As Trump targets energy rules, oil companies downplay their impact

President Donald Trump’s White House has said his plans to slash environmental regulations will trigger a new energy boom and help the United States drill its way to independence from foreign oil. But the top U.S. oil and gas companies have been telling their shareholders that regulations have little impact on their business, according to a Reuters review of U.S. securities filings from the top producers. In annual reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 13 of the 15 biggest U.S. oil and gas producers said that compliance with current regulations is not impacting their operations or their financial condition. The other two made no comment about whether their businesses were materially affected by regulation, but reported spending on compliance with environmental regulations at less than 3 percent of revenue. The dissonance raises questions about whether Trump’s war on regulation can increase domestic oil and gas output, as he has promised, or boost profits and share prices of oil and gas companies, as some investors have hoped. According to the SEC, a publicly traded company must deem a matter “material” and report it to the agency if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider it important. “Materiality is a fairly low bar,” said Cary Coglianese, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who runs the university’s research program on regulation. “Despite exaggerated claims, regulatory costs are usually a very small portion of many companies’ cost of doing business.”