Monday, February 6, 2017

Republicans in Congress hurry to slash oil and gas rules

Eric Lipton reports for The New York Times:

The document carried the title “A Roadmap to Repeal,” a concise list of Obama administration environmental regulations that a Koch brothers-backed group was pressing President Trump and Congress to quickly reverse after Inauguration Day.

It was a tally of rules that energy industry executives and lobbyists had waged a futile fight against for eight years, donating millions of dollars to lawmakers who vowed to help block them, filing lawsuits to try to overturn them and hiring experts to generate reports that questioned the need for them.

But in a flurry of activity this past week, Congress did what Charles G. and David H. Koch — who own a conglomerate that sells hundreds of products, including gasoline, jet fuel and coal — and other industry leaders had been asking for.

Using a rarely invoked law, the Republican-controlled Congress nullified a measure intended to curb the venting of gas wells on federal lands, and began the process of rolling back other regulations, including one enacted to limit damage that coal mines cause to streams — each items on the “Roadmap to Repeal.”

On Friday, with his own executive orders, Mr. Trump took up two more items on the list, including a call to rewrite major provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, legislation crafted by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in response to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Not since the Reagan administration has Washington moved so quickly to roll back or nullify so many federal regulations, one of the clearest signs of an abrupt shift of power in a government now under one-party control that has flipped the script of winners and losers.

“It is a big, fat victory, after all this time,” said Luke Popovich, a vice president at the National Mining Association, an industry trade group.

A three-way alliance has now been formed among Congress, the Trump administration and industries that struggled to reverse what they saw as an out-of-control rush to regulate by the Obama administration.

This new alignment of power is causing alarm among not only environmental groups but also other — mostly liberal — advocates who have spent much of the past eight years pushing for new rules to cover Wall Street banks, broadband providers, teacher preparation requirements, prepaid credit cards and even companies that sell high-calorie foods in vending machines.

All of these measures, and many others, now stand a chance of being reversed, watered down or blocked.

“For the last several years, whenever Congress would concoct some way to roll back a rule protecting clean air or clean water or undermine the fight against climate change, we always felt confident as we had an adult in charge at the White House,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, an environmental group. “Now, what used to be a wish list of the oil and coal and gas industry has become the to-do list for Congress and the White House."

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Not since the Reagan administration has Washington moved so quickly to roll back or nullify so many federal regulations, one of the clearest signs of an abrupt shift of power in a government now under one-party control that has flipped the script of winners and losers.
“It is a big, fat victory, after all this time,” said Luke Popovich, a vice president at the National Mining Association, an industry trade group.

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