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Saturday, September 25, 2021

week ending Sep 25

FOMC Statement: No Policy Change; Taper "May soon be warranted" FOMC Statement: The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time, thereby promoting its maximum employment and price stability goals. With progress on vaccinations and strong policy support, indicators of economic activity and employment have continued to strengthen. The sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic have improved in recent months, but the rise in COVID-19 cases has slowed their recovery. Inflation is elevated, largely reflecting transitory factors. Overall financial conditions remain accommodative, in part reflecting policy measures to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses. The path of the economy continues to depend on the course of the virus. Progress on vaccinations will likely continue to reduce the effects of the public health crisis on the economy, but risks to the economic outlook remain. The Committee…will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer‑term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. The Committee expects to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved. The Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and expects it will be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee's assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time. Last December, the Committee indicated that it would continue to increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $80 billion per month and of agency mortgage‑backed securities by at least $40 billion per month until substantial further progress has been made toward its maximum employment and price stability goals. Since then, the economy has made progress toward these goals. If progress continues broadly as expected, the Committee judges that a moderation in the pace of asset purchases may soon be warranted. These asset purchases help foster smooth market functioning and accommodative financial conditions, thereby supporting the flow of credit to households and businesses. … The Committee would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if risks emerge that could impede the attainment of the Committee's goals. The Committee's assessments will take into account a wide range of information, including readings on public health, labor market conditions, inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and financial and international developments.

FOMC Projections and Press Conference --- Statement here. Fed Chair Powell press conference video here starting at 2:30 PM ET. Here are the projections. In June, most participants expected around two rate hikes in 2023. Now, about half of participants expect one rates hike in 2022.Wall Street forecasts were for GDP to increase at a 8.6% annual rate in Q2 (came in at 6.6%) and forecasts for Q3 have been downgraded recently. So GDP was revised down for 2021. See tables:

  • GDP projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Change in Real GDP (Projections of change in real GDP and inflation are from the fourth quarter of the previous year to the fourth quarter of the year indicated.)
  • Unemployment projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Unemployment Rate. Projections for the unemployment rate are for the average civilian unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of the year indicated.
    • The unemployment rate was at 5.2% in August.
    • Note that the unemployment rate doesn't capture the economic damage to the labor market. Not only are there 2.7 million more people currently unemployed than prior to the pandemic, over 2.9 million people have left the labor force since February 2020. And millions more were being supported by various provisions of the disaster relief acts. The unemployment rate was revised up slightly for 2021.
  • Inflation projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, PCE Inflation1
    • As of July 2021, PCE inflation was up 4.2% from July 2020. 
    • The projections for inflation were revised up and the FOMC sees inflation solidly above target in 2021.
  • Core Inflation projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Core Inflation
    • PCE core inflation was up 3.6% in July year-over-year. 
    • Projections for core inflation were revised up.

Wall Street welcomes latest Fed decisions -Financial markets have broadly welcomed the latest update on monetary policy from the US Federal Reserve following its two-day meeting this week, with stocks on Wall Street yesterday ending a four-day losing streak. The three major indexes all finished up by around 1 percent. The main reason for the rise was the news that the Fed’s tapering of its $120 billion monthly purchases will not be announced before its November meeting and will proceed at a relatively gradual pace until the middle of next year. The markets also drew comfort from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s repeated insistence the test for an increase in the Fed’s interest rate is higher than that for reducing asset purchases. According to the interest rate projections by officials of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), nine members expect an interest rate rise in 2022, up from seven in June, while the remaining nine expect the rise to be later. The Fed has said it will not start easing back on asset purchases until there had been “substantial further progress” towards meeting its goals of average inflation of 2 percent and maximum employment. Powell, who has sought to balance between members of the FOMC who want tapering to begin sooner and those in favour of holding off, said his own view was the “substantial further progress” test had been all but met and the Fed could “easily move ahead” with an announcement on the taper at its next meeting in November. There was broad agreement the asset purchases would be fully withdrawn around the middle of next year. Commenting on the projections on interest rate rises by members of the FOMC, he said these did not represent a decision or a plan and that “more important than any forecast is the fact that policy will remain accommodative until we have reached our maximum-employment and price-stability goals.” Powell emphasised that the taper would take some months and “so you’re going to be well away from satisfying the [interest rate] liftoff test when we begin the taper.” There were a series of questions at his press conference on the effect of the debt crisis of the Chinese property developer Evergrande, conflict of interest issues surrounding two members of the Fed and the dispute over the lifting of the US debt ceiling now before Congress. Asked whether the Evergrande crisis was a “warning signal” for corporate debt in the US, Powell emphasised the importance of the massive Fed intervention in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic when the stock market crashed and the $21 trillion US Treasury note market froze. He said the Fed was “very concerned” there could have been a “wave of defaults” but that did not happen because of the Cares Act and the response of the Fed – it injected some $4 trillion into financial markets. This was a “much stronger response then we’ve ever had” and as a result there were “very, very low” default rates for corporate debt. He said there was not a lot of direct US exposure to Evergrande but there was a worry that it could affect global financial conditions through “confidence channels.” Powell was placed in the highly embarrassing position of having to answer several questions relating to conflicts of interest which have emerged following the revelation that two senior Fed officials, Robert Kaplan, the president of the Dallas Fed, and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, were actively trading in shares last year when the Fed was intervening to shore up markets. The two have since said they will sell their shares by the end of the month after their activities were reported by the Wall Street Journal and Powell has ordered a review of its ethics guidelines. Asked directly whether he had confidence in Kaplan and Rosengren, Powell avoided the question. In terms of confidence, he said no one on the FOMC was happy to be in this situation “to be having these questions raised” and it was “an important moment for the Fed.”

The Justice Department Has Serious Grounds to Subpoena Trading Records from Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan - Pam Martens -- Fed watchers are stunned that Fed Chair Jerome Powell thinks it is appropriate for the Fed to investigate itself following one of the most arrogant and brazen trading scandals in the history of the Fed.The focal point of that scandal is Robert S. Kaplan, the President of the Dallas Fed, who held non-public, market moving information throughout last year but nonetheless traded in and out of tens of millions of dollars of individual stocks as well as – wait for it – S&P 500 futures, an instrument used by speculators to make highly leveraged, directional bets on the market. S&P 500 futures extend the trading day to almost 24/7 from Sunday evening to Friday night.The type of trading done by Kaplan appears to be expressly prohibited by the Code of Conduct of the Dallas Fed. Appendix A on “Disqualifying Interests” of the Code of Conduct reads as follows:“De minimis exemption for a matter of general applicability. An employee may participate in a particular matter of general applicability, such as rulemaking, where the disqualifying financial interest arises from ownership by the employee, his or her spouse or minor children of securities issued by one or more entities affected by the matter, if:“(1) the securities are publicly traded, or are municipal securities, the market value of which does not exceed; (a) $25,000 in any one such entity; and (b) $50,000 in all affected entities;“or (2) the securities are long-term federal government securities, the market value of which does not exceed $50,000.”There was nothing de minimis about Kaplan’s trading of individual stocks. According to his financial disclosure form for 2020, Kaplan made “multiple” purchases and sells of greater than $1 million per transaction in 11 individual stocks. Three of those were interest-rate sensitive Big Tech stocks (Amazon, Apple and Facebook) that rose between 75 percent to 90 percent from their March 2020 lows, in no small part because of the interest rate cuts and other interventions of the Federal Reserve in 2020. See chart below.)The E-mini S&P 500 futures contract can be leveraged by as much as 95 percent. Kaplan’s financial disclosure form indicates that he made “multiple” purchases and sells of some form of S&P 500 futures contract in transaction amounts of “over $1,000,000.” Currently, the public has no idea of how much “over $1,000,000” that futures trading amounts to or when it occurred.Kaplan previously worked for 22 years at one of the most sophisticated trading firms on the globe, Goldman Sachs. Kaplan rose to the rank of Vice Chairman at Goldman Sachs and was making $17.5 million in annual compensation in 2005. According to SEC filings, on February 7, 2005, eight months before Kaplan joined the Harvard Business School, Kaplan held $266 million in Goldman Sachs’ stock.In short, Kaplan was an extremely wealthy man who could have simply bought triple-A rated, tax-free municipal bonds and lived very comfortably the rest of his life, while avoiding notoriety for himself, his family and the central bank of the United States, the Federal Reserve.

 Wall Street Watchdog, Better Markets, Calls Fed Presidents’ Trading Binge “Pandemic Profiteering” or, Possibly, “Illegal Insider Trading” – Pam Martens - On Sunday, Better Markets sent a three-page, comprehensive letter to Fed Chairman Powell, making the compelling argument that the Fed should have instituted a trading ban (black out period) for all of 2020 for Fed officials and staff because of the Fed’s unprecedented interventions and market-moving announcements by the Fed that occurred throughout last year. The author of the letter, Better Markets President and CEO Dennis Kelleher, explained in the letter: “For those officials to now claim that their trading conduct was permissible because their subordinates and direct reports approved their bosses’ trading and/or because the Fed’s so-called ‘code of conduct’ allowed such trading only reveals how grossly deficient their ethical standards and the code of conduct are. Moreover, rules designed for the ordinary course when typical pre-FOMC meeting ‘black out’ periods are appropriate are entirely inapplicable when a once-in-100-year pandemic hits and the Fed engages in innumerable extraordinary and historic actions in the financial markets, including unprecedented interventions in the corporate bond markets (including junk bond markets), muni markets, and virtually every other financial market. “All of those many actions by the Fed, which were ongoing throughout 2020, involved highly sensitive, likely market-moving information that should have prompted any reasonable person to understand that they were in possession of such inside information at virtually all times, and that they should have acted accordingly, including by refraining from all trading. Their conduct, seeking to profit in the middle of a pandemic that was wreaking havoc and pain across the country, is an insult not only to the American people but also to the thousands of hardworking staff at the Fed, many of whom were working nights and weekends to respond to the pandemic-caused shutdown of the economy and trying to prevent a financial collapse.”Wall Street On Parade wrote just yesterday about specific occasions when the Fed was making stunning, market moving announcements in 2020, including during stock exchange hours following a 2,000 point crash in the market; on a Sunday evening just as S&P futures had started to trade; at 11:30 p.m. on a weekday; slashing interest rates to zero outside of a regularly-scheduled FOMC meeting; and constant Fed announcements throughout the year about a mind-numbing array of bailout programs for Wall Street. When one carefully examines what the Fed actually did in 2020, Better Markets is spot on — the entire year of 2020 should have been, under any reasonable code of ethics, a complete black out period for trading by Fed officials and staff.

Three Gutsy Reporters Grill Fed Chair on Biggest Trading Scandal in Fed’s 108-Year History - By Pam Martens Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell took a few wonky questions from various reporters at his press conference today and then Jeanna Smialek, Federal Reserve and Economy reporter for the New York Times, was called on. Smialek was the first reporter to lead the elephant in the room out into the open. The exchange went as follows:“Prior to recent media reports, were you aware of the kind of security buying and selling that [Dallas Fed and Boston Fed] Presidents Kaplan and Rosengren were participating in last year? And I wonder if you thought those were appropriate?”Immediately after Smialek posed her uncomfortable question to Powell, Steve Liesman, Senior Economics Reporter at CNBC, was called on. Liesman wanted to know if it was appropriate for Fed officials “to be owning the same assets that the Federal Reserve is buying…” Liesman also asked what the timeframe was for the Fed’s review of all of this.Powell said there is no timeline yet and then launched into a defense of his personal holdings of muni bonds while the Fed was also buying up muni bonds. Powell made it clear that his muni bonds had been purchased many years before. In other words, in contrast to Kaplan, Powell wasn’t trading in and out of securities in 2020.Powell fielded more wonky questions from other reporters and then Michael Derby of the Wall Street Journal was called on by a facilitator for Powell. Derby is the reporter who first opened this pandora’s box and has been turning up the heat in related articles ever since.Derby reminded Powell that all 12 regional Fed bank Presidents had gone through the renomination process earlier this year. Derby asked Powell if anyone at the Federal Reserve Board level knew about the stock trading activity of Kaplan and Rosengren at the time they were renominated. He also asked if Powell still had confidence in Kaplan and Rosengren to do their job. (The nonprofit watchdog, Better Markets, is calling for both Presidents to either resign or be fired.)Powell first said that the 2020 financial disclosures were just recently filed so that people at the Board could not have known about the trading at the time of the renomination review. As far as confidence in the two men, Powell said “no one on the FOMC is happy to be in this situation….”Derby then dropped a bit of a bombshell, saying that he was aware that the Fed Board wouldn’t have had the 2020 forms but that in the case of Kaplan “similar trading was shown in years past” on his prior financial disclosure forms. (That Kaplan got away with it in earlier years may have emboldened Kaplan in 2020.)Powell said the renomination review process is more about leadership at the regional Fed banks and the individual’s performance on the Federal Open Market Committee. (Isn’t unseemly trading a black mark on leadership?)It was apparent from Powell’s answer that either no one conducting these reviews bothered to look at the trading activity of Kaplan or was competent to understand the significance of his trading activity. The bigger picture here is that the Federal Reserve is the same institution that Congress put in charge of supervising the mega banks on Wall Street, allowing them to simultaneously own giant federally-insured banks as well as casino trading operations. Under this structure, for the first time in the history of banking in the United States, the largest U.S. bank, JPMorgan Chase, had been charged with, and admitted to, five felony counts since 2014. And on the very day of Powell’s press conference, this headline was running across Reuters’ news wires: “JPMorgan Faces Oil Bribery Probe in Brazil.”

Furor over Fed officials' trades shows need to fix ethics rules: Powell — The growing scrutiny of personal financial transactions by two Federal Reserve Bank presidents has demonstrated that the U.S. central bank could bolster its ethics framework for senior officials, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday. The Fed announced Sept. 16 that Powell had ordered a review of its ethics rules. A week earlier, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said they would sell all individual stock holdings after The Wall Street Journal reported they had engaged in certain trades while privy to the Fed's internal discussions about its coronavirus response. Even though both presidents had said the transactions complied with the ethics rules, Powell said Wednesday that the controversy had shown that the central bank's framework is “clearly seen as not adequate to the task of really sustaining the public’s trust."

Where Do Monetarists Think PCE Price Level Is Going To? - From an email from Tim Congdon, at the International Institute for Monetary Research (9/20):I suggest that a more plausible figure for end-year PCE annual inflation is between 5½% and 6%. (The consumer price index – up by 4.5% in the first seven months of 2021 – may finish the year with a rise somewhere in the 6½% – 7½% area.)The conclusion is based on the following reasoning: In the background here is the huge overhang of excess money balances. In the year to mid-May 2021 the M3 measure of broad money increased by 35%. The evidence over many decades is that – in the medium term – the growth rates of money, broadly-defined, and nominal gross domestic product are similar. So – unless that 35% number is now followed by a big contraction in the quantity of money – the US economy will continue to be affected by two conditions, specifically, ‘too much money chasing too few assets’, and ‘too much money chasing too few goods and services’.Of course the two conditions are interrelated and also interact with each other. Our research emphasized last year that rapid money growth was likely to boost asset prices first, and that has been right. What’s the implied path of the PCE deflator, relative to nowcasts and forecasts? See Figure 1, where I’ve used the mid-point of Congdon’s forecast (5.75% December y/y), shown as the red square. Figure 1: Personal Consumption Expenditure deflator (black), Congdon midpoint forecast (red square), Cleveland Fed nowcast as of 9/23 (sky blue +), Survey of Professional Forecasters August median forecast (green line), FOMC 9/22 projections (blue square). Source: BEA, Cleveland Fed, Philadelphia Fed/SPF,Federal Reserve, and author’s calculations.The FOMC median forecast is surprisingly similar to the Survey of Professional Forecasters’ median forecast from the preceding month (mid-August). The FOMC members then still perceive a deceleration in inflation in the last half of 2021.Congdon’s forecast looks plausible given the August PCE deflator nowcast (and even more using the September). However, it’s far outside of the range projected by the FOMC, as shown in Figure 2, which includes the high/low inflation forecasts. Figure 2: Personal Consumption Expenditure deflator (black), Congdon midpoint forecast (red square), Cleveland Fed nowcast as of 9/23 (sky blue +), FOMC 9/22 projections (blue square), high and low forecasts (dark blue +). Source: BEA, Cleveland Fed, Federal Reserve, and author’s calculations. In other words, the monetarist view (if I can use Congdon’s view as a proxy) differs from both a mixed bag of mainly mainstream economists (proxied by the Survey of Professional Forecasters) and policymakers (the FOMC).

Chicago Fed: "Index suggests slower, but still above-average growth in August" - "Index suggests slower, but still above-average growth in August." This is the headline for this morning's release of the Chicago Fed's National Activity Index, and here is the opening paragraph from the report: The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) decreased to +0.29 in August from +0.75 in July. All four broad categories of indicators used to construct the index made positive contributions in August, but three categories deteriorated from July. The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, moved up to +0.43 in August from +0.36 in July. [Download report] The Chicago Fed's National Activity Index (CFNAI) is a monthly indicator designed to gauge overall economic activity and related inflationary pressure. It is a composite of 85 monthly indicators as explained in this background PDF file on the Chicago Fed's website. The index is constructed so a zero value for the index indicates that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate of growth. Negative values indicate below-average growth, and positive values indicate above-average growth.The first chart below shows the recent behavior of the index since 2007. The red dots show the indicator itself, which is quite noisy, together with the 3-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3), which is more useful as an indicator of the actual trend for coincident economic activity.

CB Leading Economic Index: Sharp Rise in August - The latest Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) August was up 0.9% from the July final figure of 117.1 and at another record high.The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. increased sharply in August, fueled by positive contributions from all components except for consumer expectations for business conditions and average weekly manufacturing hours. In the six-month period ending August 2021, the leading economic index increased 6.4 percent (about a 13.1 percent annual rate), up sharply from 3.4 percent (about a 6.9 percent annual rate) over the previous six months. In addition, the strengths among the leading indicators remained widespread.The Conference Board CEI for the U.S., a measure of current economic activity, increased slightly in August. The coincident economic index rose 2.8 percent (about a 5.7 percent annual rate) between February and August 2021, much faster than the growth of 1.2 percent (about a 2.4 percent annual rate) over the previous six months. Also, the strengths among the coincident indicators have remained very widespread, with all components advancing over the past six months. The lagging economic index continued to increase, but at a slower pace than the CEI. As a result, the coincident-to-lagging ratio is up slightly. Real GDP expanded at a 6.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter of the year, after increasing 6.3 percent (annual rate) in the first quarter. More Here is a log-scale chart of the LEI series with documented recessions as identified by the NBER. The use of a log scale gives us a better sense of the relative sizes of peaks and troughs than a more conventional linear scale.

Q3 GDP Forecasts: Around 4.5% - GDP forecasts had been downgraded sharply for Q3 due to COVID, but now seem to have stabilized. Here is a table of some of the forecasts over the last two months. (see table) From BofA Merrill Lynch: We continue to track 4.5% qoq saar for 3Q GDP. [Sept 24 estimate] From Goldman Sachs: We left our Q3 GDP tracking estimate unchanged at +4.5% (qoq ar). [Sept 24 estimate] And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow: The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the third quarter of 2021 is 3.7 percent on September 21, up from 3.6 percent on September 16. [Sept 21 estimate]

Seven High Frequency Indicators for the Economy - These indicators are mostly for travel and entertainment. The TSA is providing daily travel numbers.This data is as of September 19th. This data shows the 7-day average of daily total traveler throughput from the TSA for 2019 (Light Blue), 2020 (Blue) and 2021 (Red). The 7-day average is down 26.8% from the same day in 2019 (73.2% of 2019). (Dashed line) The second graph shows the 7-day average of the year-over-year change in diners as tabulated by OpenTable for the US and several selected cities. This data is updated through September 18, 2021. Note that this data is for "only the restaurants that have chosen to reopen in a given market". Since some restaurants have not reopened, the actual year-over-year decline is worse than shown. The 7-day average for the US is down 13% compared to 2019. This data shows domestic box office for each week and the median for the years 2016 through 2019 (dashed light blue). Movie ticket sales were at $80 million last week, down only about 46% from the median for the week. This graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four week average. This data is through September 11th. The occupancy rate was down 13.6% compared to the same week in 2019. The comparison to 2019 was difficult this week due to the timing of Labor Day. Last week the occupancy rate was unchanged year-over-year. If we average the last two weeks, occupancy is down about 7% compared to the same two weeks in 2019. This graph, based on weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), shows gasoline supplied compared to the same week of 2019. As of September 10th, gasoline supplied was down 0.5% compared to the same week in 2019. There have been five weeks so far this year when gasoline supplied was up compared to the same week in 2019. This graph is from Apple mobility: "This data is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions in select countries/regions, sub-regions, and cities." This data is through September 18th for the United States and several selected cities. The graph is the running 7-day average to remove the impact of weekends. IMPORTANT: All data is relative to January 13, 2020. This data is NOT Seasonally Adjusted. People walk and drive more when the weather is nice, so I'm just using the transit data. According to the Apple data directions requests, public transit in the 7 day average for the US is at 1157 of the January 2020 level. New York City is doing well by this metric, but subway usage in NYC is down sharply (next graph). Here is some interesting data on New York subway usage (HT BR). This graph is from Todd W Schneider. This is weekly data since 2015. Most weeks are between 30 and 35 million entries, and currently there are over 14 million subway turnstile entries per week - and moving up recently. This data is through Friday, September 17th.

What a Collapse of China’s Evergrande Would Mean - Wolf Richter: Foreign investors piled into the property sector over the years, buying hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds, including dollar bonds issued by China’s property developers. They bought those bonds because they liked those yields, in some cases over 10%, thinking that the Chinese government wouldn’t let those companies default, that it would bail out the bondholders as it bailed out so many bondholders before, and surely it would do it again, given how crucial the funding of the property sector is to the Chinese economy.And now just about everything has gone wrong for these foreign investors. For months, there has been a massive crackdown by Chinese authorities on liquidity-driven inflows into the housing sector.Authorities cracked down on overleveraged property developers. They targeted mortgage approvals and interest rates for first-time buyers. They tamped down on rental growth. They pushed banks to reduce their lending to homebuyers. A national property tax has been put on the table.And this was topped off with an increasingly strained relationship between the Chinese government and the United States government, that includes major steps by the US government to crack down on speculation by Chinese entities in the US stock markets.China’s crackdown on property speculation is guided by the official mantra that “housing is for living, not for speculation.”That massive amount of speculation and leverage has for years posed enormous risks to financial stability. And the government is now trying to defuse those risks – and it looks like at the expense of foreign investors that have bought those hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds.Those foreign investors are suddenly realizing that they’re no longer sacred and that the government may not bail them out. Bailouts had been taken for granted, given how important the property sector is to China’s economy, and foreign investors whose money was needed to fuel that property speculation, had felt secure in their thinking that China would bail out those bonds if push came to shove. Now push is coming to shove. Evergrande Group, the second largest property developer in China, and the property developer with the most debt in the world, owes banks, shadow banks, other companies, investors, its suppliers, contractors, and home buyers $305 billion, according to Bloomberg. It hasn’t been able to sell a single dollar bond since January 2020, and has no prospects of doing so as foreign investors have gotten the message. On August 31, it said that work was suspended on a number of real-estate projects after it delayed payments to its suppliers and contractors. It warned that it may default on its debts if it can’t raise new money. If it was difficult to raise new money before, it became impossible after that announcement – unless the government steps in, and that hasn’t happened yet.

McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Monday that Republicans would help pass a short-term government funding bill — but only if Democrats divorced it from a plan to suspend the debt ceiling through 2022. "Senate Republicans would support a clean continuing resolution that included appropriate disaster relief and targeted Afghan assistance. We will not support legislation that raises the debt limit," McConnell said from the Senate floor. McConnell's remarks came shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced in a joint statement that they would use a short-term government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, to also suspend the debt ceiling. "The legislation to avoid a government shutdown will also include a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022 to once again meet our obligations and protect the full faith and credit of the United States," they said. In addition to a debt ceiling suspension, the short-term spending bill is also expected to include funding for recent national disasters and refugee resettlement. The House will vote on the bill this week but is expected to run into a GOP filibuster in the Senate, where Republicans have telegraphed for weeks that they won't help raise or suspend the debt ceiling regardless of whether it's on its own or tied to another bill. That will bring the fight to a head in the Senate days before government funding expires on Sept. 30. Democratic leaders haven't said what they'll do if Republicans block the short-term bill with the debt ceiling suspension attached. The debt ceiling, which was suspended in 2019, kicked back in on Aug. 1. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using so-called extraordinary measures to keep the government solvent. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen hasn't pinpointed when exactly they will run out but warned congressional leaders that it will be sometime in October. Republicans are trying to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own as part of their $3.5 trillion spending plan. Because Democrats are passing the bill under budget reconciliation, they can sidestep needing GOP support in the Senate. But there's no guarantee the spending bill will be done in time amid myriad sticking points. And Democratic leadership and the White House want to raise the debt ceiling with bipartisan support, effectively trying to force both parties to own the vote. Democrats previously supported suspending the debt ceiling under the Trump administration, though it was tied to other budget and spending deals.

Democrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight - Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are playing a risky game of chicken over funding the government and raising the nation’s borrowing limit. Pelosi and Schumer upped the stakes Monday by announcing they will force Republicans to vote next week on a short-term government funding measure that includes legislation to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The legislation will also include about $20 billion to respond to recent disasters, ranging from hurricane damage in the Gulf states to millions of acres scorched by wildfires in the West. Republicans insist they will not vote on any package that includes a debt ceiling hike, something they say Democrats should have to do on their own despite decades of members of both parties voting to increase the borrowing limit to pay for past spending authorized by Democrats and Republicans alike. In pairing the two measures, Democrats hope the GOP will take the public’s blame for shutting down the government if Republicans block the measure in the upper chamber. The standoff could result in a government shutdown at the end of next week and provoke a crisis of confidence over the nation’s credit rating, something that last happened when Democrats and Republicans deadlocked over the debt limit in 2011. McConnell made it clear last week that Republicans would vote against any proposal to lift the debt cap, even if paired with legislation to keep federal departments and agencies funded beyond Sept. 30. He then doubled down on that position on Monday. “Senate Republicans would support a clean continuing resolution that included appropriate disaster relief and targeted Afghan assistance. We will not support legislation that raises the debt limit,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. But Democrats do not want to kowtow to McConnell, who has pressed them to include a debt ceiling hike in a separate $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package the party is preparing. That bill can’t be filibustered, meaning Democrats can get it to President Biden’s desk if they can stay unified. Pelosi and Schumer argue the debt ceiling hike should be backed by members of both parties since it covers spending backed by Democrats and Republicans alike. “The American people expect our Republican colleagues to live up to their responsibilities and make good on the debts they proudly helped incur in the December 2020 ‘908’ COVID package that helped American families and small businesses reeling from the COVID crisis,” the Democratic leaders wrote in their joint statement announcing their strategy. McConnell’s strategy is focused on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that is unanimously opposed by Republicans. He wants Democrats to take the political hit for raising the debt ceiling as he and other Republicans criticize the majority party for their big spending measure. Financial markets are beginning to take notice of the game of chicken. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 900 points Monday before bouncing slightly before the close.

McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately urged Republican senators to vote against raising the debt ceiling as Congress barrels toward a fiscal cliff next month. McConnell's private ask — confirmed to The Hill by a GOP senator and leadership aide — underscores how personally invested he is in the standoff against Democrats over the debt ceiling and comes as he's warned publicly that Republicans won't provide the votes needed to raise or suspend it. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told The Hill that McConnell has in recent weeks privately asked Republicans to vote against increasing the debt ceiling, characterizing the pitch to GOP senators as "I want you to vote this particular way." "He's not bluffing," Kennedy said of McConnell's pledge that Republicans won't help raise the debt ceiling. A GOP leadership aide confirmed that McConnell had privately urged Republicans to oppose increasing the debt ceiling. The aide noted that McConnell got a "standing ovation" from GOP senators when he laid out what their position would be. McConnell's decision to lean on GOP senators, which both the aide and Kennedy noted had happened in recent weeks, comes as Congress is set to need to raise the ceiling next month the avoid default. Congress, under the then-Trump administration, suspended the debt ceiling in 2019. The borrowing limit kicked back in on August 1, but the Treasury Department has been using so-called "extraordinary measures" to keep the government solvent since then. Republicans are trying to force Democrats to "own" the debt hike over frustration tied to Democrats' plans to pass a $3.5 trillion spending bill under budget reconciliation, a process that lets them bypass needing 60 votes in the Senate. Republicans want Democrats to raise the debt ceiling as part of that spending package. But Democrats are so far refusing to link the two, arguing that the debt ceiling vote should be bipartisan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) instead announced on Monday that they will include a debt ceiling suspension through 2022 in a short-term government funding bill that Congress needs to pass by the end of the month in order to prevent a shutdown. Though Democrats will be able to pass the package on their own in the House, they will need the support of at least 10 GOP senators to get it over a filibuster threat in the Senate. They appear, for now, unlikely to overcome that hurdle but haven't outlined what their next steps would be.

House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit - The House on Tuesday passed legislation that would prevent a government shutdown and suspend the debt limit ahead of looming deadlines with only days to spare, although the measure is set to run into a GOP wall in the Senate. The bill passed on a party-line vote of 220-211. It now heads to the Senate, where at least ten Republicans would need to join with all Democrats for passage. Nearly every Republican senator has said that they will oppose a debt limit suspension, arguing that Democrats should instead act on their own through the budget reconciliation process that can circumvent a filibuster and is being used for the $3.5 trillion social spending package. Democrats are nonetheless attaching the debt limit suspension through Dec. 16, 2022 to a must-pass bill to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 in an attempt to pressure Republicans to drop their threats. It’s also unclear if the reconciliation package would be ready in time to be used as a legislative vehicle for addressing the debt limit. The debt limit was reinstated on Aug. 1, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that if Congress doesn’t raise or suspend the ceiling, the federal government will be unable to pay its bills sometime in October. Democrats further noted that they voted with Republicans multiple times to suspend the debt limit during the Trump administration, and argued the issue should continue to be addressed on a bipartisan basis to ensure that the U.S. meets its obligations on debt that’s already incurred. “I hope Republicans will be consistent and will do as they did before: vote to prevent a default and spare the American people from yet another damaging economic crisis right as we are coming out of a pandemic,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “This is not a Democratic debt. It's not a Republican debt. It is our debt. It is the debt of the United States of America. We don't welch on our debts. We pay our debts,” he said. Republicans insisted that they will not back a measure to prevent the nation from defaulting on its debt obligations. “The bill that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi is bringing through this week will not become law. They're going to have to go back to the drawing board,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

House releases details of spending, debt ceiling bill - House Democrats are expected to pass stopgap funding and debt ceiling legislation today that also provides $26.6 billion in emergency disaster spending described by sponsors as the “rising cost of climate change.” The legislation aims to avert a federal shutdown next week when the new fiscal year begins by level-funding agencies through Dec. 3. It would also avert an unprecedented default on the nation’s borrowing authority by suspending the debt ceiling through 2022. “We expect to pass the [continuing resolution] with the debt limit in it” later today, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said this morning. He acknowledged the Senate might send the bill back to the House with changes. Indeed, Senate Republicans have already said they will block the legislation because they don’t want to contribute to increasing the nation’s $28.5 trillion debt ceiling. GOP lawmakers have said they would support a “clean” CR without the debt provision. Hoyer said if that happens, Democrats will have to make a “determination” on their next move. In the meantime, both parties continue to swipe at one another over who would be to blame for a debt crisis or a federal shutdown. Beyond the stopgap and debt provisions, the legislation also would provide billions of dollars in emergency spending for natural disasters, including Hurricanes Ida, Delta, Zeta and Laura; wildfires; severe droughts; and winter storms. The $28.6 billion proposed for disaster aid is about double the amount initially proposed by the White House earlier this month, in the wake of Ida. The spending includes:

  • $3 billion for accelerating the construction of flood and storm damage reduction projects to reduce risk from future floods and hurricanes.
  • $2.081 billion for repairing damage to Army Corps projects caused by natural disasters.
  • $2.6 billion to reimburse states and territories for damage from natural disasters to roads and bridges in the National Highway System.
  • $1.7 billion to the Interior Department and Forest Service for wildfire fighting costs as well as wildfire prevention efforts.
  • $345 million for NOAA hurricane and wildfire damage as well as to mitigate the impact of future disasters.
  • $895 million to the Air Force and Navy to repair facilities damaged by natural disasters.
  • $43.3 million to repair damage at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve caused by natural disasters.

Democrats hope including the disaster aid will help win support from GOP lawmakers in states hard hit by natural disasters. But Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), whose state bore the brunt of Hurricane Ida, said while he’s likely to back the bill, it’s unlikely nine other senators will join him and beat back an expected Senate filibuster. The legislation also contains short-term extensions of a host of programs expiring at the end of the fiscal year, including the federal flood insurance program, according to a summary.

Democrats would shoulder more blame than Republicans if US defaults on debt: poll --More voters would blame Democrats than Republicans if the U.S. defaults on the national debt, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted by Politico and Morning Consult, found that 33 percent of registered voters surveyed said they would blame the Democratic Party if the U.S. defaults on the national debt, while 16 percent would place the onus on the Republican Party.Forty-two percent of respondents said they would blame both parties equally, and 9 percent said they do not know or had no opinion.When broken down by party, 18 percent of Democrats polled said they would blame their own party if the U.S. defaults on its debt, while 27 percent said they would blame the Republican Party. Forty-three percent of Democrats said the blame falls on both parties equally.For Republicans, 54 percent said they would blame the Democratic Party, with only 9 percent blaming the GOP. Thirty-two percent said both parties would equally share the blame.Most independents, 51 percent, said both parties would equally share the blame, followed by 27 percent who said Democrats and 10 percent who said Republicans.The polling numbers come as Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are deadlocked on raising the debt ceiling: Democrats want to increase the limit but Republicans are refusing to do so, saying that those on the left should go at it alone.

Debt ceiling fight pits corporate America against Republicans - The debt ceiling battle on Capitol Hill is pitting corporate America against congressional Republicans in a test for business groups that have historically aligned with GOP lawmakers on economic issues. Senate Republican leaders are digging in on their opposition to raising or suspending the debt limit, prompting sharp warnings from lobbying groups that represent some of the biggest U.S. corporations. The stakes are high in the standoff between Democrats and Republicans. Defaulting on the debt — or even coming dangerously close to doing so — could undermine the nation’s credit rating and upend the global financial system, posing a major risk to company stock prices and corporate bonds. “The United States of America defaulting on its obligations is not an option; we are counting on Congress to take the necessary steps to address the debt limit,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest corporate lobbying group. House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a bill to suspend the debt limit until after the 2022 midterm elections. While the measure is expected to pass the House, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is privately whipping his caucus to vote down the measure when it comes to the upper chamber. Republicans want Democrats to “own” the debt ceiling hike by including it in their $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which can pass the 50-50 Senate with a simple majority. But Democrats are insisting on a bipartisan vote to raise the limit, noting that it won’t be included in their reconciliation package, which may not be ready by the time the U.S. nears a default sometime in October. A bipartisan measure would require 60 votes to pass the Senate. The risky strategy pits Republicans against corporate America, whose leaders are urging Congress to raise or suspend the debt limit as soon as possible given the likely financial turmoil that would ensue. A coalition of groups representing investment firms and banks, including Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, warned congressional leaders in a letter last week that a default would damage the nation’s credit, make it harder to pay down debt and pummel financial markets that rely on U.S. Treasury bonds.

The fight over the debt ceiling has the potential to tank the U.S. economy—here's what it means - Politicians in Congress are currently in a staredown over the debt ceiling. Lawmakers must reach an agreement soon to allow the government to meet its payment obligations for Social Security, tax credits and military salaries, among other items. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the Treasury will likely run out of ways to pay its bills at some point in October. Democrats want to suspend or increase the debt limit through legislation. However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that Democrats need to find a way to pass it without any support from the GOP. Democrats argue that raising the ceiling will simply allow the U.S. Treasury to pay for spending and tax cuts that were greenlit during the Trump administration, while Republicans say they won't help lift the debt limit because of the Democrats' $3.5 billion spending plan. Suspending or increasing the limit does not authorize any new spending. The Republican opposition may force Democrats to lift the ceiling on their own as part of the spending package, which they plan to pass without the GOP through budget reconciliation. The process requires only a simple majority in the Senate split 50-50 by party. Here's what the debt ceiling is and how a failure to raise it could have far-reaching effects in the economy.

Fed Chair Powell Says He's Powerless to Help Congress on Debt Ceiling -- The Federal Reserve won't come to the economy's rescue if the US defaults on its debt, Jerome Powell, the chair of the central bank, said Wednesday. Congress is, once again, coming dangerously close to a debt-ceiling crisis. Lawmakers have until mid-October to either raise or suspend the borrowing limit, or allow the US to default on its debt. The latter outcome would freeze spending on several critical public programs, spark massive job losses, throw financial markets into chaos, and likely plunge the US into a self-inflicted recession . In other words, defaulting on government debt is "just not something we can or should contemplate," Powell told reporters at a press conference. Failure to raise the ceiling could spark "severe damage to the economy," and the ball is solely in lawmakers' court, the Fed chair added. "I think we can agree the United States shouldn't default on any of its obligations and should pay them when due," he said. "No one should assume that the Fed or anyone else can protect the markets or the economy in the event of a failure." Debt scares aren't anything new on Capitol Hill. The ceiling has already been suspended or lifted 57 times in the past five decades. But the 117th Congress is on track to be the first to break the threshold.Republicans have been adamant that raising the ceiling is Democrats' responsibility alone. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his opposition to the effort on Wednesday, saying Democrats shouldn't "play Russian roulette with our economy."

The Senate is expected to vote Monday on continuing government funding and raising debt ceiling – -The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a key procedural motion to advance a temporary government funding bill that includes a suspension of the debt ceiling, according to senators and aides in each party.The vote has not been locked in by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.Republicans in the chamber plan to block the closely watched measure, which needs 60 votes to succeed, because they oppose the debt limit provision.The vote will take place just days before the government could run out of money at the end of the month and Democrats must then determine their next steps. They could allow the government to shut down and try to blame Republicans or they could strip out the debt ceiling from the bill and pass it with GOP support, which is expected once the debt provision is removed.Democrats are coy on what they will do, even as they recognize a government shutdown -- or default -- while their party controls the major levers of government in Washington would be politically untenable. "We're first going to give 10 Republicans a chance to stand up and vote," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois when asked by CNN whether Democrats would allow a shutdown if Republicans block the measure.Asked if Democrats would comply with GOP demands to strip out the debt measure, Durbin replied, "We'll see."Republican aides say they expect a the government funding bill without the debt ceiling could pass the chamber very quickly and ahead of the deadline for a shutdown.Durbin also would not say how Democrats would handle preventing a default and whether they would use the budget reconciliation process that they are using to pass their propose $3.5 trillion "social infrastructure" bill on a party-line vote."We don't want a default," he replied.Schumer was asked by CNN's Manu Raju if he would rule out using reconciliation to raise the debt limit, and the New York Democrat refused to respond -- a sign Democrats are prepared to go that route if needed to prevent a damaging default, even as they want Republicans to share the political burden of voting for a debt increase.

Why the GOP is threatening to block a debt limit extension they say is needed — When the Senate votes Monday afternoon on legislation to fund the government and avert a catastrophic default on the debt, it is likely to be blocked by a Republican-led filibuster. As the U.S. hurtles toward an October deadline, Republicans have taken an unusual — if not unprecedented — position. They support the contents of the bill, with the exception of the debt limit increase. They also say the debt ceiling must be extended, yet they promise to use the 60-vote threshold power to block it. They insist Democrats do that on a partisan basis. But top Democrats emphatically reject that. They say the debt ceiling has historically been raised on a bipartisan basis, and they won't let Republicans off the hook this time. Behind the high-stakes hostage standoff is a GOP desire to weaponize the issue politically. They want Democrats to tackle the debt ceiling in a separate filibuster-proof package because, under Senate budget rules, that would require endorsing a dollar figure on how much the U.S. can borrow. It’d be high due to the accumulation of debt over generations — $30 trillion or more. Republicans see that as fodder for attack ads in the 2022 elections, when they hope to regain control of Congress by telling voters that Democrats are on a reckless spending binge. Sen. Rick Scott, the chairman of the GOP Senate campaign arm, told NBC News he intends to make the debt ceiling an issue in the 2022 midterms if Democrats lift it. “They’re going to get held accountable for it,” the Florida Republican said. Asked if the party’s campaign committee will convey that to voters in ads and other messaging, he said, “Oh, you better believe it.” For years, Congress has avoided putting a dollar figure on the debt limit. Under the regular process that is subject to a 60-vote filibuster, Congress can simply “extend” it to a date and enable the government to borrow as much money as it needs to pay bills during that time. That was done most recently, in 2019, under former President Donald Trump. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said if Democrats “want to tax, borrow and spend historic sums of money without our input, they’ll have to raise the debt limit without our help.” The reality is less simple. The debt limit would require an extension even if Democrats abandoned the multitrillion-dollar bill. The U.S. routinely spends more than it taxes as part of a bipartisan handshake agreement: Democrats want to spend heavily on domestic programs, and Republicans, including McConnell, insist on hefty spending for the military. Lifting the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending. It enables the U.S. government to borrow the money that's needed to pay bills it has already accrued. The debt and deficit rank low on issues that voters worry about.A Gallup poll in August found that just 2 percent of Americans cited the federal deficit and debt as the country's biggest problem.The same poll said that in summer 2011, the last time Republicans engaged in debt limit brinkmanship with a Democratic president, 17 percent cited the federal budget deficit as the country's top problem.

Bungling the Debt Ceiling -- Barkley Rosser -- It looks like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is bungling the matter of raising (or suspending) the debt ceiling, coming due in mid-October supposedly. He could have tied it to reconciliation in August, but decided not to, intent on getting GOPster on board with participating in doing it. But Sen. McConnell (R-KY) is having none of it, and even though Schumer thought he had them by tying it to a continuing resolution to keep the government going past Sept. 30, well, McConnell is not going along, nor are any of his colleagues, with maybe one exception, Sen. Kennedy of Louisiana who wants money for dealing with the effects of Hurricane Ida. Anyway, it looks like McConnell is just fine with some economy-damaging crash, which may help GOP next year. I really do not see why Schumer did not see this one coming. I think he thinks a year from now people will be remembering it was the naughty GOP that crashed the economy rather than the Dems doing so by mismanaging things. People are not that smart. He needs to keep the economy going, and we know the voters do not give a phoo about deficits or the debt unless they see the economy not doing well, which a GOP crashing of the ceiling raise could bring about. He needs to bite the bullet and get this into the Reconciliation, although apparently now it will take some time for reasons I do not understand, and we may get a short government shutdown before it can be done. Bungling on this one. GOP is now totally irresponsible and nihilistic.

Pelosi says she promised members they would not vote for spending bill above $3.5 trillion - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday said she promised House Democrats that they would not vote on a spending package that has a price tag higher than $3.5 trillion should that be the topline number that is passed by the Senate. “The President and Senate Democrats sent us a budget resolution with a cap of $3.5 trillion. I have promised Members that we would not have House Members vote for a bill with a higher topline than would be passed by the Senate. Hopefully, that will be at the $3.5 trillion number,” Pelosi wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. She noted, however, that the bill is being reviewed by the House and Senate panels for potential Byrd rule violations that could change the top-line number. “Our legislation is being reviewed by the House and Senate Budget Committees for possible Byrd violation challenges in order to narrow our exposure in a Byrd bath. The House and Senate are already in agreement on most of the bills,” Pelosi wrote. “We must be prepared for adjustments according to the Byrd rule and an agreed to number.” Pelosi’s statement places a marker in the sand for the reconciliation package’s price tag as members of the party continue to engage in an internal battle over the top-line number. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Budget Committee Democrats, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced in July that they had reached a deal for a $3.5 trillion price tag for the party’s infrastructure package — which includes investments in education and climate change, among other Democratic legislative priorities. Some moderates in the party, however, have since voiced opposition to the package’s top-line number, arguing that it is too high. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has been among the most outspoken in his criticism of the package’s price tag. Earlier this month Axios reported, citing sources familiar with the discussions, that Manchin would be open to supporting at most $1.5 trillion of the proposed $3.5 trillion spending bill. Axios reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter, that Manchin has suggested pausing deliberations on the spending package until 2022. That came after Manchin earlier this month publicly said Democrats should hit “pause” on the spending bill. Democrats are looking to pass the multi-trillion package through reconciliation, which would allow the party to buck a potential Republican filibuster by only requiring a simple majority vote for passage. That strategy, however, will require that all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate remain banded together, including on the price tag.e

 Chamber of Commerce warns moderate Democrats against voting for reconciliation --- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a six-figure ad campaign Wednesday pressuring moderate House Democrats to vote down the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. The ads target Reps. Cindy Axne, (Iowa), Angie Craig (Minn.), Antonio Delgado (N.Y.), Josh Harder (Calif.) and Elaine Luria (Va.), urging them to reject Democrats’ party-line spending plan over its proposed tax hikes. The corporate lobbying group endorsed all of those House Democrats in the 2020 election. The ad campaign comes after the Chamber sent out a “key vote” letter to lawmakers urging them to reject the reconciliation package or risk losing the group’s endorsement. “No member of Congress can achieve the support of the business community if they vote to pass this bill as currently constructed,” the letter read. Big business groups are lobbying lawmakers to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which does not raise taxes, but oppose the larger reconciliation package that is funded by increased taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark called the $3.5 trillion plan an “existential threat to America’s fragile economic recovery and future prosperity” in a statement Wednesday. “We will not find durable or practical solutions in one massive bill that is equivalent to more than twice the combined budgets of all 50 states,” Clark said. “ The success of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations provides a much better model for how Congress should proceed in addressing America’s problems.” Democrats can only afford three defections in the House when they vote on the reconciliation package. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has insisted that the bipartisan infrastructure bill must pass alongside the party’s spending package that invests in climate, child care and other Democratic priorities. Moderate Democrats previously negotiated a deal with Pelosi to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill by Sept. 27. Progressive lawmakers believe that they will have less leverage to pass the $3.5 trillion spending plan if the smaller infrastructure bill is already signed into law.

