Washington — The House Committee on Financial Services passed a bill Wednesday that would permanently repeal a federal rule requiring US-traded oil and natural gas companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.
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If ultimately approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Trump, the bill would prevent the anti-corruption transparency rule mandated in 2010's Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act from taking effect.
The bill, HR 4519, was introduced in the House by Michigan Representative Bill Huizenga, a Republican, on December 1. The 114-word bill, which has no co-sponsors, simply repeals section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank law. Section 1504 requires all companies traded on US exchanges and involved in the commercial development of oil, gas or minerals to disclose payments made to any government and file annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The law was opposed by the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's leading trade group, which sued the SEC in a case that ultimately led the US District Court for the District of Columbia to vacate an earlier payment-transparency rule finalized by the agency in 2012.
In February, after Senate and House approval, Trump signed a resolution which repealed the transparency rule as finalized by the SEC in 2016, but it did not change the underlying law within Dodd-Frank.
Transparency advocates had hoped the SEC would be able to draft another transparency rule to meet the law.
In a statement Wednesday, Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat-Maryland, and former Senator Richard Lugar, Republican-Indiana, urged House leaders to reject the bill repealing the transparency law. Cardin and Lugar co-authored the provision in the original Dodd-Frank bill.
"Who benefits from keeping the public in the dark?" Cardin and Lugar asked. "Secrecy breeds corruption."
In November, the Trump administration formally pulled the US out of a global oil, natural gas and mining transparency effort known as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or EITI.
--Brian Scheid, email@example.com