U.S. House axes rules to prevent corruption, pollution

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By Lisa Lambert | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Two major U.S. rules aimed at curbing
corruption and pollution in the energy sector may be entirely
wiped from the books by next week, after the Republican-led
House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to repeal them.

The Senate is expected to take up repealing the rules, both
of which were years in the making, as soon as Thursday.

Under the virtually untested Congressional Review Act, the
Republican-led Congress can vote to permanently undo newly
minted regulations. Agencies cannot revisit overturned
regulations and timing in the law means any regulation enacted
in the Obama administration’s final months are eligible for
axing.

Required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, the
Securities and Exchange Commission’s “extraction rule” was
approved this summer to require companies such as Exxon Mobil
Corp and Chevron Corp to publicly state the
taxes and other fees they pay to governments.

Exxon, and other major energy corporations, fought for years
to keep the rule from seeing the light of day. After a series of
legal battles the SEC in June 2016 finally completed the rule,
which supporters say can help expose questionable financial ties
U.S. companies may have with foreign governments.

During Wednesday’s debate, Representative Maxine Waters, the
senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee,
raised concerns that Exxon’s CEO during those fights was Rex
Tillerson, just confirmed in the top diplomatic post of
Secretary of State. During Tillerson’s confirmation hearings, he
raised Democrats’ hackles by saying he did not know Exxon
lobbied against U.S. sanctions on Russia, where he did business
for years.

Republicans say the rule is burdensome and costly for energy
companies, and also duplicates other long-standing regulations.

On the House floor Republican Jeb Hensarling, chairman of
the Financial Services Committee, called the rule part of “a
radical leftist elitist agenda against carbon-based jobs.”

The stream buffer rule is intended to lessen the amount of
waste from mountain-top removal coal mining deposited in local
waterways.

Republican lawmakers, though, say it is hurting coal jobs by
placing unworkable limits on the industry. Democrats, on the
other hand, say it cuts down on water pollution.

Republicans consider loosening regulation as high a priority
as dismantling the Affordable Care Act and rewriting the tax
code, according to Kevin McCarthy, the second most powerful
Republican in the House.

On Thursday, the House will vote on repealing three other
rules – on methane on public lands, expanding background checks
for some gun purchases, and requiring federal contractors to
post information on their workers.

In recent weeks, the House has also passed bills to slow
down regulatory processes and President Donald Trump, a fellow
Republican, has issued executive orders trying to shrink the
government bureaucracy. (Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch)



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