Gottheimer presses for House vote Monday on infrastructure bill - Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) is pressing for a Monday vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the House, as some progressives threaten to tank the bill if it is not passed with the multi-trillion dollar spending package. “On Monday, there's absolutely no reason, we're facing what we are on the climate, or we're facing what we are on our crumbling roads and bridges, New Jersey’s got the third worst roads in the country, with transit and everything else, there’s no reason to not vote on that,” Gottheimer told host Jim Sciutto on “CNN Newsroom,” referring to the bipartisan infrastructure bill. When asked by Sciutto if he is confident that the House will vote on the bill Monday, Gottheimer, who co-chairs the Problem Solver’s Caucus, responded: “I am.” “It’s essential that we get this across the finish line and we all voted, every Democrat in the House voted to bring this bill to the floor on Sept. 27, on Monday, so we'll start doing that, we'll debate it,” Gottheimer said. “Speaker has said that she'll help get the votes, she committed to that publicly, and there’s no one better than getting votes than Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi (D-Calif.), so we'll get this done, I'm really optimistic about that,” he added. Gottheimer's comments come as Democrats on Capitol Hill are at odds over a pair of spending packages that are both essential components of President Biden’s legislative agenda. The Senate last month passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Pelosi has vowed to pass by Monday, Sept. 27. On Tuesday, Gottheimer said he was holding Pelosi to her commitment. “It was a commitment. Every single member of the Democratic caucus voted for [that deadline]. We'll be bringing the legislation to the floor on Sept. 27,” Gottheimer told The Hill. “I’m not waning in my confidence [about Sept. 27], if that is what you are asking.” Some progressive Democrats, however, are now threatening to block the bill if it is not passed with the party’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, which is still being negotiated on Capitol Hill.

$3.5 trillion reconciliation bill: What we know so far about the Democrats' big budget package –\ Democrats in Congress are struggling to unify their members behind a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that is the centerpiece of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda.The sweeping 10-year spending plan marks the biggest step in Democrats' drive to expand education, health care and childcare support, tackle the climate crisis and make further investments in infrastructure. But it has also raised concerns among moderates in both chambers who worry some of the measures, including on drug pricing and climate, go too far.Time is running short: Party leaders are hoping to use the annual budget process to push through a major broadening of the nation's social safety net envisioned in Biden's jobs and families proposals that have been blocked by Republican opposition. And they must do this while also raising the debt ceiling and averting a government shutdown in coming weeks.With only narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress, Democrats are under pressure to swiftly finalize the package so they can move it in tandem witha separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure billawaiting a vote in the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to bring that bipartisan bill to the floor by September 27, but progressives say they won't vote for it without the larger economic package.Unlike the Democrats' infrastructure package, which was passed by 69 votes in the Senate and is currently awaiting a vote in the House, the budget plan is unlikely to gain bipartisan backing -- but it can go through reconciliation, which under Senate rules means it can be passed with 50 Democratic votes alone. GOP lawmakers have already lashed out at the size of the budget blueprint and multiple provisions the Democrats are considering.The Senate Budget Committee, which released a framework agreement over the summer, says that the investments will be fully offset by a combination of new tax revenues, health care savings and long-term economic growth, though the summary doesn't provide details. The instructions also list corporate and international tax reform and Internal Revenue Service tax enforcement as options -- both of which Republicans shot down in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.However, a memorandum to Democratic senators specifies that new taxes on families making less than $400,000 a year, small businesses and family farms would be prohibited. Here's what's in the draft legislation from various House committees and the Senate Budget Committee's resolution summary:

Schumer, Pelosi announce 'framework' to pay for $3.5T infrastructure bill - -Democratic House and Senate leaders on Thursday announced they and the White House have reached agreement on a "framework" that will pay for most, if not all, of the massive $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill -- a move meant to mitigate concerns from moderate and centrist Democrats opposed to the hefty price tag. But the leaders provided very little details on the framework a day after President Joe Biden met with Democratic leaders, moderates and progressives at the White House in an effort to save his agenda from Democratic infighting.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also did not provide a clear outline about when the reconciliation bill will be ready for a vote.She also did not commit to putting the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor for a vote next Monday, which she had promised moderates would happen. Pelosi was joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at her weekly press conference, as Democrats also face a looming possible government shutdown on Oct. 1 and still need to deal with the debt ceiling, which Republicans will not support. "The White House, the House and the Senate have reached agreement on a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement. So, the revenue side of this, we have an agreement on," Schumer told reporters. "We know that we can cover the provisions the president has put forward," Pelosi added. "It's all good." This announcement is meant to provide some relief to those moderate, centrist Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who do not support that $3.5 trillion number. But Pelosi and Schumer provided very little on actual details. As of right now, leaders are no closer to having a reconciliation bill -- which means the fate of the bipartisan infrastructure bill hangs in the balance. "We came to terms as to a framework of an array of agreements that we have, depending on what the need is. Now at the same time, we're finalizing on the outlay side, so if we need more, we need less -- that will impact the choices we make there," Pelosi said. Pelosi also did not commit to putting the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has already passed in the Senate on the floor next week. "We take it one day at time," Pelosi told reporters. "I am confident that we will pass both bills."

House signals progress, but climate provisions remain 'TBD' - The House Budget Committee will vote on a version of the partisan $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill Saturday in hopes of mollifying competing Democratic factions and quickly reaching a deal with the Senate, but climate remains a major sticking point in negotiations. The markup will be a key step in getting a reconciliation package to the floor, underscoring resolve from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to come to an agreement ahead of a scheduled vote Monday on the separate bipartisan infrastructure bill. But significant hurdles remain when it comes to policy specifics, pay-fors and the ongoing political spat between Democratic moderates and progressives that is still threatening to derail the process. As talks drag on, Democrats are no closer to solving their climate problem, namely that Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) appears to oppose the Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP) — their central proposal to slash greenhouse gas emissions. The party is also still sorting through the details of a potential price on carbon, a policy some advocates once thought was dead, with Senate tax writers pushing hard to include the policy as a pay-for (E&E Daily, Sept. 16). Manchin yesterday again raised concerns about the CEPP, a version of a clean electricity standard that would offer grants to utilities that hit clean energy deployment targets each year. “Why would we be paying utilities for what they’re already doing?” Manchin asked reporters. Asked whether he could support any version of the CEPP, Manchin said he’s focused on “working on the grid.” Democrats, Manchin added, should “be realistic” that climate change is global and that greenhouse gas emissions do not only come from the United States. Manchin has been in talks with President Biden and Democratic leadership about the program, which falls under his committee’s jurisdiction, including during his meeting at the White House this week. “We’re in a different place on that but not to a place where it’s confrontational at all,” he said when asked about climate following his huddle with Biden on Wednesday (E&E Daily, Sept. 23). Divides on climate, as well as on health care issues and top-line spending, mean the Senate remains days, if not weeks, away from a reconciliation package that could get support from all 50 Democrats.

Democrats fear climate impact of only passing bipartisan bill - President Biden this summer trumpeted his bipartisan infrastructure deal as a “historic” win for the climate. But the arrival of autumn finds Democrats in danger of a historic failure. The bipartisan infrastructure bill, which prescribes $550 billion in new spending, is in danger. So is a larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that contains a much more ambitious approach to climate change. Progressives for months have demanded that Congress pass both bills together. But a handful of Democratic centrists are threatening that approach — a brinkmanship that has rekindled a simmering fear among progressives: that Congress will only pass the smaller bill. Passing the bipartisan bill without the larger reconciliation package, they say, would leave U.S. greenhouse gas emissions too close to “business as usual” — especially over the next decade, the last window for maintaining a safe climate. “Nobody ever intended for the bipartisan bill to be our contribution to climate [action],” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). The bipartisan bill includes $73 billion for the electric grid, $39 billion for public transit and $7.5 billion for electric-vehicle charging stations. Those policies would do little to cut emissions through 2030, according to an analysis published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Although it could seed longer-term benefits toward Biden’s 2050 benchmark, the analysis warned that relying on the bipartisan bill alone would be a “dereliction of duty.” “There really is not much there on short-term progress,” Stephen Naimoli, a CSIS fellow and an author of the analysis, said of the bipartisan bill. The bipartisan proposal is “a good start,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but Congress needs to “do as much as we can coming out of the gate, and lay the groundwork for even more.” But minimal short-term impacts might be the preference of some centrist lawmakers. Some, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), have questioned whether the reconciliation bill is even necessary, and Manchin has specifically pushed back on the legislation’s climate provisions. Another centrist, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), has said she would vote against the reconciliation package unless Congress passes the bipartisan bill next week. Sinema was a lead negotiator of the bipartisan bill. When she announced the deal in June, she called it a “historic investment” in “green energy and climate, recognizing the changing nature of our country and our future.” Asked this week whether the bipartisan bill alone has enough climate funding without the reconciliation package, Sinema ignored the question and walked away.

11 senators urge House to pass $3.5T package before infrastructure bill -A group of 11 Democratic senators is urging party leadership to stay on course with its original "dual track" plan to pass a $3.5 trillion social spending bill in both chambers before taking up a bipartisan infrastructure deal in the House. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others in issuing the statement on Wednesday afternoon. The senators said they voted to pass a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill in August with “the clear commitment” that the deal would move alongside the Democrats’ larger spending plan. They said passing the smaller physical infrastructure bill in the House before the social spending plan, which will move through the budget reconciliation process to bypass a GOP filibuster, “would be in violation of that agreement.” “Congress must not undercut the president’s proposals that will create new opportunities for America’s families and workers,” they said. “The House of Representatives should wait to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the budget reconciliation bill, which enacts the rest of the President’s Build Back Better agenda, is sent to the president’s desk.” The joint statement adds to a cacophony of demands from Democrats over which piece of legislation should be prioritized as Congress faces fast-approaching spending deadlines. Party leaders had previously set their sights on pushing the social spending package through the House alongside the bipartisan bill before the end of September after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promised moderates a vote on the infrastructure package by Sept. 27. But as Democrats struggle to wrap up the social safety net package before that date, progressives have threatened to withhold their support for the smaller bill if Pelosi forces a vote on it on its own. In their statement on Wednesday, the senators expressed support for progressives who say they won’t vote for the bipartisan deal until the social spending bill passes. “That is what we agreed to, it’s what the American people want, and it’s the only path forward for this Congress,” they said. Earlier this month, 13 House committees finished crafting their portions of the massive spending plan, which is expected to unlock funding for tuition-free community college, universal pre-K and a host of other party-backed priorities key to the president's economic agenda.However, disagreements remain among Democrats over Medicare expansion, prescription drug reform, the child tax credit and how to pay for the whole package. As Congress also works to hammer out a path forward on preventing a government shutdown and taking action on the nation's debt limit, it remains unclear just when the House will move the reconciliation passage.

House Panel set to advance Joe Biden's giant tax, spending bill - The House Budget Committee on Saturday is set to advance a draft version of President Joe Biden’s signature tax and social spending measure, a milestone ahead of possible votes on the floor of the chamber next week. Congressional Democrats are using a fast-track budget process to ram the up-to-$3.5 trillion economic package through the Senate, bypassing Republicans. As part of the process, the Budget Committee must assemble the 13 component parts of the bill reported out of policy committees this month, and send the 2,465 page bill to the Rules Committee -- the last step before a floor vote.While just a procedural step, the Saturday proceedings will feature attempts by lawmakers to add non-binding amendments to the bill. That will showcase concerted Republican opposition, and could offer insight into some Democrats’ views on the current draft.The rare weekend work comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are trying to project momentum for the Biden agenda amid deep Democratic rifts and falling poll numbers for the president. It remains to be seen if the package will be brought to a floor vote in the House anytime soon, given that four dissenting Democratic members could sink it in face of united GOP opposition.The bill would raise $2.1 trillion in revenue through measures including tax increases on corporations, the wealthy and tobacco users. That would help pay for a bevy of social programs including universal paid family leave and pre-school and free community college, along with new Medicare dental, vision and hearing benefits. Democrats remain especially divided on the Medicare piece and whether to focus funds on expanding Medicaid, as well as on a proposal to regulate drug prices.Missing from the draft is any change to the cap on federal deductions of state and local taxes, which some lawmakers say must be in the bill in order for it to pass the House. The Budget Committee’s role involves combining legislation from 13 other committees into one bill. No substantive changes can be made. That will come later in the process either in the Rules Committee next week or from Democratic leaders on the floor. Each GOP member of the Budget Committee plans to offer at least one motion, touching on broad complaints about the Democrats’ approach, Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the panel’s top Republican, said in an interview. “It’ll be a long markup," he said. Smith said Republicans will attempt to push Democrats to address the debt limit through reconciliation -- the same fast-track legislative process being used for the tax and social spending bill. The nation is at risk of a default as soon as mid-October, but Democrats are still pursing a likely doomed strategy of trying to get Senate Republicans to support a suspension of the statutory ceiling through Dec. 16, 2022, using the normal legislative process. Republicans and some Democrats also aren’t happy that the committee work is being done without an estimate of how much it will cost. The Congressional Budget Office had only scored four portions of the package as of Friday.

Pelosi: Bipartisan infrastructure vote will happen Monday - House Democrats will honor their commitment to moderates and vote early next week on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday. "It will come up on Monday," the Speaker told reporters just outside the Capitol. Whether the bill will pass, however, remains an open question. And liberals are already predicting it won't. "It cannot pass," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Friday. "I don't bluff, I don't grandstand. We just don't have the votes for it." Behind Jayapal, liberal lawmakers have been lining up by the dozen to oppose the infrastructure bill, not to protest the policy, but because they want to vote first on a larger, $3.5 trillion social spending package that stands as the second piece of President Biden's two-part domestic agenda. Democrats in the House, Senate and White House have been busy negotiating the details of the larger "family" package, which party leaders intend to advance through a special budget process, known as reconciliation, that sidesteps the Senate filibuster. Pelosi announced Friday that House Democrats are hoping to finalize the reconciliation bill and bring it to the floor sometime next week — a bid to satisfy the liberals threatening to sink the infrastructure bill. But given the outstanding divisions between House liberals and Senate centrists on the larger bill, it's unclear if those negotiations will bear fruit in time to meet that ambitious schedule. Liberals, meanwhile, are skeptical that whatever reconciliation bill emerges will satisfy their demands for expanding the nation's safety net programs, tackling climate change and overhauling the immigration system. "It's not going to give us any comfort to pass a bill that then the Senate [defeats]," said Jayapal. "That doesn't satisfy our requirements." She added: "It can only come to the floor once everyone's agreed and once the Senate has voted on it." On The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Lawmakers say innovation, trade rules key to small business gains The internal sniping — combined with stonewalling by Senate centrists — has created a headache for Democratic leaders who are scrambling to realize Biden's first-term domestic agenda. The two-pronged legislation would not only accomplish a number of policy goals Democrats have sought for years, but would help prop up Biden's standing in the face of falling approval numbers. Many Democrats see the success of the legislation as crucial to their prospects of keeping control of the House in next year's midterm elections.

Beijing condemns military pact between the US, Britain and Australia - Beijing has condemned the announcement last Thursday of a new AUKUS military pact between the US, Britain and Australia, which is focused on the Indo-Pacific and aimed against China. The Chinese government has also taken aim at the associated decision to assist Australia in building nuclear-powered submarines. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian criticised the three countries for being “extremely irresponsible.” The decision to supply Australia with nuclear submarines, he said, “seriously damages regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and undermines the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” Zhao declared any regional mechanism in Asia “should be conducive to mutual trust and co-operation” and “not target any third party or harm the party’s interests by forming an exclusive and closed small group.” He called on the US, UK and Australia to “abandon the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception… Otherwise, they will only end up shooting themselves in the foot.” Speaking via video-link to a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a similar note. He urged members of the grouping, which includes Russia and Central Asian Republics, to “absolutely resist external forces to interfere [in] countries in our region at any excuse.” These statements have been followed by editorials and commentary in the major Chinese state-owned media that have been far more forthright in their condemnations. The China Daily pointed out that US President Biden was behaving more aggressively toward China than Donald Trump had done. “The Biden administration, for all its claims to be different from its predecessor, seems to have copied one unpleasant mannerism at least and that is how to behave in the region like a street gang boss, amplifying differences and stoking confrontation in a bid to start turf wars,” it said. The comments reflect real fears in Beijing that Biden is accelerating the confrontation with China and preparations for war that began with President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and were expanded on all fronts under Trump. Biden has maintained all Trump’s hostile anti-China policies, including his punitive trade war measures and economic sanctions.

Ex-French ambassador says Biden is 'a big disappointment all over Europe' - A former French ambassador to the U.S. has criticized President Biden amid recent controversy between the two countries, saying Biden has disappointed much of Europe. The comments come after France erupted in anger over the U.S. making a deal with Australia to help them secure nuclear-powered submarines, undermining a deal France and Australia had been working on. Gérard Araud, the French ambassador from 2014 to 2019 during the Obama and Trump administrations, commented to The New Republic about relations between the U.S. and France. “You know, Obama didn’t care about Europe. Trump was hostile to Europe. And here you have Biden. And Biden, to be frank so far, is a big disappointment all over Europe,” Araud said. When asked to clarify, Araud stated he and other European ambassadors have discussed the “disappointment” they feel that Biden has “no European policy.” “When Biden went to Europe, he was patting the shoulders of everybody and the back of everybody, the way he’s very good at doing it. But there was no outcome,” Araud said. “You know, not only climate change, but we have a lot of issues: cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, the taxation of high-tech companies. There are a lot of issues, and we should work together. And frankly there has been no reaction from the U.S. administration,” he added. Araud asserted that the Biden administration has been too focused on China to create relationships with Europe.

New York Times revels in remote-control assassination of Iranian scientist --The New York Times plastered across the front page of its Sunday edition a lengthy report on the assassination last November 27 of Iran’s top nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. The report describes in excruciating detail how this state killing took place and establishes that it was an operation jointly organized by Israel and the United States. The Times piece, based on information fed by high-level state sources and “two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation,” is provocative in the extreme. The report is one more verification of the normalization of assassination as state policy. While the US government has long utilized the CIA—and Israel the Mossad—to carry out such killings, in the past these were operations that relevant agencies declined to either “confirm or deny.” Now they are the subject of public boasting. That the corporate media, with the Times in the lead, is a full partner in this shift is made clear in the report on the Fakhrizadeh assassination. One can search the article in vain for words like “legal” or “illegal,” much less “state terrorism.” There is not a single passage suggesting even the mildest criticism of the flagrantly criminal act it describes. Instead, it celebrates the long record of Israel “methodically picking off the experts thought to be leading Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” while sympathetically describing the tactical challenges in carrying out these terrorist murders. “Since 2007, its agents had assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists and wounded another. … Israeli agents had also killed the Iranian general in charge of missile development and 16 members of his team,” the Times reports. When it comes to the method used to assassinate Fakhrizadeh, shot multiple times by a remote-control machine gun operated by an Israeli aiming the device from 1,000 miles away, the article adopts an obscene tone that could be mistaken for a sales pitch from an arms manufacturer.The operation, it states, was “the debut test of a high-tech, computerized sharpshooter kitted out with artificial intelligence and multiple-camera eyes, operated via satellite and capable of firing 600 rounds a minute. “The souped-up, remote-controlled machine gun now joins the combat drone in the arsenal of high-tech weapons for remote targeted killing. But unlike a drone, the robotic machine gun draws no attention in the sky, where a drone could be shot down, and can be situated anywhere, qualities likely to reshape the worlds of security and espionage.”

CIA chief team member reported Havana syndrome symptoms during trip to India: report -A member of CIA Director William Burns’s team who traveled to India with him earlier this month reported symptoms that are in line with Havana syndrome and had to receive medical attention.CNN reported on Monday, citing three sources familiar with the matter, that an individual who traveled with Burns to India experienced symptoms abroad and received immediate medical attention once back in the U.S.One source told CNN that Burns was “fuming” with anger following the news of the Havana syndrome-like symptoms, and that it set off alarm bells in the U.S. government.Some officials saw the situation as a direct message to Burns that nobody is safe from the illness, including someone who leads the CIA, CNN reported, citing two sources.The reported incident is the second time in less than a month that the Havana syndrome has affected international travel for Biden administration officials.Vice President Harris had to delay her arrival in Vietnam last month after at least two U.S. diplomats in the country had to be medically evacuated.Harris’s office at the time said the trip was delayed because of “a report of a recent possible anomalous health incident” in Hanoi. Two officials later confirmed to NBC News that the office was referring to the Havana syndrome.Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines have focused efforts on investigating the Havana syndrome attacks. Burns in July said the CIA tripled the size of the medical team investigating the mysterious attacks.

House passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims --The House cleared bipartisan legislation on Tuesday that would authorize payments to government employees injured by anomalous health incidents — known as "Havana syndrome" — while serving abroad.The bill, which lawmakers approved by a 427-0 vote, now heads to President Biden's desk for his signature after the Senate unanimously passed it in June.It specifically authorizes the CIA and State Department to provide financial support to employees who have suffered brain injuries inflicted by the mysterious syndrome. The intelligence community still doesn't have an official explanation for the symptoms, which can include headaches, memory loss and dizziness — more than four years after the first cases were reported in Havana, Cuba.At least 200 American diplomats, spies and other government employees have reported symptoms of the mysterious condition, which some officials believe may be a result of directed energy attacks,according to NBC News.CNN reported this week that a member of CIA Director Bill Burns's team reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome while they traveled to India earlier this month, and had to receive medical treatment.And last month, a planned trip by Vice President Harris to Vietnam was delayed when multiple U.S. personnel in Hanoi reported symptoms shortly before her visit.

US Border Patrol agents whip and corral Haitian migrants - Video footage and photographic images of US Border Patrol agents herding Haitian migrants as though they were cattle triggered widespread revulsion across the United States and internationally Monday. The footage, taken by photographers for the Associated Press, Reuters and AFP, showed the crackdown ordered by the Biden administration against more than 10,000 Haitian migrants who have gathered under a freeway underpass on the outskirts of Del Rio, Texas, a border town 145 miles west of San Antonio. Several reporters described the actions of Border Patrol agents mounted on horseback as using the reins of their horses to threaten migrants who had waded across the Rio Grande—which is exceptionally low at this point. The El Paso Times reported Monday that an agent ”swung his whip menacingly, charging his horse toward the men in the river.” The refugees assembled in a makeshift camp under the freeway bridge on the US side of the river have been crossing back into Mexico to get food and other supplies, rather than risk crossing through lines set up on the US side of the camp by the Border Patrol and Texas state police, who would arrest them and ship them off for immediate deportation. Border Patrol agents began riding on horseback along the river in order to cut off those, mostly men, who have gone back to Mexico for supplies, and prevent them from rejoining their families. In some cases, desperate migrants dropped the food and water they were carrying on their heads into the river, in order to make a dash for the US side. The Border Patrol began mass deportations of the Haitians on Sunday, taking 3,300 migrants into custody and sending more than 400 back to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The remainder of this group were divided between El Paso and San Antonio, to await imminent deportation with flights set to continue from both cities to Haiti. Acting Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said all the Haitians remaining in Del Rio would be removed by the end of the week. “Over the next 6 to 7 days our goal is to process the 12,662 migrants that we have underneath that bridge as quickly as we possibly can,” he said. “What we want to make sure is that we deter the migrants from coming into the region so we can manage the folks that are under the bridge at this point.”

DHS secretary condemns treatment of Haitian migrants but says US will ramp up deportations - Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkaswalked a careful line Tuesday, condemning the actions of border agents seen chasing away Haitian migrants while pledging to ramp up deportations to the Caribbean nation.Viral video footage Monday from the U.S.-Mexico border showed officers on horseback, seeking to push Haitians camped in Del Rio, Texas, back across the border.Customs and Border Protection's Office of Professional Responsibility on Tuesday morning committed to investigating the matter.“I was horrified to see the images, and we look forward to learning the facts that are produced from the investigation, and we will take actions that those facts compel. We do not tolerate any mistreatment or abuse of a migrant, period,” Mayorkas told lawmakers during an appearance before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee convened to examine threats to the U.S. But while the event has placed a renewed focus on DHS’s treatment of migrants, Mayorkas said the administration has no plans to cease flights to a country that in a matter of months has seen an earthquake and a presidential assassination that have led to severe instability.“We are increasing the frequency and number of the repatriation flights each day,” Mayorkas said.“And we're hoping that what we are doing now serves as a deterrent because it backs up the words that we have spoken since the very outset: that irregular migration is not the way to enter the United States. It will not work,” he added. The Biden administration resumed flights to Haiti last week, expelling more than 500 people back to the country.

Texas governor sends fleet of cars to southern border to form barrier - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) this week sent hundreds of Texas Department of Public Safety cars to create a "steel wall" to block migrants from crossing the border into the United States. Abbott said in an interview on Fox News that the wall of vehicles prevented people from "walking into the state of Texas." The move from the Texas governor comes amid droves of mostly Haitian nationals making their way to the southern border to seek refuge in the U.S. after political turmoil and a natural disaster has shaken their home country. The migrants have created a makeshift camp at the border under a bridge near Del Rio, Texas. Abbott, who has garnered national attention in recent weeks for his policies on the coronavirus pandemic and his signing of abortion restrictions, has been critical of the Biden administration after more about 15,000 migrants made their way to the southern border. "If Biden stepped up and followed that court order, we would not see the chaos that we're seeing in Del Rio today," Abbott told Fox News. Abbott added via tweet that his state was "doing Biden's job for him."

Why is the Biden administration turning its back on asylum seekers? - President Biden took office with the promise to “listen to the science” and adopt evidence-based pandemic policies. He also pledged to restore the United States’s moral leadership by building our asylum system back better. Yet after taking some laudable first steps to restore access to asylum, the Biden administration has fully embraced a Trump-era policy that exposes refugees to grave dangers, while exacerbating the spread of COVID-19. Known as “Title 42,” the policy exploits an obscure public health law to close our borders to people seeking asylum. The Trump administration introduced Title 42 in 2020, purportedly to curb the spread of COVID-19. Under Title 42, people who ask for asylum at the border are denied the opportunity to seek safety. They are instead summarily “expelled” by U.S. officials to Mexico, or to the very countries they’ve fled. We have seen the tragic results. Human rights investigators have documented more than 6,300 kidnappings, rapes and other violent assaults against people expelled to Mexico during the first seven months of the Biden administration. Others have been placed on “death flights” to countries in violent turmoil, such as Haiti. Families with infants, pregnant women, survivors of severe torture — none have been spared. When questioned about their decision to continue – and even escalate – expulsions of asylum seekers, administration officials echo their predecessors, claiming the policy is a pandemic necessity. But public health and epidemiological experts have seen through this justification since day one. In fact, the Trump White House imposed Title 42 over objections from top doctors within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “It’s to keep Hispanics out of the country. And it’s wrong,” lamented Dr. Martin Cetron, the agency’s director of global migration and quarantine. In fact, Stephen Miller, Trump’s chief immigration adviser, floated the idea of invoking public health authority to close the border long before COVID-19 entered the picture. And let’s be clear: There is no coherent public health rationale for singling out people seeking safety. While Title 42 has completely shut the door on asylum seekers, our government has allowed tens of millions of other travelers, including tourists, to cross the U.S.-Mexico border freely during the pandemic, with no testing or quarantine requirements. Public health experts have implored the administration to see reason and stop the expulsions. They have even provided a detailed roadmap for the administration to safely process people arriving at the border while ensuring the health of U.S. officials, asylum seekers and the communities that receive them. We have robust mitigation measures at our disposal, including highly effective and widely available vaccines and testing. The obstacles to ending Title 42 are about politics, not public health. With the emergence of the delta variant and surging COVID-19 cases, particularly in states with low vaccination rates, anti-immigrant politicians and pundits have been quick to point the finger at people seeking asylum and the community groups that welcome them. Politicians notorious for rejecting evidence-based COVID-19 measures for their own constituents have been among the worst culprits, as though eager to deflect blame for their actions.

 Deportees land in Port-au-Prince: ‘Nobody told us we were going back to Haiti’ — Johnson Bordes, 23, crossed the Mexican border into Texas only two weeks ago, joyous at the prospect of building anew in the United States. Now part of the first wave of deportees rapidly ejected by the Biden administration amid a fresh surge at the border, he stepped off a Boeing 737 on Sunday and into the Haitian capital, terrified by a city torn apart by violence in a homeland he could barely remember. Like many deportees arriving on charter flights at the airport in Port-au-Prince, 15 minutes from neighborhoods controlled by brutal armed gangs, Bordes’s family left Haiti in the great migration after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. He was 12 when they left, first for the Dominican Republic, then on to Chile, where he was living with his mother and brother when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Encouraged by relatives in the United States, the family set out on a 4,500-mile trek to the U.S. border — never imagining the road would lead back to the devastated country they left more than a decade ago. “How could they bring us back here?” he asked. “This is an injustice. I don’t even know where we are going to sleep tonight.” They began landing Sunday in a nation that some describe as Somalia of the Caribbean — a failed state suffering a humanitarian emergency that critics say is too dangerous and unstable for the thousands being deported.Recognition of the conditions led the Biden administration as recently as May to grant temporary protected status to tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians in the United States. At the time, officials cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources” in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.Haiti suffered the still unsolved assassination of its president in July and a devastating earthquake that killed 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, schools and churches in August. Violent street gangs have seized neighborhoods and key roads, torching homes and spreading a plague of rapes, kidnappings and killings that have caused thousands of residents to flee.The government to which the deportees are returning has teetered on the verge of collapse amid an internal power struggle and a judicial request to indict the sitting prime minister in connection to the slaying of President Jovenel Moïse. The United Nations has sounded the alarm over a lack of resources to aid earthquake victims, including thousands of women and children left homeless, in the country’s devastated south.

U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigns, says he will not be associated with ‘inhumane, counterproductive’ deportations of Haitians - The resignation Thursday of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti in protest of what he called “inhumane” deportations of Haitian migrants spotlighted a widening crisis for the Biden administration, as Democratic allies turned on the White House over images of pursuit and squalor that some lawmakers denounced as racist and immoral.Daniel Foote’s blistering resignation letter accused the administration of conducting a “deeply flawed” policy of returning Haitian migrants to their home country despite the deteriorating political and humanitarian conditions there.“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the dangers posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” Foote wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The move appeared to catch the Biden administration by surprise, although Foote’s critique echoed the recent outcry from advocates and lawmakers over the treatment of Haitian migrants massed near Del Rio, Tex. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Foote “had ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure. He never once did so.” Members of Congress and others have angrily rebuked the Biden administration after images circulated showing U.S. agents on horseback charging at migrants, including family groups, to block their path into the United States.Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said the scene of Haitian migrants being chased down by mounted Border Patrol agents “takes us back hundreds of years.” Waters said the treatment of Haitians, many of them crammed under a bridge in unsanitary conditions, is “worse than what we witnessed in slavery.”

Biden administration sends migrants in chains back to Haiti, prepares Guantanamo camp - The Biden Administration is deporting refugees to Haiti in an airlift where many are being held in chains, some of those arriving in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince have told reporters. Multiple Haitian refugees described having been deported by plane by Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to Haiti in chains. One refugee stated, “They chained me like a slave.” A man carries a boy across the Rio Grande river as migrants, many from Haiti, leave Del Rio, Texas to return to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, early Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, some to avoid possible deportation from the U.S. and others to load up on supplies. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) Refugees, many of whom have not set foot in Haiti in decades, are left with little more than the shirts on their backs after leaving the airport. No provision for housing has been provided, leaving many with the immediate prospect of homelessness and poverty in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti has been beset by a stream of crises. A devastating earthquake killed more than 2,200, destroying or damaging more than 137,000 homes and 212,000 people having lost access to safe drinking water, with half of those in need still awaiting aid, according to the United Nations. This is in addition to the coronavirus pandemic, a presidential assassination and extreme poverty, as well as a general disintegration of society with widespread crime where much of the country is essentially run by crime lords. The ongoing repression of Haitian immigrants is so ferocious and the conditions to which they are forced to return so terrible that Biden’s own special envoy to Haiti resigned in protest. Daniel Foote called the policy of migrant expulsions “inhumane.” He wrote, “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life,” calling the US approach to Haiti “deeply flawed.” Given the standards of the State Department, which routinely apologizes for barbaric regimes like those of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Thailand, it is remarkable that the Biden administration policy is so brazenly cruel and antidemocratic that an American diplomat feels compelled to object. It was also revealed Thursday that Biden’s DHS is currently seeking a contractor to operate a concentration camp for refugees in Guantanamo Bay. The contract requires at least ten percent of the guards to speak Spanish and Haitian Creole, according to government records. The concentration camp’s contract solicitation states, “The service provider shall be responsible to maintain on site the necessary equipment to erect temporary housing facilities for populations that exceed 120 and up to 400 migrants in a surge event” As many as 12,000 Haitians were sent to Guantanamo Bay between 1991 and 1993 by the George H. W. Bush administration. This was following the US-backed military coup of September 30, 1991, which resulted in military rule until 1994, as well as the subsequent murder of 3,000 Haitian political activists between 1991 and 1993.

Thousands cleared from Texas border camp as detentions and deportations of Haitian refugees continue - The encampment along the Texas border town of Del Rio was reportedly cleared Friday of the last of more than 15,000 migrants, most of them of Haitian descent. The closure of the makeshift camp under a bridge connecting the US and Mexico came just a week after President Joe Biden and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the summary expulsion of the desperate refugees. DHS officials told reporters Friday that Haitians had been rapidly expelled on 17 flights since Sunday, with potentially thousands more expected to be deported in the coming days. An unnamed US official revealed to CTV News that seven flights were being scheduled to Haiti on Friday, six on Saturday and seven on Sunday. Thus far, nearly 2,000 refugees have been sent to the Caribbean nation while 4,000 remain trapped within the prison-like conditions of immigrant facilities. Thousands of others have either been forced to return to Mexico or released into the US with notices to appear in court or to report to immigration authorities at a later date. Many of those released will eventually be hunted down by immigration officials and can expect to have their asylum claims denied in court. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said about 8,000 of the migrants “have decided to return to Mexico voluntarily,” and 5,000 are currently in DHS custody and having their status processed to determine whether they will be expelled outright or allowed to press their claims for legal residency. In justifying the deportations, Biden has invoked the Title 42 pandemic restrictions instituted by former President Donald Trump, who utilized the pandemic as a pretext for denying immigrants the right to asylum. Although a federal judge ruled last week that Trump’s Title 42 order was improper and gave the federal government two weeks to end the procedure, the Biden administration has appealed the decision, revealing that the Democrats will not adopt an approach towards migrants and asylum seekers significantly different from the xenophobic policies of Trump. The Biden administration has also stated it has no plans to stop expelling migrants on public health grounds. The rapid deportations have triggered a wave of condemnation of both the violent brutality the migrants have faced at the hands of fascistic border patrol agents along with the inhumane treatment meted out by the Biden administration.

Closure of border with Mexico extended until Oct. 21 --The closure of the United States’ border with Mexico for nonessential travel has been extended to Oct. 21.In a Federal Register notice published Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would continue to limit travel from Mexico to “essential travel,” including for educational, medical purposes, and for work.DHS said it “continues to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” noting that there have been more than 40.3 million coronavirus cases in the U.S., 1.5 million cases in Canada, and more than 3.4 million cases in Mexico as of the week of Sept. 5.“DHS also notes that the Delta variant continues to drive an increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States,” the notice read. “Canada and Mexico are also seeing increased case counts and deaths.”The restrictions were first put in place in March 2020, and had been extended monthly since then. Wednesday’s announcement comes after the most recent extension in August, which also applied to Canada, was due to expire on Tuesday.But Wednesday’s announcement also comes days after the Biden administration unveiled plans to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated international travelers.Starting in early November, foreign visitors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and show proof before boarding a U.S.-bound flight. Visitors would also have to take a COVID-19 test up to 72 hours prior to flying.

GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops -A group of Republican senators on Tuesday unveiled legislation seeking to prohibit the Department of Defense from issuing dishonorable discharges for U.S. troops who do not comply with the military’s vaccine mandate for all uniformed personnel. GOP Sens. Roger Marshall (Kan.), Ted Cruz (Texas), James Lankford (Okla.) and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) announced in a press release that the bill, called the COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act, states that a member of the military who refuses the COVID-19 vaccine "may only receive an honorable discharge." The bill comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s order last month requiring all active-duty personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which was followed by announcements of deadlines and refusal procedures by the various military branches. Last week, the Army said that “continued failure” to comply with the vaccine mandate “could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment – to include relief of duties or discharge.” Marshall, a physician and Army Reserves veteran, noted Tuesday that U.S. service members who are dishonorably discharged give up certain rights and privileges, including access to the GI Bill for further education and veteran-specific home loans and medical benefits. The Kansas senator said in a statement that while “vaccinating our servicemembers against COVID-19 is an important effort,” getting the vaccine “should be a personal choice between an individual and their doctor.” “There is no question about it: American heroes should not be treated as felons because of their personal medical choices,” Marshall added.

Biden calls for wealthy countries to 'step up' in global vaccination effort -President Biden on Wednesday called on other high-income countries to “step up” in their efforts to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus, as he pointed to new steps the U.S. is taking on a global vaccination push that experts say is lagging. “The United States is leading the world on vaccination donations,” Biden said as he opened a virtual COVID-19 summit convened by the White House. “As we're doing that, we need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges.” He spoke as other world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, joined him on screen. “The only way to get this done is for everyone, everywhere, is for all of us, to step up, which I’m confident you will,” Biden told the group. The president pointed to a U.S. donation announced earlier Wednesday of 500 million more Pfizer vaccine doses to donate to the world, coming next year, bringing the total U.S. pledged donation to over 1.1 billion doses. The White House is also calling for countries to join in a push to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by the next UN General Assembly, in September 2022. Some advocates are pushing for the U.S. to go further, not only on donating doses but also in pushing vaccine makers to share technology and know-how with lower-income countries, and to boost global manufacturing of more doses.

The Biden administration will lift restrictions on fully vaccinated international travelers in November. --The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions starting in November for foreigners who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, reopening the country to thousands of people, including those who have been separated from family in the United States during the pandemic, and easing a major source of tension with Europe.The halt to the 18-month ban on travel from 33 countries, including members of the European Union, China, Iran, South Africa, Brazil and India, will help rejuvenate a U.S. tourism industry that was left crippled by the pandemic. The industry suffered a $500 billion loss in travel expenditures in 2020, including a 79 percent decease in spending from international travel, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group that promotes travel to and within the United States.Foreign travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding and a negative coronavirus test within three days of coming to the United States, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, said on Monday. Unvaccinated Americans who want to travel home from overseas will have to clear stricter testing requirements. They will need to test negative for the coronavirus one day before traveling to the United States and show proof that they have bought a test to take after arriving in the United States, Mr. Zients said.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also soon issue an order directing airlines to collect phone numbers and email addresses of travelers for a new contact-tracing system. Authorities will then follow up with the travelers after arrival to ask whether they are experiencing symptoms of the virus.

The C.D.C. chief overruled her own agency’s panel and recommended Pfizer boosters for workers at risk. -The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday overruled a recommendation by an agency advisory panel that had refused to endorse booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for frontline workers. It was a highly unusual move for the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, but aligned C.D.C. policy with the Food and Drug Administration’s endorsements over her own agency’s advisers.The C.D.C.’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Thursday recommended the boosters for a wide range of Americans, including tens of millions of older adults and younger people at high risk for the disease. But they excluded health care workers, teachers and others whose jobs put them at risk. That put their recommendations at odds with the F.D.A.’s authorization of booster shots for all adults with a high occupational risk.Dr. Walensky’s decision was a boost for President Biden’s campaign to give a broad swathe of Americans access to boosters. The White House had come under criticism for getting ahead of the regulatory process.The C.D.C.’s statement arrived well past midnight, a sign of the complicated and confusing decision-making surrounding the boosters. The C.D.C. advisers similarly spent two days debating who should get boosters and when, and could not agree on whether occupational risk should qualify as a criterion. “I am surprised that Dr. Walensky overturned one of the four A.C.I.P. votes today, and I believe others will be as well,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, an infectious disease expert at Stanford and the American Academy of Pediatrics liaison to the committee. But the vote on boosters for occupational risk “was close,” Dr. Maldonado said, and agreed with Dr. Walensky’s decision. “This addresses not only waning immunity but those at high risk of exposure,” Dr. Maldonado added. Minutes before Dr. Walensky’s statement, Dr. Amanda Cohn, who oversaw the two-day meeting of the panel, tried to prepare the advisers for the director’s decision. “Dr. Walensky is reversing the decision to not recommend use of a booster dose in persons at high risk for occupational or institutional exposure,” Dr. Cohn wrote in the email. “I am hoping to share this news with you before you see it in the press.”Dr. Walensky’s decision to go against her own agency’s advisers came as a surprise to at least some of her staff members: The C.D.C. director’s endorsement of the advisory committee’s recommendations is typically just a formality. Hours before her statement, agency insiders predicted she would stick with the usual protocol because doing otherwise would undermine the process and upset the advisers as well as her own staff.But experts outside the C.D.C. said Dr. Walensky may have had no choice but to align herself with the F.D.A.’s decision. “There’s a complexity here, because Dr. Walensky was part of the White House announcement” on boosters, noted Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

As Biden hails Pfizer boosters, the C.D.C. director defends her move to include frontline workers. - As President Biden cheered moves by federal regulators to allow for millions of Americans to get booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defended her decision on Friday to recommend the shots for frontline workers, a highly unusual move because it overruled her agency’s scientific advisers.“I want to be very clear that I did not overrule an advisory committee,” the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told reporters at a White House briefing, saying she had listened to the panel’s discussion. “This was a scientific close call. In that situation, it was my call to make.”She added, “it was a decision about providing rather than withholding access.”Dr. Walensky’s pointed remarks underscored growing confusion around the start of the long-awaited booster rollout. Earlier on Friday, Mr. Biden appeared at the White House to hail the decision by federal regulators to clear Pfizer boosters for many Americans who had a second dose of that vaccine at least six months ago. He urged those eligible for a third shot to get one quickly to fortify their protection to the dangerous Delta variant that swept through the country this summer.“My message today is this: If you’ve got the Pfizer vaccine, you got the Pfizer vaccine in January, February, March of this year, and you’re over 65 years of age, go get the booster,” Mr. Biden said. “Or, if you’re in a have a medical condition like diabetes, or you’re a frontline worker like a health care worker or a teacher, you can get a free booster.” Mr. Biden, who is 78 and began his Pfizer vaccination in December, is eligible for a booster and said he would get one “as soon as I can get it done.” On Wednesday, after weeks of internal strife, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization to the Pfizer booster for people who fell into three categories: those over 65 who had received their second dose of the vaccine at least six months ago; adults whose underlying conditions put them at high risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19; frontline workers like teachers and health care workers whose jobs put them at risk. Early Friday morning, Dr. Walensky stepped in and reconciled the differences by calling for frontline workers to get the shots, aligning C.D.C. policy with the F.D.A.’s endorsements over her own agency’s advisers. In his appearance at the White House, Mr. Biden did not address the criticism that his administration gotten ahead of the regulatory process after he announced a plan for Pfizer and Moderna boosters in mid-August, nor the internal disagreement in his administration about the need for boosters.

 Psaki calls for censorship of Instagram, Facebook - White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to call for censorship of social media Friday while discussing a recent report that highlighted the negative effectsInstagram and Facebook can have on young teens. During an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Psaki was asked if there is any plan in the future to address issues regarding negative mental health effects with Big Tech companies like Facebook and Instagram and hold them accountable as publishers as it “appears that this just keeps going down the line.” “It shouldn’t,” Psaki said. “And the president thinks that one of these platforms has too much power, one of these platforms could do certainly much more to address all of these things you have referenced. “I mean, as a mother of a young girl, it makes me absolutely outraged that you’ve seen the Instagram — the reports about Instagram affecting girls’ mental health. That is outrageous.” Psaki then shifted attention to misinformation, accusing Big Tech of having data on how harmful or misleading posts are traveling on the internet but not sharing it or acting upon it. “We know what people are getting misinformation on the internet that is preventing them or prompting them not to get a vaccine,” she said.“Will there be action on this?” co-host Mika Brzezinski asked.“We’ll have to see, there has to be appetite in Congress, there has to be a desire to get things done and change,” the press secretary said. “But certainly elevating these issues, as a number of reporters have, as you have, as we tried to, is also important.” Psaki did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.Her further push for censorship comes months after Psaki announced the Biden administration’s plan to identify “problematic” posts for Facebook to censor because they contain “misinformation” about COVID-19.

Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices,congressional leaders to allow it -— Susan Wild, D-PA - For far too long, the pharmaceutical industry has dictated who in America has access to the medicines they need for their health and well-being — and who doesn’t, leaving millions of Americans in districts like mine to make impossible choices about their health care.Already this year, drug companies have hiked the prices of 1,100 prescription drugs — more than 90 percent of which were above the rate of inflation. The largest single price hike for a prescription drug this month was nearly 16 percent, while inflation has risen slightly more than 2 percent. The industry’s unchecked power to set and keep prescription drug prices high has resulted in one-in-three Americans skipping getting a refill of their prescription, while one-in-four Americans with diabetes have rationed insulin, risking their lives each time. I refuse to accept this as the status quo.Big Pharma’s bottom line should never be more important than the health of my constituents in the 7th District, or the American people at large. That’s why I recently organized a letter signed by 14 of my colleagues asking our leaders in the House and Senate to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and include that language in the budget reconciliation bill currently being negotiated. The drug corporations claim that enabling Medicare to negotiate prices would weaken Pharma’s ability to produce the medicines that people need. It’s a disingenuous argument from the most profitable industry in America, and one that the American people are smart enough to see right through. Here’s the truth: giving Medicare the power to negotiate would lower the cost of prescription drugs for hardworking families, so that everyone has access to the medicines they need. It would also result in nearly half a trillion dollars in savings for taxpayers — money that we can invest in making health care more affordable for even more people. Employers also stand to benefit from Medicare negotiating drug prices. According to a recent study by the West Health Policy Center, this negotiating power would lead to $195 billion in savings for businesses and $98 billion in savings for workers. We all benefit from reforms that put people, not Big Pharma, first. It’s time we put people over profits and use our power to rein in high prescription drug prices for good

White House endorses bill guaranteeing abortion access - The White House on Monday endorsed legislation that would guarantee abortion access in response to the restrictive Texas law that bans most abortions in the state. The Women’s Health Protection Act would statutorily protect a person’s ability to seek an abortion and for health care providers to provide abortion services. The White House previously would not support the bill, saying it was looking into options to codify Roe v. Wade. “In the wake of Texas’ unprecedented attack, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and to strengthen health care access for all women, regardless of where they live,” according to a statement of administration policy from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The House Rules Committee is taking up the legislation from Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) on Monday. It faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans would likely filibuster it. The Senate companion to the House bill has the support of 48 Democrats, but two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Bob Casey (Pa.), have not signed on as co-sponsors. The administration statement on Monday called the Texas law a blatant violation of the Supreme Court precedent under Roe v. Wade, saying it “impairs women’s access to critical reproductive health care, particularly affecting communities of color, individuals with low incomes, and those who live in rural or underserved communities.” It also criticized the bill for turning private citizens “into bounty hunters.” The bill has a provision that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion in violation of the statute “The constitutional rights of women are essential to the health, safety, and progress of our nation. Our daughters and granddaughters deserve the same rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won—and that a clear majority of the American people support. We will not allow this country to go backwards on women’s equality,” the statement said.

