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While We Were Distracted…

February 6, 2017



Here are some things that happened during the past week, pretty much under the radar:

  • The House of Representatives voted 228-194 to rescind a regulation intended to prevent coal mining companies from dumping waste into nearby streams. The Republican House leadership invoked the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (previously used only once) which permits a simple majority to revoke any regulations imposed during the prior 60 legislative days. The rule would have protected 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, by maintaining a long-established 100-foot buffer zone that blocks coal mining near streams, and imposing stricter guidelines for exceptions to the 100-foot rule.
  • Using the same measure, congressional Republicans also nullified a regulation intended to curb the venting of gas wells on federal lands. The measure would have prevented the release of gas via flaring or leaks, eliminating an estimated 180,000 tons a year of methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas leading to climate change, while also increasing federal revenue by as much as $10 million a year, by forcing energy companies pay royalties only on fuel they contain and then sell. Both of these regulations were on a list of targeted rules in a document prepared by a group backed by the Koch brothers.
  • A plan to revoke the “resource extraction disclosure rule” was revealed by two senior congressional Republicans (Congressman Huizenga of Michigan and Senator Imhofe of Oklahoma), which would remove the requirement under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law for publicly-traded mining, oil and gas companies to disclose payments they make to foreign governments.  Recently confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lobbied against this rule when he was CEO of Exxon, and as has been pointed out, the regulation would identify oil companies with financial ties to countries such as Russia. 
  • Trump signed an executive order to review regulations under Dodd-Frank, which are still not fully implemented. Trump said, “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that had nice businesses, they just can’t borrow money . . . because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.” Dodd-Frank forces banks to do yearly “stress tests” to prove they could withstand economic downturns and to draw up “living wills” that lay out how the banks could be dismantled without harming the rest of the financial system. The “Volcker rule” bars banks from trading in high-risk securities using their own capital and makes it harder to hide exotic risky securities off the banks’ balance sheets, concealing the extent of the banks’ debts.
  • Trump also signed a memorandum that could delay a Labor Department rule that would require financial professionals such as stock brokers to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. This “fiduciary rule” was scheduled to go into effect in April.
  • Congressional Republicans also announced plans to target a rule enacted by the Obama administration that could close dozens of coal burning power plants, and another that would extend overtime pay eligibility to an estimated four million Americans.
  • Trump dropped his campaign pledge to aggressively negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.  After meeting on Tuesday with executives from those drug companies, Trump did a 180 and emerged from the sit-down parroting the industry talking points.  FYI, Americans pay on average twice what patients in other countries do for drugs still under patent.

And that’s just in one week!!  And maybe you thought corporations were already running the country? Just wait, because you ain’t seen nothing yet!

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