Oil industry eyes Capitol Hill push to scuttle SEC rule

The industry alleges the rules will force SEC-listed companies to disclose commercially sensitive information, putting them at a disadvantage when competing against state-owned Russian and Chinese firms that aren’t bound by the mandates.

Western companies including Exxon, Chevron and Shell have called for a number of changes, such as only allowing public release of aggregated data as opposed to project-by-project information, and providing exemptions from the rule when foreign governments bar disclosure.

The rule will force companies to reveal payments to governments for
production licenses, taxes, royalties and other aspects of energy and
mineral projects.

It’s aimed at increasing transparency to help
undo the “resource curse,” in which some impoverished countries in
Africa and elsewhere are plagued by high levels of corruption and
conflict alongside their energy and mineral wealth.

Human rights
and anti-poverty groups are strongly backing the SEC rules, and on
Wednesday Oxfam America sought to intervene in the litigation against
the rules brought by API, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other
business groups.

Gerard said the SEC “clearly overstepped” when issuing the rules, which are required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Gerard, who said the industry supports transparency but that the SEC went too far, didn’t provide specifics on legislative strategy.

“I expect at the appropriate time we will be talking to a lot of people about how we should fix this problem,” said Gerard, who is often mentioned as a possible Cabinet pick if Mitt Romney wins the White House.

A number of GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have echoed the oil industry in arguing that companies should have plenty of leeway under the rules, but the SEC rejected their calls.

Sens. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) authored the Dodd-Frank provision.

Unwinding it or watering it down would require lawmakers to undo one of the final legislative achievements of Lugar, a respected six-term senator who is leaving the Senate after losing his primary to a more conservative challenger.

But Gerard nonetheless predicted that a legislative effort would gain traction.

“I expect when people truly understand its adverse impacts, particularly as it relates to job creation in a tough economic time, I think there will be a lot of sympathetic people to understand our views,” he said.

Tags Ben Cardin Lisa Murkowski

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