 Interior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC - The Interior Department will restore the Washington, D.C., headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management, which was moved to Colorado during the Trump administration, while maintaining the Colorado office as its "Western headquarters." The department announced its decision on the controversial move in a statement on Friday. The Trump administration shifted its headquarters from Washington to Grand Junction, Colo., in what critics saw as an attempt to drive out career officials. The Trump administration had argued that it was putting officials closer to the land that they managed. The move was initially announced in 2019 and completed last year. Data released by the Biden administration earlier this year indicated that more than 87 percent of the agency's employees based in D.C. left the agency after the Trump administration's announcement that it would relocate the office. Just 41 agreed to move while 287 either retired or left the agency by the end of last year. The department said Friday that just three people moved to Grand Junction. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement that it was important for the bureau to have a D.C. presence but also said that its presence in Colorado would "continue to grow." “There’s no doubt that the BLM should have a leadership presence in Washington, D.C. – like all the other land management agencies – to ensure that it has access to the policy-, budget-, and decision-making levers to best carry out its mission," Haaland said. "The past several years have been incredibly disruptive to the organization, to our public servants, and to their families. As we move forward, my priority is to revitalize and rebuild the BLM so that it can meet the pressing challenges of our time, and to look out for our employees’ well-being,” she added. According to the department, the bureau director and other "key leadership positions" will be in the Washington headquarters, while "additional senior personnel" would work out West. The announcement did not provide specifics as to who fell into each category, but said that except for "core leadership positions," it does not plan to require any employees to relocate.

New group of GOP lawmakers file articles of impeachment against Biden --A group of four GOP lawmakers on Tuesday filed articles of impeachment against President Biden, saying he should be removed from office for not securing the border, for the way U.S. troops were removed from Afghanistan and for seeking to impose a ban on evictions even when he said it might not pass constitutional muster.Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs (R) is leading the effort, and is joined by fellow GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Brian Babin (Texas) and Randy Weber (Texas). This is the second time articles of impeachment have been introduced pertaining to Biden. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed articles of impeachment the day after Biden was sworn into office.Neither effort will go far in a House where Democrats hold a slim majority, but the latest effort shows how the introduction of articles of impeachment is becoming more common in today's polarized House. Former President Trump was impeached twice during his four-year presidency, but was not convicted either time by the Senate. Republicans are hoping to win back the House majority in next year's midterms, however, and GOP leaders could face pressure in such a scenario to move impeachment articles backed by some of their most conservative members. The latest impeachment effort was first reported by The Washington Examiner.

With Clinton lawyer charged, the Russiagate scam is now indicted - by Aaron Maté - The indictment of Hillary Clinton attorney Michael Sussmann offers new evidence that the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory that engulfed Trump's term in office was itself the product of fabrications involving Clinton's 2016 campaign.Although Sussmann faces just one count on a false statement charge, the 27-page charging document offers an expansive window into how the Russiagate scam began, and how Democratic operatives, intelligence officials, and establishment media figures dishonestly fed it to the public. Sussmann, until recently an attorney with Clinton campaign law firm Perkins Coie, is the second person to be charged by John Durham, the Special Counsel scrutinizing the Russia investigation. Sussmann is accused of lying to the FBI during a September 2016 meeting in which he tried to raise alarm about "secret communications" between the Trump Organization and Russia's Alfa Bank. Sussmann gave then-FBI attorney Jim Baker documents and data purporting to show that computer servers associated with Trump and Alfa Bank were in regular contact. This was evidence, Sussmann argued, of a possible covert back channel. According to Durham, Sussmann told Baker that he was not working "for any client," and was simply passing on information that had been provided to him by "multiple cyber experts" who had come across the suspicious web traffic. But according to the detailed indictment, Sussmann was in fact trying to plant a politically motivated scam.

Trump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname - Former President Trump took a shot at Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan (R) on Monday — hours after he entered the race for the state’s open Senate seat — over the recent name change to Cleveland’s baseball team, which is owned by his father.“Anybody that changes the name of the once storied Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians should not be running for the United States Senate representing the Great People of Ohio,” Trump wrote in a statement sent by the Save America PAC.The former president wrote that the Atlanta Braves — another MLB team — and the Florida State Seminoles — a college university mascot — have not changed their monikers, yet Cleveland decided to do so over concerns of sensitivity regarding Native Americans.“Despite this, a man named Matt Dolan, the son of the owner of the team, said he is against Cancel Culture. Do those two things really work together?” Trump wrote.“In any event, I know of at least one person in the race who I won’t be endorsing. The Republican Party has too many RINOs!” he added, referring to “Republicans in name only."Cleveland’s MLB team, previously known as the Indians, officially changed its name to the Guardians in July, following the nationwide unrest that broke out last year in response to the murder of George Floyd and other instances of police brutality and injustice against Black Americans.Trump at the time expressed opposition to the name change, arguing that “many Indians” would likely be upset by it.

Banks call IRS reporting plan a compliance and privacy nightmare. Is it? — The scuffle over a Biden administration proposal to use bank account data to combat tax evasion is focused on how much the plan will raise banks' compliance burden and threaten the privacy of their customers.Banks and their advocates charge that the proposed measure — a key element of how the administration wants to pay for the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill — could give the government a glimpse into customers' private transactions, while the expanded reporting would impose new processing costs on the industry."We believe that this program is costly for all parties, not fit for purpose, and loaded with potential for unintended and serious negative consequences," more than 40 trade associations, including banking industry groups, wrote in a letter Friday.

Banks and credit unions unswayed after House softens IRS reporting plan -— Lawmakers are attempting to soften a plan to require bank and credit union reporting of account data to the Internal Revenue Service, but industry groups say they are still opposed to the idea. After first leaving out the measure among revenue sources funding the Biden administration's $3.5 trillion budget overhaul, House Democratic leaders are now planning to include an IRS reporting provision, multiple news outlets reported. But in an attempt to get more lawmakers on board, the House version will reportedly include a higher threshold for account inflows and outflows than the $600 cutoff proposed by the administration and Senate leaders. On the table is a $10,000 reporting threshold, according to Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal.

NCUA plan would exempt government funds from subordinated debt rule - Billions in funds earmarked for credit unions under the Treasury’s Emergency Capital Investment Program could be exempted from the National Credit Union Administration’s pending subordinated debt rule. Credit unions would prefer the option of using the ECIP money to meet their risk-based capital requirements, but that would be impossible under the current rule, which bans money from government programs from being used for that purpose. At an NCUA meeting Thursday, the board approved a proposal to grandfather secondary capital issued by the United States government provided it is applied for by Jan. 1, 2022. It would not matter when a credit union receives the funds.

House signs off on pot banking bill again, but will Senate follow? — Lawmakers are once again trying to give the green light to cannabis banking legislation, but analysts say the bill continues to face long odds as Senate Democrats set their sights on a more ambitious goal to decriminalize marijuana. The House was expected to pass a targeted measure as early as Thursday that would give banks legal cover to serve cannabis firms in states where the substance is legal. The bill, known as the SAFE Banking Act, was added to a must-pass defense authorization without opposition. The defense package is expected to pass the House this week. But a more difficult road awaits in the Senate, where Democratic leadership has mobilized behind a broader cannabis legalization and reform package. Many in the chamber have opposed incremental reform that only benefits banks and other businesses. A pot banking bill could stall legalization efforts, they say.

JPMorgan Chase moving retail bank's core system to cloud - JPMorgan Chase is deploying a new, cloud-based core system for its retail bank using software developed by Thought Machine, the two companies said Wednesday.Thought Machine's clients include large international banks like Standard Chartered, which uses the company's Vault software for its digital bank Mox in Hong Kong, and the Swedish financial services group SEB, which uses it to run UNQUO, a banking app for entrepreneurs and business owners. Lloyds Banking Group in the U.K. also uses Thought Machine’s technology.Replacing its core banking system should help JPMorgan Chase improve its U.S. retail bank unit's ability to innovate and speed to market with new products.“We looked very hard at our core banking system and capabilities,” said Rohan Amin, the chief product officer at Chase. “We looked at the market, looked at our internal capabilities and came to the conclusion that working with Thought Machine was the best path forward for us.”The companies declined to disclose how much JPMorgan Chase will pay for the upgrade and how long the project will take.Amin gave five reasons that Chase, the nation's largest bank, with $3.7 trillion of assets and retail operations in nearly every state, is replacing its core system with more modern, cloud-based technology. One is to be able to innovate quickly to meet customers' ever-changing needs. “Part of that is having a core that is cloud native, that allows us to be more in line with our agile development practices so we can bring more product to customers faster,” said Amin, who has been in his current role for a month.

When It Comes to Frauds, Wells Fargo Is on the Bunny Slope Watching JPMorgan Hop Moguls on the Black Diamond Trail -There was a strange occurrence at Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s press conference yesterday. Hannah Lang, a reporter for American Banker, asked Powell a question about Wells Fargo. Powell read his answer directly from a script in a binder he had on the podium. (You can watch the exchange in the video clip below. Be sure not to miss the exchange that follows Lang’s question when Mike Derby of the Wall Street Journal grills Powell on the outrageous trading that Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan was doing last year to enrich himself (while his country was in a declared National Emergency and pandemic crisis).Lang mentioned that Senator Elizabeth Warren had cited “what she called ungovernable behavior” from Wells Fargo and called for Powell to break up the bank by revoking its bank holding company charter. Lang asked under what circumstances the Fed would consider such action and if the “indiscretions of Wells Fargo warrant such an action.”Powell said the Fed is closely monitoring the situation and has imposed “an unprecedented asset cap that will stay in place until the firm has comprehensively fixed its problems.” Powell’s answer raises more troubling questions about the Fed’s fitness to supervise mega banks on Wall Street. The Fed has imposed an asset cap on Wells Fargo, which has yet to be charged with a felony count by the Justice Department, but is allowing five-count felon JPMorgan Chase to go on a bizarre buying binge in 22 countries, form joint ventures to build rental home communities, and open up dozens of new bank branches. JPMorgan Chase has admitted to all five of its felony counts which were brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s been put on probation three times since 2014 and yet still continues to land in the press over new alleged frauds. JPMorgan Chase’s rap sheet reads like something from a Gambino crime family diary. When it comes to financial frauds, Wells Fargo is still doing stem christies on the bunny slope while it watches JPMorgan Chase hop moguls on the black diamond trail. That should be abundantly clear to Senator Elizabeth Warren who sits on the Senate Banking Committee. As we were watching Powell’s press conference yesterday, we were perusing headlines at Reuters. As if on cue, this headline pops up: “JPMorgan Faces Oil Bribery Probe in Brazil.” The gist of the article is this:“The country’s federal police are working to determine if JPMorgan secured shipments of Petrobras fuel at artificially low prices by routing bribe payments to employees on Petrobras’ trading desk though a network of middlemen, according to the people and documents that relate to the investigation.”Not to put too fine a point on it, but JPMorgan Chase just this month settled tax fraud charges in France. It was just a year ago that JPMorgan Chase admitted to two felony counts brought by the Justice Department, one for rigging precious metals markets and the other for rigging the U.S. Treasury market — the debt market that allows the United States government to pay its bills.

Biden to tap crypto, big-bank critic to run OCC - President Biden plans to nominate a law professor who has criticized cryptocurrencies and advocated for the government to have a much bigger role in banking to run a top Wall Street regulator. Saule Omarova, who has said she wants to “end banking as we know it,” will be tapped to run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as soon as this week, according to three people familiar with the nomination process who asked not to be named before a White House announcement. The OCC supervises the nation’s biggest lenders including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup. Picking Omarova, who teaches at Cornell University Law School, is a shot across the bow for Wall Street as she’s expected to pursue tougher oversight and stricter rules. The pick also raises questions about whether the Biden administration would support Omarova’s agenda if she pursues some of her most radical positions, such as moving consumer banking to the Federal Reserve from private institutions.

Woman Who Helped Expose Wall Street Mega Banks’ Vast Holdings of Physical Commodities Is Nominated as a Top Bank Regulator - Pam Martens - Yesterday, President Biden took the bold step of nominating Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a top federal bank regulator. Omarova is a Law Professor at Cornell and has written extensively on systemic risk containment. Prior to joining Cornell in 2014, Omarova was Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Prior to her academic career, Omarova worked for the corporate law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell, in their Financial Institutions Group. In 2006-2007, she served at the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Special Advisor for Regulatory Policy to the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance.Omarova represents a triple threat to the insidious behavior of mega banks on Wall Street: she has an in-depth knowledge of how they operate; she is not timid about explaining it to investigative bodies in the U.S. Senate; and, as head of the OCC, she would have a bully pulpit to speak to the American people directly about the urgency of reining in the systemic risks on Wall Street.Omarova has already demonstrated to Wall Street that it should not underestimate her. In 2013 and 2014, the U.S. Senate took testimony from witnesses on the matter of the mega banks on Wall Street quietly buying up unprecedented amounts of physical commodities and then trading on their inside information of those markets. Witnesses pointed to the Federal Reserve as aiding and abetting these egregious manipulations by its rewriting the rules governing such ownership interests.One of the key witnesses that testified against these abuses was Omarova, then an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.On July 23, 2013 the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, chaired by Senator Sherrod Brown, held a hearing titled: “Examining Financial Holding Companies: Should Banks Control Power Plants, Warehouses, and Oil Refineries?” Omarova provided testimony indicating that Morgan Stanley had constructed power plants in Georgia, Alabama and Nevada, allowing it to become a major electricity seller. According to Omarova, in 2006 Morgan Stanley had acquired “full ownership of Heidmar Inc., a Connecticut-based global operator of commercial oil tankers. Although Morgan Stanley sold 51% of equity in 2008, it still retained a 49% stake.” Omarova explained that “Heidmar operates a fleet of more than 100 double-hull vessels and provides transportation and logistics services to major oil companies around the world.”Omarova indicated in her written testimony that “Coca-Cola complained that Goldman intentionally created a bottleneck at its Metro warehouses in order to drive up market prices for aluminum and sell their own metal stock at the inflated price.”Omarova next provided a detailed analysis of how JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) had expanded into physical commodities by buying up assets from distressed firms: “In 2008, JPMC bought the key assets of Bear Stearns, an independent investment bank on the verge of failure. As part of the deal, JPMC acquired commodity trading assets and operations, including a significant network of electric power generating facilities owned by Arroyo Energy Investors L.P., a commodities subsidiary of Bear Stearns.“After acquiring Bear’s energy assets, JPMC’s CEO Jamie Dimon and the head of commodities operations Blythe Masters began aggressively expanding the firm’s physical commodities business. In 2008, the firm started trading physical oil and looking at ‘more ways to boost its presence in energy markets.’ In addition to hiring more people in its commodities and energy trading and investment team, JPMC started drawing plans for strategically expanding its metals and energy operations in Asia.

Biden OCC pick cheered by progressives, jeered by industry -— The Biden administration has already picked financial regulatory nominees who are polar opposites from their Trump-appointed predecessors. But the White House's choice to run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency could be its most left-leaning selection so far. Cornell University law professor Saule Omarova, who was named as the OCC nominee Thursday, is a noted cryptocurrency skeptic, proposed moving customer deposits to the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve, and even questioned a recent acquisition spree by JPMorgan Chase. “Omarova is likely to be Biden’s most polarizing pick for a top financial regulatory job,” Ian Katz, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, said in a research note. “That’s saying something in a group that includes SEC Chairman Gary Gensler and still-waiting-for-confirmation [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] nominee Rohit Chopra.”

 Coinbase drops crypto lending program plans after SEC balks --Coinbase Global is bowing to pressure from U.S. regulators and tabling plans to launch a product that would pay users interest for lending out their tokens. The decision to shelve its Lend product, which the company announced quietly in a blog post on Friday, comes after the Securities and Exchange Commission threatened to sue the firm if it moved ahead. It also represents a dramatic reversal for Coinbase, whose top executives made its skirmish with the SEC public in defiant posts on social media on Sept. 7. Coinbase’s about-face comes as the SEC under Chair Gary Gensler takes a tougher line on cryptocurrency products that may fall under the agency’s purview and the platforms that they trade on. The planned Lend program, which would have let users earn 4% by lending their tokens, has become a flashpoint in a growing tensions between the regulator and the burgeoning crypto industry.

NCUA liquidates credit union in South Carolina --Federal regulators have liquidated Community Owned Federal Credit Union in Charleston, South Carolina.The National Credit Union Administration has closed three institutions this year, includingNewspapers Federal Credit Union in Indianapolis and Defense Logistics Federal Credit Union in Dover, New Jersey.The NCUA said in a news release Friday that Community Owned was insolvent and had no chance of becoming viable again. The credit union had been placed into conservatorship in January because of what the NCUA described as unsafe and unsound business practices.

 Democrats and Republicans find common ground on data sharing -Several high-ranking lawmakers who rarely agree on anything found common ground at a hearing Tuesday in support of consumers’ right to control their own financial data.Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle questioned the widespread practice of screen scrapingat a House Financial Services Committee hearing that delved into issues that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will address in a rulemaking expected by April 2022.Several lawmakers cited data that shows consumers have little, if any, understanding of the way many fintechs and data aggregators access customer account data by scraping the information with a consumer’s login credentials.

FCC Wants Landlords to Stop Screwing Up Your Internet - The FCC has announced it’s investigating deals the broadband industry strikes with landlords that block broadband competition in apartment complexes, condos, and developments. While the FCC passed rules in 2008 attempting to prevent such deals, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have exploited massive loopholes in the restrictions for more than a decade. “With more than one-third of the U.S. population living in condos and apartment buildings, it’s time to take a fresh look at how exclusive agreements between carriers and building owners could lock out broadband competition and consumer choice,” interim FCC boss Jessica Rosenworcel said of the announcement. “I look forward to reviewing the record.” The inquiry comes after President Biden signed an executive order in July urging regulators to take a closer look at competition and monopoly issues in several sectors. The order also mandated the creation of a competition council, which urged the FCC to take a closer look at the anticompetitive nature of these arrangements. The FCC’s existing rules technically bar landlords and ISPs from colluding to restrict broadband competition. But in a 2016 piece in Wired, Harvard Law Professor Susan Crawford outlined the various ways big telecom wiggles around the restrictions—often by simply calling what they’re doing—something else.“Sure, a landlord can’t enter into an exclusive agreement granting just one ISP the right to provide Internet access service...but a landlord can refuse to sign agreements with anyone other than Big Company X, in exchange for payments labeled in any one of a zillion ways,” Crawford wrote. “Exclusivity by any other name still feels just as abusive.”For example, to get around FCC rules expanding access to an ISP’s in-building wiring, companies like Comcast or Charter will often deed ownership of these wires to a landlord, then turn around and pay that landlord to ensure that nobody else can have access. Because the landlord now technically owns the wires, the FCC rules no longer apply. ISPs also pay landlords to sign agreements that ban any other competing ISPs from advertising in the building. If you’re a landlord that violates such arrangements, you can then expect a nastygram from a company like Comcast for violating your deal. In addition, many landlords will charge “door fees” to any company that needs access to a building to install new wiring, creating an additional layer of difficulty and expense for smaller broadband competitors trying to compete with dominant ISPs.Collectively such restrictions serve the same function as blocking broadband competition outright. Much as it does on the national level, this lack of block by block competition directly contributes to higher prices,slower speeds, and comically-terrible customer service.

Senate closes in on vote to confirm Rohit Chopra as CFPB director — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he planned to bring Rohit Chopra’s nomination to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the Senate floor, eight months after the White House tapped him to run the agency. In remarks on the Senate floor, the Democrat from New York called Chopra “the right man to lead this agency after it languished under the presidency of Donald Trump.” “Mr. Chopra has a long history of defending student loan borrowers from unscrupulous for-profit colleges, and already served in the CFPB under President Obama, where he was defending the rights of middle-class people who might be taken advantage of by rapacious institutions,” Schumer said. “He has the experience, he has the dedication and he will have the support of Senate Democrats when his nomination is brought to the floor this afternoon or later this week.”

Support builds for acting FHFA head to get the job outright --Amid rumors that President Biden is considering Mike Calhoun of the Center for Responsible Lending to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, more observers are questioning the rationale for replacing the agency’s acting director. Sandra Thompson, who has been in that role since June, has moved quickly to reorient the regulator’s focus, undoing many Trump-era policies that both the mortgage industry and community advocates had opposed, and earning her widespread praise. And as a Black woman, Thompson has brought much-needed diversity to the FHFA, many observers say.

 Foreclosure Fraud: IN RE DAVIS - Mortgage Rescinded - Case No. 6:20-bk-06209-LVV -- "The Court finds the Loan was rescinded, BOA's security interest in the Home is void and BOA has not met its burden to establish that the Debtor is liable for payment of any amounts advanced. As a result, BOA's claim will be disallowed in its entirety. As the prevailing party, the Debtor is entitled to her reasonable attorney's fees and costs under the note and mortgage. The Court recognizes this ruling will result in a windfall to the Debtor, but BOA failed to meet its burden and provide this Court with credible evidence to rule otherwise. The Court will enter a separate order consistent with this memorandum opinion." LORI V. VAUGHAN, Bankruptcy Judge: In 2007, the Debtor sought to refinance the mortgage on her home, but at closing discovered errors in the loan documents. Assured by the closing agent that revised loan documents were forthcoming and her right to cancel the loan would be extended, the Debtor proceeded with the loan closing. The Debtor never received the revised loan documents and canceled the loan. But the bank funded the loan anyway. Bank of America, N.A. ("BOA")1 filed a secured claim in the Debtor's chapter 13 case, asserting that the Debtor did not timely cancel the loan and even if she did, the Debtor's statements in prior bankruptcy cases and the state court's ruling in the related foreclosure action bar the Debtor from now asserting she canceled the loan and that the mortgage is void.After considering the evidence and argument of counsel at trial,2 the Court finds that the Debtor timely rescinded the loan and is not precluded from arguing recission in this case. Because the Debtor timely rescinded the loan and BOA failed to demonstrate what amounts, if any, the Debtor may have received from the loan, the Debtor's objection to claim (Doc. No. 21) is sustained. BOA's mortgage is void and its claim disallowed in its entirety.

MBA Survey: "Share of Mortgage Loans in Forbearance Decreases to 3.00%" Note: This is as of September 12th. From the MBA: Share of Mortgage Loans in Forbearance Decreases to 3.00%: The Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) latest Forbearance and Call Volume Survey revealed that the total number of loans now in forbearance decreased by 8 basis points from 3.08% of servicers’ portfolio volume in the prior week to 3.00% as of September 12, 2021. According to MBA’s estimate, 1.5 million homeowners are in forbearance plans.The share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance decreased 5 basis points to 1.47%. Ginnie Mae loans in forbearance remained the same relative to the prior week at 3.39%, and the forbearance share for portfolio loans and private-label securities (PLS) decreased 32 basis points to 6.95%. The percentage of loans in forbearance for independent mortgage bank (IMB) servicers decreased 8 basis points to 3.25%, and the percentage of loans in forbearance for depository servicers decreased 5 basis points to 3.10%.“The share of loans in forbearance decreased by 8 basis points last week, as forbearance exits remained elevated and new forbearance requests and re-entries were unchanged,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “20% of loans in forbearance are either new forbearance requests or re-entries. At this point, borrowers in forbearance extensions are exiting at a faster rate as they near – or reach – the expiration of their maximum forbearance term.”.This graph shows the percent of portfolio in forbearance by investor type over time. Most of the increase was in late March and early April 2020, and has trended down since then.The MBA notes: "Total weekly forbearance requests as a percent of servicing portfolio volume (#) remained the same relative to the prior week at 0.05%."

Rep. Bush, Sen. Warren introduce bill to reinstate federal eviction moratorium - A group of Democrats on Tuesday introduced a bill that would reinstate a federal eviction moratorium as the delta variant of the coronavirus fuels outbreaks nationwide. The legislation, led by Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, would give the Department of Health and Human Services permanent authority to enact an eviction ban during public health crises. When the Supreme Court struck down a moratorium put in place by the Biden administration last month, the majority opinion contended the agency lacked the power to implement it. Bush and Warren said the ban would not only aid Americans struggling to cover rent because of pandemic-related job losses, but also reduce potential coronavirus exposure by keeping people in their homes. While an uptick in vaccinations has led to more relaxed public health restrictions across the country, the U.S. still reported a seven-day average of about 146,182 cases and 1,448 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We must protect the millions of people who are at risk of losing their homes, their stability and even their lives," Bush told reporters Tuesday. The bill may not go far in Congress, even in the House, where a simple Democratic majority can pass legislation. The White House moratorium — which was more vulnerable to legal scrutiny than a law passed by Congress would be — came about last month after congressional leaders decided legislation was unlikely to get to President Joe Biden's desk. About 10.7 million renters are behind on their payments, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Several states including New York and California still have eviction bans in place. Under the proposed bill, nationwide protections from eviction would take effect automatically without an application process. The moratorium would stay in place until 60 days after the end of a declared public health emergency.

Black Knight: National Mortgage Delinquency Rate Decreased in August --Note: At the beginning of the pandemic, the delinquency rate increased sharply (see table below). Loans in forbearance are counted as delinquent in this survey, but those loans are not reported as delinquent to the credit bureaus. From Black Knight: Black Knight: With Moratoria Lifted, Foreclosure Starts Edge Higher, But Still 80% Below Pre-Pandemic Levels; Delinquency Rate Falls to 4% For First Time Since Early 2020

• The national delinquency rate on first lien mortgages fell to 4.00% in August, the lowest it’s been since pandemic-related impacts caused mortgage delinquencies to spike in early 2020
• Serious delinquencies – including those in active forbearance – fell by 108,000 from July and, though down by more than 1 million from last August, are still roughly 930,000 above pre-pandemic levels
• August’s 7,100 foreclosure starts represented the largest such volume in eight months after foreclosure moratoria on federally backed loans were lifted at the end of July
• Despite the increase – which was driven primarily by restarting the process on loans that had been in foreclosure prior to the moratoria – start volumes remain 80% below August 2019 levels
• Though the number of loans in active foreclosure saw the first monthly rise of 2021 (+2,000), volumes remain near record lows and are still down 44% (-97,000) from pre-pandemic levels
• Prepayment activity rose by nearly 9% in the month with interest rates – which have held below 3% in recent months – continuing to spur both refinance and purchase activity

According to Black Knight's First Look report, the percent of loans delinquent decreased 3.5% in August compared to July, and decreased 42% year-over-year.
The percent of loans in the foreclosure process increased 1.7% in August and were down 24% over the last year.Black Knight reported the U.S. mortgage delinquency rate (loans 30 or more days past due, but not in foreclosure) was 4.00% in August, down from 4.14% in July. The percent of loans in the foreclosure process increased in August to 0.27%, from 0.26% in July.The number of delinquent properties, but not in foreclosure, is down 1,557,000 properties year-over-year, and the number of properties in the foreclosure process is down 45,000 properties year-over-year.

 CoreLogic: 1.2 Million Homes with Negative Equity in Q2 2021 - From CoreLogic: Homeowners Gained $2.9 Trillion in Equity in Q2 2021, CoreLogic Reports: CoreLogic® ... today released the Homeowner Equity Report for the second quarter of 2021. The report shows U.S. homeowners with mortgages (which account for roughly 63% of all properties) have seen their equity increase by 29.3% year over year, representing a collective equity gain of over $2.9 trillion, and an average gain of $51,500 per borrower, since the second quarter of 2020....“The growth in homeowner equity provides a strong financial cushion for tens of millions Americans. For those most impacted by the pandemic, equity gains will help play a critical role in staving off foreclosure,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “Based on projected increases in economic activity and home values over the next year, we expect to see further gains in equity and a corresponding drop in negative equity, forbearance rates and foreclosure.”...Negative equity, also referred to as underwater or upside down mortgages, applies to borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth. As of the second quarter of 2021, negative equity share, and the quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year changes, were as follows:
• Quarterly change: From the first quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2021, the total number of mortgaged homes in negative equity decreased by 12% to 1.2 million homes, or 2.3% of all mortgaged properties.
• Annual change: In the second quarter of 2020, 1.8 million homes, or 3.3% of all mortgaged properties, were in negative equity. This number decreased by 30%, or 520,000 properties, in the second quarter of 2021.
• The national aggregate value of negative equity was approximately $268 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2021. This is down quarter over quarter by approximately $5.2 billion, or 1.9%, from $273.2 billion in the first quarter of 2021, and down year over year by approximately $18.9 billion, or 6.6%, from $286.8 billion in the second quarter of 2020.

This graph from CoreLogic compares Q2 to Q1 2021 equity distribution by LTV. There are a few properties with LTV over 125%. But most homeowners have a significant amount of equity. This is a very different picture than at the start of the housing bust when many homeowners had little equity. On a year-over-year basis, the number of homeowners with negative equity has declined from 1.8 million to 1.2 million.

 MBA: Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest Weekly Survey --From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey: Mortgage applications increased 4.9 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 17, 2021. The previous week’s results included an adjustment for the Labor Day holiday.... The Refinance Index increased 7 percent from the previous week and was 5 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 12 percent compared with the previous week and was 13 percent lower than the same week one year ago.“There was a resurgence in mortgage applications the week after Labor Day, with activity overall at its highest level in over a month, and purchase applications jumping to a high last seen in April 2021,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Housing demand is strong heading into the fall, despite fast-rising home prices and low inventory. The inventory situation is improving, with more new homes under construction and more homeowners listing their home for sale. Despite this week’s increase, purchase applications were still 13 percent lower than the same week a year ago.”, “Homeowners acted while rates remained low at 3.03 percent. This week’s refinance gain of 7 percent was driven heavily by an increase in FHA and VA applications.”...The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) remained unchanged at 3.03 percent, with points decreasing to 0.30 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.The first graph shows the refinance index since 1990.With low rates, the index remains elevated.The second graph shows the MBA mortgage purchase indexAccording to the MBA, purchase activity is down 13% year-over-year unadjusted.Note: The year ago comparisons for the unadjusted purchase index are now difficult since purchase activity picked up in late May 2020.

Seattle extends eviction moratorium into January - Seattle has extended its eviction moratorium into January, protecting residents in the state from being removed from their homes through the end of the year.Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) signed an executive order on Tuesday that extended the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions through Jan. 15, 2022, marking the sixth time the moratorium has been extended in the city since the pandemic began.The moratorium was set to expire on Sept. 30, the date to which it was extended in June.With the new executive order, landlords will still be barred from issuing notices of termination or initiating eviction actions with the courts unless there is an imminent threat to the health and safety of the community.Additionally, late fees, interest and other charges in response to late rent payments are not permitted under the moratorium.Tenants are still legally obligated to pay their rent, according to Durkan’s office, but landlords are encouraged to provide flexible payment plans.The moratorium applies to residential, nonprofit and small-businesses evictions, the latter of which refers to independently owned businesses with 50 or fewer employees.According to The Seattle Times, roughly 60,000 Seattle-area renters aged 18 and older are behind on rent. The extension comes after Magistrate Judge Richard Creatura last week found that the city and state eviction moratoriums were conditional, according to Durkan’s office.

Eric Adams, N.Y.C.’s likely next mayor, wants to turn shuttered hotels into permanent housing for the homeless. - Eric Adams, likely to be New York’s next mayor, was cheered on by Shams Da Baron, an advocate for homeless people, as he announced his plan to convert shuttered hotels into permanent housing.Credit...James Estrin/The New York TimesHotels in New York City that have been left empty by the pandemic would be converted into “supportive housing” that provides assistance to people struggling with mental illness or substance abuse and to people leaving the prison system, under a plan proposed on Monday by Eric Adams, who is likely to be the city’s next mayor.More than 20 percent of the city’s hotels are now closed, a trade association says. At the same time, the city faces a homelessness crisis, growing sentiment against warehousing homeless people in barrackslike shelters and a lot of severely mentally ill people living in the streets.“The combination of Covid-19, the economic downturn and the problems we’re having with housing is presenting us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Mr. Adams, who won the June Democratic primary for mayor, said as he stood outside a boarded-up hotel in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. “Use these hotels not to be an eyesore, but a place where people can lay their eyes on good, affordable, quality housing.”Details of the plan were thin. Mr. Adams mentioned the possibility of 25,000 converted hotel rooms, but he said that he would focus on boroughs outside Manhattan, where the number of rooms in closed hotels is much smaller than that.He was not clear about whether there was any overlap between his plan and those that the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, and the former governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, have already begun to build 25,000 supportive housing units in the city by about 2030. A spokesman for Mr. Adams’s campaign said that Mr. Adams was also considering converting rooms in former hotels that have already become homeless shelters into permanent supportive-housing apartments, something that Mr. de Blasio has also discussed.Mr. Adams said that creating studio apartments in existing hotels would be far cheaper and faster than building affordable housing from scratch. The nexus of hotels and homelessness has been a contested one during the pandemic. Early in the lockdown imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, thousands of people who had been living in dorm-style shelters were moved to hotel rooms, mostly in Manhattan where their presence led to complaints from some residents about harassment and sometimes violence. The city has since moved most of those people back to group shelters. Several advocates for homeless people and for supportive housing endorsed Mr. Adams’s plan and stood with him at the news conference. “Adams can be the mayor who uses this inflection moment to change the trajectory on homelessness,” Laura Mascuch, executive director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York, said in an interview. “We look forward to working with Adams to implement the strongest supportive housing program in the nation.”

Existing-Home Sales Retreat in August - This morning's release of the August Existing-Home Sales showed that sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.88 million units from the previous month's revised 6.0 million. The Investing.com consensus was for 5.89 million. The latest number represents a 2.0% decrease from the previous month and a 1.5% decrease YoY.Here is an excerpt from today's report from the National Association of Realtors.) – Existing-home sales retreated in August, breaking two straight months of increases, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major U.S. regions experienced declines on both a month-over-month and a year-over-year perspective.Total existing-home sales,1 https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 2.0% from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.88 million in August. Year-over-year, sales dropped 1.5% from a year ago (5.97 million in August 2020)."Sales slipped a bit in August as prices rose nationwide," saidLawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "Although there was a decline in home purchases, potential buyers are out and about searching, but much more measured about their financial limits, and simply waiting for more inventory." [Full Report] For a longer-term perspective, here is a snapshot of the data series, which comes from the National Association of Realtors. The data since January 1999 was previously available in the St. Louis Fed's FRED repository and is now only available for the last twelve months.

NAR: Existing-Home Sales Decreased to 5.88 million in August --From the NAR: Existing-Home Sales Recede 2.0% in August - Existing-home sales retreated in August, breaking two straight months of increases, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major U.S. regions experienced declines on both a month-over-month and a year-over-year perspective.Total existing-home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 2.0% from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.88 million in August. Year-over-year, sales dropped 1.5% from a year ago (5.97 million in August 2020)....Total housing inventory at the end of August totaled 1.29 million units, down 1.5% from July's supply and down 13.4% from one year ago (1.49 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.6-month supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from July but down from 3.0 months in August 2020.This graph shows existing home sales, on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) basis since 1993.Sales in August (5.88 million SAAR) were down 2.0% from last month, and were 1.5% below the August 2020 sales rate.The second graph shows nationwide inventory for existing homes.According to the NAR, inventory decreased to 1.29 million in August from 1.31 million in July. Headline inventory is not seasonally adjusted, and inventory usually decreases to the seasonal lows in December and January, and peaks in mid-to-late summer.The last graph shows the year-over-year (YoY) change in reported existing home inventory and months-of-supply. Since inventory is not seasonally adjusted, it really helps to look at the YoY change. Note: Months-of-supply is based on the seasonally adjusted sales and not seasonally adjusted inventory.Inventory was down 13.4% year-over-year in August compared to August 2020.Months of supply was unchanged at 2.6 months in August from 2.6 months in July.This was slightly above the consensus forecast.

Existing Home Sales: Some Regional Differences Appear – McBride - The following data is important, especially active inventory and new listings. I’m looking to see if inventory will follow the normal seasonal pattern and decline into the winter, or if inventory will increase this year.It is also interesting to see regional and local differences. For the last year, most housing markets moved together with rapidly falling inventory and sharply increasing house prices. However, in August, about half of these markets saw a month-over-month (MoM) increase in inventory - and the other half saw a decrease - so we might be seeing some regional divergence.Only two markets saw a year-over-year (YoY) increase in inventory, but there were significant differences in the YoY change. Although the median YoY decrease was about 24%, several markets saw decreases of over 40%.On a national basis, it is likely inventory will be up year-over-year sometime during the winter months, but inventory will still be at very low levels.I’m tracking about 30 local housing markets in the US. This is the final update for August. Some are states, and some are metropolitan areas. I’ll update this table throughout each month as additional data is released. This note adds Columbus, Indiana, New York, and South Florida.Here is a summary of active listings for these housing markets in August. Inventory was down 1.3% in August MoM from July, and down 28.2% YoY.The MoM decrease in inventory is similar to the NAR report, however the YoY decline is larger than the NAR reported, probably because the NAR includes some pending sales and this is for active inventory.Notes: California just reports the MoM and YoY change. Denver is not included in the totals (included in Colorado). Additions are in BOLD in tables. And here is a table for new listings in August. New listing were down 1.3% YoY. However, not all areas report new listings, and Houston just reports the annual change. Given the size of the Houston market, a 10.9% annual increase in New Listings might make the change positive.And a table of August sales. Sales were up 2.3% YoY, Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA). The NAR reported sales NSA were up 2.9% from August 2020, so these local markets in aggregate are close.

New Home Sales Increase to 740,000 Annual Rate in August -The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 740 thousand. The previous three months were revised up, combined. Sales of new single‐family houses in August 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 1.5 percent above the revised July rate of 729,000, but is 24.3 percent below the August 2020 estimate of 977,000.The first graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.New home sales are now declining year-over-year since sales soared following the first few months of the pandemic.The second graph shows New Home Months of Supply.The months of supply increased in August to 6.1 months from 6.0 months in July.The all time record high was 12.1 months of supply in January 2009. The all time record low was 3.5 months, most recently in October 2020.This is above the normal range (about 4 to 6 months supply is normal)."The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of August was 378,000. This represents a supply of 6.1 months at the current sales rate."The last graph shows sales NSA (monthly sales, not seasonally adjusted annual rate).In August 2021 (red column), 62 thousand new homes were sold (NSA). Last year, 81 thousand homes were sold in August.The all time high for August was 110 thousand in 2005, and the all time low for August was 23 thousand in 2010.This was above expectations of 714 thousand SAAR and sales in the three previous months were revised up, combined.

New home sales continue rebound in August, as price increases continue slight deceleration -- Housing is a long leading sector of the economy, and new home sales, while very noisy and heavily revised, tend to lead all of the other housing indicators. [Note: FRED hasn’t updated its charts with this morning’s information, so graphs below do not show this month]. So this morning’s m/m increase in new home sales was good news. It was an 8 month high, and at 740,000 was an increase of 14,000 from July and 39,000 from the trough in June (blue in the graph below): This confirms what single family permits (red), which are much less noisy, suggested in last week’s report on starts and permits. The number of houses for sale (which lags the number sold) also turned up, to 378,000, the highest level since October 2008 (gold in the graph below): Meanwhile, the median price of a new house was 390,900, a 20% increase YoY: This was a YoY increase from July, but below the 22% pace of April and May. Although I pay much less attention to existing home sales, which were released Wednesday, because they have much less of an effect on the economy, there is a special issue in that data because inventory collapsed in 2020 as few people were willing to put their houses on the market. New listings in August were actually higher than one year ago, while total listings are still almost 25% lower than in August 2020. A more important comparison is with 2019, the year before inventory collapsed. In that regard, new listings in August were only -8.7% below two years ago, while total listings were less than 1/2 of that level. Below are total and new listings for existing homes, both normed to 100 as of that month: As mortgage interest rates declined from their early year spike, new housing sales and construction have bottomed and have begun to increase. Meanwhile price increases, which lag sales, are decelerating albeit still at a very high level due to lack of inventory of existing homes. Finally, that inventory issue is slowly correcting itself. We can expect new listings of existing homes to be higher YoY within several months, and then the issue becomes how long until inventory increases all the way back to 2019 levels.

Comments on August New Home Sales – McBride - The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 740 thousand. The previous three months were revised up, combined.Sales of new single‐family houses in August 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 1.5 percent above the revised July rate of 729,000, but is 24.3 percent below the August 2020 estimate of 977,000. The first graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.The months of supply increased in August to 6.1 months from 6.0 months in July.The all time record high was 12.1 months of supply in January 2009. The all time record low was 3.5 months, most recently in October 2020.This is above the normal range (about 4 to 6 months supply is normal). Starting in 1973 the Census Bureau broke inventory down into three categories: Not Started, Under Construction, and Completed.The third graph shows the three categories of inventory starting in 1973.The inventory of completed homes for sale - at 36 thousand - is just above the record low of 33 thousand. This is about half the normal level of completed homes for sale. However, the combined total of completed and under construction is close to normal. The fourth graph shows sales NSA (monthly sales, not seasonally adjusted annual rate).In August 2021 (red column), 62 thousand new homes were sold (NSA). Last year, 81 thousand homes were sold in August. The all time high for August was 110 thousand in 2005, and the all time low for August was 23 thousand in 2010. Although the new home sales rate for August, at 740,000 on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR), was somewhat above consensus expectations of 714,000 SAAR for August, sales were still down 24.3% year-over-year - since sales increased sharply following the early months of the pandemic. The new home sales rate is now close to the pre-pandemic level of around 740 thousand (the three months previous to pandemic). Sales, year to date in 2021, are only 2.4% ahead of sales in 20202, and new home sales in 2021 will be below sales in 2020 - since sales in 2020 finished strong.This graph shows new home sales for 2020 and 2021 by month (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate).

Housing Inventory Sept 20th Update: Inventory Up 1.2% Week-over-week, Up 42% from Low in early April - Tracking existing home inventory is very important this year. This inventory graph is courtesy of Altos Research. As of September 17th, inventory was at 436 thousand (7 day average), compared to 573 thousand for the same week a year ago. That is a decline of 23.8%.Compared to the same week in 2019, inventory is down 55%.A week ago, inventory was at 431 thousand, and was down 25.5% YoY. Two weeks ago inventory was at 437 thousand (the peak for the year so far).Seasonally, inventory has bottomed, but may be peaking for the year. Inventory was about 42.4% above the record low in early April.A couple of interesting points from 2019: In 2019, inventory bottomed at 814 thousand in February (so inventory is still very low compared to normal levels). And, in 2019, inventory peaked at 972 thousand in early August (an increase of 158 thousand, or about 19% from the low). So inventory is less than half of what we'd normally expect, however inventory has increased 130 thousand (almost normal).Key question: Usually inventory peaks in the Summer, and then declines into the Fall. Will inventory follow the normal seasonal pattern, or will inventory continue to increase over the coming months? This will be important to watch for house prices and housing activity. Mike Simonsen discusses this data regularly on Youtube. Altos Research has also seen a significant pickup in price decreases - now well above the level of a year ago - but still below a normal rate for August.

Median household income and housing affordability-- Last week the Census Bureau released their annual report on median household income for the US, covering 2020. Since this is the best measure to gauge housing affordability, rather than average wages or income, this is a good time to update this information. Median household income declined in the US last year due to the pandemic, and the tsunami of unemployment that accompanied it. Still, at $67,521 it was still 40% higher in nominal terms than it was at the peak of the housing bubble in 2006, when it was $48,201: Below I compare house prices measured by the FHFA house price index (dark and light blue) and the Case Shiller national index (red and violet), deflated by median household income and by average hourly wages as a monthly proxy. The results are normed to 100 as of the peak of the housing bubble in 2006: Note that, because “average” wages are skewed higher than “median” wages, house prices appear more affordable in average hourly wage terms than in median household income terms. Specifically, in 2020 FHFA prices deflated by median household income were only 5.3% below their peak in 2006, and similarly deflated Case Shiller prices were 13.5% below theirs. While median income for 2021 won’t be reported for another year, we do have both house price indexes through June of this year, and they are up a further 17.4% and 17.7% since mid year of 2020: If median household income from 2020 were held constant (it won’t be, there will be an increase this year because of the big gains in employment), in both cases “real” house prices would be higher than their bubble peak! But even if nominal median income increases this year back to where it was in 2019 just before the pandemic, house prices would at least be very close to their all time record as a multiple of household income. But if house prices compared with household income are close to or at an extreme high, the situation is quite different when we look at monthly mortgage payments, because interest rates have declined so much in the past 15 years. At the peak in July 2006, mortgage rates were 6.76%. In June they were only 2.98% (red, right scale): While house prices as measured by the FHFA index have gone up 54.6% in that time, the monthly mortgage payment to finance that house increase went up less than 1%! And remember, the median household has had a 40% increase in income to finance that less than 1% increase in mortgage payments. The bottom line remains that, if you can afford the down payment on a house, even at these extreme levels, the monthly mortgage payment is not near an extreme at all. This is probably while the “affordability index” of the National Association of Realtors is equivalent to its poorest level in the past 10 years, it is still nowhere near as low as it was at the peak of the housing bubble (when it was below 100, not shown): I think seriously derailing the housing market to where it might spark a recession is only going to take place if there is another year of huge price increases, or else a hike of 1% or more in interest rates, or both.

Fed's Flow of Funds: Household Net Worth Increased $5.9 Trillion in Q2 --The Federal Reserve released the Q2 2021 Flow of Funds report today: Financial Accounts of the United States.The net worth of households and nonprofits rose to $141.7 trillion during the second quarter of 2021. The value of directly and indirectly held corporate equities increased $3.5 trillion and the value of real estate increased $1.2 trillion. ... Household debt increased 7.9 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2021. Consumer credit grew at an annual rate of 8.6 percent, while mortgage debt (excluding charge-offs) grew at an annual rate of 8 percent.The first graph shows Households and Nonprofit net worth as a percent of GDP. With the sharp decline in GDP in Q2 2020, net worth as a percent of GDP increased sharply. This reversed somewhat in Q3 as GDP bounced back (even as net worth increased). But now net worth as a percent of GDP is at an all time high.This includes real estate and financial assets (stocks, bonds, pension reserves, deposits, etc) net of liabilities (mostly mortgages). Note that this does NOT include public debt obligations.This graph shows homeowner percent equity since 1952.Household percent equity (as measured by the Fed) collapsed when house prices fell sharply in 2007 and 2008.In Q2 2021, household percent equity (of household real estate) was at 67.7% - up from 67.3% in Q1. This is the highest percent equity since the 1980s.Note: about 30.3% of owner occupied households had no mortgage debt as of April 2010. So the approximately 50+ million households with mortgages have less than 67.3% equity - and about 1.2 million homeowners still have negative equity.The third graph shows household real estate assets and mortgage debt as a percent of GDP. Note this graph was impacted by the sharp decline in Q2 2020 GDP.Mortgage debt increased by $222 billion in Q2. This is the largest quarterly increase in mortgage debt since 2006. Mortgage debt is up $573 billion from the peak during the housing bubble, but, as a percent of GDP is at 49.6% - down from Q1 - and down from a peak of 73.3% of GDP during the housing bubble. The value of real estate, as a percent of GDP, increased in Q2, and is well above the average of the last 30 years.

