House majority leader targets methane, foreign payment rules

Declaring “perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the US House will begin work to repeal, under the Congressional Review Act, the US Bureau of Land Management’s methane venting and flaring rule and the Security and Exchange Commission’s requirement that US oil and gas and other resource extraction companies disclose payments to foreign governments.

“Washington’s many agencies, bureaus, and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms. Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it,” McCarthy said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column at his majority leader’s website.

The CRA allows majorities in the House and Senate to overturn any rules finalized in the past 60 legislative days, he noted. McCarthy added that House Republicans also plan to use it to repeal the US Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, which he said could destroy tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64% of the country’s coal reserves off limits.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said that he will introduce a joint resolution disapproving BLM’s methane rule under the CRA on Jan. 30. Three Republican House members will introduce a similar measure to overturn the stream protection rule the same day, he said in a Jan. 27 teleconference.

Oil and gas producers have said that the methane rule has technical flaws and is redundant. It also could impede technological innovations that have led to increased domestic gas use—the main reason US energy-related carbon emissions have fallen to levels not seen since the early 1990s, the American Petroleum Institute said in a Jan. 19 posting at its Energy Tomorrow website.

Suit aims to stop rule

A federal district court judge in Wyoming denied a preliminary injunction against the US Bureau of Land Management’s venting and flaring rule. Petitioners—which included the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Western Petroleum Association, and the states of Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana—did not demonstrate that a preliminary injunction is warranted, US District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl said in his decision (OGJ Online, Jan. 17, 2017).

“Even though Judge Skavdahl did not grant a preliminary injunction, we’re confident about our chances during the proceedings on the full merits of the case,” WEA Pres. Kathleen Sgamma said in Denver following the ruling.

API also expressed concern about the SEC’s foreign payments disclosure rule. It said in a statement that the rule “undermines global payment transparency efforts and fails American businesses through eroding their ability to grow and compete for new resources—hurting their workers and shareholders.

“The House plan to repeal this rule is a needed step by Congress to establish sensible regulations that balance increasing transparency without diminishing our industry’s competitive advantage and fundamentally harming American jobs,” API continued.

Natural Resources Governance Institute Pres. Daniel Kaufmann expressed an opposite view. “We are deeply concerned at the attempt to gut this trailblazing US law, which deters corruption and improves governance in the notoriously opaque natural resource sector,” he said on Jan. 27. “Legislators in both houses should abandon this plan immediately.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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