House Republicans voted today to allow secret payments from oil companies to foreign nations as part of their efforts to expand new drilling deals between the United States and foreign countries. The legislation passed by the Republican majority on the House Natural Resources Committee leaves the door open for abuse and bribery as oil companies jockey for advantage.
The Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreements Authorization Act approved earlier today establishes a new oil drilling arrangement between the United States and Mexico. The bill includes a provision waiving a section of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that mandates disclosure of corporate payments to foreign nations. Dodd-Frank applies the rule to any country that shares a border with America, including Russia and Mexico.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva offered an amendment to the bill during committee discussion to put the disclosure requirements back in the legislation. Republicans voted it down.
"House Republicans said today that we don't need to know how oil companies secure their drilling rights," Grijalva said. "Big oil is making record profits and has been throwing around more money every year. If payments to countries like Mexico and Russia are allowed to happen under the table, we may never know how much the market is being skewed."
The Dodd-Frank requirement, formally called the SEC Natural Resource Extraction disclosure rule, is intended to protect investors by informing them when a company makes payments to a government that could expose the company to civil liability or criminal sanctions. It aims to increase transparency in the developing world and end the cycles of government corruption in many countries with abundant mineral resources.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) opposes the Dodd-Frank requirement on disclosing foreign payments and has taken the Securities and Exchange Commission to court to block it. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled against API and sent the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for further proceedings.