Housing Starts increased to 1.615 Million Annual Rate in August --From the Census Bureau: Permits, Starts and Completions - Privately‐owned housing starts in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,615,000. This is 3.9 percent above the revised July estimate of 1,554,000 and is 17.4 percent above the August 2020 rate of 1,376,000. Single‐family housing starts in August were at a rate of 1,076,000; this is 2.8 percent below the revised July figure of 1,107,000. The August rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 530,000 Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,728,000. This is 6.0 percent above the revised July rate of 1,630,000 and is 13.5 percent above the August 2020 rate of 1,522,000. Single‐family authorizations in August were at a rate of 1,054,000; this is 0.6 percent above the revised July figure of 1,048,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 632,000 in August.The first graph shows single and multi-family housing starts for the last several years.Multi-family starts (red, 2+ units) increased in August compared to July. Multi-family starts were up 53% year-over-year in August.Single-family starts (blue) decreased in August, and were up 5% year-over-year. The second graph shows single and multi-family housing starts since 1968.The second graph shows the huge collapse following the housing bubble, and then the eventual recovery (but still not historically high).Total housing starts in August were above expectations, and starts in June and July were revised up slightly.

New Residential Building Permits: Up 6% in August The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have now published their findings for August new residential building permits. The latest reading of 1.728M was up 6% from the July reading and is above the Investing.com forecast of 1.600M.Here is the opening of this morning's monthly report, including a note regarding revisions: Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,728,000. This is 6.0 percent (±1.4 percent) above the revised July rate of 1,630,000 and is 13.5 percent (±1.8 percent) above the August 2020 rate of 1,522,000. Single‐family authorizations in August were at a rate of 1,054,000; this is 0.6 percent (±1.3 percent)* above the revised July figure of 1,048,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 632,000 in August. [link to report]Here is the complete historical series, which dates from 1960. Because of the extreme volatility of the monthly data points, a 6-month moving average has been included.

A Long Term Look: Residential Building Permits and Housing Starts - Yesterday, we reported separately on the latest residential building permits and housing starts in the government's monthly report, courtesy of the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Despite the fact that both are monthly SAAR series (seasonally adjusted annualized rate), they are exceptionally volatile and subject to extensive revisions. Thus it is unwise to assign much credibility to a single month. Over the long haul, however, the two offer a compelling study of trends in residential real estate, especially when we adjust the Permits and Starts for population growth. Here is an overlay of the two series since the 1959 inception of the Starts data and the 1960 inception of the Permits data. The monthly data points are preserved as faint dots. The trends are illustrated with 6-month moving averages of data divided by the Census Bureau's mid-month population estimates.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Increased to 76 in September -- The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported the housing market index (HMI) was at 76, up from 75 in August. Any number above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.From the NAHB: Builder Confidence Steadies as Material and Labor Challenges Persist: Builder confidence inched up in September on lower lumber prices and strong housing demand, even as the housing sector continues to grapple with building material supply chain issues and labor challenges. Ending a three-month decline, builder sentiment in the market for newly built single-family homes edged up one point to 76 in September, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released today.“Builder sentiment has been gradually cooling since the HMI hit an all-time high reading of 90 last November,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke. “The September data show stability as some building material cost challenges ease, particularly for softwood lumber. However, delivery times remain extended and the chronic construction labor shortage is expected to persist as the overall labor market recovers.”“The single-family building market has moved off the unsustainably hot pace of construction of last fall and has reached a still hot but more stable level of activity, as reflected in the September HMI,” “While building material challenges persist, the rate of cost growth has eased for some products, but the job openings rate in construction is trending higher.”...The HMI index gauging current sales conditions rose one point to 82, the component measuring traffic of prospective buyers posted a two-point gain to 61 and the gauge charting sales expectations in the next six months held steady at 81.Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast fell two points to 72, the South dropped two points to 80 and the West registered a two-point decline to 83. The Midwest remained unchanged at 68. This graph show the NAHB index since Jan 1985.This was above the consensus forecast, and a solid reading.

AIA: "Architecture billings continue to increase" in August -- Note: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment. From the AIA: Architecture billings continue to increase: The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) recorded its seventh consecutive positive month, according to a new report today from The American Institute of Architects (AIA). The ABI score for August was 55.6, up from July’s score of 54.6. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings from the prior month. During August, scoring for both the new project inquiries and design contracts moderated slightly but remained in positive territory, posting scores of 64.7 and 56.6 respectively. “The surge in design activity continued in August, signifying an expected upturn in construction activity in the fourth quarter and continuing into 2022,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “This expected expansion will magnify the already serious problems of price inflation and availability of many construction products and materials, as well as the emerging labor shortages in the industry.”
• Regional averages: West (57.2); Midwest (55.2); South (52.5); Northeast (51.7)
• Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (56.0); commercial/industrial (54.7); institutional (54.4); multi-family residential (54.3)
This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 55.6 in August, up from 54.6 in July. Anything above 50 indicates expansion in demand for architects' services.Note: This includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, multi-family residential, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.This index had been below 50 for eleven consecutive months, but has been solidly positive for the last seven months. The eleven months of decline represented a significant decrease in design services, and suggests a decline in CRE investment through most of 2021 (This index usually leads CRE investment by 9 to 12 months), however we might see a pickup in CRE investment towards the end of the 2021 and into 2022.

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Down 11.6% Compared to Same Week in 2019 - Note: The year-over-year occupancy comparisons are easy, since occupancy declined sharply at the onset of the pandemic. From CoStar: STR: US Hotels Achieve Four-Week Occupancy High: U.S. hotel occupancy reached a four-week high, according to STR‘s latest data through September 18.
September 12-18, 2021 (percentage change from comparable week in 2019*):
• Occupancy: 63.0% (-11.6%)
• verage daily rate (ADR): $131.04 (-2.6%)
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): $82.50 (-13.9%)
The gain in occupancy was helped by weekly group demand eclipsing 1 million for the first time since the earliest days of the pandemic. More group demand created a lowering effect on ADR, as group rooms for upper-tier classes are typically priced lower than transient rooms. The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four week average. The red line is for 2021, black is 2020, blue is the median, dashed purple is 2019, and dashed light blue is for 2009 (the worst year on record for hotels prior to 2020). With solid leisure travel, the Summer months had decent occupancy - but it is uncertain what will happen in the Fall with business travel - usually weekly occupancy increases to around 70% in the weeks following Labor Day due to renewed business travel.

 Flight bookings plummet amid delta variant fears - Flight bookings rapidly declined in August and early September amid a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant.Online customers spent $4 billion on flights within the U.S. in August, down 24 percent from July and 35 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to an analysis from Adobe Digital Insights. Through the first 10 days of September, flight bookings remained weak, down 39 percent from the same period in 2019. “Historically, July and August have similar consumer spending levels when it comes to domestic flight bookings,” says Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights. “The fact that August came in over $1.2 billion under July is striking when you consider the historical benchmark, and it shows how much the delta variant has shaped what consumers feel about air travel.”The analysis found that holiday reservations have also taken a hit, with Thanksgiving flight bookings down 18 percent from the same period in 2019. Airlines have indicated that the delta variant’s continued spread has caused travelers to cancel their flights. The recent decline in air travel has forced carriers to lower their expectations for the rest of the year after strong summer travel sparked optimism of a robust comeback. Figures from the Transportation Security Administration confirms that air travel hasn’t picked back up in recent weeks. The agency screened roughly 1.9 million travelers on Friday, down from around 2.6 million people on the same day in 2019.

September Vehicle Sales Forecast: "Disappearing Inventory Taking U.S. Light-Vehicle Sales to Another Low in September" - From WardsAuto: Disappearing Inventory Taking U.S. Light-Vehicle Sales to Another Low in September (pay content) Low inventories and supply issues continue to impacting vehicle sales. This graph shows actual sales from the BEA (Blue), and Wards forecast for September (Red). The Wards forecast of 12.4 million SAAR, would be down about 5% from last month, and down 23.8% from a year ago (sales were solid in September 2020, as sales recovered from the depths of the pandemic).

Costco brings back purchase limits on toilet paper, cleaning supplies and more - Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said the retailer is rolling back purchase limits on household essentials like toilet paper, bottled water and cleaning supplies. The subscription-only warehouse chain said it wants to ensure those items stay on shelves as it battles supply chain challenges, from shipping delays to truck driver shortages. Galanti said the retailer saw strong demand for home goods and jewelry in the fiscal fourth quarter — even as it sold some rings in the $100,000 range. Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said Thursday that the company wants to make sure it has essential items at stores, even as shipping delays and truck driver shortages make it difficult to keep them on shelves. goes. During an earnings call, he said the retailer was “putting something out”. [purchase] Limits on key items.” These include toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water and high-demand cleaning products. He did not specify how many of each item customers would be able to purchase. The product range is being prompted for a different reason than in the earlier stages of the pandemic, when stores saw unusually high demand for paper products and antibacterial wipes as customers stocked up on those items. - - “A year ago there was a shortage of goods,” Galanti said. “Now they’ve got a lot of consignment, but there’s a delay of two or three weeks in delivering it because there’s a limit to short-term changes in the trucking and delivery needs of the suppliers, so it’s really across the board.” Galanti said Costco is placing pre-orders on what it needs. He said the company has hired three seagoing vessels for the next year to transport containers between Asia and the US and Canada. Each ship can carry 800 to 1,000 containers at a time, he added.

Rationing, Anyone? by Yves Smith - I have to confess that I’d never considered rationing as a possible response to Covid-induced economic disruptions. Most assume things will revert to a semblance of the old normal in at worst a year or two, save with more working from home and less business travel. But recall that the Russian flu of the late 1800s took roughly 7 years to mutate into a tolerable form. We are presently stuck in variant whack-a-mole. Delta has diminished the efficacy of our current vaccines, particularly with respect to low-level infections, so that the virus continues to spread. Even if Pfizer et al launch a Covid-focused booster, by then who knows if Delta will still be the dominant variant (our GM is giving us near-daily e-mail updates on new variants and where they differ from extant ones).Admittedly, nasal vaccines are under development, and they have the potential to be game-changers, since they could achieve near-sterilizing-immunity-level reductions in contagion. But the earliest they would be ready to launch is late 2022. And if they are less successful than now hoped or wind up being on a slower timetable, we could be stuck in our new normal for quite some time. And that new normal includes supply chain disruptions which we are seeing in all sorts of places, like super pricey new cars with missing features due to missing chips, to more than occasional missing items in grocery and drug stores.Letting Mr. Market, as in prices, handle this mess is a default response. But if shortages become persistent in “basic” items, we may see rationing. We already saw some of this sort of thing informally in early Covid, such as grocery stores limiting purchases of hamburger to 2 lbs, and in the oil crisis, where US drivers could buy gas only every other day, depending on whether their last license plate number was even or odd.Rationing is far more likely to occur in the UK, which is facing Brexit disruption on top of the Covid sort, and also by virtue of having large-scale rationing as part of its collective memory. But it is not inconceivable that it could come to the US too….particularly since The Jackpot is nigh.

Kansas City Fed Survey: Factory Activity Remained Solid - The latest index came in at 22, down 7 from last month's 29, indicating continued expansion in September. The future outlook decreased to 35 this month from 36. Here is a snapshot of the complete Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Survey.Quarterly data for this indicator dates back to 1995, but monthly data is only available from 2001.Here is an excerpt from the latest report:Tenth District manufacturing activity growth moderated slightly but remained solid, and expectations for future production increased further (Chart 1, Tables 1 & 2). The index of prices paid for raw materials continued to increase at record levels in September compared to a month ago and a year ago. Price indexes for finished goods also remained very high. Additionally, district manufacturing firms expected materials prices and finished goods prices to rise more over the next six months. [Full report here] Here is a snapshot of the complete Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Survey.The next chart is an overlay of the general and future outlook indexes — the outlook six months ahead. Future factory indexes decreased to 35. For comparison, here is the latest ISM Manufacturing survey.Let's compare all five Regional Manufacturing indicators. Here is a three-month moving average overlay of each since 2001 (for those with data).

 Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increase to 351,000 --The DOL reported: In the week ending September 18, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 351,000, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 3,000 from 332,000 to 335,000. The 4-week moving average was 335,750, a decrease of 750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 750 from 335,750 to 336,500.The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971. The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims decreased to 335,750.The previous week was revised up. Regular state continued claims increased to 2,845,000 (SA) from 2,714,000 (SA) the previous week. Note (released with a 2 week delay): There were an additional 4,896,125 receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that decreased from 5,487,233 the previous week (there are questions about these numbers). This was a special program for business owners, self-employed, independent contractors or gig workers not receiving other unemployment insurance. And there were an additional 3,644,555 receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) down from 3,805,795. Weekly claims were higher than the consensus forecast.The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims decreased to 335,750.The previous week was revised up.Regular state continued claims increased to 2,845,000 (SA) from 2,714,000 (SA) the previous week.Note (released with a 2 week delay): There were an additional 4,896,125 receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that decreased from 5,487,233 the previous week (there are questions about these numbers). This was a special program for business owners, self-employed, independent contractors or gig workers not receiving other unemployment insurance. And there were an additional 3,644,555 receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) down from 3,805,795. Weekly claims were higher than the consensus forecast.

Only half of the people who lost jobs during COVID are going back to work - The pandemic is dragging on and people aren't rushing back to work, despite anecdotes of signing bonuses, the end of federal unemployment benefits, and rising wages. Now, a note from JPMorgan's Jesse Edgerton shows just how many people haven't returned. "Loosely speaking, about half of the people who lost jobs during COVID are still actively looking for work, while the other half are not," Edgerton writes. That comes from a comparison of pre-COVID employment to today. When the pandemic first hit, employment dropped by 15% — meaning that 22 million jobs were shed. Now, about 17 million more jobs have been added since pandemic employment hit its lowest, but that still leaves about 5.5 million jobs to go before reaching pre-COVID levels. According to JPMorgan, about 2.9 million of those jobs represent a "decline in the labor force" — meaning that those people have dropped out and aren't actively seeking employment. Notably, JPMorgan finds that 900,000 of those who departed the labor force are age 55 or older; they might be part of the flock of early retirees driven by the pandemic. A report from the Federal ReserveBank of Kansas City found that retirement shot up between February 2020 to June 2021 by 1.3% — well above the usual 0.3% rise. Insider's Ben Winck reported that Americans are now planning to retire earlier than ever, with the new retirement age coming in at 62. But that means that 2 million Americans could be lured back into the labor force, and JPMorgan believes that they "will continue to drift back into employment" in the midst of a tight market. Some may return as their pandemic savings — whether from stimulus checks or other federal support — dwindle. It may seem paradoxical for unemployment to remain high as job openings continue to reach record highs and wages rise to lure back workers. But there's a number of reasons that holes remain. One of them is childcare, with schools facing potential closures as the Delta variant spreads. And, as The Washington Post's Heather Long reports, childcare is facing its own staffing crisis, as workers leave the low-paying industry — and the industry sees 126,700 fewer workers than pre-pandemic. Women over the age of 20, who already had a lower labor force participation than men, were particularly pummeled by pandemic caregiving responsibilities. In August, the labor force participation rate for those women actually dropped from the month prior, indicating yet another impact of the Delta variant.

Two-thirds of low-wage workers still lack access to paid sick days during an ongoing pandemic - According to a new report released yesterday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), just over three-quarters (77%) of private-sector workers in the United States have the ability to earn paid sick time at work. But, as shown in Figure A below, access to paid sick days is vastly unequal, disproportionately denying workers at the bottom this important security. The highest wage workers (top 10%) are nearly three times as likely to have access to paid sick leave as the lowest paid workers (bottom 10%). Whereas 95% of the highest wage workers had access to paid sick days, only 33% of the lowest paid workers are able to earn paid sick days.Low-wage workers are also more likely to be found in occupations where they have contact with the public—think early care and education workers, home health aides, restaurant workers, and food processors. Workers shouldn’t have to decide between staying home from work to care for themselves or their dependents and paying rent or putting food on the table. But that is the situation our policymakers have put workers in. Meaningful paid sick leave legislation is incredibly important for low-wage workers and their families and important to reduce the spread of illness. At the same time, access to paid sick days has positive benefits to employers as it reduces employee turnover with no impact on employment. The ability for workers to earn paid sick days varies greatly across the country. In lieu of federal action, many states have passed legislation to guarantee paid sick days, but many workers have been left behind. Figure B shows vast differences across Census divisions in workers’ ability to use paid sick time to take care of themselves or their family members. The share with access to paid sick days ranges from only 67% in East South Central states (composed of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee) up to 95% in the Pacific states (California, Oregon, and Washington). Notably, many local municipalities in the East South Central region have been preempted by their state governments from passing paid leave and sick day policies. The latest BLS data also show that full-time workers are more likely to have access to paid sick days than part-time workers (87% versus 48%). Workers in larger establishments are more like to have paid sick days than workers in smaller establishments; 91% of workers in establishments of 500 workers or more have paid sick days compared with 68% of workers in establishments with fewer than 50 workers.

NYC Set to Pass Food Delivery App Laws Securing Workers Minimum Pay, Bathrooms and More - City lawmakers are acting to aid workers in the booming multi-billion dollar app-based food delivery industry, scheduling a vote for Thursday on a landmark slate of bills intended to ensure bathroom access, minimum pay and more. The proposals were sparked by the activism of Los Deliveristas Unidos, a labor organization of immigrant delivery couriers who kept New Yorkers fed during the pandemic. Supporters say the New York effort to provide minimum working standards for app-based couriers is the first of its kind in any major U.S. city — and they hope the measures will influence local governments across the country. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced his support for the measures, which come as the city fends off dual lawsuits from delivery giants over previous Council-passed regulations on their business. “The exploitation of delivery drivers is unacceptable,” Bill Neidhardt, a de Blasio spokesperson, told THE CITY. “City Hall wholeheartedly supports these bills to protect delivery workers and deeply appreciates the grassroots organizing of Los Deliveristas Unidos to make this possible.” But unlike prior Council bills tied up in court battles, the new package has the full support of at least one app company, Grubhub. The new package of six bills would allow food couriers access to restaurant bathrooms, put limits on how far they can be asked to deliver, set minimum payments per trip and ensure that tips get to workers. For the first time, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) declared his support Tuesday night. “The basic human dignity of delivery workers, many of whom are immigrants, has been ignored for too long across the country,” said Johnson in a statement. “New York City is taking the lead in transforming this industry with a legislative package that will give deliveristas the rights they deserve.”

 Algorithmic Management - Increasingly, algorithmic management is used to control workers using software technology– the technology of mathematical algorithms. Management’s algorithms that control workers can best be understood as opinions expressed in a mathematical formula.In the realm of management, these become managerial operations formulated as equations put into a computer-coded program for management. These formulas are based “on” management and they operate “for” management. They do exactly what management tells them to do.Algorithms are not neutral technologies. Instead, they are tools that serve management.Algorithmic management that controls workers is mostly used in the vicinity of line management. Primarily, algorithmic management is a technique to remotely manage, discipline, and punish workers. Essentially, it relies on two things: data collection (e.g. big data) and the remote but ultra-tight surveillance of workers. Put into a formula, an algorithm allows management to run automated or semi-automated decision-making processes and surveillance operations.Unsurprisingly, big data collection and mathematical algorithms are central to algorithmic management as they allow for the functioning of digital labour and other online platforms. In turn, digital labour platforms are ideal for the harvesting of data on workers to be used against them.Online work and platform work are linked to the so-called gig economy which has roughly two parts: in the first part, workers offer online services on a platform like cleaning, data entry, or even selling products; in the second, and more common part, workers are employed by an online platform like Uber.The second form is entering ever more areas of work such as, for example, one of the most commonly used, is that of warehouses (Amazon). But algorithmic management is also found in retail, food delivery, manufacturing, marketing, consultancy, banking, hotels, call centres, and even among journalists, lawyers and the private police, security where online platforms like life eye surveillance offer management ever more control.In these jobs, algorithmic management means the automatic allocating of work tasks to workers through handheld or wearable devicelike smartphones and computers. For example, the so-calledride-hail-driver are forced to turn on their smartphone app to receive the next work task. On it, workers receive algorithmically organised trip and delivery requests from management.Workers are given a 15 second time window to accept or reject the next so-called “gig” – a work task. If they accept the request, which they mostly have to do in order not to be punished and disciplined or lose their jobs – workers are then given a delivery or passenger’s location via the management app’s map display.Algorithmic management automatically withholds key work information such as for example, fare and destination. Yet, management platforms also restrict the ability of workers to decline trips allocated to them algorithmically. Not surprisingly, 80% of all workers accept management’s tasks allocated to them automatically. They tend to do so mostly likely out of fear to be disciplined. As one worker said, you do what the App tells you.

Mormon church to require masks in temples amid COVID surge - — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that masks will be required inside temples to limit the spread of COVID-19.Church leaders said in a statement that masks will be required temporarily in an effort to keep temples open. The message was the latest in a series of statements from church leaders encouraging masking and vaccination efforts against COVID-19.“As cases of COVID-19 increase in many areas, we want to do everything possible to allow temples to remain open,” the church said in a statement. “Therefore, effective immediately, all temple patrons and workers are asked to wear face masks at all times while in the temple.” In Utah, where the church is based, a summer surge of the virus among unvaccinated residents has continued to grow while vaccination rates have slightly increased.

More Than Half Of US Companies To Impose Vaccine Mandates, New Survey Finds --A survey conducted by risk management and advisory company Willis Towers Watson has found that more than half of U.S. companies expect to impose COVID vaccine mandates on their employees by the end of the year. The survey of 1000 companies, employing close to 10 million people, found that 52 percent of employers are planning some form of vaccine mandate for workers.The figure would be a massive increase on the 21 percent of employers who currently have mandates in place.The survey also found that almost one-third of employers say they are planning to make full vaccination a requirement to enter the workplace building.A further 21 percent said could make vaccination a requirement for any new hires, the literal enacting of a ‘no jab, no job’ policy.The survey also noted that 59 percent of employers are already tracking workers’ vaccination status, with a further 19 percent planning to do so by the end of the year.Of those already tracking vaccination status, 62 percent require workers to submit proof of vaccination.The survey also found that “Eight in 10 respondents (80%) require employees to wear masks indoors at any location. Another 13% are planning or considering doing so.”

United Airlines employees sue company over its ‘draconian’ COVID vaccine mandate United Airlines employees have filed a lawsuit against the airline over its coronavirus vaccine mandate. United in August said that more than half of its 67,000 U.S.-based employees who weren't vaccinated in August would be required to get the vaccine by Sept. 27, but made an exception for those with medical and religious reasons, which employees argue has not been the case. The six employee plaintiffs say United Airlines has failed to approve accommodation requests regarding the vaccine and instead offered six years of unpaid leave for those wishing not to get the vaccine. "We filed this lawsuit to protect the rights of honest, hardworking United Airlines employees who have religious or medical reasons not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. United has refused to grant any accommodations and these employees are scared by United’s draconian mandate that forces them to either get the vaccine or lose their job. That’s unacceptable in America," Mark Paoletta, a partner at Schaerr-Jaffe representing the plaintiff, said in a statement to FOX Business. Workers who routinely come in contact with passengers, such as flight attendants, gate agents and pilots, and whose exemptions are approved will face indefinite unpaid leave starting Oct. 2. They won't be allowed back on the job until the pandemic "meaningfully recedes," according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The pandemic has worsened a shortage of child care workers. --Schools have largely reopened this fall, but life is far from normal for parents of young children. One reason is that child care — for children too young for school, and for the hours before and after school — is operating at 88 percent of its prepandemic capacity. Even before the pandemic, child care did not cover everyone who needed it.The shortage is partly because of the pandemic. Some centers went out of business after lockdowns early on. Because children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines, many programs are enrolling fewer children to limit potential exposure.But the biggest reason for the shortages, child care providers across the country said, is that they can’t find people to hire.Eight in 10 providers said they were experiencing a staffing problem, and half said hiring was harder than before the pandemic,according to a survey over the summer of 7,500 of them by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.Half said they were serving fewer children as a result of hiring problems, and a quarter had reduced their hours. The lack of child care is also contributing to other labor shortages, because many parents who can’t find reliable child care can’t return to work.Child care providers face challenges like those in many other service industries that are unable to find enough workers: low pay and little job stability. The median hourly pay is $12, and 98 percent of occupations pay more, according to data from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. Turnover is high in early childhood education, and jobs caring for school-aged children are only a few hours a day and often end in the summer Some people are hesitant to work with unvaccinated children. The job requires more qualifications, including background checks, certifications and even college degrees in some areas, than the stores and restaurants that are paying more. Yet child care centers have not responded the way some other industries have — by significantly raising wages and expanding benefits.

New York hospitals are poised to fire thousands of workers who are not vaccinated by the state’s deadline. - In Buffalo, the Erie County Medical Center plans to suspend elective in-patient surgeries and not take intensive-care patients from other hospitals because it may soon fire about 400 employees who have chosen not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by the state’s deadline to do so this coming Monday.Officials at Northwell Health, New York’s largest provider of health care, estimate that they might have to fire thousands of people who have refused to get vaccinated.And while the vast majority of staff members at New York City’s largest private hospital network, NewYork-Presbyterian, had been vaccinated as this week, more than 200 employees faced termination because they had not.These are just a fraction of the workers at risk of losing their jobs or being put on unpaid leave after Monday, when a state directive requiring hospital and nursing home employees in the state to have received at least one shot of a Covid vaccine takes effect.As of Sept. 22, state data shows, around 84 percent of New York’s 450,000 hospital workers and 83 percent of its 145,400 nursing home employees had been fully vaccinated. But tens of thousands of others are estimated not to have gotten a shot despite the threat of losing their jobs. Common explanations from the holdouts include fear of potential side effects, natural immunity from a coronavirus infection and the beliefs that the state mandate violates their personal freedom.On Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said that the Monday deadline was firm and that her administration was developing emergency plans to cover for those who are laid off, going so far as to look into recruiting temporary workers from the Philippines or Ireland. “What is looming for Monday is completely avoidable, and there’s no excuses,” Ms. Hochul said, pleading for those who have not done so to get vaccinated.

Texas restaurant kicks out couple who wore masks to protect their at-risk son -- A Texas restaurant tossed out a couple who wore face coverings to protect their immunocompromised 4-month-old son — and its owner is defending the move, saying, “I don’t want masks in here.”Natalie Wester and her husband went to Hang Time Bar & Grill in Rowlett earlier this month with some friends to let loose, but the new parents decided to mask up out of an abundance of caution due to their at-risk child at home, who has cystic fibrosis, KTVT reported.“If you’ve ever been new parents, having those couple of hours out like once or twice a month is so important for your mental health,” Wester told the station Saturday.But hopes of a relaxing, stress-free outing were dashed when a waitress told the fully vaccinated couple they’d need to take off their masks as part of the restaurant’s dress code, Wester said.“Our waitress came over, sat down next to me and said, ‘So, our manager sent us over because I am nicer than he is and yes, this is very political, but you need to take your mask off,’” Wester recalled.The owner of the restaurant, which also features live music, confirmed that the couple was asked to leave on Sept. 10 because they didn’t check their face coverings at the door.“I’ve spent my money on this business, I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears in this business and I don’t wany any masks in here,” the owner, identified only as Tom, told the station.The owner said he has every right to refuse business to anyone who doesn’t adhere to his unofficial dress code. There’s no sign stating the policy, but a hostess tells all customers that they must take off their masks at the front door, KTVT reported.“I feel the overall reaction with masks is ridiculous in the United States right now,” the owner said. “So when they put their masks on the other night, they were reminded that they were asked at the front to take it off. They didn’t want to, so we asked them to leave.” An attorney told the station that rules or policies enforced by businesses cannot violate a person’s health needs as specified under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the legality of the face mask ban is unclear, according to the report.

New York City mayor reduces quarantine and testing protocols in schools - On Monday, New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio unilaterally announced that unvaccinated children who are known to have been exposed to COVID-19 in classrooms will no longer be required to quarantine. Although the mayor said he would increase testing from once every other week to once weekly, still only an inadequate ten percent of all students will be tested and only those students whose parents sign a consent form. These moves come just one week after schools reopened in the largest district in the US with roughly 1.1 million students. They will undoubtedly accelerate the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, which is already surging through the city, among children and in their communities. Since July 7, the seven-day average of daily new cases in New York City has skyrocketed from 188 to 2,094, an eleven-fold increase. Across the US, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among children have risen dramatically as a result of school reopenings. On Monday, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) announced that another 225,978 children were officially infected with COVID-19 last week and 20 more children died. Since July 1, a staggering 1.47 million children have been infected, 4,561 have been hospitalized and 145 have died. Coinciding with de Blasio’s announcement, the DOE posted a notice on its website Monday that read, “Beginning on Monday, September 27, we will no longer close an entire classroom when there is a positive case. Unvaccinated students who are wearing face coverings and have maintained at least three feet of distance from a student who tests positive will not be considered close contacts and will not have to quarantine.” Previously, in an already dangerous practice, only vaccinated children did not have to quarantine. In a statement, de Blasio told the media: “We saw enough quarantining that we thought this is something we want to get ahead of, and make sure that only those who really need to quarantine are quarantining.” The reduction of the quarantine protocols was widely denounced on social media by educators and parents who have seen firsthand that a three-foot distance between children is impossible in most New York City schoolrooms. One educator from Queens tweeted, “Friends, if this isn’t reason for NYC parents and teachers to join together in a general strike, idk what is.”

N.Y.C. schools prepare for staffing shortages as a vaccine mandate looms.The nation’s largest school system is preparing for disruption in some schools next week, as a vaccine mandate for virtually all adults working in New York City schools is set to take effect on Monday at midnight, which could result in staffing shortages by Tuesday morning.The mandate — which requires workers to receive at least the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Monday and is the first mandate without a test-out option for any group of city workers — covers more than 150,000 people, including educators, school staff and central office employees.Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mandate last month, but thousands of Department of Education employees still haven’t received their first doses or haven’t submitted proof of vaccination, according to estimates from the D.O.E. and the leaders of unions representing educators.More than 90 percent of teachers and principals have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to union leaders, and it’s highly likely that more educators will get their first shot or submit proof of vaccination by Monday night to avoid losing their paychecks.But Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city’s teachers’ union, said there are still roughly 6,000 teachers who will be barred from entering schools on Tuesday if they don’t get a shot over the weekend. The teachers’ and the principals’ unions on Friday called on Mr. de Blasio to delay the implementation of the mandate until at least next weekend, so that schools have more time to plan for the shortages. Later on Friday, Mr. de Blasio resisted those calls during a radio appearance and said the city had “thousands” of substitutes ready to fill vacancies in schools next week.Educators who refuse to be vaccinated will be able to take a year of unpaid leave and keep their health insurance until the end of the school year.The city has said it will send vaccinated substitute teachers and central office staff into schools to cover shortages. But the most pressing challenges may not be in the classroom: Only about 80 percent of school staff, including aides, custodians, safety agents and school lunch helpers, have received at least one dose.

D.C.’s mayor says adults in schools and eligible student-athletes must get vaccinated by Nov. 1.- All adults and eligible student-athletes who are regularly in schools and child care centers in Washington, D.C., must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Nov. 1, the district’s mayor said on Monday.Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s announcement eliminates an earlier testing option for school employees but retains exemptions for religious or health reasons.Cities including New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago have also introduced vaccine requirements for school employees without a testing option. Such mandates became more widespread after theFood and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in August.In the Washington requirement, in addition to the school employees, student-athletes who are 12 or older (and therefore eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) also have to be vaccinated to engage in “extracurricular athletics.” Student-athletes who turn 12 between Monday and Nov. 1 must be fully vaccinated before Dec. 13.No coronavirus vaccines have been federally authorized for children younger than 12, meaning they make up a sizable unvaccinated population. Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that their vaccine was found to be safe and highly effective in children aged 5 to 11. If the F.D.A. authorizes its use in children — an application is expected by the end of the month — millions of students could be inoculated in the weeks afterward.More children have been sickened by the coronavirus since the extremely transmissible Delta variant became dominant. Children are still far less likely to become severely ill than adults, but many schools and districts across the country have closed temporarily because of outbreaks.Federal guidance recommends that schools impose measures like masking and social distancing, and that as many people as possible get vaccinated to keep students safe.At a news conference on Monday, Ms. Bowser said that “we feel very confident that our staff have really adopted and accepted the vaccine, for the most part.”She continued, “It’s very clear, especially for our young people who are not eligible for the vaccine yet, that the best way to protect them is to have the adults around them vaccinated in addition to all of the other mitigation strategies that we use.”The vaccine requirement will apply to virtually everyone who regularly spends time in schools, including teachers, coaches, principals, librarians, guidance counselors, bus drivers, security personnel, custodians and volunteers, along with student-athletes.Public, private, charter and parochial schools are all included in the rule, as are child care facilities regulated by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

Pennsylvania COVID-19 cases and deaths up tenfold after full reopening of schools --Coronavirus cases and deaths are once again surging in Pennsylvania, with the seven-day average of daily new cases now standing at 4,774, a jump of over 30 percent in the past 14 days and tenfold since August. On June 27, after schools had closed for the summer, the seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 165 cases per day, nearly 30 times lower than the present daily average. The number of deaths is also up tenfold in less than two months, climbing from a seven-day average of four per day on August 1 to 42 per day at present. The surge in infections and deaths has been driven by the lifting of all restrictions and the reopening of schools in August, promoted by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf along with local politicians, allowing the highly transmissible Delta variant to rip through the population. Hospitalizations are also on the rise statewide, with 2,337 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, of whom 588 are in intensive care and 283 on ventilation. This compares to fewer than 500 people hospitalized at the beginning of August. Infections and hospitalizations of children are also skyrocketing. The number of new cases amongst children 0-4 for the week from September 8 to 14 grew to 1,057, bringing the cumulative total since August 16 to 3,678. For school age children, the number of new cases climbed to 7,218 and a total of just under 20,000 since August 16, compared to 630 cases during the same week in 2020. Within two weeks of reopening, six schools in Philadelphia have been forced to close because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Emlen Elementary School became the first school to return to all virtual because it had 10 COVID-19 cases emerge last Monday. Philadelphia County is reporting a 7-day average of over 300 new cases per day, the highest in the state.Coronavirus cases in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas have also skyrocketed since schools began reopening, forcing the temporary closure of many classrooms and schools. These include the following:

  • The Beaver Area School District was forced to switch its high school and one elementary school to virtual learning for at least two weeks after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the two schools. The district was to re-evaluate the status on Friday but has yet to publish an announcement on its website.
  • The Woodland Hills School district closed one of its elementary schools for two weeks as over 10 cases of COVID-19 were found among students younger than 12.
  • The Butler Area School District is reporting 45 active cases including 16 at its high school and 15 at its intermediate school.

K-12 schools caused more than half of all COVID-19 outbreaks in Michigan last week - K-12 schools in Michigan have been open for less than a month, and they have quickly become not just the number one source of COVID-19 outbreaks in the state, but the source of the absolute majority of new outbreaks. Out of a total of 175 new COVID-19 outbreaks in Michigan last week, 98 (56 percent) took place at K-12 schools, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). An additional 14 outbreaks were placed in a separate category that includes child care, youth sports and after school programs. Click here for interactive map. All parts of Michigan are affected, with 49 of its 83 counties reporting at least one school-related outbreak in the last month. Counties with large numbers of outbreaks in K-12 schools include Lenawee (14); Monroe (13); Saginaw and Jackson (12 each); Lapeer (10); Kalamazoo and Oakland (9 each); Ottawa (8); Genesee, Kent, Macomb, Midland and Wayne (7 each); Ionia and Livingston (6 each); and Barry, Eaton, Marquette and Tuscola counties (5 each). The 44 COVID-19-positive students, teachers and staff at Cedar Springs High School near Grand Rapids make up the state’s largest individual K-12 outbreak. Next are St. Charles High School near Saginaw, with 42 cases, followed by Pinconning High School in Bay County, Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, and Adams Elementary in Midland, each with 31. The next 17 worst-hit schools have between 10 and 26 cases each. Burbio’s school opening tracker shows that schools across Michigan have temporarily gone virtual or canceled classes outright in the face of COVID-19 outbreaks, including Morley Stanwood High School, Engadine High School, Mt. Pleasant Middle School, St. Charles Community High School, and Battle Creek’s Lakeview High School. Eastpointe Middle School, near Detroit, recently went virtual, not due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but because not enough teachers agreed to report to the dangerous school building. Thirty-three Michigan children are now hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the MDHHS. Child hospitalizations are on the rise nationally, and in the last five weeks over 100 children have died from COVID-19 across the US, or roughly three per day. Eight Michigan children under 15 years old have died from COVID-19, many from the horrific condition known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Another 36 young Michiganders age 15-24 have lost their lives to the virus since the pandemic began. The devastating effects of “Long COVID” are only beginning to be understood, but according to a recent study, those who survive after being hospitalized face an average reduction of two to seven IQ points, depending on whether or not the patient needed to be placed on a ventilator, itself a physiologically traumatic experience.

Coronavirus data for Friday, Sept. 24: Teens account for largest COVID case increase in Michigan - - Michigan’s daily COVID-19 case rates have been climbing for 2.5 months, including a nearly 50% increase over the last two weeks. Children 10 to 19 years old represent the largest week-over-week increase in cases (27%), as well as the highest average daily case rate per capita (386.7 cases per million people). That’s likely due in part to the return to school in recent weeks, which resulted in an increase in school-related COVID outbreaks. Case rates are increasing for all age groups, with the 20-29, 30-39, and 40-49 brackets also reporting higher than state average daily case rates. As a state, Michigan ranks 35th in the nation in new cases (per capita) over the last seven days -- up eight spots from last week. Its 46% increase in cases over the last two weeks trails only Wisconsin (82% increase), Montana (66%), and Alaska (46%), according to health department data compiled by The New York Times.. Meanwhile, Michigan’s COVID deaths have been tracking up for seven weeks, and the rate of in-patient hospital beds being used for COVID patients has climbed for nine weeks, recently reaching 7%. Below is a closer look at the latest state and county coronavirus data, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 83 of 84 counties have “high” transmission rates. All eight regions of the state, and 98% of its counties, are reporting more than 100 new weekly cases per 100,000 people and/or a positive test rate of 10% or higher. That’s enough to fall under the CDC’s highest of four levels of transmission risk. Federal health officials came up with the risk assessment tool to determine which communities should reinstate indoor masking habits, regardless of vaccination status. The only county that didn’t land in the “high” risk level the last week was Sanilac, which reported 94 new weekly cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of 5.7% over the last seven days. However, Sanilac still falls into the “substantial” risk level, which also comes with a recommendation for everyone to mask-up indoors.

U.S. schools with mask requirements are seeing fewer outbreaks, the C.D.C. finds. -- School mask mandates have generated controversy in many parts of the country. Now, two studies, published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provide additional evidence that masks protect children from the coronavirus, even when community rates are high and the contagious Delta variant is circulating.One study, conducted in Arizona, where children returned to school in July, found that schools that did not require staff and students to wear masks were 3.5 times as likely to have a virus outbreak as schools that required universal masking.A second study looked at infections among all children in 520 different counties across the United States, and found that once the public school year started, pediatric cases increased at a far higher rate in counties where schools did not require masks.The first study analyzed data on about 1,000 public schools in Maricopa and Pima counties, which include the metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson, and account for most of the state’s population.Only 21 percent of the schools implemented a universal mask mandate upon opening, and nearly half had no mask requirement at all. Another roughly 30 percent enacted a mask requirement about 15 days after school started.Between July 15 and Aug. 31, there were 191 school-associated virus outbreaks that occurred about a week after school started. The majority of them — 113 outbreaks, or nearly 60 percent of the total — occurred in schools with no mask requirement.Only 16 outbreaks, or 8 percent of the total, took place in schools that implemented mask requirements regardless of vaccination status from the start. There were 62 outbreaks, or about one-third of the total amount, in schools that implemented a mask requirement after the school year had already started. The study defined an outbreak as two or more positive confirmed cases of infection among staff or students within a 14-day period.

Biden launches investigation into Texas school mask mandate ban - The Biden administration has launched a civil rights investigation into Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) executive order prohibiting school mask mandates, the latest in a series of probes by the Department of Education into whether the statewide bans violate the rights of students with disabilities. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath in a letter Tuesday that it was opening a probe into whether “students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education," as a result of the ban on mask requirements. Suzanne Goldberg, the Education Department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, said that the investigation will specifically focus on whether the statewide ban is preventing schools from meeting components of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which protects students from disability-based discrimination, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits public entities, including educations systems, from discriminating based on disability.

Florida school district condemns students accused of harassing LGBT rights supporters - A Florida school district said it is taking action in response to viral social media footage that appeared to capture a group of local high school students harassing classmates involved in an LGBT rights organization on campus by yelling homophobic slurs and stomping on a Pride flag. Cellphone footage from the incident, which occurred at the end of the school day Friday at Bartram Trail High School (BTHS) in St. Johns County, appeared to show some students holding up Confederate flag symbols and approaching their classmates outside, yelling statements like, "Y'all have a mental illness,” and “There’s only two genders,” followed by the F-word derogatory term referring to gay people. A transgender student who filmed one of the videos told local news staton WJXT that a group of male students were targeting members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. Other videos showed students appearing to stomp on a Pride flag as other students could be heard laughing in the background. St. Johns County School District spokesperson Christina Langston said in a statement shared with The Hill that "seven male students received consequences within the Level III and Level IV infractions within our student code of conduct." According to text of the student code shared with The Hill, Level III violations include "major acts of misconduct which the School Board has determined constitute a serious breach of conduct," while "Level IV acts of misconduct are the most serious," with possible sanctions including suspension, placement in another school or expulsion. Students found to have committed Level III and Level IV infractions may also face criminal proceedings, according to the district's code of conduct.

High school students accused of planning attack on Columbine anniversary - High school students accused of planning attack on Columbine anniversary Four high school students in Pennsylvania have been accused of planning a school shooting in 2024, on the 25th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said Friday that two of the students, a 15-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl, have been charged as adults due to the nature of the alleged crimes, ABC27 News reported. The female teen is charged with possessing weapons of mass destruction, terroristic threats, aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy. The male teen is charged with possessing weapons of mass destruction, possessing explosive materials, criminal conspiracy, terroristic threats, criminal conspiracy and aggravated assault. Court documents show the group was allegedly planning to attack Dunmore High School on April 20, 2024, using guns and bombs. Authorities said that the teenagers titled the alleged plot “Natural Born Killers” and said in a group chat they would “shoot up the school.” They also called “dibs” on certain victims, authorities said. The texts allegedly said that the 15-year-old girl had materials to make explosives at her home, which officers discovered through a search warrant, according to the local outlet. Police also found a notebook where she allegedly idolized the Columbine shooters and the guns they used. She allegedly told the group she would get trench coats, gas masks and bulletproof vests for everyone.

A school district in Georgia has raised substitute teacher pay from $89 to $189 a day as schools struggle to find staff - A school district in metro Atlanta has hiked substitute teachers' pay from $89 a day to $189 a day.Cobb County School District, which has 112 schools, raised wages starting September 6, as schools across the US struggle to find staff. The district also raised supply teacher pay from $112 a day to $212 a day.Substitute and supply teachers are in particularly high demand in some areas to cover for teachers who are isolating after being exposed to the coronavirus.The district said it was using funding from CARES, a federal coronavirus relief fund, to finance the raises. The higher rates of pay are set to expire in May.Some teachers have left the profession because of burnout and fears of catching the coronavirus. More than half of the 484 K-12 employees surveyed by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence in February said that "the risks I'm taking working during the COVID-19 pandemic are not on par with my compensation." Schools have been dangling massive bonuses to retain staff, with one district in South Carolina giving teachers $2,500 bonuses. Georgia offered $1,000 to all K-12 public school-level staff including teachers, nurses, and admin staff in March. Other school districts across Georgia are raising pay for substitute teachers, too.Fulton County Schools District, for example, has raised daily pay for substitute teachers from $100 to $175, and from $120 to $200 for those in long-term substitute jobs. "The incentive plan aims to counter the shortage caused by the pandemic," the district says on its website.

Record Level of American Men Foregoing College --Yves Smith - The Wall Street Journal published an in-depth article on how male enrollment at two and four year US colleges is at record low levels, to the degree that some schools are skewing enrollments towards men to keep the gender ratio from being wildly out of whack.Author Douglas Belkin’s sources don’t have tidy explanations for this decline in male willingness to pursue higher education. The drop in male participation is worst at private four year schools. It’s most pronounced among low income white men.Many of the men interviewed said they didn’t see that getting a sheepskin would be worth the cost. While it is rational not to take on a big debt load if the income payoff isn’t there, why would men be more likely to see college as a bad bet than women? Is it because men (or at least reasonably able bodied men) see that their fallbacks include jobs that can pay solid hourly rates, such as construction, carpentry, plumbing, or electrical work (although it takes training to become competent in the trades)? By contrast, some female-dominated positions that require credentials but not degrees, like certified nursing aides, are not well paid; home health care aides, retail, and waitressing often pay at or not much above minimum wage.The piece tacitly accepts that many, clearly too many, wind up as student debt slaves, yet politely avoids looking at how that sorry outcome has come about.Nevertheless, as the article makes clear, many of these men feel unmoored by not having a career path or plan, particularly since society has not let men escape their traditional role of being a provider (both men and women in couples are uncomfortable if the women has the higher income).The key facts, per the Journal: Men are abandoning higher education in such numbers that they now trail female college students by record levels.At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, womenmade up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5%, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71% of the decline.This education gap, which holds at both two- and four-year colleges, has been slowly widening for 40 years. The divergence increases at graduation: After six years of college, 65% of women in the U.S. who started a four-year university in 2012 received diplomas by 2018 compared with 59% of men during the same period….

College football season continues in front of full crowds, risking massive COVID-19 super-spreaders - With the college football regular season continuing into its fourth week of games, a major public health disaster is looming. Despite the continued spread of the more infectious Delta variant, colleges and universities have essentially removed any safety measures and are allowing games to resume with full audience capacity. The motivating factor for the schools to allow these deadly events is profits. In the last year’s season, limitations on in-person attendance, imposed in piecemeal fashion by state and local governments, as well as a handful of game cancellations due to outbreaks in teams caused schools to lose out on hundreds of millions in anticipated revenue. College football in the United States is among the most-attended sporting competition in the world, with more than 42 million tickets sold to Division 1 games in 2019, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for college sports. The top 25 college stadiums all have a capacity of 69,000 people or more, and seven stadiums hold over 100,000. The largest is Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan Wolverines, with a capacity of 107,601. Most major programs, including Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Texas A&M, are not requiring fans to show any proof of vaccination or enforcing mask wearing. Some schools like Louisiana State University are requiring guests either show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test. However, these limited measures are only intended to save face, not prevent the spread of the virus. They are fully in line with the Biden administration’s insistence that the population must “learn to live with the virus,” or in plain language, to live with constant infection and death as all measures necessary to end the pandemic are being rejected out of hand by both Democratic and Republican politicians. It has been well documented that tens of thousands of “breakthrough cases,” or infections of vaccinated individuals, have taken place each day for the last several months, driven by the surge of the more aggressive Delta variant. In an environment of tens of thousands of people who are encouraged to scream and yell, mass transmission is practically guaranteed.

