Donald Trump signs Executive Orders in January 2017. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Donald Trump signs Executive Orders in January 2017. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

President Donald J. Trump and his administration have made no secret out of their intention to destroy Barrack Obama’s environmental legacy. As we reported earlier, such measures include killing the Clean Power Act, repealing federal spending on clean tech and regulations that force fossil fuel companies to be more transparent or environmentally friendly, and — perhaps the most disastrous policy of them all — cancel the United States’ involvement in the landmark Paris Agreement.

‘Let’s make bribing 3rd world dictators great again. Will you be my Valentine? xoxo’

From: Donald J. Trump; To: Lovely oil people

Through President Trump hasn’t been long into office, he has already used his executive powers to great effect passing some very controversial bills, particularly the ones dealing with immigration control and so-called anti-terrorism measures. And yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, Trump showed us once more that he’s only getting warmed up.

Backed by a Republican majority in Congress, Trump passed a bill that kills a provision from the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act which required mining and drilling companies to disclose their financial dealings abroad. The rule was meant to tackle corruption in resource-rich developing countries who are often vulnerable to hidden bribes from huge corporations, some whose revenue greatly surpass the gross domestic product of African countries. But US-based companies, like Exxon Mobil whose former CEO Rex Tillerson is now Secretary of State, have been vehemently against the rule.

Tillerson and fellow tycoons argued that the rule will put American companies at a competitive disadvantage when dealing in places such as Russia, for instance. Disclosed forms would make valuable information about American drilling projects public which could be used against them by domestic state-owned corporations or other foreign competitors. They also argued that it’s illegal anyhow to bribe foreign officials under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In other words, ‘Of course, we’ll not gonna bribe anyone. That would be illegal after all so no need to be transparent about it. Just trust us, m’kay?’

The lobby proved successful since the regulation was delayed and postponed time and time again by court orders. By the time the Securities and Exchange Commission published the rule on June 27, 2016, it was too late as the rule fell under the Congressional Review Act umbrella. This act, first passed in 1996, allows the House and Senate to nullify any recently finalized federal regulation by a simple majority vote in both chambers, so long as the president agrees. Basically, any rule passed or finished after mid-2016 can be nullified using CRA.

Yesterday, big oil won and common sense lost — all thanks to a little, dirty trick that has been gathering dust. It’s the first time in 16 years that the CTA has been used to repeal a regulation and only the second time ever since the law was passed.

“This is a big signing, very important signing,” Trump said in a statement for the press.

“We’re bringing back jobs big league. We’re bringing them back at the plant level, we’re bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back,” he continued. “A lot of people going back to work now.”

Trump’s sentiment was echoed by staff and supporters.

“It’s a priority for the Trump administration to fix our broken regulatory system so that it enhances American productivity and well-being without imposing unnecessary costs and burdens,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said earlier Tuesday.

“Signing this joint resolution is one more step toward achieving this goal.”

Supporters of the SEC rule, however, heavily criticized the decision.

“The US had been at the forefront on the transparency issue, with more than 30 countries following in its footsteps to pass similar legislation,” said Isabel Munilla of Oxfam International in a statement. “State-owned companies from Brazil, China, and Russia are all now required to disclose their payments. If the Senate follows suit in overturning this rule, the US will go from a leader into a laggard.”

“The rule they’re trying to repeal protects U.S. citizens and investors from having millions of their dollars vanished into the pockets of corrupt foreign oligarchs,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said earlier this month. “This kind of transparency is essential to combating waste, fraud, corruption and mismanagement.”

SEC still has to write some kind of rule under the Dodd-Frank law that would make companies operating in extractive industries more transparent. However, because the way CRA is set up, SEC isn’t allowed to publish a rule that’s ‘substantially the same’ as the one that was just overturned.

This is only the first in a long streak of CRA-supported overturnings. Both chambers of congress have passed numerous other regulatory repeal measures under the CRA. Some of the targets include the stream-protection rule for coal mining, which would basically allow companies to dump waste into fresh waters, and rules dealing with methane pollution or gun ownership. The ball is in Trump’s court now and, of course, he’s gonna pass all of these bills.

It’s going to be the longest four years — ever.

 

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