U.S. Republicans ax disclosure, emissions rules on energy

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By Lisa Lambert and Timothy Gardner | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. Republicans on Friday repealed a
securities disclosure rule aimed at curbing corruption at energy
and mining companies and voted to ax emissions limits on
drilling operations, part of a push to remove Obama-era
regulations on extractive industries.

In a 52-47 vote, the Republican-controlled Senate approved a
resolution to eradicate a rule requiring companies such as Exxon
Mobil and Chevron Corp to publicly state taxes
and other fees paid to foreign governments like Russia.

The House of Representatives already passed the measure.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign it within days. On
Thursday, the Senate repealed a rule that would have limited
coal companies from dumping waste into streams.

After a number of legal battles, the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission in June 2016 completed the regulation, which
supporters said could help expose questionable financial ties
U.S. companies may have with foreign governments.

Senate Democrats raised concerns that Exxon’s chief
executive during those legal fights was Rex Tillerson, who was
recently confirmed as U.S. secretary of state and has worked
extensively in Russia.

“It should be lost on no one that in less than 48 hours, the
Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed the former head of
ExxonMobil to serve as our secretary of state, and repealed a
key anti-corruption rule that Exxon Mobil and the American
Petroleum Institute have erroneously fought for years,” Senator
Ben Cardin of Maryland said, referring to the oil industry’s
trade group.

Exxon and other major energy corporations fought for years
to block the rule, required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street
reform law.

Cardin, the senior Democrat on the foreign relations
committee, wrote the Dodd-Frank section on the payments to
foreign governments with Richard Lugar, a former Republican
senator.

Critics of the rule said it duplicated existing regulations, was too costly and burdensome for companies to implement and
that it put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage with
state-owned companies in other countries that do not have to
divulge such information.

The change could give American companies an edge over
Canadian and European companies that face some of the toughest
transparency rules in the world.

RARELY USED LAW PREVENTS OPPOSITION

Republicans have taken advantage of a seldom-used law known
as the Congressional Review Act to overturn recently enacted
rules with simple majorities in both chambers, denying senators
the opportunity to filibuster and stall a vote.

Democrats said Republicans were using the review act to help
companies not the public.

“When it comes to giving public resources to private
interests and gutting our nation’s health, environmental and
financial standards, the Republicans can’t seem to act fast
enough,” said Representative Raul Grijalva. “Whoever they’re
doing this for, it isn’t the American public.”

The Congressional Review Act also bars agencies from
revisiting overturned rules, which could pose a legal conundrum
for the SEC, which is required by law to enact a payments
regulation.

The Senate will next consider repealing a rule limiting
venting and leaking of the powerful greenhouse gas methane by
oil and gas drillers on federal and tribal lands, mostly in the
U.S. West. The repeal was passed by the Republican-controlled
House on Friday.

The Interior Department finalized the methane rule in
November. The oil industry has argued that it would add to costs
for new and existing wells. Environmentalists have said the rule
would protect human health and return more than $800 million in
royalties to taxpayers over 10 years. (Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch)



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