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article imageGOP begins dismantling Obama rules and protections on environment

By Karen Graham     Feb 1, 2017 in Environment
GOP lawmakers have begun dismantling Obama-era rules and protections on the environment, gun ownership, and financial disclosure which they see as excessive governmental meddling.
In the past eleven days of the Trump reign in Washington, the American public and the world has endured a chaotic and even insane number of executive orders and memorandums that have left us brain-dead and numb beyond belief.
Now, Republican lawmakers have been given a chance to add to the chaos, and they are going to be voting on reversing five Obama regulations on Wednesday, and that's just the beginning. According to VOX, GOP lawmakers are planning to revoke two big federal regulations involving coal mining and methane leaks, as well as three other regulations.
It will be a busy first day in the White House for Donald Trump if he lives up to his campaign and t...
It will be a busy first day in the White House for Donald Trump if he lives up to his campaign and transition pledges to undo the policies of Barack Obama's presidency
The lawmakers plan on using a little known and rarely used federal rule called the 1996 Congressional Review Act. To add some perspective, The Trump administration would end of going through a whole lot of time-consuming rigamarole to repeal many of the Obama Administration regulations, so this is where the 1996 Congressional Review Act comes into the picture.
1996 Congressional Review Act - Used successfully one time
The CRA was passed in 1996 as part of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga.) "Contract with America." The whole purpose of the act was to enable Congress to overturn a regulation issued by the Executive Branch. The CRA created a period of 60 "session days" (days in which Congress is in session) during which Congress could use expedited procedures to overturn a regulation.
But the president could still veto the resolution to overturn his regulation, based on a decision by the Supreme Court, so this made the CRA toothless, as they say. The one time the CRA was used successfully was to overturn an OSHA regulation pertaining to ergonomic injuries in the workplace in 2001.
The Obama administration was very much aware of the CRA. Any regulation issued in the last few months of Obama's presidency was at risk of being overturned. This puts about 50 regulations issued since mid-2016 in jeopardy of being thrown out.
Regulations being overturned this week
1. The stream-protection rule for coal mining: This regulation was finalized in December 2016 and puts restrictions on mountaintop removal coal-mining companies from dumping toxic waste into waterways. It also requires that coal companies restore the vista and ecological function of blasted areas.
One of the affects of MTR mining is the pollution of local streams and other water sources with toxi...
One of the affects of MTR mining is the pollution of local streams and other water sources with toxic chemicals.
According to Digital Journal in 2014, mountaintop removal mining (MRM) became popular in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia in the 1970s due to it being less costly, and having little or no apparent oversight by government officials.
2. The methane waste rule:This Department of the Interior regulation was finalized in November 2016. It would require oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from operations on federal and tribal lands. The rule is part of President Obama's "climate plan," and oil and gas drillers would be required to capture and sell off the methane gas, rather than "flaring" or just letting it waft into the atmosphere.
The climate plan would reduce emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas from oil and gas drilling by 40 percent by 2025. Oil companies would prefer that methane gas emissions be regulated by the states, which typically have looser regulations.
3. The “resource extraction rule:" This is a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that is actually needed, but Big Oil would like to see it disappear. Finalized in June 2016, this rule would require publicly traded oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments they make to foreign governments.
Former ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson testifies during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of...
Former ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson testifies during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, on January 11, 2017
Saul Loeb, AFP
This important rule is now part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and could increase transparency and deter corruption from oil companies working abroad. It should be noted that Rex Tillerson, the likely secretary of state, was head of ExxonMobil, which fiercely fought the rule.
4. The “blacklisting” rule for contractors:This is a Labor Department rule that was finalized in August 2016. Simply put, it would require federal contractors to disclose labor law violations over the last three years and show they have changed their practices, before being given a federal contract. This rule was halted by a federal judge in October who ruled the regulation went beyond the authority Congress had given the executive branch.
Guns are a potent political symbol in the United States  where the right to bear arms is enshrined i...
Guns are a potent political symbol in the United States, where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the constitution
Mandel Ngan, AFP/File
5. The Social Security gun rule: This regulation, finalized in December 2016, would require the Social Security Administration to hand off information on recipients of disability insurance to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System if they met specific “mental impairment” criteria. This was strongly opposed by the gun-rights groups who said the rule would block those on disability from being able to buy guns.
There you have it in a large nutshell. By Wednesday evening, the House will have voted to repeal these rules and they will be sent to the Senate, where they are sure to pass. And we know what Trump will do with them.
More about republican lawmakers, obama environmental legacy, 1996 Congressional Review Act, Gun control, methane release
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