Michigan’s largest colleges end COVID-19 tracker notifications - The administrations at University of Michigan (UM) and Michigan State University (MSU) announced on September 14 that they were ending their COVID-19 case notifications for classrooms and building spaces barely two weeks into the semester. The two universities collectively enroll over 100,000 students, who have been sent recklessly back to campus for in-person learning along with thousands of staff and faculty while case numbers are climbing and hospitals are overflowing. The University of Michigan began sending notifications of possible exposure to COVID-19 based on positive cases in university buildings back in August 2020. The decision to end the notification program was announced during a week where statewide case numbers increased sharply. The state’s two-day average infection rate rose to 3,302 on Friday, a level not seen since the last major wave of infections in early May. At least 62 COVID-19-related deaths were identified in the state between Monday and Wednesday. All 83 counties currently confirm positive cases, and at least 74 school outbreaks were documented as of September 13. Reports are emerging this week that ICUs and ERs across the state are reaching full capacity due to the crisis created by the spike in infections. The reopening of all K-12 and college campuses amid the Delta variant surge is undoubtedly fueling these infection spikes. Cases are expected to increase in the coming weeks, despite varying levels of mitigation. At UM, there have been over 400 confirmed positive cases among students and staff between the last week of August and the second week of September. At MSU there have been at least 178 confirmed cases during approximately the same time frame. Both the MSU and UM administration notices cited the supposedly “confusing” and “limited benefit” of sending notices to students and staff who occupy the same classes or buildings of those who test positive. To this the UM announcement cynically added that “simply attending the same class or being in the same building as someone with COVID-19 does not qualify as a close contact requiring quarantine or testing when all individuals are wearing a face covering and the vast majority are vaccinated.” The UM statement also alleged that “Classrooms have not been associated with COVID-19 transmission due to the university’s masking requirement, high vaccination rates in the U-M community and ventilation standards.” The university provided no scientific reports or data to support these claims.

Board: Mississippi public universities can't mandate COVID-19 vaccine - The board of trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning has voted to ban public universities from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. Caron Blanton, communications director for the group, said the vote took place on Friday during an annual retreat, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.Medical center mandates for the vaccine will remain in effect, the board said.“Except for clinical settings within institutions, centers, departments, and programs, institutions are directed to refrain from mandating the COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of enrollment or employment,” the motion states. Passage of last week's motion follows an Aug. 27 meeting where the board voted against requiring public universities to mandate the vaccine.The August vote led to confusion, however, with some schools believing that meant they could enact their own requirements, according to the AP.Many public universities across the country have implemented vaccine mandates, with some schools disenrolling students who fail to comply.

Infants exposed to domestic violence have poorer cognitive development - While assessing a pregnant woman with premature labor in 1983, Linda Bullock noticed bruises on the woman. When she asked what happened, the woman told Bullock a refrigerator had fallen on her while cleaning the kitchen. “We stopped her labor and sent her home, but I will bet my last dollar I sent her back to an abusive relationship, and it sparked my interest in helping other nurses assist battered women. What we didn’t know at the time was the impact violence had on the baby.” Bullock helped implement the Domestic Violence Enhanced Perinatal Home Visits (DOVE) program in rural Missouri, which empowered safety planning and reduced domestic violence for hundreds of abused pregnant women. After learning from home health visits that many of the abused women had up to nine different romantic partners during and following pregnancy, Bullock conducted a study to examine the impact of multiple father figures on the cognitive development of the newborn infants. After administering neurodevelopmental tests during home visits three, six and 12 months after birth, she was surprised to find the infants of women who had only one male partner who abused them had worse cognitive outcomes compared to infants of women with multiple male partners, only some of whom were abusive. “The findings highlight the variety of ways the multiple father figures may have been helping the mom support her baby, whether it was providing food, housing, childcare or financial benefits,” Bullock said. “For the women with only one partner who abused them, the infant’s father, the father may not have provided any physical or financial support or played an active role in the child’s life. It can be difficult for busy, single moms struggling to make ends meet to provide the toys and stimulation their infants need to reach crucial developmental milestones.” Bullock added that infants coming from homes with domestic violence often go on to have worse academic outcomes in school due to neurodevelopmental lags and a higher risk for a variety of health issues, including gastrointestinal distress, trouble eating and sleeping, as well as stress and illness.

People who eat more dairy fat have lower risk of heart disease, study suggests - People with a higher consumption of dairy fat have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those with low intakes, according to new research studying some of the world's biggest consumers of dairy products. An international team of scientists studied the dairy fat consumption of 4,150 60-year-olds in Sweden -- a country with one of the world's highest levels of dairy production and consumption -- by measuring blood levels of a particular fatty acid that is mostly found in dairy foods. Experts then followed the cohort for an average of 16 years to observe how many had heart attacks, strokes and other serious circulatory events, and how many of them died. After statistically adjusting for other known cardiovascular disease risk factors including age, income, lifestyle, dietary habits and other diseases, researchers found that those with high levels of the fatty acid -- indicative of a high intake of dairy fats -- had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as no increased risk of death from all causes.

Longitudinal Trends in Body Mass Index Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic Among Persons Aged 2–19 Years — United States, 2018–2020 | MMWR www.cdc.gov -- The COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures, disrupted routines, increased stress, and less opportunity for physical activity and proper nutrition, leading to weight gain among children and adolescents. Among a cohort of 432,302 persons aged 2–19 years, the rate of body mass index (BMI) increase approximately doubled during the pandemic compared to a prepandemic period. Persons with prepandemic overweight or obesity and younger school-aged children experienced the largest increases. the COVID-19 pandemic, children and adolescents spent more time than usual away from structured school settings, and families who were already disproportionally affected by obesity risk factors might have had additional disruptions in income, food, and other social determinants of health. As a result, children and adolescents might have experienced circumstances that accelerated weight gain, including increased stress, irregular mealtimes, less access to nutritious foods, increased screen time, and fewer opportunities for physical activity (e.g., no recreational sports) (2,3). CDC used data from IQVIA’s Ambulatory Electronic Medical Records database to compare longitudinal trends in body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) among a cohort of 432,302 persons aged 2–19 years before and during the COVID-19 pandemic (January 1, 2018–February 29, 2020 and March 1, 2020–November 30, 2020, respectively). Between the prepandemic and pandemic periods, the rate of BMI increase approximately doubled, from 0.052 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.051–0.052 to 0.100 (95% CI = 0.098–0.101) kg/m2/month (ratio = 1.93 [95% CI = 1.90–1.96]). Persons aged 2–19 years with overweight or obesity during the prepandemic period experienced significantly higher rates of BMI increase during the pandemic period than did those with healthy weight. These findings underscore the importance of efforts to prevent excess weight gain during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as during future public health emergencies, including increased access to efforts that promote healthy behaviors.

Scientists close to classifying long COVID as autoimmune disease - Long COVID patients may finally get an answer as to why they're still sick.The National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday that it's kicking off a $470 million study to figure out why COVID-19 symptoms persist for so long among many patients.Already, research has started to coalesce around a theory: The virus may set off an autoimmune reaction that causes lingering symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of smell, muscle aches, or brain fog."We can't say for sure that it's an autoimmune disease now, but it's really starting to look like it," John Arthur, a researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, told Insider.In a study published this month, Arthur and his colleagues suggested that some people who get COVID-19 develop "auto-antibodies" that attack their own proteins — a hallmark of many autoimmune diseases. That process leads to inflammation that could trigger long COVID."Everything is sort of fitting together so far — we're just not quite totally there yet in terms of our understanding," Arthur said.If the theory proves true, it would have implications for COVID-19 treatments. Certain blood-pressure medications, for instance, could be used to stifle the harmful cascade of inflammation. And there's already some evidence that vaccines help alleviate long COVID symptoms — perhaps because the shots help regulate the antibody response.A recovered COVID-19 patient is monitored by a medical staff at the Department of Rehabilitative Cardiology in Genoa, Italy on July 23, 2020. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images One-third of coronavirus patients have at least one persistent symptom for 12 weeks or more, according to a recent study that hasn't yet been peer reviewed. Scientists have wrestled with the mystery of why that happens for more than a year.

Asymptomatic infection is the pandemic’s dark matter PNAS - Asymptomatic infection is difficult to observe and characterize, by definition, as asymptomatic individuals are not sickened, do not present for care, and cannot be identified without testing. Nonetheless, the frequency with which such infection occurs is key to understanding the epidemiology of the pandemic. In PNAS, Sah et al. (2) provide a rigorous systematic review and metaanalysis of what we know about asymptomatic infection to date. Their review includes 390 studies—a testimonial to the intensity with which this question has been studied. Their results are important: Notwithstanding the virulence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, true asymptomatic infection is common (35%), and asymptomatic infection varies markedly by age, being far less common in older individuals (20%) than in children (47%), with symptomatic infection being more common in long-term care than other settings.These authors (2) also address two important biases in the study of asymptomatic infection in their study and note that failure to address these biases distorts estimates of asymptomaticity. The first bias is an ascertainment effect associated with studies including symptomatic index cases in their estimates. The second bias is introduced when studies capture populations of infected individuals at a single time point, which means that presymptomatic individuals (symptomatic cases whose latent period has ended but who have not yet entered the symptomatic stage) are misclassified as asymptomatic. In their review, the authors find that failure to adjust for these biases results in a predictable underestimation of the frequency of asymptomatic infection in the former case, and overestimation of asymptomaticity in the latter.These biases, and their effects, are described in Fig. 1. The circles at the left-hand side of the figure make up a hypothetical population of infected individuals, with a true prevalence of asymptomatic infection (blue circles) of around 33%. If this population attracts notice as a result of an outbreak with notable illness, we may be more likely to sample symptomatic index cases, creating sample A. By contrast, if we are able to sample the population systematically, and obtain a representative sample of infectives, we will create sample B. If we ascertain the prevalence of symptoms at a single point in time, we will misclassify presymptomatic individuals (diagonally shaded circles) as asymptomatic. This will lead to overestimation of the prevalence of asymptomatic infection. In the diagram, 4/9 (44%) of the sample are “asymptomatic” at the first time point in sample A, while 6/9 (67%) are “asymptomatic” in sample B; both samples provide an overestimate of the true probability of asymptomatic infection. If we allow time to pass so that presymptomatic individuals become symptomatic, the probability of asymptomatic infection in sample A drops to 1/9 (11%), a marked underestimate. However, in sample B, the probability declines to 3/9 (33%), which reflects the true underlying probability of asymptomatic infection in the source population.

Longer NYC Commutes, Household Crowding Linked To Higher COVID-19 Rates - Longer commute times and crowded apartments came with higher rates of COVID-19 transmission at the height of the pandemic in New York City, according to a recent study from Cornell University. The researchers, whose disciplines merged architecture, public health and engineering, looked at a range of environmental factors that could be tied to the spread of the coronavirus in urban areas and found commutes and crowding had the strongest correlation.Timur Dogan, senior study author and assistant professor of architecture at Cornell, said he and his team wanted to try to identify data that would “link how we design cities with a kind of pandemic resilience.” Simply being on a train or bus has never been a great predictor of catching the virus. A September 2020 study found no clear connection between coronavirus spread and riding the New York City subway and other transit systems worldwide, noting that cases fell in the five boroughs even as ridership gradually increased. The New York Times pointed out in May 2020 that ridership had rebounded in cities around the world where the pandemic had ebbed without mass transit being linked to any superspreader events.The Cornell study made a similar finding, but by looking at a wider variety of potential trends, it revealed a correlation between infection rates and the average number of minutes spent commuting on public transit.The study relied on U.S. Census data on New Yorkers’ commute times published before the start of the pandemic. It then compared those commuter times against case rates in different parts of the city across five phases of the city’s first wave. Phase No. 1 was the initial outbreak from January 20th to March 22nd. Phases No. 2 (March 23rd to April 5th) and No. 3 (April 6th–June 7th) represented the start of the lockdown period. Phase No. 4 marked the original reopening from June 8th–July 19th, and Phase No. 5 ran from then to August 26th, “when the reopening process concluded and the city entered the ‘new normal,’” according to the study authors.During Phase 3, each extra minute added onto the average commute time for a given neighborhood correlated with a 0.8 increase in the daily new case rate (the number of new cases per 100,000 people). Add 30 minutes, and infections go up by 24 cases per 100,000. Tack on 45 minutes, and the rise is 36 cases per 100,000.During the other periods analyzed, there was still a relationship between a neighborhood’s average commute time and case rate, but it was less significant. Dogan speculated that those who had long commutes on subways or buses before the pandemic may have been more likely to continue taking public transportation during the outbreak because they lacked another alternative. They might have then risked greater exposure to the virus by spending a significant amount of time in close proximity to others during their commutes, he said.

Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant Infections Among Incarcerated Persons in a Federal Prison — Texas, July–August 2021 CDC. Summary: Incarcerated populations have experienced disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19–related illness and death. During a COVID-19 outbreak involving the Delta variant in a highly vaccinated incarcerated population, transmission rates were high, even among vaccinated persons. Although attack rates, hospitalizations, and deaths were higher among unvaccinated than among vaccinated persons, duration of positive serial test results was similar for both groups. Infectious virus was cultured from vaccinated and unvaccinated infected persons. What are the implications for public health practice? Even with high vaccination rates, maintaining multicomponent prevention strategies (e.g., testing and masking for all persons and prompt medical isolation and quarantine for incarcerated persons) remains critical to limiting SARS-CoV-2 transmission in congregate settings where physical distancing is challenging.

COVID-19 virus is evolving to get better at becoming airborne, new study shows - Results of a new study led by the University of Maryland School of Public Health show that people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 exhale infectious virus in their breath – and those infected with the Alpha variant (the dominant strain circulating at the time this study was conducted) put 43 to 100 times more virus into the air than people infected with the original strains of the virus. The researchers also found that loose-fitting cloth and surgical masks reduced the amount of virus that gets into the air around infected people by about half. The study was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. “Our latest study provides further evidence of the importance of airborne transmission,” said Dr. Don Milton, professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD SPH). “We know that the Delta variant circulating now is even more contagious than the Alpha variant. Our research indicates that the variants just keep getting better at travelling through the air, so we must provide better ventilation and wear tight-fitting masks, in addition to vaccination, to help stop spread of the virus.” The amount of virus in the air coming from Alpha variant infections was much more—18-times more—than could be explained by the increased amounts of virus in nasal swabs and saliva. One of the lead authors, doctoral student Jianyu Lai explained that, “We already knew that virus in saliva and nasal swabs was increased in Alpha variant infections. Virus from the nose and mouth might be transmitted by sprays of large droplets up close to an infected person. But, our study shows that the virus in exhaled aerosols is increasing even more.” These major increases in airborne virus from Alpha infections occurred before the Delta variant arrived and indicate that the virus is evolving to be better at travelling through the air.

The Relationship Between Preexisting Medical Conditions and COVID-19 in the United States -- A recent peer reviewed analysis that appeared on the Centers for Disease Control looked at underlying medical conditions and severe illness (aka comorbidities/preexisting medical conditions) that were found in American adults aged 18 and over who were hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 2020 and March 2021. The study used health records from more than 800 U.S. hospitals for 4,899,447 adults, 540,677 who were patients with COVID-19. Let's look at the analysisHere is the title page of the research showing the names of the authors: Let's open this posting with a quote from the introduction which outlines the limits of previous studies:"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a need remains to under- stand indicators for severe illness, defined as admission to an in- tensive care unit (ICU) or stepdown unit, invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), or death. Several underlying medical conditions among adults, including diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease (CKD), hypertension, and immunosuppression, have been reported to be associated with increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. However, many existing studies are limited in geographic representation, restricted to cases early in the outbreak, or focused on a limited number of preselected conditions and/or severe outcomes. Finally, few studies have shown the effect of the number of underlying medical conditions on the risk for severe COVID-19 illness.Both the baseline prevalence of a condition and the magnitude of its association with COVID-19 illness help determine the impact of a condition at a population level. This study, based on a large electronic administrative discharge data set, sought to describe the most frequent underlying medical conditions among hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and their associations with severe illness. This information can better inform clinical practice and public health priorities, such as identifying populations for focused prevention efforts and potential vaccine prioritization."The authors used the Premier Healthcare Database Special COVID-19 Release dated May 11, 2021, a large, US hospital-based, all-payer database. The sample, as noted above, included patients aged 18 years and older who had an inpatient diagnosis of COVID-19 between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. The median age of patients was 66 years, with 48.3 percent being female, 17.5 percent being non-Hispanic Blacks and 17.2 percent being Hispanic or Latino.The authors examined three indicators of severe COVID-19 illness:

  • 1.) admission to an ICU or step-down unit - 46.2 percent of patients in the study
  • 2.) intermittent mandatory ventilation (which is defined as a type of control mode ventilation in which the patient breathe spontaneously while the ventilator delivers a prescribed tidal volume at specified intervals and allows the patient to breathe spontaneously between cycles. The ventilator rate is set to maintain the patient's PaCO2 at desired levels and is reduced gradually to zero as the patient's condition improves) - 14.2 percent of patients in the study
  • 3.) death - 14.8 percent of patients in the study

The authors considered each patient's specific underlying medical conditions and the number of these conditions. The They used a multistep approach to identify the underlying medical conditions and selected the most frequent conditions (of which there were 18) which had a prevalence of ten percent or more in the sample.

Understanding Why Breakthrough Covid Occurs - The recent change in masking guidance from the CDC and reinstated public health measures from local and state governments have been met with frustration and defiance, with people understandably questioning why they got vaccinated if they have to go back to masking and distancing anyway. The answer is in the degree of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and the explanation lies in the way vaccines work. We can help our patients understand this with three talking points:

  • 1. The antibody levels in the bloodstream are completely helpless at preventing infection (saying it that way seems to get everybody's attention!) - Neutralizing virus particles from the environment is the sole responsibility of the vaccine-induced antibodies in our respiratory, GI, and ocular secretions -- our "frontline" defensive antibodies in our saliva, tears, nasal secretions, and pulmonary mucus. When exposed to airborne virus particles, these antibodies attach to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, physically preventing it from latching on to the ACE2 receptor on the surface of our respiratory epithelium and gaining entry to those cells to cause an infection. But that's all we've got -- if we are exposed to so many virus particles that all the antibodies in these secretions have attached themselves to virus particles, yet we continue to expose ourselves to new particles faster than we transport more antibodies into these secretions, our antibody defense gets overwhelmed, we inhale or come in contact with more virus particles than we are able to neutralize, and we get infected.
  • 2. Circulating antibodies help to contain the infection. Once infected, the virus takes over the machinery of our cells to make more virus particles and release them, and that's where our circulating vaccine-induced antibodies come in. They latch on to these newly minted particles to prevent them from infecting adjacent cells and from being exhaled. Therein, unfortunately, lies one of the Delta variant's strong suits -- it can reproduce itself so rapidly that our antibodies don't slow it down much, and we see that when infected, vaccinated people are shedding virus similarly to unvaccinated folks.
  • 3. Our vaccine-induced T-cell immunity limits disease severity. The third element of the response to the vaccine that you don't hear as much about is the T-cell immunity that is induced. This arm of the immune system kills off our own infected cells -- they're a lost cause anyway, and will need to be replaced -- and thereby limits the extent of disease. That's why the vaccines remain effective at limiting the severity of disease, and the reason why we don't see many vaccinated people among the hospitalized even as the number of vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant increases. That's also why it's so critical to get vaccinated -- the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. But it is not in the T-cell job description to go after viruses themselves. Vaccine-induced T-cells do not provide protection against getting infected; they only mitigate severity once infected.

The FDA's expert panel backs COVID-19 booster shots for adults 65 and older and those at highest risk of severe disease An expert panel advising the US Food and Drug Administration said on Friday that a booster shot of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine should be made available to older adults and others at high risk from the pandemic, under an emergency use authorization.While the committee was persuaded by the evidence that a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would help those at highest risk, the group was not convinced to include younger people now. The group initially voted 16-2 to reject the idea of a third dose for everyone 16 years and older. That was a defeat for Pfizer, which wanted to make the booster shots available to all adults."We continue to believe in the benefits of a booster dose for a broader population," Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, said in a statement after the meeting. "Boosters will be a critical tool in the ongoing effort to control the spread of this virus."Committee members proposed the more limited recommendation that FDA issue an emergency use authorization for a third dose of Pfizer for those over 65, and for people at high risk of severe cases of COVID-19. The vote for that proposal was unanimous (18-0). Experts have said there is a clearer rationale and more data to support booster doses for those populations, at six months after their first two Pfizer shots. Several experts previously told Insider that boosters should be rolled out now for older adults The panel also voted to suggest that the FDA make the booster available to people who are at higher risk of being exposed to the virus at work, such as healthcare workers and teachers. The FDA isn't required to follow the recommendations of its advisory committees, meaning it could still decide to approve booster shots for everyone 16 and older.

FDA advisory panel deals a blow to Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine booster plans - On Friday, September 17, the scientific advisory committee of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted 16-2 against Pfizer’s application to offer a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine to all eligible recipients, 16 years old or over. The decision came only three days before the scheduled launch of Biden’s announced plan to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all those previously vaccinated. The advisory panel reconvened in the afternoon to vote on a revised booster question. It unanimously supported offering a third jab to those 65 years or older or at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Though not taking a formal vote, the panel was polled on which groups might be considered for a booster. All agreed that health care workers or those at high risk of occupational exposure should be given such considerations. The panel’s decision does not bind the FDA, but it usually follows the recommendations. The advisory panel did not discuss how high-risk occupational exposures would be defined, given the high rates of community transmission. Many workers in factories, teachers at schools, and those working gig jobs have told the WSWS that there have been widespread COVID-19 infections in their workplaces. The scientists and public health experts on the advisory panel appear to have been following the data they were presented, which demonstrated a substantial benefit from booster shots, particularly for the elderly and those at higher health risk. . Evidence has been mounting that the immunity generated from the vaccines, both Pfizer and Moderna, begins to wane over time, leading to a higher risk among the vaccinated to developing breakthrough infections and severe disease. Most of this data comes out of Israel, where after a high rate of vaccination in the first months of 2021, the complete abandonment of public health measures has led to a resurgence of infections with the highly transmissible Delta variant, for which the booster campaign has become a stop-gap measure. There has been an appreciable decline in infection rates and disease severity among elderly people in Israel who have received the third shot.

CDC advisory panel voted against giving workers with a higher risk of getting COVID-19 a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot, after FDA authorized it - The Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in some groups on Wednesday, and lots of American workers just became eligible.The FDA authorized the boosters for people 65 and older and people 18 to 64 who are at a high risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19. It also approved the shots for people 18 to 64 who are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 while at work. That could include healthcare workers, teachers, and grocery store employees, among other occupations.But on Thursday, an independent group of medical advisors to the Centers for Disease Control split with the FDA and voted 9-6 againstrecommending booster doses for adults who are at greater risk of COVID exposure in their work, including healthcare workers and teachers. The CDC panel did vote to recommend boosters to older adults who had their first two shots at least six months ago, as well as to adults with underlying medical conditions. While the vote for older adults was unanimous, the panel split 13-2 on recommending boosters to 50-64 year-olds with underlying conditions, and 9-6 on recommending extra shots for 18-49 year-olds. Unlike the initial vaccine rollout, the US is less likely to face a supply issue where those who are eligible have a difficult time getting a shot.The US is still urging Americans to get their first vaccine dose. As of Wednesday, 75% of eligible Americans 12 years of age or older had received one vaccine dose according to the CDC, while 64% were fully vaccinated.

Big gap between Pfizer, Moderna vaccines seen for preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations. — Amid persistent concerns that the protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines may be waning, a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that America’s workhorse shot is significantly less effective at preventing severe cases of disease over the long term than many experts had realized. Data collected from 18 states between March and August suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces the risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 by 91% in the first four months after receiving the second dose. Beyond 120 days, however, that vaccine efficacy drops to 77%. Meanwhile, Moderna’s vaccine was 93% effective at reducing the short-term risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and remained 92% effective after 120 days. Overall, 54% of fully vaccinated Americans have been immunized with the Pfizer shot. A vaccine provider prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic run by the Allegheny County Health Department at Casa San Jose, a non-profit serving Latino immigrants, Tuesday, September 14, 2021, in Beechview. The surprising findings came as a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended against offering booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine to all Americans ages 16 and older. In a striking rebuke, 16 of 18 experts told the agency it had not mustered enough data to make a third shot the norm. In lengthy briefings to the panel, representatives from Pfizer pointed to clinical trial results involving 306 mostly healthy participants to argue that a booster “restores” the 95% vaccine effectiveness rate seen earlier in the pandemic. Company officials also touted evidence from Israel, which rolled out boosters after seeing a rise in hospitalizations among people who were fully vaccinated. Those hospitalizations dropped dramatically after third doses were given, Israeli scientists have said. But panel members made clear that despite Pfizer’s aggressive stance, it had not gathered enough evidence that a third shot was safe for young people and for those at lesser risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. FDA clearance for booster shots for everyone 16 and older would be seen as something “close to a mandate,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, a panel member and infectious-disease expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Rubin worried that such a move could redefine what it takes to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “None of us are there yet,” he said. But others apparently are. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top adviser on vaccines, has come out strongly in favor of booster shots, saying before Friday’s vote that a failure to endorse the shots “would be a mistake.” And in mid-August, Biden himself said his administration would begin making booster shots available the week of Sept. 20 to those vaccinated for at least eight months. Biden cautioned at the time that his plan was contingent on FDA approval. But his announcement stoked concerns of political meddling in a matter that required the unhindered evaluation of scientists.

Pfizer says its vaccine is safe and highly effective in 5- to 11-year-olds. --The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective in young children ages 5 to 11, the companies announced early on Monday. The news should help ease months of anxiety among parents and teachers about when children, and their close contacts, might be shielded from the coronavirus.The need is urgent: Children now account for more than one in five new cases, and the highly contagious Delta variant has sent more children into hospitals and intensive care units in the past few weeks than at any other time in the pandemic.Pfizer and BioNTech plan to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for authorization to use the vaccine for ages 5 to 11. If the regulatory review goes as smoothly as it did for older children and adults, millions of elementary school students could begin to receive shots around Halloween.Trial results for children younger than 5 are not expected until the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest, according to Dr. Bill Gruber, a senior vice president at Pfizer and a pediatrician.Pfizer and BioNTech announced the results in a statement that did not include detailed data from the trial. The findings have not yet been peer-reviewed nor published in a scientific journal.But the new results dovetail with those seen in older children and in adults, experts said.“There’s going to be a huge number of parents who are going to heave a big sigh of relief when they hear this,” said Dr. Kristin Oliver, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “We’ve been waiting for these kids to be protected.”Children have a much lower risk of Covid-19 than adults, even when exposed to the Delta variant. Still, some small number of those infected develop a life-threatening condition called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. Others may have lingering symptoms for months.Nearly 30,000 children were hospitalized for Covid in August; the least vaccinated states reported the highest rates. At Seattle Children’s hospital, about half of the children who are admitted for Covid are older than 12, according to Dr. Danielle Zerr, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at the hospital.“I’ve been dismayed at the fact that the sickest children in our hospital with acute Covid-19 or MIS-C are children who could have been vaccinated,” Dr. Zerr said.

An extra J. & J. shot substantially boosts protection against Covid, the company reports. - A second dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine substantially increased its protection against Covid-19, the company announced Tuesday morning. In a clinical trial, researchers found that two doses of the vaccine delivered 94 percent efficacy against mild to severe Covid-19 in the United States, up from 74 percent conferred with a single shot, the company reported. And two shots showed 100 percent efficacy against severe disease, although that estimate had a wide range of uncertainty.The data, presented in a news release, has been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, Johnson & Johnson said. Since the company received emergency authorization in February, 14.6 million people in the United States have received its one-shot vaccine.On Friday, an F.D.A. advisory committee recommended that the agency authorize Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for recipients of the vaccine who are at least 65 or at high risk of Covid. That vaccine, like Moderna’s, offers high levels of initial protection after two doses, which then seem to diminish slightly over several months.By contrast, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has shown little sign of waning. Researchers released a study last week comparing 390,517 vaccinated people to 1,524,153 unvaccinated ones. Up to five months after vaccination, the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against hospitalization remained steady at around 81 percent.As the pandemic has unfolded, people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have waited for guidance about whether they’ll need a booster. The new clinical trial, which recruited 32,000 volunteers around the world, compared people who received one dose of Johnson & Johnson to those who received two doses eight weeks apart.The researchers found that the second shot lifted the level of antibodies in the blood of volunteers four times as high as the level produced by the first shot. That improvement translated into stronger protection.Many people got their Johnson & Johnson shot far more than eight weeks ago. Other research suggests that the extra time between doses could mean even better protection.In a separate study announced last month, Johnson & Johnson gave boosters to clinical trial volunteers six months after their first dose, and then measured their antibody levels.Initially, the researchers reported that the antibodies rose nine times as high as after the first dose. But in Tuesday’s news release, the company announced the level had continued to rise, reaching 12 times as high as the initial levels.Some preliminary studies suggest that higher levels of antibodies against the coronavirus produce higher levels of protection against Covid. If that’s true, then a second Johnson & Johnson shot given after a wait of several months may prove even more effective than after just eight weeks.

COVID-19 infection increases risk for preeclampsia reported by WSU and PRB investigators - A newly published study found that women who contract COVID-19 during pregnancy are at significantly higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia, the leading cause of maternal and infant death worldwide. In “SARS-COV-2 infection during pregnancy and risk of preeclampsia: a systematic review and meta-analysis” https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(21)00947-9/fulltext published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers said their systematic review shows that women with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy had 62% higher odds of developing preeclampsia than those without the infection during pregnancy. “This association was remarkably consistent across all predefined subgroups. Moreover, SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy was associated with a significant increase in the odds of preeclampsia with severe features, eclampsia and HELLP syndrome,” said Roberto Romero, M.D., DMedSci, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch and professor of Molecular Obstetrics and Genetics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Both asymptomatic and symptomatic infection significantly increased the risk of preeclampsia,” Dr. Romero said. “Nevertheless, the odds of developing preeclampsia were higher among patients with symptomatic illness than among those with asymptomatic illness.” Preeclampsia is a sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia warning signs, in addition to elevated blood pressure, can include headaches, swelling in the face and hands, blurred vision, chest pain and shortness of breath. While the condition can manifest within a few hours, some women report few or no symptoms. The condition is responsible for 76,000 maternal deaths and more than 500,000 infant deaths every year, according to estimates from the Preeclampsia Foundation. It can affect the liver, kidney and brain. Some mothers develop seizures (eclampsia) and suffer intracranial hemorrhage, the main cause of death in those who develop the disorder. Some women develop blindness. The babies of preeclamptic mothers are affected by the condition and may develop intrauterine growth restriction or die in utero.

Pregnant women who receive COVID-19 vaccination pass protection from the virus to their newborns - Women who receive the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy pass high levels of antibodies to their babies, a new study finds. The effectiveness of the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers say, lies in their ability to trigger the production of the right antibodies, blood proteins capable of protecting individuals from infection. Whether this protection could pass from mothers to their infants before birth had remained a question. Published online September 22 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology—Maternal–Fetal Medicine, the new study of 36 newborns whose mothers received either the Pfizer–BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy found that 100 percent of the infants had protective antibodies at birth. Antibodies can either be produced as part of the natural response to infection or triggered by vaccines. With that in mind, the research team was able to tell apart antibodies in the neonatal blood that were created in response to natural infection from those made in response to the vaccines. The result is relevant because natural antibody responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are not sufficiently protective for many people. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that just 23 percent of pregnant women have been vaccinated, despite growing evidence of prenatal vaccine safety.Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study authors observed the highest levels of antibodies in cord blood of mothers who were fully vaccinated during the second half of their pregnancies. This insight provides evidence of transferred immunity to neonates, which correlates to protection against infection for infants during the first months of life. “Studies continue to reinforce the importance of vaccines during pregnancy and their power to protect two lives at once by preventing severe illness in both mothers and babies,” says Ashley S. Roman, MD, director of the Division of Maternal–Fetal Medicine and the Silverman Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health, and one of the study’s principal investigators. “If babies could be born with antibodies, it could protect them in the first several months of their lives, when they are most vulnerable.”

The evidence is in: COVID vaccines do protect patients with cancer– The long-awaited confirmation of the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination in patients with cancer has arrived, on time to be disseminated to a global audience at the annual congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO Congress 2021), the leading professional society for medical oncology. With a multitude of studies supporting similar conclusions still to be presented (tomorrow), new research revealed today that individuals with cancer have an appropriate, protective immune response to vaccination without experiencing any more side-effects than the general population. Indirect evidence suggests that a third “booster” shot could further increase the level of protection among this patient population. As patients with cancer were excluded from the clinical trials conducted to develop the vaccines and support their authorisation for use, the questions of whether the vaccines are safe in this vulnerable population and whether they provide adequate protection against severe forms of COVID-19 to individuals whose immune system may be weakened by various anticancer medicines had until now been left open. “The ESMO annual congress, held for the second time in a virtual format this year in an extra effort to protect our colleagues, has devoted significant efforts to making COVID-19 a priority,” said ESMO Chief Medical Officer George Pentheroudakis. “The fact that we have received more than 90 abstracts on the topic, with excellent data, is a clear demonstration that this was the right thing to do.”

Patients with multiple sclerosis show robust T-cell responses to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines — New research shows that Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients undergoing anti-CD20 (aCD20) treatment – which depletes the B cells that contribute to the MS attacks – are able to mount robust T-cell responses to the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, despite having a muted antibody response to the vaccines.Because B cells are responsible for antibody production, patients’ ability to produce antibodies that prevent the virus from entering and infecting a person’s cells is significantly muted when the B cells are depleted with aCD20 treatment. But the same patients are nonetheless able to mount very good responses of the second protective arm of their immune system, which uses T cells to eliminate cells once infected (thereby preventing viral spread to other cells), according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in a new paper published in Nature Medicine.“The message from this study is clear – it is worthwhile for patients with MS receiving aCD20 treatment to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which will prevent severe illness,” said one of the senior authors E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. “Based on this body of evidence, we urge patients with MS receiving aCD20 treatment to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they haven’t already.”

A W.H.O. panel recommends treating high-risk Covid patients with monoclonal antibodies. A World Health Organization panel has endorsed the use of a monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid patients at the greatest risk of being hospitalized or those who are not producing antibodies to fight off the disease.The treatment, developed by the U.S. drug maker Regeneron and the Swiss biotech company Roche, delivers via infusion lab-made copies of the antibodies that people generate naturally when fighting infection. It has garnered attention as an alternative — and expensive — therapy for Covid-19, particularly among some who have shunned vaccines. A cocktail of two antibodies administered by infusion, the treatment was given last fall to former President Donald J. Trump shortly after he was diagnosed with Covid.The Biden administration has also championed the treatment’s usein states where vaccinations have stalled and cases are rising, andits use has soared in the less vaccinated Southern states.The W.H.O. panel cited data from three unpublished clinical trials, as well as a large British study of Covid patients known asRecovery, that showed that the treatment likely reduces the risk of hospitalization in mildly ill patients who are likely to get much worse, because they are, for instance, older, unvaccinated or immunocompromised. The data also showed that the treatment lowers the likelihood of being put on a ventilator or dying among hospitalized Covid patients who do not seem to making their own antibodies.Data from the Recovery trial indicated that the treatment probably reduced deaths by as many as 49 per 1,000 among severely ill patients and 87 per 1,000 in those who were critically ill, according to a news release issued on Thursday. However, the panel found that for patients at lower risk and those with less serious symptoms, “any benefits of this antibody treatment are unlikely to be meaningful” and urged such patients to avoid seeking it “in order not to exacerbate health inequity and limited availability of the therapy.”

Against official advice, rich people are counting their antibodies ‘like calories.’Before Juhi Singh, 46, who owns a high-end wellness center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, jetted off to the Amalfi Coast last month, her personal driver took her to Sollis Healthcare, a concierge medical service in Manhattan, to measure her antibodies for the coronavirus.“I wouldn’t go on a trip without my antibodies,” Ms. Singh said. “It’s nerve-racking, but my numbers have been good.”Ms. Singh received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in February, and wanted to see if her immunity was still robust before joining friends at a five-star resort overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.Although medical experts warn that an antibody count cannot tell if somebody is protected against the virus, patients have been reading into the numbers anyway.Antibody testing on a monthly or regular basis has become a common practice among certain members of the nervous affluent class. “It’s the Upper East Side, the Hamptons circles,” Ms. Singh said. “It’s like dinner conversation at this point. It almost feels like counting calories.”Current tests only look for antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and not for T cells, which plays an important role in the body’s immune response.It is also not clear what the antibody count means.

Almost all San Francisco-area residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose -Almost 100 percent of residents in San Francisco-area county now have at least one vaccine dose, according to data collected by Marin County.The county says 97.3 percent of residents eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose, with more than 90 percent of eligible residents being fully vaccinated. The county reached more than 90 percent fully vaccinated on Sept. 18, with the county celebrating in a tweet. Among the county's whole population, including those not eligible for the vaccine, 78 percent is fully vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are currently only allowed for those above the age of 12, with vaccine makers working to get approval for younger ages. The data among race and ethnic lines show 89 percent of Asian Americans in the county are fully vaccinated, the most of any group. There are 86 percent of Hispanic people fully vaccinated, 83 percent of White people and 78 percent of Black people. The county has the highest overall vaccination rate in California and is one of the top 10 counties in the country, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

US COVID-19 death toll surpasses that of 1918 pandemic --The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed that of the 1918 flu pandemic, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University, highlighting the extraordinary damage incurred by the current virus.The U.S. has passed 675,000 deaths, the estimated toll from the 1918 pandemic, which for a century had been the worst pandemic to hit the country.“The number of reported deaths from Covid in the US will surpass the toll of the 1918 flu pandemic this month,” Tom Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tweeted earlier this month. “We cannot become hardened to the continuing, and largely preventable, tragedy.” Deaths from COVID-19 are also far from over. The U.S. is averaging about 2,000 more deaths from the virus every day, according to a New York Times tracker. Those deaths are overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated, though, highlighting that the continuing toll of COVID-19 is now largely preventable now that vaccines are widely available in the U.S. In 1918, there was no vaccine to help stop the flu pandemic. Still, the U.S. population was far smaller a century ago, meaning that the death rate from the 1918 pandemic is still higher than for COVID-19. E. Thomas Ewing, a Virginia Tech history professor, wrote in Health Affairs earlier this year that the death rate from the 1918 pandemic was about six in every 1,000 people, given the U.S. population at the time of around 100 million. The death rate from COVID-19 in the U.S. is about two in every 1,000 people. A disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths are also in the United States. Worldwide, the 1918 flu killed far more people than COVID-19 has so far, at about 50 million compared to about 5 million. Ewing also wrote that the prolonged toll of COVID-19 has not reflected well on the response. Many of the deaths in 1918 came in a “sudden escalation” in October of that year, “within weeks of the first cases and deaths,” he wrote. “The fact that deaths surged at the end of 2020, nine months after the pandemic reached the United States, with the highest daily death tolls in early January 2021, is perhaps the most discouraging comparison to the historical record,” Ewing writes. “We ignored the lessons of 1918, and then we disregarded warnings issued in the first months of this pandemic.”

Covid-19 Deaths in Delta Surge Trend Younger in U.S. – WSJ -- A surge in Covid-19 deaths caused by the highly contagious Delta variant is hitting working-age people hard while highlighting the risks for people who remain unvaccinated.Federal data show Covid-19 deaths among people under 55 have roughly matched highs near 1,800 a week set during last winter’s surge. These data show weekly tallies for overall Covid-19 deaths, meanwhile, remain well under half of the pandemic peak near 26,000 reached in January.The Delta-driven Covid-19 surge is the first major case surge to spread through a partially vaccinated U.S. population. High vaccination rates among the elderly, who are more vulnerable to severe Covid-19 outcomes, are restraining the overall increase in deaths, some researchers say. The change is shifting a larger share of deaths to younger populations with lower vaccination rates, underscoring the need to get more people inoculated to curb the pandemic, they say.“We don’t want anyone to die from a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Samuel Scarpino, managing director of Pathogen Surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute.The seven-day average for newly reported Covid-19 deaths each day recently eclipsed 1,600, up from an average that briefly moved below 220 a day in early July. With roughly 660,000 known Covid-19 deaths to date, the U.S. is on track to soon top the estimated 675,000 deaths that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked to the 1918-19 flu pandemic. Deaths have been concentrated among the unvaccinated, federal data show. The CDC released studies on Friday showing that unvaccinated Americans were 4.6 times as likely to be infected, 10 times as likely to be hospitalized and 11 times as likely to die.At Tampa General Hospital, about 90% of recent Covid-19 patients were unvaccinated, said Peggy Duggan, chief medical officer at the facility, which is one of Florida’s largest hospitals with more than 1,000 beds. Many patients who did get the shots have compromised immune systems due to organ transplants or cancer treatment, Dr. Duggan said.Tampa General’s recent Covid-19 patients in intensive care were 46 years old on average, far below the average during prior surges when vulnerable seniors were often hospitalized, Dr. Duggan said. The hospital’s death rate for Covid-19 patients hasn’t changed, sticking around 7%.“These are working people, they’re people with families and children they’re still raising,” Dr. Duggan said.Younger age groups have represented a growing share of deaths since vaccines became available, a trend that has continued into the summer’s Delta surge.Age is a major risk factor for people with Covid-19. People in their 30s are four times as likely to die from infections as people ages 18 to 29, according to the CDC. For people ages 75 to 84, the risk of death is 220 times as high.

Three children dying of COVID-19 every day in the US - According to the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) another 225,978 children were officially infected with COVID-19 and at least 20 died in the last week alone. Since July 1, a staggering 1.47 million children have been infected, 4,561 have been hospitalized and 145 have died. Over 100 children have died from COVID-19, or roughly three children a day, in the last five weeks in the US. The time period coincides with the forced reopening of K-12 schools and college campuses throughout the country. Perhaps even more alarming, the latest AAP data shows that multiple states have quietly changed their parameters for tracking child infections, hospitalizations and deaths in order to obscure the data. Alabama, for example, changed their definition of “child cases” from ages 0-24 down to 0-17. In Missouri and Hawaii the definition for “child cases” was adjusted from ages 0-19 to 0-17. Similar changes were made in other states. Florida has stopped reporting child hospitalizations altogether. Arkansas has stopped reporting child deaths and hospitalizations. Nebraska has completely removed their COVID-19 dashboard from public view—that is, the state is no longer reporting child cases, hospitalizations, or deaths. In other words, the available data for how the new Delta variant is affecting children is being manipulated to under-report the severity of the situation. Even with the efforts to play down the impact on children, the available data is incredibly damning. Over two weeks, from September 2 to September 16 there was a 9 percent increase in the cumulated number of child COVID-19 cases. Local reports reveal devastating stories of the young lives unnecessarily taken by the pandemic. On Thursday, September 16, 17-year-old Alexia Garrison, high school senior from Illinois passed away from COVID-19. Alexia’s father, Jason Garrison, told WCIA that his daughter had not been vaccinated, and she had no pre-existing conditions. Her father reported that his daughter had mild symptoms throughout her quarantine period after catching the virus. After she was no longer showing any symptoms, she returned to school. Alexia collapsed in her home late Wednesday night and was pronounced dead early Thursday morning. The family is being told that COVID pneumonia was the cause of death. On September 14, 13-year-old Danny Rees from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin died after testing positive for COVID-19. Danny’s mother, Tammy, told Channel3000 that her son had been congested for two days prior to his death. His mother thought he only had a cold before he suddenly stopped breathing while resting at home. The Fort Atkinson School Board approved a mask mandate Thursday night following his death.

Hospitals throughout US South remain inundated with COVID-19 patients as Delta variant surge continues - The Southern region of the United States is continuing to see an explosive growth of hospitalizations and deaths which is being fueled by the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19. The latest wave of virus is taking a dangerous toll on hospitals in multiple states, as the enormous influx of sick patients is causing strains on hospital staffing and placing untold pressure on health care workers. While states such as Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia have seen slight declines in their hospitalizations since the initial onset of the Delta wave in August and early September, deaths in all four states have shot upward in recent weeks, demonstrating that fatalities are catching up with the monstrous rise in infections which has been driven by the bipartisan push to reopen schools and lift all pandemic restrictions combined with low vaccination rates. In Georgia, daily deaths from COVID-19 have risen nearly ten-fold since August 1, according to data from the Georgia Department of Health. An average of 93.7 Georgians a day are currently dying of the virus, which represents a 977 percent increase since the beginning of August. The disaster facing the South has been one of the main contributors to the catastrophic resurgence of the pandemic in the US since early July. The country is now averaging over 2,000 COVID-19 deaths and about 150,000 new infections every day, the highest levels since the deadly winter surge. Despite the Biden administration’s recent announcement of a vaccine or testing requirement for business with more than 100 employees, about 770,000 shots per day of the vaccine are being dispensed nationwide, well below the peak of 3.4 million a day in mid-April. The slow rate of vaccinations has also rendered a large chunk of the population vulnerable to the Delta variant, with 46 percent still unvaccinated—including all children under the age of 12.In Tennessee, intensive care units remain dangerously full and have begun to create disruptions in hospital systems across the state. Conditions have worsened to the point where the hospital’s health operators are being forced to transfer ventilated patients to intensive care units (ICUs) in larger cities like Memphis or Nashville, which also have a very limited number of open beds. While COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have declined slightly over the last week, more than a thousand COVID patients remain in ICUs across Tennessee.

Washington governor to Idaho officials: 'Stop clogging up my hospitals' --Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) criticized neighboring Idaho’s leadership late last week, saying that Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s (R) policies were “clogging up” Washington’s hospitals. “Today in my state, Washington citizens in many cases cannot get heart surgery, cannot get cancer surgery that they need, because we are having to take too many people of unvaccinated nature and unmasked, many of whom come from Idaho, and that’s just maddening frankly,” Inslee said in an MSNBC appearance on Friday. “So we are calling for Idaho and the leaders there to lead and take some commonsense measures,” Inslee continued. “I’m disappointed the governor of Idaho has spent more time trying to reduce protection by reducing vaccine usage instead of concentrating on this, and then clogging up my hospitals.” Data shows hospital beds were at 77 percent capacity in Washington last week. Although Inslee has issued mask mandates in particular situations, Little has yet to unveil such requirements. But Inslee pointed to a broader political issue, noting in his interview that “it’s not just Idaho.” Instead, Inslee criticized the whole of the GOP. “Unfortunately, that entire party, the other party, is not helping out, pulling on the rope here. Many states are in the same position and many governors will experience the same frustration I have. So it’s time for people to start pulling on the rope and do an American duty. Get vaccinated, have useful use of masks where appropriate. If we do these things, we know we can best this pandemic.” Little hit back at Inslee’s comments in a Twitter post on Tuesday, saying, “Spokane County and the surrounding area on his side of the border continue to be hot spots for virus activity with the lowest vaccination rates in Washington,” despite mask mandates. Idaho has reported more than 1,800 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths in the past day, Johns Hopkins coronavirus data shows. Likewise, data shows that approximately 95 percent of intensive care unit beds across the state are filled. Meanwhile, slightly less than 45 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

September 21st COVID-19: 7-day average deaths is the highest since February --The CDC is the source for all data.The 7-day average deaths is the highest since February 27th.According to the CDC, on Vaccinations. Total doses administered: 386,780,816, as of a week ago 381,453,265, or 0.76 million doses per day. [table] : For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID). 12 states have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 69.0%, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland. New Jersey, Washington, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Oregon at 60.0%.The following 19 states and D.C. have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Virginia at 59.8%, District of Columbia, Colorado, California, Minnesota, Hawaii, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, South Dakota, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas and Texas, and Nevada at 50.0%. this graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.

