US Republicans move quickly to dismantle Obama energy and environment rules
07 February 2017
On February 3, the Republican-dominated US Senate voted to remove emissions limits on drilling operations, and repealed a securities disclosure rule aimed at curbing corruption at energy and mining companies. These had already been voted on by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and could be signed into law as soon as next week by President Trump.
Kentucky coal mine - Stock image
The Senate will next consider repealing a rule limiting venting and leaking of methane by oil and gas drillers on federal and tribal lands, mostly in the western USA. The Interior Department finalised the methane rule in November, but the oil industry 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.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission completed the corruption regulation in June 2016, aiming to expose questionable financial ties US companies may have with foreign governments. Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson, recently confirmed as US Secretary of State in the Trump administration, saw a number of challenges to Exxon’s operations in Russia under this regulation.
Supporters of its removal say the change could give American companies an edge over Canadian and European companies, which face some of the toughest transparency rules in the world.
On February 2, the Senate repealed a rule that would have limited coal companies from dumping waste into streams in areas near mountaintop removal coal-mining sites.
The US National Mining Association said that move was a very important step to get the coal industry back on its feet. Coal advocates are also hoping the new administration will overturn a moratorium the Obama administration placed on new coal leases on federal lands, and scrap regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.
The coal waste rule was intended to protect 10,000 km of streams and large areas of forests over the next two decades, the Interior Department said when it issued the rule in December. It argued the rule would protect drinking water without undermining the economy or energy supply.