President Trump made clear Wednesday his intention to sign five resolutions aimed at overturning Obama administration rules on a variety of issues, including one dealing with methane emissions released from oil and gas operations on federal land and another requiring federal contractors to self-certify that they comply with U.S. labor laws.
A Statement of Administration Policy issued by the White House underscores the extent to which Republicans are prepared to undo several key rules enacted in the months before President Barack Obama left office. If he signs off on the rollbacks, Trump will be the first president in 16 years to sign legislation using the Congressional Review Act to overturn federal regulation. The act gives Congress a limited period of time to nullify federal regulations after they’ve been finalized.
While the act has been in place for more than 20 years, only one rule, a ergonomics regulation adopted under President Bill Clinton, has ever been nullified.
On Wednesday, the House passed two resolutions largely along party lines to overturn Obama-era rules. One resolution, which passed 231 to 191, would reverse new Securities and Exchange Commission requirements that oil, gas and mining companies divulge more information about business payments they make to foreign governments. A second, adopted by a vote of 228 to 194, would overturn an Interior Department regulation barring coal-mining companies from conducting any activities that could permanently pollute streams and other sources of drinking water.
“The Administration strongly supports the actions taken by the House to begin to nullify unnecessary regulations imposed on America’s businesses,” the White House statement reads. “The regulations that the House is voting to overturn under the Congressional Review Act have established burdensome compliance regulations that force jobs out of our communities and discourage doing business in the United States.”
In addition to endorsing the two rule disapprovals by the House on Wednesday, the White House endorsed overturning rules allowing the Social Security Administration to provide certain records on people with a history of mental problems for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as well as rules on government methane emissions and contractor labor certifications.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the votes “targeting specific rules and stripping them from the books” would help deliver on Republicans’ pledge to drain “the swamp” in Washington.
“Every single one of these will be gone,” McCarthy vowed after listing the five regulations. “With a vote in the House, a vote in the Senate and the signature of President Trump, we’ll get rid of every one of these job-killing and destructive regulations.”
The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement coal-mining regulation, known as the “stream protection rule,” has been a priority for repeal among Republicans in Congress since it was finalized late last year. The rule requires coal companies to restore the land they use to the condition it was in before mining began once they wrap up operations.
While environmentalists praised the rule, Republicans said it amounted to an effort to undermine energy companies and kill off jobs.
“The stream buffer rule actually could affect more than 64 percent of the county’s coal reserves — put them off-limits,” McCarthy said during a Tuesday news conference. “We’re talking roughly somewhere between 40,000 to 78,000 jobs are threatened. Talk about bringing America’s energy back, all of the above, jobs, and the whole part of America that has lost work — this regulatory reform bill, the [Congressional Review Act], will see a fundamental change.”
But the move has drawn sharp criticism from environmental groups, which have accused its supporters of placing the interests of the fossil fuel industry above the health and safety of affected communities.
“This attempt to scrap the Stream Protection Rule is a clear case of putting polluters’ profits ahead of the basic well-being of vulnerable communities, and we must do everything we can to stop it,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, in a statement. “No matter who you are or where you live, you have a right to clean water — but this shameless attack puts families and communities at risk.”