can’t throw 400 different regulations … on
top of what we already have and expect anyone to survive,” he
said.

GUNS, PAY DISCRIMINATION

Also on Thursday, the House on Thursday overturned Obama
administration rules addressing pay discrimination at federal
contractors and requiring expanded background checks for gun
purchasers who receive Social Security benefits and have a
history of mental illness. It plans on Friday to kill a measure
addressing methane emissions on public lands. The Senate will
then take all three up.

The Senate is also targeting rules enacted in the final
months of Obama’s administration for extinction. Senator David
Perdue, a Republican from Georgia, introduced on Wednesday a
resolution for killing one intended to protect users of gift and
prepaid cards.

Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers can vote to
undo regulations with a simple majority. Agencies cannot revisit
overturned regulations. Timing in the law means any regulation
enacted since May is eligible for repeal.

The House already approved a resolution ending the rule that
requires oil companies to publicly state taxes and payments,
which is part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

Republicans and some oil and mining companies say the rule
is burdensome and costly and duplicates other long-standing
regulations.

Supporters of the rule see it as vital for exposing bribery
and questionable financial ties U.S. companies may have with
foreign governments, as well as showing shareholders how their
money is spent. (Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham)



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