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Congress Overturns Laws Limiting Pollution, Corruption

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U.S. lawmakers have rolled back two former President Barack Obama-era rules on the environment and corruption.

By a vote of 54 to 45, the U.S. Senate approved a House resolution that ends the "Stream Buffer Rule," a rule put forth by the Obama administration that keeps pollutants out of areas near mountaintop removal coal-mining sites, reported Reuters.

The Senate also voted to overturn a rule that requires international energy companies like Exxon Mobil to disclose taxes and other payments to governments at home and abroad.

Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the resolution to overturn the Stream Buffer "aims to put a stop to the former administration’s blatant attack on coal miners," according to USA Today.

"In my home state of Kentucky and others across the nation, the Stream Buffer Rule will cause major damage to communities and threaten coal jobs. One study actually estimated that this regulation would put as many as one-third of coal-related jobs at risk," McConnell said before the vote.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also praised the resolution to overturn the rule.

"I’m excited about our chance to repeal regulations that deny Kentucky’s hardworking men and women their chance to fully flourish in their professions," he said. "Getting rid of this overzealous attempt to destroy Kentucky’s coal industry will send a message that ‘business as usual’ will no longer be tolerated from federal regulatory agencies."

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted with Republicans to overturn the Stream Buffer Rule.

Environmental activists said lawmakers who voted to repeal the rule have effectively voted to attack clean drinking water.

"Given that many of these toxins are known to cause birth defects, developmental delays, and other health and environmental impacts, this basic monitoring provision was essential," said Jeni Collins, associate legislative representative for environmental group Earthjustice, according to Reuters.

The vote to overturn the rule that required energy companies to disclose payments made to governments was good news for oil lobbyists, including the American Petroleum Institute.

"The SEC’s rule forces U.S. companies to disclose proprietary information to its competitors while foreign entities do not," the API said in a statement. "This can give some large industry players an advantage on future business projects, and can fundamentally harm American jobs."

According to The Atlantic, 30 countries already have a law that requires energy companies to report government payments, including Britain, Canada, France, and Norway.

Sources: Reuters, USA Today, API, The Atlantic / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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