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Senate votes to kill Stream Protection Rule
February 3, 2017

The U.S. Senate voted 54-45 to undo the Stream Protection Rule, sending the resolution to the desk of President Donald Trump who was expected to sign it quickly.

The Stream Protection Rule was passed in the final days of the Obama administration and was aimed at keeping pollutants out of streams in areas near mountaintop removal coal-mining sites. Opponents of the rule said it harmed the coal industry and usurped state rights.

"The Obama Administration’s stream buffer rule was an attack against coal miners and their families,” said the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, adding it had threatened jobs in his home state of Kentucky.

The Republican led Congress used the Congressional Review Act to reverse it, and other laws. Reuters reported that tt was only the second time the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to stop newly minted regulations in their tracks, has been used successfully since it was passed in 2000.

The Senate then turned to an equally controversial rule requiring mining and energy companies such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron to disclose taxes and other payments they make to governments at home and abroad.

The coal industry hopes the repeal will lead Trump to overturn a moratorium by former President Barack Obama's administration on some coal leases.

Senator Joe Manchin, who represents West Virginia, historically coal country, was one of the few Democrats who supported killing the rule. He told CNN more than 400 changes had been made to the regulation as it was drafted.

"There's nobody in West Virginia that wants dirty water and dirty air, but you can't throw 400 different regulations ... on top of what we already have and expect anyone to survive," he said.

Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers can vote to undo regulations with a simple majority. Agencies cannot revisit overturned regulations. Timing in the law means any regulation enacted since May is eligible for repeal.

The House already approved a resolution ending the rule that requires oil companies to publicly state taxes and payments, which is part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

Republicans and some oil and mining companies say the rule is burdensome and costly and duplicates other long-standing regulations.

Supporters of the rule see it as vital for exposing bribery and questionable financial ties U.S. companies may have with foreign governments, as well as showing shareholders how their money is spent.
 

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