President Trump signed legislation Tuesday to repeal a controversial regulation that would have required energy companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments.
The legislation is the first time in 16 years that the Congressional Review Act (CRA) has been used to repeal a regulation, and only the second time in the two decades that act has been law. It is the third piece of legislation Trump has signed since taking office three weeks ago.
It is the start of one front in an aggressive deregulatory effort that the Trump administration and the GOP Congress are undertaking to roll back Obama-era rules on fossil fuel companies, financial institutions and other businesses that they say have suffered for the last eight years.
The resolution repeals a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule written under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
It was meant to fight corruption in resource-rich countries by mandating that companies on United States stock exchanges disclose the royalties and other payments that oil, natural gas, coal and mineral companies make to governments.
At a signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Trump said the legislation is part of a larger regulatory rollback that he and congressional Republicans are undertaking with the goal of economic and job recovery.
“This is a big signing, very important signing,” Trump said, flanked at his desk by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and other lawmakers.
“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 then asked Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), the measure’s lead sponsor, to speak about it and regulatory reform in general.
“Over 20 years, there’s been 56,000 rules that have been put in place, with very little legislative input or oversight, and it’s time that changed,” he said.
The administration and congressional allies say the SEC rule imposes massive, unnecessary costs on United States oil, natural gas and mining companies, putting them at a significant competitive disadvantage to foreign companies that do not have to comply.
“Misguided federal regulations such as the SEC rule addressed by H.J.R. 41 inflict real cost on the American people and put our businesses, especially small businesses, at a significant disadvantage,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said earlier Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
“Signing this joint resolution is one more step toward achieving this goal.”
The House passed the repeal measure earlier this month, followed shortly by the Senate.
Democrats and supporters of the SEC rule see the rollback as a victory for corruption.
“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), top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said earlier this month. “This kind of transparency is essential to combating waste, fraud, corruption and mismanagement.”
Supports argued in part that if the United States takes a leading role on foreign payment transparency, other major nations would follow.
Exxon Mobil Corp., whose former CEO Rex Tillerson is now secretary of State, was one of the most vocal opponents of the rule, along with other major oil companies.
The SEC is still obligated under the Dodd-Frank law to write some form of a transparency rule for extractive industries.
But under the CRA, the agency can never publish any rule that is “substantially the same” as the one that has now been overturned.
Both chambers of Congress have also passed a CRA resolution to overturn the Interior Department’s stream protection rule for coal mining, and Trump supports the repeal.
The House has passed numerous other regulatory repeal measures under the CRA, including ones on methane pollution and gun ownership, and the Senate is likely to take up at least some of them.