WASHINGTON – Determined to reverse eight years of a Democratic administration, House Republicans are on track to overturn a handful of rules finalized in President Barack Obama's final months in office to deal with climate change, federal contracting and background checks for gun ownership.
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Opponents criticize the regulations as job killers that will hold the U.S. economy back. Now, they're turning to an oversight tool used successfully only once before to void a rule issued by a federal agency.
All that will be required to make the regulation invalid is a simple majority of both GOP-led chambers approving a joint resolution of disapproval — and the president's signature. The House will take the first crack this week.
A look at the regulations being targeted:
Rule to reduce methane emissions on public and tribal lands
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The Interior Department updated its regulations to require oil and gas producers to limit flaring, the controlled burning of natural gas for safety, maintenance and other reasons. Also required are inspections for leaks and replacement of equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air. Most of the gas being burned is methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that's potent at trapping heat.
FOR: Environmental groups said the rule will reduce up to 180,000 tons of released gas annually, a small step in slowing global warming. They also say that reducing the amount of gas lost through flaring means more gas will be captured to pay for the necessary updates to equipment and power hundreds of thousands of homes.
AGAINST: Industry groups said the rule comes at a time when methane emissions are already falling, and combined with other new regulations, will drive energy production off federal lands. That means less federal revenue and higher costs for consumers.
Rule to lessen the environmental impact of coal mining on nearby streams
The rule would maintain a buffer zone that blocks coal mining within 100 feet of streams, but imposes stricter exceptions to the 100-foot rule. It also beefs up requirements for monitoring water quality and restoring corridors near streams to protect fish and wildlife.
FOR: Environmental groups and some Appalachian residents say greater protections are needed to preserve healthy drinking water and ensure mining companies don't leave an environmental mess after mining ceases.
AGAINST: Coal mining companies are already facing pricing pressures from greater reliance on natural gas and renewables, and they said the rule would lead to the loss of tens of thousands of direct mining jobs and many thousands more indirectly as massive volumes of coal would become too expensive to mine.
Rule to increase disclosure requirements for federal contractors
The rule requires prospective and existing contractors to disclose violation of 14 federal labor laws when bidding on contracts. The information would be included as part of a contracting officer's decision to award or extend a contract.
FOR: Labor unions say contractors who cut corners with worker protections are likely to cut corners in other ways, too. And that can be a bad deal for taxpayers and employees.
AGAINST: Business groups said the new rule will add compliance costs for many companies, and smaller firms especially will find the risk outweighs the reward for performing government work. Others fear that government officials will include violations not fully adjudicated to deny granting a contract to a company.
Rule requiring companies to disclose payments made to the U.S. and foreign governments relating to mining and drilling.
The rule stems from passage of the Dodd-Frank law in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
FOR: Advocacy groups such as Oxfam America say that greater transparency allows citizens in some of the world's most impoverished countries to hold their governments accountable for the wealth generated through mining and drilling.
AGAINST: Industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce unsuccessfully filed suit to stop the rule. They said it requires U.S. companies to hand over key details of how they bid and compete while many foreign competitors are under no obligation to do the same.
Rule requiring the Social Security Administration to forward the names of certain disabled beneficiaries to the Justice Department for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
Following the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, massacre, President Barack Obama directed the Department of Justice to provide guidance to agencies regarding information they are obligated to report to the background check system. The Social Security Administration issued a final rule Dec. 19. Under the rule, SSA will forward the names of beneficiaries with mental impairments who also need a third party to manage their benefits. The rule would affect an estimated 80,000 beneficiaries between age 18 and retirement. Those who have their names reported would have a right to appeal.
FOR: Some groups seeking stricter gun laws and family members of the disabled expressed support. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said it appreciated the agency's efforts to submit pertinent information to keep guns out of the hands of those "that we all agree should not have access to them."
AGAINST: Gun rights groups led by the NRA said the regulation would strip from the "most vulnerable in America" the right to keep and bear arms. Advocacy groups for the disabled also weighed in, including a federal agency charged with advising the president and Congress on government policy. The National Council on Disability said there is no nexus between the inability to manage money and the ability to safely possess and use a firearm.