President Donald Trump has overturned an Obama-era anti-corruption rule that would have forced oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments, becoming the first president in 16 years to take advantage of a law that allows him to rescind a predecessor’s regulations.
Trump on Tuesday signed a congressional resolution to repeal a Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure rule that was called for in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. It’s likely just the start: Congress is considering a number of other measures, including ones to overturn Obama administration rules protecting streams from mountaintop mining and prevent people with serious mental-health problems from buying guns.
“This is one of many,” Trump told reporters at a signing ceremony. “We have many more left. And we’re bringing back jobs big league.”
These fast-track repeals are made possible by a little-used tool called the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undo recent federal rules with a simple majority vote. Congress has used it successfully only once before: In 2001, then-President George W. Bush joined Congress in killing a Labor Department ergonomics rule adopted under the administration of President Bill Clinton.
Overturning the SEC rule could benefit U.S. oil giants Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.
Backers of the SEC regulation say forcing companies to disclose foreign payments would curb corruption in resource-rich countries, such as Nigeria. The oil industry says the rule would put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage compared to state-run enterprises, such as Saudi Aramco, which are not subject to the disclosure rules.
“The SEC’s rule forces U.S. companies to disclose proprietary information to its competitors while foreign entities do not. This can give some large industry players an advantage on future business projects,” the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said in a statement.
Some of the industry’s biggest players, including BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc., are already required to report taxes, bonuses and other payments to foreign governments, per anti-corruption rules adopted by the European Union and U.K. That includes some state-owned oil companies.
“Russian companies like Rosneft are already reporting much more than Exxon,” Daniel Kauffman, president of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, an international transparency watchdog, said before Congress voted on the repeal.
While Republicans lawmakers have introduced at least a dozen resolutions for regulations they want to repeal, not all will make it to the president’s desk. The Congressional Review Act has some constraints. For one, the law applies to rules issued in the past 60 legislative days. Also, it stipulates that debate must happen before the vote, and with several nominations and appropriations bill to deal with, Congress may not have the time to deal with each measure.
Congress in 2015 voted to repeal two Environmental Protection Agency rules limited carbon emissions from the power sector, but then-President Barack Obama vetoed the legislation.
–With assistance from Jennifer Epstein