 Coronavirus dashboard for September 22: the Delta wave rolls out? -- At last it appears that the Delta wave may be receding, as for now the US is on a definite downslope in cases. As of yesterday the US recorded 135,000 cases, a 31,000 decrease from the peak only 20 days before: Deaths have continued to rise, but may peak out below the 2400 level I identified previously as the low end of the range for a likely top by the end of this month. A look at the regional breakdowns shows that the Northeast and Midwest have continued to rise, albeit slowly, and may or may not be peaking. The West has declined, mainly driven by California. But the big news is that in the South, where Delta hit early and severely, cases have declined by 30%: Further, when we look at the 10 worst jurisdictions for cases, only South Carolina is from the Deep South. Aside from Guam, we have 3 States - KY, TN, and WV - from the Appalachians, and 5 - AK, ID, MT, ND, and WY - sparsely populated States in the northern West: Needless to say, all of these States are among the lowest vaccinated. An issue is whether the opening of the school year in the North will drive cases to a new peak. Since schools have been open over 2 weeks, and given the fast transmissibility of Delta, we ought to be seeing not just an increase, but an acceleration of that increase, within the next week, if school spread is enough to cause a renewed Delta wave. In that regard, let me just show cases and deaths in Israel, which has a similar vaccination profile to the US, with a similar anti-vaxx religious component: Cases and deaths are both down about 1/3rd from their recent peak there, even with schools open. An even better example is India, where the Delta variant first struck: Cases and deaths have totally reverted to background rates, declining by more than 90% from peak - and I hear tell that there are schools in India, so that doesn’t seem to have precluded the decline. If by the end of this month we don’t see a big increase from the reopening of schools in the North, then I expect the Delta wave to continue to ebb until cold weather arrives.

Jesse Jackson is released from a Chicago rehabilitation hospital a month after getting Covid. - The Rev. Jesse Jackson was released from a rehabilitation hospital in Chicago on Wednesday morning, a month after he and his wife, Jacqueline, were hospitalized with Covid-19, his representatives said.A spokesman for Mr. Jackson’s organization, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said the reverend was released from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where he had been transferred after being treated for about a week in another hospital for Covid-19.Mr. Jackson’s recovery was complicated by the fact that he has Parkinson’s disease, which caused his muscles to atrophy after he spent several days in a hospital bed, said Frank Watkins, a spokesman for Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Mr. Jackson revealed his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2017.“After he was in the hospital, they had to transfer him to a rehab center to restrengthen his muscles,” Mr. Watkins said in an interview on Wednesday. Mr. Jackson, 79, and his wife, Jacqueline, 77, were hospitalized on Aug. 21 with Covid-19, and Mr. Jackson was transferred to the rehabilitation hospital around Aug. 27, the organization said. Mrs. Jackson went home earlier this month after she received oxygen treatment in an intensive care unit. Both had been treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.Mr. Jackson got vaccinated in January, and he had been campaigning to convince more Black Americans to get inoculated.

Hospitals in Alaska struggle to handle a worsening outbreak.Alaska, once a leader in vaccinating its citizens, is now in the throes of its worst coronavirus surge of the pandemic, as the Delta variant rips through the state, swamping hospitals with patients. As of Thursday, the state was averaging 125 new cases a day for every 100,000 people, more than any other in the nation, according to recent data trends collected by The New York Times. That figure has shot up by 46 percent in the last two weeks, and by more than twentyfold since early July. On Wednesday, the state said it had activated “crisis standards of care,” giving hospitals legal protections for triage decisions that force them to give some patients substandard care. The state also announced an $87 million contract to bring in hundreds of temporary health care workers. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, said that while hospitals were strained, he did not see a need to implement restrictions aimed at curbing transmission. Still, he encouraged people who had not yet received a vaccination to seriously consider it. “We have the tools available to us for individuals to be able to take care of themselves,” Mr. Dunleavy said. While the state led the nation in vaccinations early in the year, it has been lagging in recent months, with half of its population fully vaccinated, compared with 55 percent nationally, according to federal data. Jared Kosin, the head of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, called the surge “crippling” in an interview on Tuesday. He added that hospitals were full, and health care workers were emotionally depleted. Patients recently were kept waiting for care in their cars outside overwhelmed emergency rooms. There is growing anxiety in outlying communities that depend on transferring seriously ill patients to hospitals in Anchorage, Mr. Kosin said. Transfers are getting harder to arrange and are often delayed, he said. Critically ill people in rural areas, where many Alaska Natives reside, often have to be taken by plane to a hospital that can provide the treatment they need, said Dr. Philippe Amstislavski, an associate professor of public health at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “Unlike in the lower 48, you don’t have that ability to move people quickly, because of the distances and remoteness,” said Dr. Amstislavski, who was formerly the public health manager for the Interior Region of Alaska, focusing on rural and predominantly Alaska Native communities. Mr. Kosin said that if hospitalizations rise much further, hospitals and clinics around the state could be forced to apply crisis standards of care and more extreme triage decisions. “That is the worst-case scenario we could be heading to,” he said.

California COVID-19 Facts for Friday Afternoon, September 24, Confirmed Cases: 4,448,666 (Up 7,276 Over Thursday) – 68,087 Deaths (Up 159 Over Thursday) - 23,678,300 People Fully Vaccinated - Positivity Rate: Rises from 3.1% to 3.2% Day-Over-Day -– On Friday afternoon, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released the most recent statistics on COVID-19 and updates on the state's pandemic response.

  • California has 4,448,666 confirmed cases to date. Numbers may not represent true day-over-day change as reporting of test results can be delayed.
  • There were 7,276 newly reported confirmed cases Thursday.
  • Cases are occurring largely among unvaccinated populations. See the data for vaccinated and unvaccinated cases.
    • For the week of September 5 – September 11, the average case rate among unvaccinated Californians age 16 or older is 62.83 per 100,000 per day and the average case rate among vaccinated Californians age 16 or older is significantly lower at 7.95 per 100,000 per day.
    • The great majority of new cases are among unvaccinated individuals. The rate among the unvaccinated is 8 times the rate among the vaccinated.
  • The 7-day positivity rate is 3.2%.
  • There have been 90,476,127 tests conducted in California. This represents an increase of 353,193 during the prior 24-hour reporting period.
  • There have been 68,087 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
  • As of September 24, according to the CDC, 83.4% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose. Providers have reported to CDPH that a total of 48,8993,173 vaccine doses have been administered statewide. Numbers do not represent true day-to-day change as reporting may be delayed. For more vaccination data, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard.

 Pressure is growing on U.S. companies to share technology for Covid vaccines. - As President Biden convenes heads of state for a Covid-19 summit on Wednesday, pressure is growing on American drug companies— particularly Moderna, the upstart biotech firm that developed its coronavirus vaccine with billions of dollars in taxpayer money — to share their formulas with manufacturers in nations that desperately need more shots.Last year’s successful race to develop vaccines in extraordinarily short order put companies like Moderna and Pfizer in a favorable light. But now, with less than 10 percent of the population in many poor nations fully vaccinated and a dearth of doses contributing to millions of deaths, health officials in the United States and abroad are pressing the companies to do more.The Biden administration has privately urged both Pfizer and Moderna to enter joint ventures with contract manufacturers with the aim of providing vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, according to a senior administration official.Those talks led to an agreement with Pfizer, announced Wednesday morning, to sell the United States an additional 500 million doses of its vaccine at a not-for-profit price — rather than license its technology — to donate overseas.The discussions with Moderna have not been fruitful, said the official, who expressed deep frustration with the company but requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information.A coalition of major drug and vaccine manufacturers in developing countries around the world is drafting an appeal to Mr. Biden asking him to press the companies more aggressively.The World Health Organization has also had trouble getting Moderna to the negotiating table, according to Dr. Martin Friede, a W.H.O. official, and Charles Gore, who runs a United Nations-backed nonprofit organization, Medicines Patent Pool. Both are working with a W.H.O.-backed technology transfer hub in South Africa. “We would love to get a discussion with Moderna, about a license to their intellectual property — this would make life so much simpler, but for the moment all attempts have resulted in no reply,” Dr. Friede said.

India plans to resume vaccine exports starting next month.--India’s health minister said on Monday that the country would resume exports of Covid-19 vaccines, five months after halting shipments during its own devastating wave of infections. The health minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, said that exports would resume starting next month, and that the vaccines would help fulfill India’s commitment to Covax, the United Nations-backed vaccine sharing initiative. He said that India would produce more than 300 million vaccine doses in October and a total of at least a billion over the final three months of 2021. “We will help the world and also fulfill our commitment toward Covax,” Mr. Mandaviya said. The minister did not specify which vaccines India would supply to Covax, or how many doses. Before halting exports in April, the country exported 66.4 million doses, a combination of commercial sales, grants and shipments to Covax, which is designed mainly to help low- and middle- income countries. India’s decision comes as its domestic vaccination campaign has picked up after a slow start. The government says it expects to finish inoculating all 944 million adults in the country by December. So far, 61 percent of adults in India have received their first dose, according to government data. The two main vaccines in use are Covishield, the local name for the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, produced by the Indian company Bharat Biotech. The decision on exports comes days before India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the United States, where he is scheduled to participate in a summit including President Biden and the leaders of Australia and Japan, and to speak at the annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly. The global vaccination effort is expected to be a focus of both meetings, and the Biden administration had been trying to persuade Mr. Modi to resume exports. India was initially expected to be the main vaccine supplier for the Covax initiative, and its export ban came as a heavy blow to the program, which is so far behind schedule that fewer than 10 percent of people in poor countries are vaccinated. India began to expand vaccine coverage to all adults in the country in May, after a devastating second wave of infections that overburdened its health care infrastructure, leaving thousands dead and many struggling to find hospital beds. The country’s total caseload stood on Monday about 318,000, the lowest in approximately six months, according to official data.

 Duterte accuses rich countries of hoarding Covid vaccines while the poor ‘wait for trickles.’ --With his country badly lagging in Covid vaccinations, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines railed against the world’s affluent countries at the United Nations on Tuesday, accusing them of hoarding vaccines while the poor “wait for trickles.”Reinforcing his reputation as blunt speaker, Mr. Duterte described the rich-poor divide over vaccination rates as scandalous. His remarks, delivered via prerecorded video to the 193-member General Assembly, were among the most forceful criticisms of the inequities that have been laid bare by the pandemic. Just 10 rich countries account for most of the 5.86 billion vaccine doses administered so far.“There is a man-made drought of vaccines ravaging poor countries,” Mr. Duterte said. “Rich countries hoard lifesaving vaccines while poor nations wait for trickles. They now talk of booster shots, while developing countries consider half-doses just to get by.”The disparity, he said, “is shocking beyond belief and must be condemned for what it is — a selfish act that can neither be justified rationally nor morally.”The Philippines has one of the lowest Covid vaccination rates in Asia, with just 16 percent of its population fully inoculated, and Delta variant infections have surged in recent months. The country also is among only a handful that have kept schools closed throughout the pandemic, which has put its 27 million school-age children at an increased disadvantage. Mr. Duterte has justified keeping elementary schools and high schools closed by arguing that students and their families need to be protected from contagion. But his policy has spawned a backlash among parents and students in a sprawling nation with endemic poverty. Many people, particularly in remote and rural areas, lack access to online learning.

Barbaric experiments with “COVID-19 drug kit” killed hundreds in Brazil- Last Saturday, a G1 report was published showing that the private health insurance provider, Prevent Senior, was involved in a sinister experiment in March-April 2020, secretly medicating hundreds of COVID-19 elderly patients with hydroxychloroquine and erythromycin without their knowledge, resulting in the deaths of at least nine people. The report showed a company director, Fernando Okinawa, in a WhatsApp group explicitly demanding that medical staff hide their prescriptions of a combination of hydroxychloroquine and erythromycin from patients. Meanwhile, cardiologist Rodrigo Ester, Okinawa and others distorted the patients’ data, erasing information on the deaths of seven out of nine patients, to publish a paper promoting the drugs as effective treatment for COVID-19 patients. With these alterations, they could claim that no one died when using their “early treatment.” The report about the macabre experiment was published after the Brazilian Senate’s inquiry commission (CPI) on Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic received a formal complaint in late August signed by 15 doctors stating that a deal was made between the Bolsonaro government and the company to distribute medications of the so-called “COVID-19 kit,” which includes hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin and other unproven or since discredited medications. The doctors’ complaint also described how they were forced not to use masks to “disseminate” the virus among patients who would be used as “human guinea pigs.” Last Thursday, the complaint was substantiated by a leak of medical records of patients. Another executive director from Prevent Senior, Pedro Benedito Batista Jr., was called by the CPI to testify on the revelations. A resemblance of this episode to the barbaric eugenic experiments undertaken by the Nazis was promptly recognized. Comments were made in the media making references to Josef Mengele, a Nazi SS officer who coordinated horrific experiments on camp prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. The disturbing nature of these practices was made even clearer this Wednesday during a CPI session with Batista, when it was revealed that Anderson Nascimento, a former Prevent Senior director, made regular references to the SS themes of “obedience and loyalty” and tried to promote them inside the company. He was discretely removed from the company in 2017 and now works in the even bigger Hapvida, a health insurance provider for 4.8 million people.

Covid cases among England’s schoolchildren hit record peak - Covid-19 cases among schoolchildren in England have surged to a record high, raising the spectre of further educational disruption and a fresh wave of infections in older groups.New cases among five to 14-year-olds increased by 80 per cent week-on-week to 811 per 100,000 in the period ending September 19, eclipsing their previous peak recorded in late July. The steep jump in Covid-19 infections among children has been followed by an uptick in cases affecting people aged 30 to 49 — their parents’ generation — which now stand at 286 per 100,000, having grown 7 per cent in the past four days. Cases among people aged 30 to 49 have gone up despite social mixing within this group remaining flat, at roughly three close contacts a day, according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s CoMix study, suggesting that the rise is due to transmission between children and parents.“If [the epidemic] keeps increasing like this all the way to half term, we’re in trouble,” said Prof John Edmunds, lead author of the study and a member of the government’s Sage committee of official scientific advisers. The eventualreturn of workers to the office could “worsen the situation”, he added.“This is where we have to start thinking about plan B,” said Edmunds. “These spillover effects from one age group to the next unfold over the space of several weeks, so we’d expect to see an uptick in even older groups soon.”“There’s very high levels of immunity in older age groups, so that will help, but the vaccines are not perfect,” he added.Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said on Wednesday that around half of all children had already contracted coronavirus, but there was still the possibility of more turmoil in schools over the months ahead. “We’re running into winter so there’s still quite a lot of damage that could be done in terms of disruption,” Whitty told the education select committee, adding that the majority of unvaccinated school-aged children aged between 12 and 15 would probably contract coronavirus “at some point”. Case rates among young adults aged 16-29 in England are falling. For the 50 or above category they are also declining or flat. Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London and a member of the Independent Sage group of scientific experts, said she feared that the wave of infections could reach vulnerable groups before the national vaccine booster campaign gathered pace. “The danger now is that we have a lot of vulnerable people who are waiting for their booster and are more than six months out from their second dose,” said Pagel. “The worry is not just that children will infect their parents, but they will eventually infect their grandparents.”

Daily Covid deaths rise to a new high in Russia, where vaccine hesitancy remains common. — Russia reported its worst-ever single-day Covid-19 death toll on Friday as coronavirus cases rise in some areas and vaccine hesitancy remains widespread.Russia’s daily death toll has remained essentially flat since July, in a narrow range from the 700s to just over 800. Many experts doubt the veracity of the daily numbers, in part because the death toll has been so relatively low and stable — and official figures of all kinds have been widely regarded with suspicion dating back to Soviet times. At least 300,000 more people died last year during the coronavirus pandemic than were reported in Russia’s most widely cited official statistics, according to a New York Times analysis of mortality data. But a trend is clear. On Friday, the reported toll ticked up to its highest level yet, 828, after it tied the prior record, 820, on Thursday. And with last weekend’s parliamentary election over, officials appear to be warning more urgently about the continued spread of the virus.Officials in the Moscow region said they had set up hundreds of new Covid hospital beds. In St. Petersburg, the government said that 348 people had been hospitalized with Covid in the last 24 hours — one of the highest such figures in Russia’s second-biggest city since early August, the Interfax news agency reported.“The increase in illness is only beginning,” a Russian epidemiological official, Natalia Pshenichnaya, told Interfax, adding that the pandemic was developing across Russia “in a very dynamic way.” Russia’s most recent high-profile outbreaks involve the inner circle of President Vladimir V. Putin, who has been in isolation himself after several members of his staff tested positive. Many Russians, however, have developed a laissez-faire attitude toward the virus, questioning the need to be vaccinated and often wearing masks around their chins, if at all. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has been widely available since early this year, and eligibility for Covid vaccinations begins at age 18. But Russia’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko, said last week that only 47.5 million people have had at least one dose, a number that represents less than half of the eligible population.

For a second straight day, South Korea hits a record number of infections after a long holiday.— South Korea reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, breaking the country’s daily record for new cases, which had been set just the day before.The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 3,273 new cases on Saturday, surpassing the previous record of 2,434 reported on Friday. Before then, the country’s highest one-day total was 2,221 infections, recorded last month.At a briefing on Friday, health officials said the spike was partly because of the Chuseok holiday, when many people traveled across the country and spent time with friends and family. The government is encouraging people to get tested following the holiday.Chuseok is roughly equivalent to American Thanksgiving and was observed from Monday through Wednesday. The Korea Transport Institute estimated that over 32 million people would travel over the holiday.Over the past week the nation was averaging about 1,500 new cases a day, according to statistics collected by Our World in Data. Most cases are concentrated in the capital, Seoul, and surrounding areas, but officials were concerned that the holiday would spread the virus more widely.Testing and quarantining were the main tools South Korea used to curb the spread of the disease, and the country was able to keep outbreaks at bay in the early part of the pandemic.South Korea’s vaccination program got off to a slow start, but the country has now vaccinated 43 percent of its population. It hopes to have 70 percent of its population inoculated by October. “There is no problem at all with the amount of vaccines secured for this year,” President Moon Jae-in said on Friday, according to Reuters. “The vaccine shipment got off to a slower start than other countries, which delayed the vaccination program, but I believe by next month, we will catch up and be a leading country by inoculation rate.”A few weeks ago the government relaxed several restrictions on in-person meetings. For Chuseok, family gatherings of up to eight people were permitted if at least four people were fully vaccinated.

Nearly 1 in 4 hospitals treating Covid in Afghanistan have shut down, the W.H.O. warns. - Nearly one-quarter of the hospitals treating Covid-19 in Afghanistan have closed in recent weeks, and the country’s efforts to respond to the pandemic have declined, World Health Organization officials said Wednesday. The W.H.O. issued an urgent warning on Wednesday, saying that Afghanistan is on the brink of “an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.” The notice followed a recent visit to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, where W.H.O. leaders met with the leadership of the Taliban, which is now in control of the country. The W.H.O. officials also met with United Nations partners, health care workers and patients. “Cuts in donor support to the country’s largest health project, Sehatmandi, has left thousands of health facilities without funding for medical supplies and salaries for health staff,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the W.H.O., and Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the organization’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said in a joint statement on Wednesday. Roughly two-thirds of the country’s health facilities are part of Sehatmandi, a three-year, $600 million project administered by the World Bank and financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the European Union, the World Bank and other donors. Because funds for the project were funneled through the Ministry of Public Health, donors withdrew their support after the Taliban seized power. Now, only one-sixth of all Sehatmandi facilities are fully functional, according to the W.H.O. “Many of these facilities have now reduced operations or shut down, forcing health providers to make hard decisions on who to save and who to let die,” the statement said. Officials also said that nine of the 37 hospitals treating Covid-19 in Afghanistan have closed, and coronavirus surveillance, testing and vaccination efforts have contracted. Afghanistan, which emerged from a surge in virus infections at the end of June, is starting to see cases rise again, this time involving the highly contagious Delta variant. Before last month, the W.H.O. said, about 2.2 million people, or about 6 percent of Afghanistan’s population, had been vaccinated against Covid-19. But in recent weeks, the organization said, vaccination rates have slowed markedly, and some 1.8 million vaccine doses in the country remain unused.

 Israel’s struggles to contain COVID-19 may be a warning for other nations. Widespread boosters don't dent case rate as schools, holidays foster spread - Israel, among the first countries to launch coronavirus vaccinations and the first to roll out booster shots on a large scale, is offering a disturbing glimpse of what could be in store for other rich nations if they begin to give boosters this fall. Israel launched its pioneering booster campaign in late July, prompted by a surge in cases reflecting the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant, the loosening of restrictions, and an apparent waning of protection from vaccines given in early winter. But cases have risen even higher since, suggesting boosters are far from a panacea when children and others remain unvaccinated. Since 30 July, Israel has given a third shot of messenger RNA vaccine to more than 3 million people, including a majority of those 40 and older. Yet Israel is “stuck in a status quo of 1000 or 900 new cases per million per day,” says Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer at Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest health maintenance organization, “which is a very bad status quo to be stuck at.” Public health experts differ about exactly why a country of 9.3 million that is vaccinating so aggressively still has one of the highest rates of reported infections per capita in the world, more than twice that of the United States. Extensive testing and social factors may play a role. But David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says it’s a sign that “providing booster shots alone does not dramatically change the course or trajectory of transmission at a country level. Because the majority of transmission is still occurring from people who are unvaccinated.” Israel’s vaccination rate—64% of its population has received at least two doses—puts it ahead of the United States but behind some 30 other countries. Among Israelis 60 and older who received a booster, the risk of infection fell 11-fold in August and the risk of severe disease 20-fold compared with their twice-vaccinated peers, according to a study of 1.1 million Israelis published in The New England Journal of Medicine last week and discussed by the FDA committee. At the meeting, Ron Milo, a systems biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, presented data showing that during August, the virus’ ability to spread—its so-called reproduction number—fell by 30%, until each infected person was infecting slightly less than one additional person, a threshold that’s essential for ultimately ending an outbreak. But Israel’s recent case counts don’t reflect that trend, noted advisory committee member Amanda Cohn, chief medical officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s respiratory disease center. “Why is it that if your [reproduction number] went below one … you’re at your highest [new case] rates right now?” she asked at the meeting. The paradox reflects social realities, Sharon Alroy-Preis, director of public health services for Israel’s Ministry of Health, told the meeting. Public schools opened on 1 September and the Jewish High Holy Days, with their attendant travel and family gatherings, stretch from 6 to 27 September. “The combination of [unvaccinated] children meeting in school followed up by large family gatherings is the recipe for mass dissemination of the disease,”

More People Are Eating Bugs – But Is It Ethical to Farm Insects for Food? --What is the life of a cricket worth?Insect farming is a rapidly growing industry, with hundreds of companies worldwide rearing insects atindustrial scales. The global value of insect farming is expected to surpass $1.18 billion by 2023.Farmed insects, or “mini-livestock," refers to insects such as crickets and mealworms raised for the sole purpose of being sold as food or animal feed.These are not the fried tarantulas on a stick hawked to tourists or scorpion lollipops sold as novelties. High-protein insect powder can be used in foods from breads to buns, pasta and protein bars. Such products are already available in countries including the U.S., Switzerland and Finland.As an entomologist who has studied the potential and promotion of edible insects in new markets, I have seen how much progress has been made in the past decade in normalizing the idea of eating insects worldwide. Now is the time to evaluate the ethical aspects of insect farming.The main motivation for edible insects' rising popularity is environmental. Producing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of insect protein requires about 10% of the feed, water and land used for the same amount of beef production, and releases as little as 1% of the greenhouse gases. Insects have a lower environmental impact even compared to other meat alternatives like dairy, gluten and mycoprotein.Raising insects on waste products significantly ups these benefits. Black soldier flies can be raised onagriculture byproducts like vegetable peels or spent grains. The larvae are then used as feed for fish and poultry, recycling waste and reducing reliance on more expensive soymeal and fishmeal feeds.Besides being big business, insect farms also provide important sources of protein and income for rural households. They can be established cheaply, with little space, and are a boon for smallholder farmers who lack the resources for livestock, all the while sustainably providing feed and fertilizer.A good example is the “Insects for Peace" program that has helped ex-combatants in post-conflict Colombia with their reintegration. The former soldiers have found livelihood farming black soldier flies, which are used as a feed component for livestock.An additional bonus is that insects do not evoke much empathy. With exceptions, even vegetarians rarely think twice about swatted mosquitoes, let alone the millions of agricultural pests killed when farming crops.Those who do mind can rest assured that farmed insects lead net-positive lives, with no fear of predators or starvation. Insect welfare is conveniently easy: While cramped, hot, filthy settings in factory farms are cruel for vertebrates, they are ideal for insects like mealworms that thrive when crowded together. One can imagine that there are not many requirements to set up a humane cockroach farm, though one's neighbors might disapprove. The slaughter of insects is another issue. Recent surveys of UK insect farmers found many are concerned about insect pain perception and providing their mini-livestock a “good death." The most common slaughter methods large-scale insect farmers use arefreezing or freeze-drying, with the assumption that the cold-blooded insects will humanely fall asleep and never wake up.While insects can and do sense physical pain, they likely do not do so consciously. Invertebrate neurologistShelley Adamo notes that many insect behaviors are “incongruent" with pain as mammals experience it, citing reports of insects walking normally on broken legs or mantids mating while their partner eats them alive. Entomologist Craig H Eisemann's influential review of the field, “Do Insects Feel Pain?," concluded that they are missing too many neurological, chemical and behavioral signs for a pain state.Nonetheless, scholars such as Eisemann and other advocates agree that insects should be farmed and killedwith the assumption that they do feel pain. That means the slaughter method should be as quick and painless as possible.

Baby Poop Is Loaded With Microplastics -- WHENEVER A PLASTIC bag or bottle degrades, it breaks into ever smaller pieces that work their way into nooks in the environment. When you wash synthetic fabrics, tiny plastic fibers break loose and flow out to sea. When you drive, plastic bits fly off your tires and brakes. That’s why literally everywhere scientists look, they’re finding microplastics—specks of synthetic material that measure less than 5 millimeters long. They’re on the most remote mountaintops and in the deepest oceans. They’re blowing vast distances in the wind to sully once pristine regions like the Arctic. In 11 protected areas in the western US, the equivalent of 120 million ground-up plastic bottles are falling out of the sky each year.And now, microplastics are coming out of babies. In a pilot study published today, scientists describe sifting through infants’ dirty diapers and finding an average of 36,000 nanograms of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) per gram of feces, 10 times the amount they found in adult feces. They even found it in newborns' first feces. PET is an extremely common polymer that’s known as polyester when it’s used in clothing, and it is also used to make plastic bottles. The finding comes a year after another team of researchers calculated that preparing hot formula in plastic bottles severely erodes the material, which could dose babies with several million microplastic particles a day, and perhaps nearly a billion a year. Although adults are bigger, scientists think that in some ways infants have more exposure. In addition to drinking from bottles, babies could be ingesting microplastics in a dizzying number of ways. They have a habit of putting everything in their mouths—plastic toys of all kinds, but they’ll also chew on fabrics. (Microplastics that shed from synthetic textiles are known more specifically as microfibers, but they’re plastic all the same.) Babies’ foods are wrapped in single-use plastics. Children drink from plastic sippy cups and eat off plastic plates. The carpets they crawl on are often made of polyester. Even hardwood floors are coated in polymers that shed microplastics. Any of this could generate tiny particles that children breathe or swallow. Indoor dust is also emerging as a major route of microplastic exposure, especially for infants. (In general, indoor air is absolutely lousy with them; each year you could be inhaling tens of thousands of particles.) Several studies of indoor spaces have shown that each day in a typical household, 10,000 microfibers might land on a single square meter of floor, having flown off of clothing, couches, and bed sheets. Infants spend a significant amount of their time crawling through the stuff, agitating the settled fibers and kicking them up into the air. “Unfortunately, with the modern lifestyle, babies are exposed to so many different things for which we don't know what kind of effect they can have later in their life,”

 Babies Are Already Pooping Plastic, Study Finds -Babies haven't spent a lot of time on the planet, but apparently it's still enough time to be exposed to lots ofplastic.A new study published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters Wednesday found an average of 36,000 nanograms of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) microplastics (MP) per gram of infant feces, compared to 2,600 nanograms for adults."Our study suggests that infants are exposed to higher levels of MPs than adults," the authors wrote.Microplastics are what happens when plastics break down in the environment into bits less than five millimeters long, Wired explained. They have been found everywhere from Mount Everest to the ocean floor, but the researchers wanted to test exposure in infants.To do this, they collected dirty diapers from six one year olds and filtered the poop for microplastics, Wired explained. They also tested three samples of meconium, an infant's first feces, and 10 adult stool samples. They tested all of the samples for two types of microplastics: PET, which is used in clothing and plastic bottles, and polycarbonate (PC) plastic, an alternative to glass.Some of the meconium samples had up to 12,000 nanograms per gram of PET and 110 nanograms per gram of PC plastic, the study authors wrote. Microplastics were found in all of the infant samples, however, averaging 36,000 nanograms per gram for PET and 78 nanograms per gram for PC. Most of the adult stool samples had PET and all had PC, but at much lower concentrations than the infant stool samples. The researchers were then able to use their data to estimate the average daily exposure to microplastics in both adult and infant diets. They calculated that infants are exposed to 83,000 nanograms of PET per kilogram of body weight and 860 nanograms of PC per kilogram of body weight. Adults, on the other hand, were exposed to 5,800 nanograms of PET and 200 nanograms of PC.In some ways, this is not surprising. A study published last year found that the process of preparing baby formula in plastic bottles prompted those bottles to shed microplastics, so that infants could be swallowing millions of microplastics every day. Microplastics have also been found in placenta, as The Guardian reported in 2020.Babies also have a tendency to stick plastic toys or clothing that may contain microplastic fibers in their mouths, Wired noted. Baby foods are often wrapped in plastic and many baby utensils, like sippy cups, are made from plastic. The indoor environment is also full of plastics from carpeting and dust.

Alabama PFAS manufacturing plant creates the climate pollution of 125,000 cars - As evidence mounts that hamburger wrappers and other kinds of grease-proof packaging contaminate food with PFAS, states have started banning the toxic chemicals from food packaging.Now, a new report provides yet another reason to remove PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, from food wrappers: climate and ozone pollution.PFAS exposure is linked to immune and developmental system effects, increased risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women, increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers, and higher cholesterol, among other health effects. The Daikin America plant in Decatur, Alabama, which manufactures PFAS used to coat food packaging and textiles, released 240,584 pounds of the ozone-depleting chemical Chlorodifluoromethane (HCFC-22)—the global warming equivalent of one billion pounds of carbon dioxide—in 2019, according to a new report out Thursday from the nonprofit Toxic-Free Future.While HCFC-22, used in refrigeration, was banned at the start of last year under the Montreal Protocol, companies are still allowed to produce the compound as a byproduct of making other substances. Advocates say the new report highlights the need to close that loophole—and to use PFAS-free food packaging alternatives. "The entire world is scrambling to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before their damage to our climate is beyond repair, yet we are letting a company dump hundreds of thousands of pounds of hydrochlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere so that it can produce 'forever chemicals' that poison our communities?" Peggy Shepard, executive director of the nonprofit WE ACT for Environmental Justice, who was not involved in the report, said in a prepared statement. "Where is the justice in that?"

UK identifies case of 'mad cow' disease.-British officials have identified a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) said this week that the dead animal had been removed from a farm in Somerset, southwest England, adding there was "no risk to food safety"."The UK's overall risk status for BSE remains at 'controlled' and there is no risk to food safety or public health," said Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss.APHA will launch a "thorough investigation of the herd, the premises, potential sources of infection and will produce a full report on the incident in due course".Five cases of BSE, which was linked to fatal human condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, have been identified in Britain since 2014. Britain culled millions of cows during an epidemic of the disease in the 1990s.

Native American tribes sue to halt Wisconsin wolf hunt - Six Native American tribes filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to halt Wisconsin’s wolf hunt in November. The complaint in a Wisconsin federal court alleges that the state's Natural Resources Board violates the tribes’ rights established under treaties signed in 1837 and 1842 when the board set quotas for the Nov. 6 hunt. “Defendants’ actions with respect to the upcoming hunt violate, and threaten to continue to violate, Plaintiffs’ rights under long-standing treaties with the United States,” the complaint states. The board approved a quota of 300 wolves for the upcoming hunt, more than double the 130 quota that was initially proposed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The complaint alleges that when setting the quota, the defendants “purposefully and knowingly discriminated against the Ojibwe Tribes by acting to nullify their share.” The plaintiffs further allege that the state “failed to use sound biological principles in establishing the quota for the upcoming hunt.” And they say that by failing to protect the tribes’ share, officials “managed, and are continuing to manage, wolf hunting in Wisconsin in a manner that violates Plaintiffs’ treaty-protected right.” The suit names the Department of Natural Resources as a defendant, as well as individual members of the Natural Resources board. A spokesperson for the department told The Hill that the agency is reviewing the lawsuit and had no further comment. The suit was filed by environmental law group EarthJustice on behalf the Ojibwe Tribes, which are based in the upper Midwest states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, as well as portions of Canada. The suit was filed by six bands of the Ojibwe based in Wisconsin — the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. The upcoming hunting season follows an earlier hunt which took place in February, EarthJustice said in a statement. Despite the tribes’ best efforts to protect their share, hunters exceeded state and tribal quotas by killing 218 wolves.

Arctic seals experiencing dramatic weight loss as temperatures rise, study warns -- The Arctic has seen rapid transformation in recent years as a result of climate change, with rising temperatures and significant fluctuations in sea ice thickness. Those changes could be causing three species of Arctic seals to lose body mass at alarming rates, according to a new study. Researchers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries studied ribbon, spotted and harbor seals in the Bering Sea and Aleutian islands from 2007 to 2018. They tracked changes in how heavy the seals were in relation to their length, a metric known as "body condition." The researchers found that the seals' body condition declined in almost all age and sex classes in every studied species. Only two groups, spotted seal subadults and adults, did not experience a decline in body condition."Our findings point strongly to climate-related impacts. We saw declines in seal condition that coincided with recent pronounced warming," lead researcher Peter Boveng said in a statement. "Warming conditions in the Arctic seem to be affecting the condition of individual seals in a way that could impact their populations." For ribbon and spotted seals, the decline in body condition is likely related to their reliance on an icy environment during pregnancy and nursing cycles, the authors said. These species usually gather near the edge of sea ice in the spring to give birth between April and May, and the mothers have "very high" energy needs during this time.

63 Endangered African Penguins Die From Bee Stings in ‘Fluke’ Tragedy - The mysterious deaths of 63 endangered African penguins are being attributed to an unusual cause — beestings.The birds were found dead Friday morning on a beach outside of Cape Town, South Africa, according to AFPand a South African National Parks (SANParks) Table Mountain National Park Facebook Post."After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins' eyes," Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) clinical veterinarian David Roberts told AFP Sunday. "This is a very rare occurrence. We do not expect it to happen often, it's a fluke."SANCCOB was responsible for investigating the deaths, along with SANParks and the City of Cape Town, SANParks said. The birds lived in the Boulders African penguin colony in Simonstown."The deaths occurred suddenly some time between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning," SANParks wrote.Preliminary investigations revealed that the birds had multiple bee stings, and dead bees were also found on the site of the incident. The stings were largely around the birds' eyes and on their flippers, which are the parts of their body not protected by feathers, SANCCOB's Dr. Katta Ludynia told BBC News. One of the penguins was stung 27 times."Seeing the number of stings in individual birds, it would have probably been deadly for any animal of that size," Ludynia said.SANParks marine biologist Dr. Alison Kock further told BBC News that the deaths were not typical of bee and penguin interactions."Usually the penguins and bees co-exist," she said. "The bees don't sting unless provoked — we are working on the assumption that a nest or hive in the area was disturbed and caused a mass of bees to flee the nest, swarm and became aggressive. Unfortunately the bees encountered a group of penguins on their flight path."The incident is concerning because African penguins are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "The penguins... must not die just like that as they are already in danger of extinction. They are a protected species," Roberts told AFP.

Coral Reef Protection in Exchange for Debt Relief: Could it Really Work? -Belize, as of this writing, is undertaking a restructuring of its sovereign bonds. Hard hit by covid and general economic woes, this is that nation’s fifth debt restructuring over the past decade and a half. This time though, Belize is trying to do something different with its restructuring. Something that just might contain lessons for other emerging market nations struggling with covid related economic downturns.Using funding from the environmental group, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Belize is doing a bond buyback, offering investors around 50% of face value. Once purchased, the bonds are to be cancelled. Belize has collective action clauses in the so-called superbond in question, so the deal will be binding on all holders of its external debt if a supermajority of creditors (75%) agree to the deal. The dynamics of collective action clauses have been examined in excruciating detail elsewhere and I won’t get into that here. What interests me, and has intrigued many in the financial press (e.g., see here, here, here, here, andhere) is Belize’s attempt to tie a promise to behave in a greener fashion in the future to its request for debt relief from investors.Specifically, Belize is promising investors that it will, in conjunction with TNC set aside a significant portion of the funds that it will save from doing the restructuring for environmental protection endeavors in the future (Belize's gorgeous coral reefs feature prominently in most accounts of the deal). As explained by a Belizean official:As an integral part of the offer to repurchase the bonds, Belize will commit to its bondholders to transfer an amount equal to 1.3% of the country’s 2020 GDP to fund a Marine Conservation Endowment Account to be administered by a TNC affiliate. After a period in which the Endowment Account will retain its investment earnings in order to reach a targeted aggregate size, the annual earnings on the Account will thereafter be used, in perpetuity, to fund marine conservation projects in Belize identified by TNC and approved by the Government of Belize.I have at least four questions that strike me as relevant to figuring out whether this strategy can work for other nations also facing covid related debt restructuring needs. First, does the Belize example suggest that a nation can get greater debt relief from investors by tying its debt restructuring to a credible green project (and we are assuming the credibility part)? Certainly, the funding from TNC is helping do the deal. And in return for TNC helping retire foreign currency debt, Belize is promising to expend resources that will help its local infrastructure (and specifically, environmentally friendly aspects of infrastructure – such as the coral reefs). But is the foregoing persuading investors to take 55 cents of the dollar instead of 60? I have heard that that literally was the case – that the tentative deal was at 60 cents and Belize then put the coral reef preservation plan on the table and asked: How much is this worth? Investor quotes in a recent Financial Times article on the Belize deal suggest this as well (here). But talk is cheap. Enough creditors have not agreed to the deal as yet. We will have to wait until the dust settles on the deal to get better information on whether investors really were willing to give up basis points to do an environmentally friendly deal. But if it is the case that countries willing to make credible environmental promises are able to get a few more cents of recovery in exchange for credible ESG promises, that would be amazing and very important for future deals.

 Ghost forests creep up U.S. East Coast — Shawn LaTourette sees a warning on the coast of New Jersey in the miles of Atlantic white cedar trees that have devolved into what researchers call ghost forests. It’s a term that points to the visceral changes of the landscape — going from lush green to a pale white — and the destruction of the area’s crucial role as a biodome and coastal buffer. These once-thriving forests are a direct result of climate change as the trees are suffocated by saltwater intrusion sparked by sea level rise and an uptick of hurricanes and superstorms. “If we pay close attention to our environment, we often see that it sends us signals,” LaTourette, the state’s commissioner of environmental protection, said while walking along a ghost forest spanning more than 300 acres in southern New Jersey. “This is a signal about that risk that we all face from saltwater intrusion from storm surge.”The Atlantic white cedar forests are seen as the first line of defense on New Jersey’s coast. They thrive in freshwater wetlands — swamps so thick that extreme caution and a good pair of wader boots are necessary in order to walk through them. As sea levels rise, these trees are hit first, and the saltwater intrusion is killing them due to their sensitive nature. That water will then move on to inundate farm fields, peoples’ homes, drinking water and businesses.Along much of the Eastern Seaboard, the once-healthy coastal woodlands are dwindling rapidly — to the extent that if the rate of decline continues, these forested wetlands will reach the “point of no return within the century,” according to University of Virginia and Duke University researchers focused on studying the ecosystems. Ghost forests are already a problem all along the East Coast and in states along the Gulf Coast, such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Coastal woodlands like these are critical ecosystems in the United States, as they filter pollutants, act as natural barriers and store carbon in the ground. But their positioning on the coast puts them at the vanguard of rising sea levels brought on by the warming atmosphere, therefore worsening some of the effects of climate change.

'Groundbreaking' Win as Court Rules USFWS Can't Ignore Climate Impacts on Joshua Tree --A federal court in Los Angeles this week ruled that under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the law when it failed to list the Joshua tree as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act — a decision that the Biden administration has continued to defend.The U.S. District Court in the Central District of California said in its ruling on Monday that the USFWS now has one year to reconsider its decision and must take into account all scientific evidence, including climate change models, when deciding whether the Joshua tree should be protected under the ESA.WildEarth Guardians — which first filed a petition to ensure the tree was protected in 2015 and launched a legal challenge after the service declined to list the species in 2019 — called the ruling "groundbreaking" and "a monumental step forward for the Joshua tree."The ruling also has implications "for all climate-imperiled species whose fate relies upon the service following the law and evaluating the best scientific data available with respect to forecasting future climate change impacts," said Jennifer Schwartz, a staff attorney for WildEarth Guardians and lead attorney on the case, in a statement Wednesday.When the USFWS decided not to list the tree, the court found, it disregarded numerous scientific studies that forecasted the decline and loss of the Joshua tree's habitat."Several of those studies projected the nearly complete loss of [the Joshua tree] by the end of the century," the court said. The court ruled that the USFWS relied "on speculation and unsupported assumptions" when it alleged in 2019 that the climate crisis would not affect Joshua trees, despite evidence in "five recent, available, sophisticated [species distribution models] showing widespread loss of suitable Joshua tree habitat by the end of the century due to climate change, which the service did not address."

Update: Sequoia forest fires have burned a combined 43,375 acres - A rapidly expanding wildfire in California’s Sequoia National Park continues to threaten five of the oldest and most-visited trees in the world, including the General Sherman, which lives on the western edge of the Giant Forest. It is the park’s largest giant sequoia and dates back 2,700 years.As of Sunday afternoon, fire officials did not know the extent of the damage, but a spokesperson for the National Park Service said firefighters are making every possible effort to save the trees and surrounding structures along the western edge of the Generals Highway. Cholo called Sunday “another long day” due to gusty, northwest winds that will keep a Saturday red flag warning in effect until at least Sunday night. Some clear skies allowed air operations to resume direct attack on the fire in steep terrain inaccessible to fire crews, including areas on the southern perimeter of the fire nearest the Three Rivers community.The KNP Complex Fire, which ignited on Sept. 10 as a result of lightning, grew 3,920 acres between Saturday and Sunday, to 21,777 acres. Cholo said most of that growth occurred in the northern Red Fir Area, where firefighters on Sunday lit small fires around the Wuksachi Lodge and Lodgepole Village to remove potentially flammable material in anticipation of the main fire’s arrival. The blaze first entered the western edge of the Giant Forest, home of the landmark giant sequoias called the Four Guardsmen, on Friday. But fuel removal efforts by firefighters combined with special fireproof aluminum blankets, which they wrapped around the base of General Sherman and other giant sequoias, successfully protected them. Fire crews have also set up sprinklers in the grove to reduce the risk of fire danger. “They’ve got sprinklers going pretty much nonstop,” Cholo said. Thirty miles south, another wildfire, the Windy Fire, has burned into at least two other giant sequoia groves — Long Meadow Grove and Peyrone Grove — and threatens others. The blaze, which started on Sept. 9 due to lightning, grew 9,228 acres between Saturday and Sunday, to 21,598 acres. It continues to burn on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in Long Meadow Grove’s Giant Sequoia National Monument, which was established by former President Bill Clinton when he visited the area’s famous “Trail of 100 Giants” in 2000. On the ground, resources have been limited but firefighters have constructed containment lines along the perimeter of the fire and are developing a plan to protect threatened structures and communities to the north including Red Hill Grove, Camp Nelson and Ponderosa. Southern spread of the fire will continue to burn in the Trail of 100 Giants and threaten Cunningham Grove, a smaller grove one mile east of Long Meadow Grove. At this time, air operations are monitoring fire conditions but have not yet supported firefighters on the ground with water-dropping capabilities. When asked why resources have been scarce, a spokesperson for the Windy Fire responded said that firefighters and equipment have been in short supply until now due to demand across the nation. Due to inaccessible terrain, a preliminary assessment of the fire’s effects on giant sequoia trees within the grove will be difficult and may take days to complete, the National Forest Service said in a statement.

Kings Canyon National Park closures due to KNP Complex fire --Large portions of a second California national park have now been closed due to the KNP Complex Fire, with more closures expected to come.The fire continues to burn uncontained inside Sequoia National Park and has grown to 23,743 acres in just over a week since it started. That national park remains closed, with evacuations ordered for nearby communities. On Sunday, Kings Canyon National Park announced the closures of much of its land due to the fire. On the same day, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office also issued an evacuation warning for the Wilsonia area inside the park.The full closures include: all lands within the boundaries of Sequoia National Park west of the Pacific Crest Trail; all lands in the park west of the Generals Highway and south of Highway 180 and all lands within the park wilderness west of the Pacific Crest Trail and south of the ridgeline, north of Ionian Basin.All campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park are closed, through Sept. 25 at least. This includes campgrounds in Cedar Grove and Grant Grove. The groves themselves remain open, though they could close with little notice and guests should prepare for hazardous air quality, smoke and low visibility.

Burned trees and billions in cash: How a California climate program lets companies keep polluting - As fire ripped through the Mendocino County hills the summer of 2018, burning a vast expanse of forest and turning buildings to ash, a curious thing was happening at Eddie Ranch, a sprawling property scorched by the flames. Its owners were petitioning the state to allow it to be paid millions to preserve trees destroyed by the inferno. Eddie Ranch said the trees would fight climate change, asserting in its application for California's carbon "offset" program that they would absorb some 280,890 tons of greenhouse gasses. Polluters use the program to outsource their obligations to fight global warming: The credits purchased from faraway forests allow them to claim greenhouse gasses they release at their facilities are not hurting the planet. The bulk of the Eddie Ranch carbon credits would be bought by PBF Energy, which was looking to erase—on paper—emissions from its hulking oil refineries in Torrance and Martinez and the gasoline they sell to the motoring public. Incinerated trees, of course, can't help the climate. But months after the 2018 fire that burned enough of Eddie Ranch to make nearly all of its planned carbon credits useless in the fight against global warming, the state of California allowed the operation to sell those credits to polluters, basing its decision on the state of the ranch before the fire. "How do they get away with this stuff?" PBF said it purchased the credits without checking their origin, and thus was unaware they were linked to Eddie Ranch. Eddie Ranch was one more puzzling transaction at a time the state's entire multibillion-dollar market of carbon offsets—most of them generated in distant forests—is under siege.

Southwest U.S. drought, worst in a century, linked by NOAA to climate change (Reuters) – Human-caused climate change has intensified the withering drought gripping the Southwestern United States, the region’s most severe on record, with precipitation at the lowest 20-month level documented since 1895, a U.S. government report said on Tuesday. Over the same period, from January 2020 through August 2021, the region also experienced the third-highest daily average temperatures measured since record-keeping began near the end of the 19th century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) drought task force. The study warned that extreme drought conditions are likely to worsen and repeat themselves “until stringent climate mitigation is pursued and regional warming trends are reversed.” The drought emerged in early 2020 in California, Nevada and the “Four Corners” states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico and has led to unprecedented water shortages in reservoirs across the region, while fueling devastating western wildfires over the past two years, the report noted. The study also cited dwindling reservoir levels that have threatened or disrupted drinking supplies, irrigation systems, hydropower generation, fishing and recreational activities, with immediate economic losses in the billions of dollars. Much of the record below-normal wintertime precipitation was likely due to natural weather variations, including a La Nina pattern, while research suggests that successive summers of scant monsoonal rainfall may also occur by chance, the NOAA report said. However, unusually high temperatures coinciding with the Southwest’s historic dry spell are symptomatic of human-caused climate change and have intensified the drought, making it “more impactful” in a number of ways, the report’s authors concluded. Above-normal heat helps dry up surface and soil moisture and reduces snowfall in winter, which in turn diminishes dry-season surface water storage from snow-melt runoff, the report said. Low snowpack and parched soil can also create a “land-atmosphere feedback” that deepens a drought by helping raise ground temperatures while leaving less moisture available to evaporate for future precipitation, according to the study.Extremely high temperatures also sharply boost demand for water, further straining depleted reservoirs and rivers.

Can the Colorado River Sustain More Population Growth? - News reports about the Colorado River over the last few months have been intense and depressing. The first ever "cuts" in water deliveries out of the river to Arizona and Nevada took hold last week, with more cuts likely coming to more states. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to ask, "If the river is already drained dry, from where will growing cities get more water for more people?" The convoluted answer is threefold. First, almost all cities and states in the Southwest U.S. have been spending a lot more money on water conservation, water reuse, and water recycling. As just two examples, both the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and Las Vegas have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in water conservation mostly by paying homeowners to install drought-tolerant landscaping (xeriscaping) in their yards. Thus, by spreading the water thinner and reusing/recycling it, you can spread what water is available to even more people.Second, many cities in the Southwest U.S. continue to propose new water projects that try to 1) get more water out of the Colorado River, or 2) transport water into their city and state from far-away places, or 3) desalinate ocean water. All of these proposals are very expensive and complicated. For example, Pima County, AZ, (Tucson) is proposing a $4.1 billion desalination plant at the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, and then proposes to pipe the water north to Tucson. As another example, Washington County, Utah, is proposing a multi-billion dollar pipeline out of the Colorado River at Lake Powell. This list of these plans and proposals goes on and on. Thus, with all of these proposals, more water can theoretically be supplied to a growing human population but the cost of water for ratepayers in cities gets a lot more expensive.Finally, about 70% of all of the water that is currently drained out of the Colorado River is sent to farms in the region. Every state in the Southwest U.S., and even in northern Mexico, have vast acreages of farms that receive Colorado River water. Millions of acres of crops are grown – some of that is vegetables for people to eat, much of that is hay for cows to eat, and even rice and cotton – all with water from the Colorado River. That water can, and often is, sold by the farmers to cities because the cities can pay a high price for the water making it a lucrative business for farmers to stop farming. Thus, by farmers selling water to cities, the human population can grow as the number and acreage of farms decreases.So yes, even though there is less and less water in the Colorado River, more and more people can theoretically be supported in the Southwest U.S. with what water is available. The tradeoff is that urban landscapes get dryer and more xeriscaped, water gets more expensive in cities, and a lot fewer farms will be growing food in the region.

Rivers overflow after heavy rain, affecting 1.2 million and claiming 10 lives in West Bengal, India –(videos) More than 1.2 million people have been affected after heavy rains over the past couple of days caused rivers to overflow and embankments to fail in the Indian state of West Bengal. The situation worsened after dam releases in the neighboring state of Jharkhand.At least 10 people have lost their lives and 1 300 were forced to evacuate, state authorities said Monday, September 20, 2021.The worst-hit areas are the districts of Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur.19 teams from India's National Disaster Response Force have been deployed to affected areas to carry out rescue and evacuation operations and to distribute relief supplies.1Extensive damage to agriculture was also reported.West Bengal capital Kolkata also saw flooding on September 20, after more than 100 mm (3.9 inches) of rain fell in 6 hours to 07:00 LT. In 24 hours to 08:30 LT, the city received 142 (5.6 inches). 2The drainage pumping stations of Kolkata Municipal Corporation recorded 136 mm (5.3 inches) rain at Dhapa, 115 mm (4.5 inches) at Kalighat, and 109 mm (4.3 inches) at Ballygunge.The India Meteorological Department said the rain was caused by a cyclonic circulation moving from the northwest Bay of Bengal to Gangetic West Bengal and strong moisture incursion.

Homes flooded, cars swept away after severe flash floods hit Huelva, Spain - Torrential downpours hit parts of southern Spain on September 23, 2021, causing severe flash flooding in the province of Huelva. The floods inundated homes and swept away vehicles in the cities of Huelva and Lepe, and caused more than 600 emergency interventions. According to the Andalusian Meteorological Agency, parts of the province received as much as 100 mm (3.9 inches) of rain in a 12-hour period on September 23. According to AEMET, the town of Cartaya recorded 118 mm (4.6 inches) in 24 hours, with 112.4 mm (4.42 inches) in just 1 hour.

Ida forces NJ to face questions about flood risks -- When it comes to flood risk, New Jersey has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in several categories. Now, as the state recovers from the fury unleashed by the tail end of Hurricane Ida, the news gets worse. Before Ida’s historic and catastrophic deluge earlier this month, the state’s climate resilience strategy was focused primarily on the impact of rising sea level at shore communities. But Ida’s rainfall came with volume and pace like never before, leaving at least 29 people dead and countless millions of property damage in its wake — including in numerous places that had never experienced serious flooding before. In the days following, Shawn M. LaTourette, commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, called the storm’s impact on New Jersey “a new reality.” David Rosenblatt, the state’s chief climate and flood resiliency officer, conceded we were, and are “unprepared.” It is no secret that when it comes to flooding, New Jersey has a serious problem, arguably the worst in the nation. Not only are air and water surface temperatures increasing, the ocean rising and extreme weather events becoming dramatically more frequent and severe, but New Jersey’s land mass is also sinking. The state’s Climate Change Resilience Strategy, released earlier this year, floated several strategic policy suggestions. It now may be that Ida is forcing a rewrite. After the Sept. 1 storm, Gov. Phil Murphy acknowledged New Jersey’s resilience plan simply isn’t keeping up with the rapid escalation of climate change. “We’ve gotta update our playbook for sure,” he told ABC News. “We gotta turn it up.”

‘Out of sight’: New York, New Jersey must look underground to prepare for climate change --In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, elected officials across New York and New Jersey said it was time to get serious in the fight against climate change — vowing to build back homes and infrastructure better than ever before. But nine years later, the recent deluge of rain brought by the remnants of Hurricane Ida highlighted just how vulnerable the two states remain to extreme weather. Some of the projects announced in the wake of Sandy are far from complete. And many of them were designed to handle wind-driven coastal flooding, not the kind of heavy rain and flash floods seen during Ida. Now state and local officials must play catch-up to fortify subways, homes, businesses and roads from heavy storms that climate change is expected to make worse and more common. Some efforts will require focus on the least sexy parts of American infrastructure — upgrading and replacing the underground labyrinth of sewer pipes and drains that are often overlooked when state and federal governments make heavy infrastructure investments. Agency heads will have to overcome bureaucratic hurdles to work together on upgrades that fall outside their typical purview and get only passing interest from most politicians or the public. But experts warn even the best of efforts to upgrade the century-old sewer systems may not be enough to counteract severe storms like Ida, which dropped a record 3.15 inches in Central Park in just one hour. Buying out homes, overhauling building codes, creating new taxes just for flood control and major infrastructure investment in new dams and tunnels may all be part of the equation as the Northeast prepares for more frequent torrential rain.

After Ida, Louisiana Struggles to Tally the Environmental Cost. Activists Say Officials Must Do Better - Nearly a month after Hurricane Ida churned through a vast network of off-shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and then spun over refineries, chemical plants and hundreds of other industrial sites ashore, authorities still do not know how much pollution the powerful Category 4 storm unleashed. They probably never will. Much of Louisiana’s air monitoring network was knocked out of commission for a few days amid widespread power failures, at a critical time when refineries and chemical plants were under the most stress. It was left to eye-witnesses to describe the black smoke from burning off, or flaring, combustibles from their pipes, before and after shutting down. And while state environmental officials said that oil and gas infrastructure in the region held up well compared to earlier major hurricanes, that’s little consolation to many residents. Beyond the lack of air monitoring, the U.S. Coast Guard is still looking into some of the nearly 2,500 reports of Ida-related pollution in the Gulf and other waterways. Some experts said there are probably many more spills that officials may never know about. Big hurricanes are big pollution events, especially when they target the nation’s fossil fuel infrastructure, something that has been happening at an increasing pace. In all, five named storms struck Louisiana in 2020, and the state had not yet recovered when Ida made landfall on Aug. 29, packing 150 mph winds. Then, last week, Hurricane Nicholas, a Category 1 event, brought torrential rains and storm surge to southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Now, with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concluding in August that coastal regions should brace for more intense, wetter and windier storms, environmental advocates on the Gulf Coast fear that pollution let loose by hurricanes will only get worse. They are especially concerned about Black, Brown and Indigenous communities living near chemical plants and refineries in the lowest-lying, unprotected areas. Those communities confront environmental injustices on a daily basis and are also hit hardest by hurricanes, including Ida. “We can expect more intense storms and climate disasters for the decades to come,” said Jennifer Crosslin, a regional organizer with the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, a Louisiana group working for climate justice. “Justice requires us to do things differently.”

Waterspout outbreak at Lake Michigan, expected to spread to other portions of Great Lakes - (video) A waterspout outbreak is in progress at Lake Michigan since September 22, 2021, and the ICWR forecast model shows it continuing and spreading to other portions of the Great Lakes through Friday, September 24.International Centre for Waterspout Research (ICWR) observer Nina Brady saw about a dozen waterspouts/funnels from the northern suburbs of Chicago on the morning of September 22, from 10:15 to 10:30 and 11:45 - 12:00 CDT."As of 15:00 CDT [20:00 UTC], we have confirmed at least 13 waterspouts/funnels off of the Chicago area," ICWR said. "Expect more waterspouts to reform by Thursday morning over the same area."The number of confirmed waterspouts/funnels rose to 18 by 22:00 UTC.The latest Great Lakes waterspout forecast model run shows the waterspout outbreak continuing and spreading over to other portions of the Great Lakes through to Friday, September 24.The forecast is valid from 00:00 UTC (20:00 EDT) September 22 to 18:00 UTC (14:00 EDT) on September 24. The warmer the colors the higher the waterspout potential.

Eruption begins at Cumbre Vieja volcano, the first since 1971 -- La Palma, Canary Islands - (videos) A new eruption has begun at Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma, Canary Islands around 14:12 UTC on September 19, 2021. The Alert Level has been raised from Yellow to Red. This is the first eruption at the volcano since 1971 (VEI 2).The eruption follows an intense seismic swarm at shallow depths which started on September 11. More than 25 000 quakes were registered to September 19.1Seismicity further increased over the past few hours, with intense surface seismicity between 0 and 6 km (0 - 3.7 miles) and numerous earthquakes felt by the population, IGN said in an update released 12:00 UTC today.2The accumulated maximum vertical deformation has increased to around 15 cm (5.9 inches) in the area close to the current seismicity and its distribution is still compatible with a center of pressure in this area. Initial reports mention a fissure opened on the western flank of the volcano, producing small lava fountains and flows, and burning forests and farmland.3 Evacuation of the area where the eruption is taking place is in progress. Just before the eruption, authorities started evacuating farm animals and people with mobility issues from the area where most earthquakes took place.As the lava flows begun to descend down the slope, the Civil Guard announced that up to 10 000 people will be evacuated from municipalities of El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane, Fuencaliente, and Tazacorte.The second fissure opened at 15:33 UTC, about 100 m (330 feet) above the first one.Current projections of the lava flows predict they are likely to run through an area near the settlement of Montaña Rajada, following a ravine.3The main concerns are that lava might reach inhabited areas such as La Laguna, in Los Llanos de Aridane."The problem is further down, in the Los Campitos area. The lava is advancing slowly. People can be evacuated with relative ease," the mayor of El Paso, Sergio Rodríguez, said. Lava flows have already destroyed several homes in the municipality of El Paso.

Spectacular lava fountains at Cumbre Vieja volcano, La Palma, Canary Islands - (videos) Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma island, Canary Islands finally erupted on September 19, 2021, after 8 days of intense seismicity. This is the first eruption at the volcano since 1971.Seismicity further increased during the UTC morning on September 19, leading to the first fissure opening at 14:12 UTC and the second at 15:33 UTC.1The eruption produced spectacular lava fountains overnight while lava flows destroyed several homes and crossed the Tacande highway.As the lava flows begun to descend down the slope, the Civil Guard announced that up to 10 000 people will be evacuated from municipalities of El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane, Fuencaliente, and Tazacorte.

More than 160 homes destroyed by lava at Cumbre Vieja, La Palma, Canary Islands - Lava flows produced by the eruption at Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, destroyed 166 buildings since the eruption started on Sunday, September 19, 2021. As of September 20, lava flows are covering 103 ha (254 acres) of land.Long fingers of fiery red lava slid down hillsides with white smoke billowing from their leading edges as they swallowed up houses, gardens, and swimming pools in a trail of destruction across the verdant countryside, the AP reports.1 "The movement of lava is much slower than it was initially. There has not been a large advance during the day," local emergency coordinator Miguel Angel Morcuende told a press briefing on Monday evening.2 Morcuende said the stream had made its way about halfway to the coast.Regional leader Angel Victor Torres said the damage from the eruption will be substantial.No fatalities or injuries have been reported.The Volcanological Institute of Canary Islands (INVOLCAN) conducted further measures to assess and monitor the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted into the atmosphere by the current eruptive process.The results achieved for the second day of the eruption reflect an SO2 emission rate between 7 997 and 10 665 tons per day, assuming wind speed at 3 000 (9 800 feet) on September 20 between 4.2 and 5.5 meters per second.3"Daily monitoring of this parameter will be critical to analyzing the evolution of the current process and to use this methodology to certify the end date of the eruption," INVOLCAN said."The values obtained during the second day of this eruptive process are similar and even slightly higher than the values recorded for the first day of the eruption (6 000 - 9 000 tons)."These results are consistent with the first 48 hours of the evolution of this eruptive process with the appearance of a new point of emission of magmatic material in Tacande, an area of the municipality of El Paso."

Volcanic activity at La Palma more explosive with large amount of ash in the atmosphere, Canary Islands –(videos) - A strong increase in the amplitude of volcanic tremor was observed at Cumbre Vieja volcano, La Palma, Canary Islands around 12:00 UTC on September 21, indicating the intensity of strombolian activity is increasing. The activity further intensified on September 22 with a large amount of ash in the atmosphere."The activity on the morning of September 22 is more explosive and emitting a large amount of ash into the atmosphere," INVOLCAN said.1 The noise level has also increased.Lava fountaining is still intense and reaching a height of several hundred meters.The surface affected by lava has reached 154 ha (380 acres) on September 21. At least 185 buildings have been destroyed so far and more than 5 700 people evacuated.The first provisional report of lava sample contains phenocrysts of plagioclase and pyroxene."The lava is of basaltic composition - a fine-grained, mafic igneous rock characterized by lower viscosity and lower gas content related to hawaiian and strombolian eruptions," said volcanologist Tom Pfeiffer.2The data analysis of imagery acquired by ESA's Sentinel-1 satellite clearly shows how the area affected by the eruption has been deformed more than 20 cm (7.9 inches) by Monday, September 20.This deformation was caused by the magma's push towards the rocks around it, INVOLCAN said.On September 21, INVOLCAN conducted further measures to assess and monitor the amount of sulfur dioxide emitted into the atmosphere."The results achieved for this third day of the eruption reflect an SO2 emission rate between 6 140 and 11 500 tons per day." The emission rate on September 20 was between 7 997 and 10 665 tons per day.

More than 320 buildings destroyed by lava at La Palma, Canary Islands (video) Lava flows continue slowly advancing toward the coast on September 23, 2021, after another night of intense lava fountains at Cumbre Vieja volcano, La Palma, Canary Islands. The height of the volcanic plume is estimated at 4.2 km (13 800 feet) above the volcano. As of September 23, more than 320 buildings have been destroyed by lava and more than 6 000 people evacuated. Map showing lava flows at La Palma on September 20 and 21, 2021. Credit: IGN "This volcano eruption is not a show, it's not a film, it's not an attraction. We need help here," said Teresa, a resident of San Nicolas. Bushcraft Bear brings more insider news directly from La Palma:

Ash emissions at Semisopochnoi increase, Aviation Color Code raised to Red, Alaska - - Ash emissions from the ongoing eruption at Semisopochnoi volcano, Alaska have increased in frequency and intensity, prompting the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) to raise the Aviation Color Code to Red at 05:58 UTC on September 20, 2021.Satellite images show an ash cloud at an estimated altitude of 4.6 km (15 000 feet) above sea level extending approximately 100 km (60 miles) to the southeast through 05:00 UTC.Explosions have been observed throughout the day and increased sulfur dioxide gas emissions have been observed in satellite data."These observations represent an increase in eruptive activity and Aviation Color Code and Volcano Alert Level are being increased to RED/WARNING," AVO said.1Increasing high clouds over Semisopochnoi will likely obscure satellite views of ash emissions.Seismic and infrasound monitoring will continue to provide notice of ongoing explosive activity, however, it cannot determine the height or extent of ash emissions. Semisopochnoi, the largest subaerial volcano of the western Aleutians, is 20 km (12.4 miles) wide at sea level and contains an 8 km (5 miles) wide caldera. It formed as a result of the collapse of a low-angle, dominantly basaltic volcano following the eruption of a large volume of dacitic pumice. The high point of the island is 1 221 m (4 005 feet) high Anvil Peak, a double-peaked late-Pleistocene cone that forms much of the island's northern part.

Eruption at Etna volcano ejects ash up to 9 km (29 500 feet) a.s.l., Italy - Heavy ash emissions were observed at Etna's Southeast crater since 06:15 UTC on September 21, 2021, where strombolian activity resumed at 06:55 UTC. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red at 07:10 UTC and lowered back to Orange at 09:30.Strombolian activity evolved into lava fountains at around 07:55 UTC, with eruptive cloud reaching an altitude of about 9 km (29 500 feet) a.s.l., drifting ENE.The activity is producing a modest lava flow heading to the southwest.1Eruptive events that took place this year at Etna have accumulated significant amounts of pyroclastic material and lava layers on the cone of the Southeast Crater - the youngest and most active of the four summit craters of Etna, leading to a significant transformation of the shape of the volcano and growing the volcano to a record height.2 Thanks to the analysis and processing of satellite images, the Southeast Crater reached 3 357 m (11 014 feet) and is now far taller than its 'older brother' - the Northeast Crater, an undisputed summit of Etna for 40 years.The summit of Etna, since 1980, has always been considered the Northeast Crater that reached a maximum height of 3 350 m (10 990 feet) with the paroxysms of September 1980 and February 1981.This height decreased over the years due to the collapses in the summer of 2018 and it settled at 3 326 m (10 912 feet).

Ozone hole over Antarctica larger than usual, scientists say - Scientists say the hole in the Earth's protective ozone layer over the Southern Hemisphere is larger than usual this year and already surpasses the size of Antarctica.The European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said Thursday that the so-called ozone hole, which appears every year during the Southern Hemisphere spring, has grown considerably in the past week following an average start."Forecasts show that this year´s hole has evolved into a rather larger than usual one," said Vincent-Henri Peuch, who heads the EU's satellite monitoring service."We are looking at a quite big and potentially also deep ozone hole," he said.Atmospheric ozone absorbs ultraviolet light coming from the sun. Its absence means more of this high-energy radiation reaches the Earth, where it can harm living cells.Peuch noted that last year's ozone hole also started out unremarkably but then turned into one of the longest-lasting ones on record.The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, led to a ban on a group of chemicals called halocarbons that were blamed for exacerbating the annual ozone hole. Experts say that while the ozone layer is beginning to recover, it's likely to take until the 2060s for the ozone-depleting substances used in refrigerants and spray cans to completely disappear from the atmosphere.

Asteroid 2021 SP flew past Earth at just 0.03 LD - closest flyby in 2021, 10th closest on record - A newly-discovered asteroid designated 2021 SP flew past Earth at a distance of 0.03 LD or 0.0000943 AU (14 107 km / 8 765 miles) from the center of our planet or about 7 700 km (4 780 miles) from the surface on September 17, 2021. This is now the closest asteroid flyby of the year and the 10th closest on record. The previous closest in 2021 was 2021 RS2 on September 8 at 0.00015 AU.1Since the start of the year, our sky surveys have discovered 90 asteroids to fly past Earth within 1 lunar distance.2021 SP was first observed at Palomar Mountain (ZTF), California on September 17.2The object belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids and has an estimated diameter between 3.7 and 8.3 m (12 - 27.2 feet). The close approach took place at 11:50 UTC at a speed (relative to the Earth) of 14.37 km/s.

Moderately strong M2.8 solar flare erupts from AR 2871 --A moderately strong solar flare measuring M2.8 at its peak erupted from Active Region 2871 at 04:42 UTC on September 23, 2021. The event started at 04:35 and ended at 04:50 UTC.The flare was associated with a Type II Radio Emission at 04:44 UTC with an estimated velocity of 966 km/s. These emissions occur in association with eruptions on the Sun and typically indicate a coronal mass ejection (CME) is associated with a flare event.Additionally, a Type IV Radio Emission was registered at 04:54 UTC. Type IV emissions occur in association with major eruptions on the Sun and are typically associated with strong coronal mass ejections and solar radiation storms.This region has beta-delta magnetic configuration and is capable of producing moderate to strong eruptions with Earth-directed CMEs, but it appears most of the material released during this eruption is heading south.There are currently 5 numbered active regions on the Earth side of the Sun.In 24 hours to 00:30 UTC on September 23, Region 2871 (S28E25, Dko/beta-delta) produced an isolated C1 flare at 20:14 UTC, but overall was less active during the day. Region 2873 (N24W35 Dao/beta) grew some but was also less active.Region 2872 (N17E15 Cai, beta) also grew, forming additional spots with small-asymmetric penumbra. Newly-numbered Regions 2874 (S25W26, Hrx/alpha) and 2875 (S32W34, Bxo/beta), were either stable or already beginning to show signs of slight decay.1Residual influence from the positive polarity CH HSS is possible on September 23.Minor CME effects are also possible today with a CME from September 19 that might transit close enough to Earth to enhance the IMF/solar wind.Conditions should trend nearer to background levels on September 24 before a negative polarity CH HSS arrives on September 25. This CH HSS will elevate solar wind parameters once again. A second M-class solar flare of the day erupted from this region at 15:28 UTC - M1.8.

Missing wind variability means future impacts of climate change may be underestimated in Europe and North America --Extratropical winds have a strong influence on climate in extratropical regions, and are known to vary from decade to decade. However, their variability is currently not factored into climate models making predictions for future climates in these regions. Researchers inserted these into predictions for how extratropical climates will change by the middle of the century, and found uncertainty increased significantly, meaning unusually hot, cold, dry or wet decades are likely to be more frequent here than previously thought. Climate models may be underestimating the impact climate change will have on the UK, North America and other extratropical regions due to a crucial missing element, new research has shown. Scientists at the University of Reading have warned that current projections of how a warming world will affect regional temperatures and rainfall do not take into account the fact that extratropical winds—which have a strong influence on climate in the mid-latitudes—vary greatly from decade to decade. The research team used observations of these winds over the 20th century to better represent their variability in climate model predictions of the future. They found that this made the predictions of future climate less certain in the extratropics—particularly in the North Atlantic region and particularly in winter—and that unusually hot, cold, wet or dry decades are projected to be much more likely by the middle of the century in this region than existing climate simulations suggest. Dr. Christopher O'Reilly, a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "Variations between decades in the strength of winds in the more temperate regions of the world are a crucial missing ingredient in projections of the future climate of those regions. "By adding this extra variability into climate models, we showed that these winds may be an additional source of uncertainty on top of climate change. This could mean that within these regions, temperatures are pushed to relatively extreme highs or lows more often. While in some decades they could counteract increases to temperatures and heavy rainfall caused by climate change, in other periods they could make these extremes even more extreme. "This is yet another reminder that preparation will be crucial as we face up to more variable regional climates as an impact of climate change in the future."

U.S. Climate Change Plans Are “Insufficient” to Meet United Nations Goals - A new analysis reveals a near total global failure of governments to have climate action and targets on track for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Released Wednesday by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), the assessment rated just one nation, The Gambia, as “1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible,” and found the United States’ overall climate action — despite a welcome “U-turn on climate change” since the Trump administration — to be “insufficient.” The analysis, which covered policies of 36 nations and the European Union, framed the widespread failings as particularly glaring given the “absolute urgency” of climate action made clear by the most recent IPCC report, a publication United Nations chief António Guterres declared “a code red for humanity.” CAT, a watchdog effort of Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute, described a “2030 emissions gap” in projecting how governments’ plans and current policies largely fall short of being on track to meet the 1.5˚C threshold of warming. The analysis said “the IPCC is clear that getting onto a 1.5°C pathway means reducing emissions by 50% by 2030″ and that meeting that goal “is no longer a matter of feasibility, but rather one of political will.” Such will appears to be lacking. In a statement, Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute pointed to May, after U.S. President Joe Biden’s “Leaders Summit on Climate” and the international Petersberg Climate Dialogue, when “we reported that there appeared to be good momentum with new climate action commitments, but governments then had only closed the emissions gap by up to 14%.” “But since then,” said Höhne, “there has been little to no improvement: nothing is moving. Governments have now closed the gap by up to 15%, a minimal improvement since May. Anyone would think they have all the time in the world, when in fact the opposite is the case.” This latest assessment from CAT includes new factors in its ratings systems, reflecting net zero targets as well as “an overall rating, the domestic target, policies and action, fair share, climate mitigation finance (either on providing mitigation finance, or detailing what international support is needed), and land use and forestry (where relevant).” Based on overall ratings, the U.K. is the only G20 nation deemed “almost sufficient,” a classification that covers six other countries including Nepal and Costa Rica. Like the U.S., the EU, Germany, Norway, and Japan’s overall climate plans were assessed as “insufficient.” Canada joined Brazil, Australia, India, and UAE as countries whose plans were deemed “highly insufficient.” A small group of countries had overall climate plans classified “critically insufficient.” “Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Thailand perform so badly on climate action,” the analysis found, “that if all governments were to adopt this approach, global warming would reach beyond 4°C.”

United Nations Warns of ‘Catastrophic Pathway’ With Current Climate Pledges - The global average temperature will rise 2.7 degrees Celsius by century’s end even if all countries meet their promised emissions cuts, a rise that is likely to worsen extreme wildfires, droughts and floods, the United Nations said in a report on Friday.That level of warming, measured against preindustrial levels, is likely to increase the frequency of deadly heat waves and threaten coastal cities with rising sea levels, the country-by-country analysis concluded. The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said it shows “the world is on a catastrophic pathway.” Perhaps most starkly, the new report displayed the large gap between what the scientific consensus urges world leaders to do and what those leaders have been willing to do so far. Emissions of planet-warming gases are poised to grow by 16 percent during this decade compared with 2010 levels, even as the latest scientific research indicates that they need to decrease by at least a quarter by 2030 to avert the worst impacts of global warming.“Now science is shouting from the rooftops that it’s time to level up actions in an order of magnitude sufficient to the challenge,” Christiana Figueres, a former head of the United Nations climate agency, said in a statement. “All other geopolitical issues will fade into irrelevance if we fail to rise to the existential challenge that climate change presents.” Altogether, nearly 200 countries have made voluntary pledges to reduce or slow down emissions of planet warming gases under the Paris agreement, reached in 2015 with the aim of averting the worst climate impacts. Some countries have since strengthened their pledges, including some of the world’s biggest emitters, like the United States, Britain and the European Union.But still missing are new pledges from 70 countries, including China, which currently produces the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as Saudi Arabia and India, both large economies with a significant climate footprint. Brazil, Mexico and Russia submitted new pledges that have weaker emissions targets than their previous ones.All those pledges, taken together, are far short of what’s needed to limit global temperature rise to levels that would avert the worst impacts of warming, the report confirms. When it was reached in 2015, the Paris Agreement set a target of limiting average temperature rise compared with preindustrial levels to well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the century.

World on 'catastrophic' path to 2.7C warming: UN chief - A failure to slash global emissions is setting the world on a "catastrophic" path to 2.7 degrees Celsius heating, UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Friday just weeks before crunch climate talks. His comments come as a United Nations report on global emissions pledges found instead of the reductions needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change, they would see "a considerable increase". This shows "the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7-degrees of heating," Guterres said in a statement. The figure would shatter the temperature targets of the Paris climate agreement, which aimed for warming well below 2C and preferably capped at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. "Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods," Guterres said. Under the landmark 2015 Paris deal, nations committed to slash emissions, as well as to provide assistance to the most climate-vulnerable countries. But the window for action is narrowing as nations slow-walk their responses. Last month a bombshell "code red" for humanity from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that Earth's average temperature will be 1.5C higher around 2030, a decade earlier than projected only three years ago. "We have to act, all of us, we have to act now," said US President Joe Biden on Friday, urging the world to bring its "highest" ambition to the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November. "Those who have not yet done so, time is running out," Biden said in the White House at the start of a virtual summit with nine foreign leaders. With only 1.1C of warming so far, the world has seen a torrent of deadly weather disasters intensified by climate change in recent months, from asphalt-melting heatwaves to flash floods and untameable wildfires. The IPCC says emissions should be around 45 percent lower by 2030 compared with 2010 levels to meet the 1.5C goal. But current pledges by 191 countries would see emissions 16 percent higher at end of the decade than in 2010—a level that would eventually cause the world to warm 2.7C. "Overall greenhouse gas emission numbers are moving in the wrong direction," said UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa in a press conference. But she said there was a "glimmer of hope" from 113 countries that had updated their pledges, including the United States and European Union.

Climate protests led by youths spread across the world: Live Updates -Climate activists are taking to the streets in more than 1,400 locations around the world Friday, just weeks before the globalCOP26 summit in Glasgow. Germany is expected to see the most action with protests planned in 420 locations ahead of Sunday's general election. Greta Thunberg – founder of Fridays for Future, the group organizing the protests – addressed thousands of protesters in Berlin, telling them: "We can still turn this around; people are ready for change, we want change." Part of the series of chants that filled New York City streets today were calls to give Indigenous land back and to stop the Line 3 pipeline, which has garnered much opposition in recent weeks with the project nearing completion. Non-Indigenous youth climate activists say they are amplifying Indigenous voices that have been calling on the White House to make a last-ditch effort to halt the pipeline from crossing tribal lands and to avoid the potential risks of spills. Many of the protests against the pipeline have been centered in Minnesota, where it passes bodies of water including the mouth of the Mississippi River. If the pipeline becomes fully operational, Line 3 will carry about 760,000 barrels of Canadian oil each day from North Dakota to Wisconsin. Tokata Iron Eyes, 18, who marched at the strike in New York, said she’s representing young Indigenous peoples and ancestors who couldn’t show up and fight for the planet today. Iron Eyes said she is calling on US leaders to put an end to fossil fuel subsidies, halt the Line 3 pipeline, and redact the permits for the Dakota Access pipeline in South Dakota. “Because our communities have refused to exploit our resources ourselves, we are now in a position where we are in the global front lines who are bearing the brunt of the consequences of human-caused climate crisis,” Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, told CNN.

Can the Economy Afford NOT To Fight Climate Change? ---Those opposing a fast transition to renewable energy and other aggressive action to fight catastrophic climate change often argue that the economic costs would be too great. Now, with the proliferation of extreme hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires, and other disasters linked to a changing climate, it has grown more apparent that the status quo also carries a cost – defined as the “social cost” of carbon. But recent research indicates existing economic models may have low-balled those potential social costs by trillions of dollars.Papers accounting for the value of nature and heat-related mortality conclude that the social cost of carbon is in the hundreds of dollars per ton of carbon dioxide pollution. A new study published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL) also finds that the cost of doing nothing could be 15 times greater yet. The trillion-dollar question for climate economists is: will climate damages have persistent effects that result in slower economic growth?“Climate change makes detrimental events like the recent heat wave in North America and the floods in Europe much more likely,” noted the new study’s co-author Chris Brierley of the University College London. “If we stop assuming that economies recover from such events within months, the costs of warming look much higher than usually stated. We still need a better understanding of how climate alters economic growth, but even in the presence of small long-term effects, cutting emissions becomes much more urgent.”That insight has important repercussions for federal climate rules. In adopting new regulations, federal agencies are required to weigh the resulting costs and benefits to American taxpayers. Experts estimate how much a ton of carbon dioxide pollution costs society as a result of the climate change damages it causes. This “social cost” of carbon is notoriously difficult to pin down. Wild cards include uncertainties about the magnitude of climate damages and about the resulting economic costs, and subjective judgments about how much governments value or discount the wellbeing of future generations.

Department of Energy chief says 'our hair should be on fire' after summer of climate disasters - Climate change became a personal event for a third of Americans this summer, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy Jennifer Granholm said on Wednesday."Our hair should be on fire," Granholm said in an event for Climate Week NYC. "We have lived through a summer — we all have seen it — where nearly one in three Americans have lived through, now, a climate disaster."A spokesperson for the Department of Energy said Granholm was referring to a Washington Post analysis, published earlier this month, of federal disaster declarations that showed almost a third of Americans live in a county that was affected by a weather disaster during a three month period. That includes the heat dome in the Northwest, flash floods, drought and wildfires. “There's no way we can hit the snooze button on climate action. This is not our alarm clock going off. This is a fire alarm code red for humanity, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said," Granholm said.Urgent efforts to decarbonize global industries will be expensive and will ultimately create jobs, Granholm underscored on Wednesday."By the end of this decade, the global market for clean energy and carbon reduction technologies is going to reach $23 trillion — at a minimum," Granholm said. "And so we want to corner that market by building clean energy supply chains and solutions here, sourced in America with American labor."Those jobs would be located across the U.S. and would vary in required skillset, she said. The Department of Energy is also working to ensure those jobs would be represented by unions, Granholm said."The president really feels this very deeply that labor built his country, they built the middle class and what we've come to learn over the last several decades is that when the labor community is weakened, inequality grows. That's it," Granholm said.Granholm said the U.S. could see clean energy transition jobs opening up for engineers, maintenance workers, pipe fitters, plasterers, painters, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, boilermakers, autoworkers, ironworkers, linemen and journeymen.

Boris Johnson: Time for humanity to grow up on climate change BBC - A climate summit of world leaders in 40 days' time will be the "turning point for humanity", PM Boris Johnson has said in a speech to the United Nations. He warned that global temperature rises were already inevitable, but called on his fellow leaders to commit to major changes to curb further warming. Four areas needed tackling - "coal, cars, cash and trees", he said. Countries must take responsibility for "the destruction we are inflicting, not just upon our planet but ourselves". "It's time for humanity to grow up," he added ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 summit in Glasgow. The prime minister also said it was time to listen to the warnings of scientists. "Look at Covid if you want an example of gloomy scientists being proved right." Setting the tone for November's meeting, he said countries must make "substantial changes" by the end of the decade if the world is to stave off further temperature rises. "I passionately believe that we can do it by making commitments in four areas - coal, cars, cash and trees," he said. Mr Johnson praised China's President Xi Jinping for his recent pledge to stop building new coal-fire energy plants abroad. But he called on the country - which produces 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions - to go further and end its domestic use of coal, saying the UK was proof that it could be done. The UK used coal to generate 25% of its electricity five years ago - but that is now down to 2%. Mr Johnson said it would be "gone altogether" by 2024. But Labour's shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband accused the UK government of "facing both ways" on climate change, urging other nations to take action while it considered plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria and cut money for improving home insulation. He told BBC Radio 4's World at One that a UK trade deal had also allowed Australia to renege on their climate commitments. "It undermines our moral standing as the host. I want the prime minister to succeed, but I'm afraid he's left it very late and he's not handled this presidency well," he said.

EPA to cut greenhouse gases thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide - The Biden administration finalized its first new climate rule Thursday, slashing the use of powerful greenhouse gases widely used in home refrigerators and air conditioners and often found to be leaking from U.S. supermarket freezers. The regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency establishes a program to cut the use and production of chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons by 85 percent over the next 15 years.

We’ve been over this before . . . Weather, “climate”, the atmosphere, the thin layer of potentially toxic gases we live in that envelopes the only ball of rock we know of we can live on, does not recognize the boundaries of “nation/states”. Ask the Neanderthal. It is beginning: I have harped on this for years, it’s the climate not conflict that’s driving the migration. We’re not going to stop the migration. It can’t be stopped. We’re not going to stop millions or tens of millions, perhaps even hundreds of millions, of people determined to leave someplace that has become uninhabitable by just saying “no”. That is without a doubt the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. A part of the world is rapidly becoming uninhabitable, and the people are leaving. We’ll not stop it. We can’t stop it. It can’t be stopped. And it is playing out equally on both sides of the planet ~ When we look to the middle east and beyond the wars over oil and religious insanity we find drought. Mega-drought, rapid desertification, and the outright theft of one nation/state’s water by her neighbor to the south ~ Israel, stealing Syrian water. And famine. That population is fleeing north. It can’t be stopped. It won’t be stopped. So too on our side of the pond, something I’ve been pointing to for several years but only recently catching the attention of the mainstream with the advent of drumpf uck’s ooga-booga caravan of Central American refugees fleeing not just crime and violence but drought. Mega-drought, rapid desertification and famine. That population is fleeing north. It can’t be stopped. It won’t be stopped. You can’t stop the migration. Weather, “climate”, the atmosphere, the thin layer of potentially toxic gases we live in that envelopes the only ball of rock we know of we can live on, does not recognize the boundaries of “nation/states”.

Public weighing in on Summit’s Iowa carbon capture pipeline project - While some prominent officials laud carbon capture pipelines like the one proposed for Western Iowa, Summit Carbon Solutions is taking its Midwest Carbon Express project to a more unpredictable audience: the public. Summit is in the midst of holding informational meetings until Oct. 15 in about 30 affected Iowa counties, which geographically span from Page to Chickasaw. The underground pipeline is proposed to span five states — Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota — and remove about 12 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere annually to an underground cavity for it to calcify and become part of the rock. Thirty-one ethanol plants, including 12 in Iowa, already have signed long-term contracts with Summit, spokesman Jesse Harris told The Gazette. By transporting carbon emissions from the factories, ethanol providers can adhere to low-carbon fuel standards in various states or countries. The proposed pipeline, varying between 4 and 24 inches in diameter, would go at least 4 feet underground, Harris said. It could go deeper “based on conversations with landowners and the specific layout of their property.” Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority, told The Gazette earlier this year that projects like this can help Iowa’s ethanol plants “maintain a competitive advantage.” After the informational meetings, Summit will "have more substantive conversations“ with landowners about purchases, Harris said. Summit’s “strong desire” is to acquire land necessary for the route through voluntary easements, Harris said. It plans to use “third-party reputable sources” for determining the value of land, pay most of the damages from the lack of crops in the first three years and return the land to its original use after construction. Those commitments haven’t been enough to convince every landowner along the potential route, though. “The government has NO RIGHT to take our land for their own climate delusions or for the fattening of large corporations,” said Janna Swanson, of rural Ayrshire, in a letter filed Aug. 30 with the state regulators. Swanson emphasized her “right to defend ourselves and secure our property” and quoted from the Bible in her letter. The company isn’t ruling out requesting permission from regulators to use the power of eminent domain if landowners do not agree to the easement. When the state utilities board in 2016 granted the power of eminent domain to construct the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline, the issue went to the Iowa Supreme Court — which ruled in the pipeline’s favor.

17 carbon storage projects eye North Dakota; state loses status as 2nd-biggest oil producer - North Dakota has officially lost its status as the nation’s second-biggest oil producer, but a new industry rapidly gaining momentum in the state has offset officials’ disappointment. In the last three weeks, State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms has heard from companies interested in pursuing as many as 17 projects in North Dakota to store carbon emissions underground. North Dakota for years has worked to create regulations and assume authority from the federal government surrounding the capture and storage of carbon dioxide from coal and ethanol plants and other industrial facilities. Researchers have also spent considerable time studying the geology of rocks deep underground in various parts of the state to see if they hold the right characteristics to store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Helms spoke Friday in Bismarck at his monthly press conference, which typically focuses on oil and natural gas production. But his department is also tasked with permitting carbon storage projects, which are finally starting to come before regulators. Last month, the Oil and Gas Division held a first-of-its-kind hearing regarding a permit for the underground storage area that will make up part of Red Trail Energy’s carbon capture project at its Richardton ethanol plant. That project could be operational early next year, Helms said. North Dakota ranked second, behind Texas, in oil production for nine years. It lost that status to New Mexico in July. The two states had been neck and neck for several months. Drilling in the Bakken oil patch of western North Dakota took off in the mid to late 2000s. The region faces competition from the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, where drilling is a more recent phenomenon. “It’s a long-term trend," Helms said. "It’s not something that’s just a quick flash and we’re back to No. 2." New Mexico has 82 rigs drilling for oil today, far more than the 27 operating in North Dakota. Helms said oil companies are drilling there so as to maintain government leases for the right to develop federal minerals. There is a lot of federal land in New Mexico, and efforts by the Biden administration to revamp its policies surrounding drilling could also play a role in the uptick in activity in that state, he said. North Dakota produced 1.078 barrels of oil per day in July, the most recent month for which data is available. That marks a 56,000-barrel-per-day or 5% drop from June. Helms anticipates production will grow again in the future, but he attributed the drop to five outages at natural gas processing plants this summer. The outages at processing plants also caused an uptick in the wasteful flaring of gas, though officials don’t anticipate that will last. Producers flared 10% of all gas produced in the state in July, falling out of compliance with the state’s 9% target.

The carbon capture boondoggle – EHN --Many of the voices holding up carbon capture and hydrogen as new climate solutions are the same voices that fought for the natural gas bridge a decade ago. And, once again, they're leading us down the wrong path, building a bridge to decades of additional emissions when we're rapidly running out of time to avoid the most dire impacts of climate change.As the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made abundantly clear, we don't have time for another fossil fuel bridge.Carbon capture utilization and storage involves removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, either at the source of production like a power plant or pulled directly from the air around us, and either using it for some other purpose or storing it underground, ideally forever. More than one watchdog group has described carbon capture as a boondoggle, and for good reason. The federal government has pumped billions into failed carbon capture projects, and the new infrastructure plan and reconciliation process is poised to inject tens of billions more.One after another, these projects have experienced delays and cost overruns, missed emission-reduction targets, and ultimately failed. The few successful carbon capture projects still operating largely use captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery processes and get paid for the alleged climate benefit of burying CO2.Carbon capture is an expensive and energy intensive process. Even when successful, carbon capture at power plants and industrial facilities will never eliminate all CO2 emissions released at the sites. Additionally, carbon capture does nothing to address the emission of harmful co-pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx) or upstream emissions due to methane leakage in the extraction and transportation of natural gas. In fact, because carbon capture requires more fossil fuels to generate the same amount of energy, it exacerbates both of these issues. Researchers at Cornell University and Stanford University found that producing hydrogen through carbon capture, generating so called "blue" hydrogen, would result in more greenhouse emissions than directly burning gas or coal for heat.The utilization and storage components of carbon capture are also problematic. A recent study from the University of Michigan found that most uses of captured CO2 would result in a net climate burden, resulting in higher emissions than they would avoid. Permanent storage of CO2 has yet to be proven, with concerns that leakage could negate many of the purported climate benefits of the process.

US can meet Paris climate commitments but will need to rely heavily on electric utilities: report | Utility Dive - It is possible for the United States to meet its climate commitments in the Paris Agreement and halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but the effort will rely heavily on rapid decarbonization in the electric power sector, according to a report released Monday by a broad coalition of clean energy advocates led by Bloomberg Philanthropies. According to the analysis from America is All In, cutting U.S. economy-wide emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels will mean the "power sector contributes more than half the total reductions" with its emissions slashed 83%. Getting there will require "an all-of-society approach," according to the report, including investment and regulation from the federal government alongside efforts from local, state and business leaders. Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, but since taking office, President Joe Biden has rejoined the compact and proposed a jobs and infrastructure plan that hinges on eliminating economy-wide carbon emissions by 2050. But federal policy efforts alone will not be sufficient to meet new greenhouse gas reduction targets, which will require the broader efforts of civil society and local leadership, according to the America is All In coalition. The group launched in February to advocate for the United States' Paris goals and is co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Vi Lyles, and CommonSpirit Health CEO Lloyd Dean. The report released Monday was developed by World Resources Institute, RMI and the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS) at the University of Maryland. "It is important to remember that non-federal leadership has been and will continue to be critical to moving the ball forward nationally," Leon Clarke, acting director of CGS, said at an event introducing the report. "It's hard for us to imagine the Biden administration being able to put the level of ambition forward that they did without all the groundwork that's been laid by states, cities, businesses and civil society, over the last decades." However, with the Biden administration now committed to climate policy, the group's "Blueprint 2030" outlines policies — including the federal government setting clean energy targets, efficiency standards and accelerating the shift away from internal combustion engines — that can help meet Paris targets. Those include mandates and incentives to reach 80% or more clean electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2035, which align with targets stated by the Biden administration. Democrats are working on a budget reconciliation bill that includes a Clean Electricity Performance Program to incentivize 80% of the nation's electricity from clean energy sources by 2030. In addition, the tax provisions in the bill would represent a major boost for renewable energy. "Increased deployment and integration of renewable power and energy storage will result in 83 percent reductions by 2030" in the electric sector, the report found.

1,000 corporations vs. utility execs: Who is right on 100% clean power? - A new blueprint from a billionaire-led coalition that includes some of the nation’s largest corporations is backing ambitious clean energy policies being pushed by President Biden, even as utility executives are expressing doubts about them. Known as America Is All In, the coalition has more than 1,000 corporate members — including Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Google LLC, Microsoft Corp. and Walmart Inc. — as well as three states; 13 counties; and hundreds of cities, universities and faith groups. Chaired by the billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), among others, the group emerged in 2017 as a pro-Paris-deal counterweight to the Trump administration, and has since pivoted to promoting what it calls an “all-of-society” approach to addressing climate change. Its road map released Monday identified “breakthrough” climate policies that could put the U.S. on track with a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, as sought by President Biden. And it argued for the continued relevance of climate policies made below the federal level. States and cities should require all new buildings to be zero-emissions by 2030, while phasing out gas cars and moving to 100 percent carbon-free power by 2035, it found. Those policies have so far been implemented by a brief list of jurisdictions, often to resistance from fossil fuel industry, real estate developers, the auto industry and utilities. Corporations and civil society groups should also get involved through steps like training a clean energy workforce, or reaching deals to power facilities with 100 percent zero-carbon electricity, the coalition said. Most of those same recommendations should be embraced by federal legislators, too, it said, along with an 80 percent reduction in electricity’s emissions by 2030 — a key tenet of the reconciliation bill being considered by Democrats in Congress. Still, many of the biggest corporate members in the coalition, like the Big Four tech companies, also belong to major business associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that are lobbying against the reconciliation measure’s corporate tax raises. That was highlighted by several environmentalist groups last week in a letter that urged CEOs to back the measure (Greenwire, Sept. 16). A separate report, produced by consultancy Deloitte yesterday, revealed plenty of doubters among power industry executives about how the grid and supply chains would fare, if the U.S. lurches toward Biden’s carbon-free goals. Deloitte’s analysts surveyed more than 40 executives last July, and found that over two-thirds of them weren’t sure that a carbon-free grid was possible by 2035. More than half of the executives also said that as buildings and cars become more dependent on electricity, power companies might not be able to meet demand in 2035. And 51 percent of the executives opined that renewable growth would be significantly slowed by shortages of critical minerals in coming years. Deloitte’s analysts, for their part, concluded that executives’ pessimism was largely unwarranted, given mounting action from industries and policymakers. “Several of the challenges are difficult and require planning, coordination, and potentially, new policies,” wrote analysts. “And getting [to carbon-free power] by 2035 may be a tall order. But progress will likely continue,” they concluded.

Dems' clean electricity plan spurs renewable fight - House Democrats’ $150 billion clean electricity plan is raising concerns over who gets to build renewable energy projects. The Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) under consideration in Congress would dole out monetary awards to electric companies that meet annual clean electricity targets and ding them financially if they don’t. The landmark federal proposal is designed to boost renewables across the electric sector, but critics argue that its terse language may leave key players out. Absent from the program in its current form is a requirement that electric companies choose the cheapest way to add clean power to the grid, which would be done through a competitive bidding process. Some large renewable energy developers are concerned that regulated, investor-owned utilities will opt to build all the clean energy projects themselves so they can recoup the cost of those capital investments plus earn a profit. "[They] have an incentive to build their own generation,” said Brian George, policy strategy and government affairs director for the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA), the national trade group for competitive power suppliers. EPSA’s members own and operate 150,000 megawatts of capacity that includes renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels. Members include LS Power Development LLC, NRG Energy Inc., Vistra Corp., Shell Energy and BP PLC subsidiary BP Energy Co. George acknowledged that the bill as written doesn’t tell the investor-owned utilities to build their own generation, but “it also doesn’t require competitive bidding," he said. A congressional directive would eliminate any room for interpretation, he added. Typically, large-scale wind, solar and storage projects prove to be the cheapest electricity, renewable proponents argue. As state energy regulators and electric companies set renewable or net-zero carbon goals, clean energy advocates argue that electric companies should be required to solicit proposals to build new generation from all types of fuel — and all builders — to see who can add those electrons at the lowest price. An official with the Edison Electric Institute, the trade group representing investor-owned utilities, said that argument is disingenuous because it leaves out a critical component of the generation planning process: the states. “The state regulatory process, by definition, requires that [the regulated electric companies] prove that what they are doing is prudent,” said Emily Fisher, EEI’s general counsel and senior vice president of clean energy.

Two transmission projects for 2.6 GW of clean power into New York City selected | S&P Global Platts --New York Governor Kathy Hochul Sept. 20 said two large transmission projects had been selected to transport wind, solar and hydropower from northern New York and Canada into New York City to cut emissions and help the state reach 70% renewable electricity by 2030. "These transformative projects are a win-win -- delivering thousands of new good-paying jobs throughout the state and attracting billions of dollars in private investment," Hochul said in a statement. "They also help us turn the page on New York City's long-standing dependence on fossil fuels and will ensure millions of New Yorkers, especially those living in our most vulnerable communities, can have the promise of cleaner air and a healthier future." The project proposals were submitted in response to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's solicitation under the Tier 4 renewable energy credit program. NYSERDA received bids from seven proposers for seven projects with 35 alternative configurations that represent a total of over 35 million MWh/year of renewable energy and nearly 7,500 MW of new renewable transmission capacity. "Two new transmission lines connecting New York City to electricity from water, the wind and solar will create thousands of good union jobs, improve the resilience and reliability of our power supply, and dramatically reduce our reliance on oil and gas electricity that dirties the air in our neighborhoods and endangers our planet," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the statement. The city has a goal to power all New York City government operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2025. Project details The 1,250-MW Champlain Hudson Power Express project has been under development for many years and would involve building a high-voltage direct current line from the Canadian border into the city that would primarily run under the Hudson River and existing rail lines. CHPE is being developed by Transmission Developers, which is backed by private equity firm Blackstone. The project would be supplied with hydropower from Hydro-Québec's reservoir system. However, large-scale hydropower did not qualify to receive RECs before the state created the Tier 4 system. "By selecting the CHPE transmission line project, the state will be reducing carbon emissions as soon as 2025 and building the long-term backbone infrastructure needed to support local renewable energy, all the while making sure that local communities receive direct benefits," Sophie Brochu, Hydro-Québec's president and CEO, said in a statement.

Renewable Energy Coming To Astoria Fossil Fuel Plant, Says Hochul — Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Monday that she would work to transition New York City from fossil fuels to renewable energy, pointing at a fossil fuel-burning plant in Astoria where a debate between gas and renewable energy is currently unfolding."We'll be shutting down unhealthy facilities like the Astoria facility," the governor said at the opening ceremony of Climate Week NYC, an international summit focused on climate action where she announced two new contracts that will bring enough renewable energy to plants in Queens to power 2.5 million citywide homes annually.While the governor named the Astoria Generating Station as among the city's polluting, fossil fuel plants — even calling the area "asthma alley," a moniker referring to nearby residents' higher than average asthma rates — she did not explicitly speak out against NRG's proposal to replace its peaker plant in Astoria with a natural gas-fired generator, which advocates argue should be replaced with a renewable energy source instead.The plant's critics, including locals and elected officials, argue that NRG's proposed plant would worsen locals' health and climate change, and fails to comply with the state's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), a law that mandates carbon emissions reductions over the next few decades.NRG, by contrast, maintains that its CLCPA-compliant, gas-fired plant would reduce greenhouse gases, improve grid reliability, and boost the economy.Shortly before the governor's speech, Mayor Bill de Blasio —speaking from Queens Borough Hall amid his borough-specific "City Hall in your Borough" initiative — restated hisopposition to NRG's proposal. "We have to cut off our dependency on fossil fuels, so that plant has to go," he said, adding his commitment to investing in renewable energy and seeking "climate justice" for lower income communities who are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Newsom signs $15-billion climate change package - Standing before a foil-wrapped, fire-proofed monument in Sequoia National Park amid a haze of wildfire smoke, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed a $15 billion climate package for California, the largest such investment in state history.As ash from the nearby KNP Complex fire rained from an opaque sky, Newsom outlined the details of the package, which included investments in drought response, forest management and climate risk mitigation.California in recent months has been hit with record-breaking heat, devastating drought and a wildfire season that has seen more than 2.35 million acres burned across the state — a disastrous convergence of events that has been fueled by the burning of fossil fuels and threatens to become endemic to the region.“We feel a deep sense of responsibility here in the state of California because of the smash-mouth realities of climate change,” Newsom said. “Not just the issues of theacuity and frequency and duration of these wildfires, but also what’s happening with this mega-drought over the entire West Coast of the United States.”The announcement arrived in tandem with Climate Week and the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, this fall.Big-ticket items in the package include $5.2 billion for drought response and water resilience; $3.7 billion for issues like extreme heat and sea level rise; $3.9 billion for electric vehicle investment and infrastructure; $1.5 billion for wildfire response and forest resilience, and $1.1 billion for sustainable agriculture.The aggregate items stem from the state’s larger $262.6-billion budget, which also encompasses COVID-19 pandemic relief and a sweeping effort to address homelessness, among other top priorities.But the effects of climate change on Thursday seemed most acute as Newsom signed the legislation under smoke-filled skies. The KNP Complex and the nearby Windy fires have for days threatened California’s towering sequoia trees, which for many years were believed to be nearly impervious to fire.

Cuyahoga County’s microgrid plan moves forward with creation of county-run utility department - cleveland.com – Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s plan to establish one or more microgrid districts has cleared an early hurdle, with County Council agreeing to create a county-run utility department. Today, the county will begin its search for a consultant to help find potential candidates to develop and operate the grids, pitched as a climate-friendly business-attraction tool aimed at manufacturers and other companies that require a constant stream of electricity. “By providing power that has an up-time of 99.999 percent, we can guarantee that, even if the main power grid goes down, those on the microgrid won’t lose power for more than five minutes in a year,” Budish said in a recent news release. “Our country is seeing stronger and more violent storms causing large-scale power outages, which can cost entities millions of dollars,” Sustainability Director Mike Foley said, noting that microgrids would “provide locally generated clean electricity that will minimize utility downtime and provide for a more resilient and cleaner electric grid.” As imagined, a developer-operator be responsible for building out power lines and related infrastructure. It would then serve as the businesses’ day-to-day energy provider, with the microgrid providing a back-up energy supply when there are outages. The county wants to build microgrids in established business districts. That could include the area around Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and NASA, the future Brecksville site of Sherwin-Williams’ research and development facility, the former Brooklyn site of American Greetings, a manufacturing hub in Euclid, and the future Cleveland Foundation headquarters site in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood.

In Cleveland, a potential model for equitable, community-owned solar - Solar is more than a source of power. For the community of Hough in Cleveland, solar energy is viewed as an engine for community development — and a possible template for similar projects across the country. However, challenges and potential roadblocks remain, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic along with the issue of utility ownership of community-based solar developments. Like many communities of color across the country, and especially in the Rust Belt, the Hough neighborhood in Cleveland has weathered a number of setbacks. Redlining especially created a massive gap in homeownership within the predominantly Black community of Hough and White Cleveland residents. However, there is growing hope for reducing this disparity, as well as increasing the economic wellbeing in the entire area. One important element is a $3.55 million grant from the George Gund Foundation for the GO Green Energy Fund, awarded in November 2020. (The Gund Foundation also funds the Energy News Network.) The fund uses a green bank model designed to finance small-scale commercial, industrial and community-based solar projects — like the one in Hough — across Ohio. “We want to bring relevant financial solutions, relevant civic solutions to bear and communities that haven’t felt they’ve always had access to it,” said Michael Jeans, president and CEO of Growth Opportunity Partners, also known as Growth Opps, which administers the GO Green Energy Fund. (Growth Opps joined the American Green Bank Consortium in November 2019.) The grant will provide funding for a community solar program in Hough that will provide approximately 1 megawatt of clean energy for East Side communities through the Cleveland Public Power grid.

Ohio’s SB 52 raises profile for upcoming workshops on solar siting issues - Three workshops next month will help Ohio regulators draft statewide siting rules for solar and other energy facilities, but a new state law that will take effect days later could still let local governments block solar and wind projects.The Ohio Power Siting Board has scheduled workshops on Oct. 4 and 8 in advance of draft rules for solar and other facilities. Advocates for industry and environmental groups say the sessions could be helpful even though Senate Bill 52 will soon let counties block projects that might otherwise meet any new standards. Topics under consideration for solar projects include setbacks, landscape and lighting design, fencing, and operational noise, according to the board’s notice. The Power Siting Board “has received public comments on various proceedings, and these topics are often brought up,” said spokesperson Matt Schilling at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. “Currently there are no rules that speak specifically to solar facilities.”Other subjects on the workshops’ agenda include decommissioning plans for wind and solar facilities, as well as a variety of topics dealing with public involvement, local government contacts, complaint resolution and more.That law takes effect on Oct. 11. Among other things, it lets counties ban solar and wind facilities from all or part of their territory, gives counties and townships a seat and vote in the board’s solar or wind project cases, and holds renewable projects to a higher standard than fossil fuel infrastructure.

New Bill Adds Hurdles To Solar Development And Stirs Up Controversy In Ohio -There is a bill that recently passed in Ohio that has stirred up a lot of controversy around renewable energy development. Senate Bill 52 (SB52) requires all future utility-scale solar and wind farms in Ohio to be approved by county commissioners in addition to the state's power siting board. It also gives county commissioners the power to restrict certain areas in their counties from renewable energy development.At its core, SB52 is about how Ohio approaches its energy future. It was crafted by Ohio Republicans who have historically been hesitant about adoption of renewable energy like wind and solar. Republican State Senator Bill Reineke, who represents seven rural counties in northwest Ohio, was one of the primary sponsors of the bill. "I think the best thing that we've done with this is make this bill about good planning," he said.Reineke said he was hearing from his constituentsOhio that they were concerned about losing farmland to renewable energy development. They were also concerned about the decommissioning of the solar farms after the companies' leases with landowners were completed. SB52 now requires solar developers to update their decommissioning plans every five years.“At what point should we be concerned in Ohio that our rural landscape will go from no longer agriculture, but solar and wind?" he asked during a phone interview in August.SB52 gives more power to local communities to decide where solar farms can be built and that’s making for some strange bedfellows who agree on parts of the bill.Krista Magaw is the recently retired Executive Director of The Tecumseh Land Trust — a nonprofit that works to preserve farmland and other natural areas in Southwest Ohio. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Ohio Environmental Council.Magaw said she sees a lot of good in SB52. She said she has been concerned about the boom of utility scale solar development on farmland in Ohio. Specifically, she said, utility-scale solar developments have been made without enough community input.“It's been alarming the way people have been informed," Magaw said. "The way the power siting board works and the way county planning works and township planning works, you've really got to get ahead of the curve.”There are now close to 40 solar farms under consideration in the state. Some will be grandfathered in but others could be subject to the new regulatory hurdles that SB52 presents.

Lawmakers Propose New Renewable Energy Standards, Streamlining Clean Energy Projects and Investing in 'Energy Rooted in Equity' | WKSU --The bill requires that by 2050, all electricity generated in Ohio would come from renewable sources, and clean energy development would be directed toward communities most harmed by current energy policies.Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) said it will speak to younger people considering leaving Ohio.“What do you think it would do mentally, emotionally?" Howse said at a press conference at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. "You’d be like, ‘You know what? They’re actually thinking about our future.’ They will actually have, plant seeds that ‘I want to be here. I want to raise my family here.’”The bill would also make building wind and solar projects easier, give regulators more audit and investigation power over utilities, and create an Office of Energy Justice to oversee decisions of the Public Utilities Commission.Though the nuclear power plant subsidies in the sweeping nuclear power plant bailout known as House Bill 6 have been repealed, there are other elements of the law still in place, including subsidies for two coal-fired power plants.Howse’s co-sponsor Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) said one place where he thinks there’s common ground between Republicans and Democrats is on coal.“We are actively propping up, on the backs of Ohioans, a completely non-competitive source of energy that is shutting down everywhere else," Weinstein said. "And I’m proud to say there’s bipartisan support to end the subsidies on coal. We’re talking about the next step beyond that.” But natural gas is still a big part of Ohio’s energy policy. And in a legislature dominated by Republicans, many of whom voted to pull back on renewable energy standards before effectively killing them in House Bill 6, this bill faces an uphill battle.

Ohio bill emphasizes jobs and justice on path to 100% clean energy by 2050 - Ohio Democratic lawmakers plan to emphasize potential economic benefits as they try to persuade Republican colleagues to support an ambitious new bill aimed at pushing the state to 100% clean energy by 2050.Reps. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, and Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, previewed theEnergy Jobs and Justice Act (HB 429) at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Center on Tuesday. Ten other Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors.“We’re at an inflection point — not just in Ohio but globally — as we seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are wreaking havoc on our global environment and our Ohio environment,” Weinstein said.Among other things, the 265-page bill calls for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from electricity by 2030, compared to a 2005 baseline. That target would increase to 100% by 2050. The bill would also set an energy waste reduction goal of 22% by the end of 2030.The bill aims to level the playing field for renewables to compete against fossil fuels. Among other things, it would fix the property line setbacks for wind farm turbines that were tripled in 2014. There would be more flexible options for community solar and virtual net metering. And steps for grid modernization would improve reliability and efficiency.

US solar trade feud erupts at crunch time for Democrats' climate agenda --The latest feud over trade policy in the U.S. solar industry comes at a critical moment for President Joe Biden, who hopes to turn the country into a leading manufacturer of green energy technology while ensuring that efforts to limit climate change are not hamstrung by soaring prices or equipment shortages.The push for tighter trade restrictions once again pits solar manufacturers demanding more protection from foreign competition against some of the country's biggest project developers, who warn that raising import costs will threaten growth.The conflict heated up three months before international climate negotiations in November and as the Biden administration faces a high-wire act in Congress, with Democrats trying to hold together the moderate and progressive wings of their caucus behind a massive spending bill that would advance many of the president's policy objectives.The U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to initiate an October investigation into allegations that Chinese manufacturers have "unlawfully" avoided import taxes by moving some production to Southeast Asia. The claim was brought by a group of unnamed companies that have called for antidumping and countervailing duties on Chinese solar products to be expanded to cells and panels imported from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam by some of the world's biggest manufacturers.The Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, said Sept. 22 that the requested tariffs are "massive" and would put at risk nearly 30% of the solar capacity that is expected to be installed through 2023."Our nation's ability to effectively address climate change and fuel sustained economic growth relies on rapid deployment of solar and clean energy in the next 2-3 years," the group said in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that was signed by 200 companies. "The petitions put this growth at severe risk and threaten the livelihoods of more than 230,000 American solar workers."The Commerce Department investigation is likely to be followed in January by an extension of another set of tariffs that were imposed in 2018 on most imported solar cells and panels, analysts at Roth Capital Partners LLC said in a Sept. 16 research note.Adding to the concerns of project developers, equipment orders have been hung up at American ports as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, started detaining imports linked to alleged labor abuses.

Solar companies warn tariffs on imported panels would be devastating - A group of nearly 200 U.S. solar companies are calling on the Department of Commerce to reject recent petitions for tariffs on imported panels from some Asian countries, arguing that the measures would harm U.S. investment in renewable energy and efforts to combat climate change. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) wrote in a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, which more than 190 companies signed onto, that there was an “immediate and serious threat posed to the U.S. solar industry from the anonymous circumvention petitions recently filed against solar cell and panel imports from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.” The coalition said that the tariffs, requested last month by a group that referred to itself as the American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention, “would devastate the industry and each of our individual companies.” The SEIA said in a press release announcing the letter that the duties could cause the solar energy industry to “miss out on 18 gigawatts (GW) of solar deployment by 2023.” The solar-energy trade association said that 18 GW is “equivalent to the amount of solar capacity installed in all of U.S. history prior to 2015.” The group went on to say that the petitions, if approved, would create 50 to 250 percent duties on imports from the three countries, which account for 80 percent of all panel imports to the U.S. “Our nation’s ability to effectively address climate change and fuel sustained economic growth relies on rapid deployment of solar and clean energy in the next 2-3 years,” the letter noted. “The petitions put this growth at severe risk and threaten the livelihoods of more than 230,000 American solar workers.” “We urge you to use your authority and decline the anonymous petitioners’ request to initiate circumvention investigations,” the companies told the commerce secretary. Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO, said in a statement Wednesday, “I cannot overstate the dire threat that these reckless petitions are imposing on hundreds of thousands of American families.” “The anonymous petitioners are asking the Department of Commerce to not only misinterpret U.S. law, but also overturn a decade of department decisions in solar trade cases, all to benefit a few anonymous petitioners at the expense of the entire U.S. solar economy,” she added. The group that filed petitions for the tariffs argued that the duties were necessary to combat Chinese solar cell and panels producers who they say have shifted manufacturing to those countries to avoid U.S. antidumping, according to Reuters.

Rapid Shift to Clean Energy Could Save ‘Trillions.’ But Corporate-Backed Groups Are Fighting the Transition in US Budget Bill - A slow transition away from fossil fuels would be “more expensive” than a rapid shift to renewable energy, according to a new study, a conclusion that stands in sharp contrast to fossil fuel industry talking points aimed at heading off aggressive climate policy currently being shaped in Congress. An accelerated clean energy transition would lead to “net savings of many trillions of dollars,” a calculation that does not even take into account the damages from unchecked climate chaos, the recently released study from Oxford University found. On economics alone, the logic of a rapid shift to renewable energy is obvious and necessary.“The belief that the green energy transition will be expensive has been a major driver of the ineffective response to climate change for the last forty years,” the researchers write. “This pessimism is at odds with past technological cost-improvement trends, and risks locking humanity into an expensive and dangerous energy future.”The authors note that outdated thinking on renewable energy — that it comes with tradeoffs like higher electricity prices, for instance — has long dominated policy discussions. Echoes of this idea can be found today in mounting attacks by a network of lobbyists and think tanks on the climate provisions in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package.But that line of argument has been inaccurate for years, and the Oxford study says it is now decisively wrong. “Our analysis suggests that such trade-offs are unlikely to exist: a greener, healthier and safer global energy system is also likely to be cheaper,” they write [original emphasis] The U.S. has a chance to solidify an accelerated track towards cleaner energy. The Democrats in Congress are working on legislation that would push the U.S. electricity system to roughly 80 percent carbon-free power by 2030, a definition that includes hydro and nuclear power, up from around 40 percent today. The so-called Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP) is complex, but it essentially rewards utilities that move quickly to add renewable energy to their portfolios with each passing year, while imposing fees on laggards who move slowly.Building the more than 600 gigawatts of solar, wind, and batteries needed to get to the 2030 target would put a lot of people to work. One study from the Analysis Group finds that the CEPP would help create an estimated 7.7 million net new jobs over the next decade as the electricity sector moves rapidly to scale up renewables.But the win-win logic of creating jobs and cleaning up the electricity sector is not the message that industry front groups and their lobbyists are engaging with.In the past few weeks, a constellation of right-wing think tanks, front groups, and trade associations have mobilized to defeat the CEPP, as well as the broader $3.5 trillion budget package — nicknamed the Build Back Better bill — under consideration by the Democrats in Congress.Many of the misleading talking points being pushed by these lobbyists take the familiar form of outdated notions that renewable energy is expensive. They also opportunistically try to link the proposed bill to electricity blackouts, which have occurred in various parts of the country this year, including from soaring temperatures in California and extreme winter storms in Texas, while conspicuously ignoring the fact that these disasters are made worse by climate change.

Bill Gates secures hundreds of millions from U.S. firms for climate fight - Bill Gates has raised hundreds of millions from seven large U.S. companies to develop clean technologies that could play a key role in the fight against climate change. Breakthrough Energy, a non-profit founded by Gates in 2016, announced Monday that it has secured investments from Microsoft, BlackRock, General Motors, American Airlines, Boston Consulting Group, Bank of America and ArcelorMittal. The overall size of the investments was not disclosed but they reportedly amount to over $1 billion. Breakthrough Energy did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment. The Washington-headquartered firm said the money will be used to fund its "Breakthrough Energy Catalyst," a project launched earlier this year that's aiming to finance, produce, and buy the new solutions that will help underpin a zero-carbon economy. Gates said in a statement that a "new industrial revolution" is required if the world is going to avoid a climate disaster. "Half the technology needed to get to zero emissions either doesn't exist yet or is too expensive for much of the world to afford," said the Microsoft co-founder. "Catalyst is designed to change that and provide an effective way to invest in our clean technology future." He added: "By working with this growing community of private and public partners, Catalyst will take a global view of the energy innovation landscape – the key technologies, leading-edge companies, financing partners, and pivotal policies – and fund the projects that will have the greatest positive impact for our planet." The program will initially focus on direct air capture, green hydrogen, long-duration energy storage, and sustainable aviation fuel. BlackRock has pledged $100 million over five years through its charitable foundation, while Microsoft, American Airlines and ArcelorMittal have committed the same amount. The others did not disclose the size of their investments.

There’s a Fortune to Be Made in the Obscure Metals Behind Clean Power - The era-defining shift from fossil fuels to clean energy will deliver an unprecedented new boom for commodities—and an opportunity for investors—as a range of relatively obscure materials become essential to delivering emissions-free power, transport and heavy industry. The transition could require as much as $173 trillion in energy supply and infrastructure investment over the next three decades, according to research provider BloombergNEF, and will reverberate from lithium-rich salt flats in Chile to polysilicon plants in China’s Xinjiang region. As electric vehicles supplant gas guzzlers, and solar panels and wind turbines replace coal and oil as the world’s most important energy sources, metals like lithium, cobalt and rare earths are on the brink of rapidly accelerating demand, along with more familiar industrial materials like steel and copper. Primary Energy Supply by Source “The energy transition is driving the next commodity supercycle,” said Jessica Fung, head strategist at Zug, Switzerland-based Pala Investments Ltd., which funds mining projects tied to decarbonization. “It is a decades-long transition, but the time to invest and make money is this decade. The time is now.” Prospects for technology manufacturers, metals producers and energy traders are immense, while regular investors are already benefiting. Numerous clean-energy stocks have more than doubled in value since the start of 2020, and the emergence of futures contracts for battery materials and a proliferation of initial public offerings in the sector will extend options to gain exposure. Though shifting demand patterns are being signposted far in advance, project developers urgently need to secure capital for new mines or production lines. Efforts to lift supplies of key raw materials—which can require years of exploration and construction—must begin now to keep pace with future requirements. That pressure could be most pronounced for EV charging infrastructure and lithium-ion batteries, which face steep growth curves, though more established solar and wind sectors have been challenged this year by pricier commodities. Failing to act fast enough could even risk an economic shock comparable to the oil crises of the 1970s, said Robert Johnston, an adjunct senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University in New York. Concerns about future bottlenecks are reflected in the eye-watering gains of some green stocks. “I don’t see an easy solution because these supply chains don’t magically appear overnight,” he said.

Record Copper Prices Are Threatening The Global Energy Transition - The supply chain disruptions which marked the early months of the coronavirus pandemic have cast a long shadow. Once economies around the globe began to reopen in the second half of 2020, numerous shortages cropped up across a variety of industries. Commodity prices skyrocketed. Crude oil, lumber, and important metals like copper and aluminum all saw prices surge to multi-year highs, sending negative effects rippling across the wide range of sectors that depend on these commodities. The clean energy sector, in particular, has seen its margins squeezed. While renewable energy technologies become more competitive when oil prices are high, the sector is also highly dependent on base metals—including copper, which hit record high prices earlier this year. Copper, one of the best conductors of electricity, is extensively used in the production of electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels. Offshore wind farms, due to their extensive cabling, are particularly copper-intensive, requiring 9.6 metric tons of copper per megawatt (MW) of energy capacity. Onshore wind farms and solar photovoltaics (PV) are also highly copper-intensive, requiring 4.3 tons and 5 tons of copper per MW, respectively. The copper market will come under increased pressure as each of these renewable energy technologies is projected to grow rapidly over the next three decades, with knock-on effects for investors in the renewables sector. Indeed, the surge in copper prices is already eroding margins on many clean energy projects. Norwegian oil and gas company Equinor (formerly Statoil)—now a major developer of wind farms— has begun lowering investor expectations on its renewable projects. The company recently dropped its guidance from 6-10% returns in 2020 to 4-8% this year. Denmark’s Ørsted A/S (formerly DONG Energy), the world’s largest offshore wind farm developer, said returns on capital employed fell from 11% in the first quarter of 2020 to 7.5% a year later. Danish competitor Vestas Wind Systems saw returns fall from 17.4% to 12.2% over the same period. If this trend continues unchecked, many renewable projects might become financially unfeasible for all but the biggest companies with the deepest pockets.

U.S. Steel seeks a home for $3 billion plant. How does Pittsburgh feel? - U.S. Steel announced Thursday evening that it was looking for locations in the United States to build a brand new $3 billion steel plant that would go into construction next year. PublicSource reached out to local leaders in government, labor and the environment to gather their reaction. The new plant will use electric arc furnaces, a different kind of technology than what is used at its plants in the Mon Valley. That method can create steel products at a lower cost and with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. In a statement the company said its decision on a location would depend on a number of factors but singled out “state and local support.” PublicSource asked a U.S. Steel representative whether the Pittsburgh region — its longtime home — would get any special priority. The company said it would make its decision based on factors like “state and local support, swift permitting, energy availability and cost, and logistics infrastructure.” U.S. Steel announced in April that it wasn’t going to invest $1 billion in modernizing its Mon Valley facilities and instead is planning to shut down the three dirtiest furnaces at the Clairton Coke Works next year. That would mean a 17% reduction in capacity.Jeff Nobers, the executive director of Pittsburgh Works Together, an association of trade unions and business groups, said a decision to build the plant here would be an economically transformative opportunity to bring back steel jobs to the region. “What remains is the need to make certain that industries preparing to make such a significant investment feel welcome in a region, and that government and other entities extend this welcome clearly and without ambiguity,” Nobers said.

EV Impact: Electric vehicle surge resonates across global economy | S&P Global Market Intelligence --If it seems like electric vehicles are proliferating in unprecedented volume and variety, it's because they are — and they're gradually changing the world around them. Fueled by skyrocketing demand in Europe, China and the U.S., sales of pure electric and plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles in 2021 are on pace to more than double to a record 6.2 million units, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. At nearly 9% of the global passenger vehicle market, up from less than 3% just two years ago, this marks an emphatic finish to a long ascent to commercial relevance.Automakers and their suppliers are grappling with shortages of lithium-ion batteries and semiconductor chips. Safety-related recalls have been expensive. Yet this year's surge in EV sales sets the stage for a new phase of cross-sector innovation and development as grids reshape when and how they deliver power, and the oil and gas industry starts to lose its grip on transportation."This is one of the biggest transformations since the industrial revolution, and it's not just transforming what powers the car," said Josh Boone, executive director of EV advocacy group Veloz, which is backed by California's largest electric utilities, several of the world's largest automakers and a charging affiliate of an oil major migrating aggressively into electricity."It is a seismic shift in how the energy sector and the transportation sector interact," Boone said.Veloz is part of the National EV Charging Initiative, a coalition of U.S. business and labor groups, state energy regulators and environmental organizations seeking to harness the capital necessary to launch coast-to-coast construction of charging stations — a critical missing link in the push for EV ubiquity. The coalition believes federal government funding is necessary to augment the billions of dollars the private sector is spending to create a charging experience that matches the ease of filling up on gasoline. Advocates see the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which awaits a House of Representatives vote, as a start; it includes $7.5 billion in funds for alternative fuel corridors and a nationwide network of EV charging stations.

Whitmer: Michigan to have first wireless EV charging road in US - Imagine being able to charge an electric vehicle without stopping to plug in. It’s the kind of technology that could help ease worries like range anxiety and could really boost the transition to electric vehicles. Michigan could have the first wireless charging infrastructure on a public road anywhere in the country, although the state is likely to be challenged to meet that goal because Indiana is already preparing to test such technology. It’s the idea behind a new initiative that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday morning as she helped open Motor Bella, this year’s alternative for the North American International Auto Show being held this week at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac. A one-mile stretch of road somewhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties will be picked to host the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot. The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning to issue a request for proposal on Sept. 28. It's not clear how the technology would work, how soon the pilot project would be operational or how much it might cost, although this type of advance has been discussed by experts as one possible future for EV charging and testing has been tried in Europe. The Indiana project would use magnetizable concrete to enable wireless charging of electric vehicles, according to an Indiana Department of Transportation news release. Scott Manning, an INDOT spokesman, said the in-pavement wireless charging project in that state was launched in July, and is currently being installed at a research facility in West Lafayette, Indiana. "We expect to reach the second phase of the project, testing on a public roadway within one to two years," Manning said, noting that officials there were not aware of any other similar projects under way in the United States when they were researching it.

Natural gas, solar projects set for public hearing - Surry County’s Planning Commission will hold public hearings Sept. 27 on two proposed renewable energy projects. Align RNG, a joint venture of Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods to turn methane from hog manure into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas, has proposed building a regional facility off Route 31 at Surry’s border with Sussex County. The plant would process raw biogas from multiple farms and employ two workers in Surry County, according to a county staff report. The participating farms would be located in Sussex, Surry, Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. As the report explains, when hog manure breaks down, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas. This gas can be captured rather than released into the atmosphere through the use of covered lagoons and an anaerobic digester. The project, if approved, may become the first facility of its kind in Virginia as there are “no projects for comparison within the state,” according to the staff report. The proposed facility would be the end destination for 62 miles of high-density polyethylene piping carrying raw biogas from the participating farms. The resulting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to taking more than 22,000 vehicles off the road, according to the proposal’s projections – with the resulting natural gas sufficient to supply 2,823 homes. According to an economic and fiscal impact report prepared for Dominion, construction would last through 2022, with the resulting operations bringing just over $243,000 per year in tax revenue to Surry County, starting in 2023. TRC Environmental Corporation has filed for a conditional use permit on behalf of Align. According to the county’s staff report on the matter, the roughly 22.8-acre parcel is currently zoned rural agricultural and is listed in Surry County’s comprehensive plan as suitable for rural preservation. Impacts to wetlands are proposed during construction, the report states, but will be restored to pre-construction conditions once the building of the substation is complete. There may also be odor or fumes coming from the site during construction but the applicant, according to the staff report, states there will be no odors emitted once construction is complete.

An end to Entergy New Orleans? Entergy lays out options as City Council weighs utility changes | Hurricane Center -With pressure rising on Entergy New Orleans from its City Council regulators over its performance during Hurricane Ida, the local utility's parent company said ahead of a Wednesday council meeting that it would cooperate with a study aimed at determining whether it should remain as the city's power provider.But in the new release Tuesday, as well as a series of internal documents released to its regulators in an apparent e-mailing error, the company pointed to a number of pitfalls to some of the more far-reaching potential alternatives to its monopoly floated by the council. And it sang the praises of a new alternative that would remove City Council oversight altogether.In recent days, Council members led by Utility Committee chairperson Helena Moreno have stepped up their criticism of Entergy's Ida response, questioning whether utility executives have committed enough resources to keeping the lights on during storms and their explanations for the prolonged post-storm outages.As part of its effort to understand what happened, the council is preparing multiple investigations, including the study of alternatives to the current Entergy New Orleans monopoly.Ahead of votes set for Wednesday to launch those studies and probes, Entergy put forward what it sees as four ways forward for the local utility: joining with Entergy Louisiana and shifting its regulatory apparatus to the state-run Public Service Commission; pursuing a sale of New Orleans assets to a different company; forming an entirely new private utility that could purchase Entergy's New Orleans assets; or selling its assets to a newly-formed publicly-run utility.It was clear from the documents that Entergy favored a path that would see its New Orleans subsidiary combined with the rest of its holdings that supply power to the rest of the state.Such a possibility has not previously been on the table and was essentially rejected Tuesday by Moreno and District A Councilmember Joe Giarrusso, who along with Moreno has been vocal in criticizing the utility's storm reponse."So now, after Hurricane Ida, when we question whether the New Orleans Power Station really worked or the corporation's transmission investments as a whole, their pitch is to change regulators," said Moreno. "Here’s the thing, all we’ve ever wanted from Entergy New Orleans is to provide reliable and affordable services to people of this city and that’s why we’ve held them accountable when it hasn’t occurred."

New Orleans moves forward to investigate Entergy's Ida performance - New Orleans City Council members moved Wednesday toward investigating Entergy New Orleans and the transmission system that feeds the region electricity.A committee unanimously forwarded to the full council several inquiries and studies - which include the first step toward identifying potential alternatives to Entergy’s current monopoly on electricity - after the failures of transmission lines and other infrastructure during Hurricane Ida cut power for days and left some customers in the dark for more than a week. But the meeting was likely disappointing for anyone expecting answers to key questions about the storm as Entergy executives provided no new information.Council members at Wednesday's Utility Committee meeting signed off on a slate of measures aimed at investigating various elements of Entergy’s operations or setting the stage for future showdowns. All those measures will go before the full council for a vote Thursday.The broadest of these efforts directs council staff and consultants to review Entergy New Orleans’ performance during the Aug. 29 storm, a measure that could include a range of inquiries.That was paired with requests to outside regulators look into whether enough was done to prepare the transmission system for hurricanes such as Ida. The request to those outside bodies is needed because the transmission failures involve lines in Entergy Louisiana’s territory, which is not regulated by the City Council.The council also is preparing to seek consultants for a management audit of Entergy New Orleans, something council members have discussed for months, and to study alternatives to the company’s power monopoly in New Orleans. Those measures have also been backed by environmental groups that have been critical of Entergy.The monopoly study has been surrounded by subtle brinkmanship between the power company and the council, which serves as its regulators. On Tuesday the utility’s parent company, Entergy Corp., announced it would cooperate with those efforts and proposed merging Entergy New Orleans with Entergy Louisiana - a move that would take the company out from under the City Council’s purview. While criticizing Entergy's proposal, council member Helena Moreno, who chairs the Utility Committee and proposed the study, said the study “is not a push” to have the city take over or spin off the utility, she said, while noting that such questions have been raised in Ida's aftermath.

Entergy Resisted Upgrading New Orleans’ Power Grid. When Ida Hit, Residents Paid the Price. — The day after Wilma Banks lost power, the stale, sticky air inside her apartment became suffocating. Typically, when her breathing was strained, Banks strapped on her plastic nebulizer mask. A medicated mist would flow into her lungs, making her short breaths full again. But after Hurricane Ida knocked out her power on Aug. 29, she couldn’t use the device that brought her lungs relief. She knew her oxygen level would continue to drop. Her heart could stop. She dialed city agencies, and employees told her to find a charging station for her nebulizer as well as her CPAP machine, but they did not help her secure what she actually needed: temporary lodging where her devices could remain plugged in. Banks, who lived alone in New Orleans East, couldn’t turn to her friends and neighbors. For 30 miles in every direction — and for more than a million residents — the power grid had failed. For years, Banks had worked in the city’s casinos, including Harrah’s and the Fair Grounds, their clouds of cigarette smoke slowly exacerbating her asthma and contributing to her eventual congestive heart failure. On the fourth day of the outage, relying on her car to charge her phone, she tweeted at ENO: “the strain on my heart is getting worse. I need my machines!!” On her sixth day without power, as she began to gasp for air, Banks pushed her finger into her pulse oximeter. Her blood oxygen level had dropped to 77%, so low that she was at risk of organ damage. Every time she caught a breath, she worried another wouldn’t come. She dialed 911. Her neighbors sat with her while she waited for the ambulance.By the time Banks was rushed into the ICU on Sept. 3, ENO had restored power to only 20% of its customers. And in this city with roughly double the national poverty rate, the many residents who couldn’t afford to evacuate faced an outsize share of the harm brought by the power outage. Of the 14 people who died in New Orleans as a result of Ida, nine deaths were from “excessive heat during an extended power outage” and two were from carbon monoxide poisoning, as families turned to generators to power their homes, the Orleans Parish coroner found. When residents and city officials pressed ENO about the catastrophic power failure, company executives explained that the outages couldn’t be avoided during a big storm like Ida. But an investigation by ProPublica and NPR found that the utility, along with its parent company, Entergy, failed to take the necessary steps to protect its customers against outages, despite opportunities after several big hurricanes to build more resilient systems.

City Council passes package of measures to probe Entergy New Orleans' Ida response - A package of measures aimed at investigating Entergy New Orleans’ decisions before and during Hurricane Ida, and geared towards eventually studying options for severing the city’s ties with its power provider, received unanimous approval from the New Orleans City Council on Thursday. The package of six measures comes in response to the failure of all eight transmission lines into the New Orleans area during Hurricane Ida, which left the region completely without power for days and resulted in some homes and businesses struggling with outages that continued for weeks. And they could set the stage for an expected showdown over whether New Orleans customers or Entergy’s shareholders end up footing the $150 million bill for the cost of restoring power in the city after the storm. The most direct response to those failures will be a review of Entergy’s performance during the storm. The inquiry, conducted by the city's consultants on electrical regulation, is expected to take between 60 and 90 days. Depending on the findings in that report, the council could launch a lengthier investigation, known as a prudence investigation, which would determine whether Entergy took proper steps to ensure power kept flowing to its customers. Those probes are the main tool the City Council, which regulates Entergy New Orleans, has at its disposal to deal out penalties to the company. Prudence investigations by the council into Entergy’s hiring of paid actors to support a power plant in New Orleans East and into reliability problems related to its distribution system have resulted in millions of dollars in fines in recent years.

Public Service Commission to hold public comment hearing Friday on increasing WV cost burden for proposed coal-fired plant upgrades --The West Virginia Public Service Commission has scheduled a public comment hearing for Friday morning for a case it reopened earlier this month that could determine the future of three in-state coal-fired power plants. The commission on Sept. 9 granted American Electric Power subsidiaries Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power’s request to reopen the case and consider making their customers pay millions of dollars more for federally required upgrades at the three power plants after utility regulators in two other states denied those upgrades on grounds that they were uneconomic. So the three-member panel must now decide whether to approve making West Virginia customers responsible for $48 million annually to cover wastewater compliance work to keep the John Amos, Mountaineer and Mitchell coal-fired generating plants in Putnam, Mason and Marshall counties compliant with federal wastewater discharge guidelines. That’s the cost recovery Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power asked the state utility regulators to sign off on after Kentucky and Virginia state utility regulators denied the companies’ requests to approve the environmental upgrades. Not making the wastewater treatment upgrades would require the plants shutter in 2028, per U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules.

Dear Joe Manchin: Coal Isn’t Your State’s Future - By Paul Krugman - So Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia will be responsible for putting together the Democratic climate plan. This is both understandable and terrifying. It’s understandable because Democrats need the vote of every one of their senators, which means doing whatever it takes to get skeptics on board. It’s terrifying because Manchin might end up gutting key proposals from President Biden, especially those aimed at drastically reducing the burning of fossil fuels. The best-case scenario is that Manchin will intervene in ways that help coal miners and highlight his independence without doing too much damage to Biden’s objectives. The worst-case scenario is that he will cripple the climate initiative and effectively doom the planet — because the president’s climate push is almost certainly our last chance to avoid disaster. I have no idea which way Manchin will go. Nor do I have any good sense of how much he is being influenced by lobbyists and his personal financial interests, as opposed to a desire to do the right thing.What I do know, and you should, too, is that if Manchin torpedoes Biden — and the planet — on climate policy, it won’t be because he’s serving the interests of his constituents. It’s actually startling how small a role coal plays in modern West Virginia’s economy. Before the pandemic, the coal mining industry employed only around 13,000 workers, less than 2 percent of the state’s work force. Even attempts to make the number look bigger by counting jobs indirectly supported by coal suggest a state that has overwhelmingly moved on from mining. So what does the state do for a living? These days West Virginia’s biggest industry is health care, which employs more than 100,000 people (and offers many middle-class jobs). It’s true that West Virginia, and Appalachia in general, still thinks of itself as coal country. And that’s OK, up to a point. Regions have every right to honor their history. But politicians should serve their constituents’ real interests, not condescend to them by peddling impossible visions of restoring past glories. If Joe Manchin wants to actually serve the people of West Virginia, as opposed to pandering to their nostalgia, he’ll support Biden’s progressive agenda — including his climate agenda.

Weekly US coal production rises 1% on week: EIA | S&P Global Platts - Coal production in the US totaled 12.01 million st in the week ended Sept. 18, up 1% week on week and 11% from year-ago levels, according to Energy Information Administration data released Sept. 23. From January through Sept. 18, US coal production stood at 415.98 million st, up 8.4% from the corresponding period of 2020. Powder River Basin As usual, the lion's share of coal was produced in the Powder River Basin, primarily made up of Wyoming and Montana. At 5.5 million st, PRB production rose 1% on the week and 9.1% on the year in week 38. PRB production for the year to Sept. 18 stood at 185.76 million st, up 6.4% from the same period last year. In the latest EIA reported week, Montana produced an estimated 551,387 st of coal, while Wyoming produced 4.95 million st. After the PRB, the Northern Appalachian region was the most productive coal region in week 38. An estimated 1.86 million st of coal was produced, down 1.2% on the week but 22.6% above year-ago levels. NAPP production from January through Sept. 18 was 67.07 million st, up 26.9% from 52.86 million st in 2020. The Illinois Basin was the third-most productive coal region in week 38 at 1.55 million st, up 3.9% on the week and 14.6% on the year. In terms of week-on-week production growth, the Illinois Basin rose by the highest percentage in the nation. From January through week 38, IB production totaled 55.37 million st, up 13.4% from the corresponding year-ago period. The Central Appalachian region produced the least coal in the week that ended Sept. 18 at 1.25 million st, down 0.2% from the previous week, but up 10.3% from the year-ago week. From January through Sept. 18, CAPP production was 46.4 million st, up 4.7% from the corresponding period of 2020. Production in nonprimary coal basins totaled 1.86 million st in the week ended Sept. 18.

Xi says China will no longer build coal plants abroad -China, a major financier of the coal industry worldwide, will no longer build new coal plants abroad, the country’s president announced Tuesday. “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” President Xi Jinping said in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly.But the country is still expected to use coal domestically. Coal makes up more than half of China's energy supply. China, the world’s most populous country and the largest emitter of emissions, is facing international pressure to step up its climate commitments ahead of a major UN climate summit in November.U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said in April that China wasn’t doing enough on climate despite a pledge to start phasing out its coal consumption in the coming years. Coal is more carbon-intensive, meaning it contributes more emissions to the atmosphere than other fossil fuels like oil and gas when burned.

 China delivers "killer blow" to Australian coal as Morrison courts Joe Biden - China has delivered what is being described as a “killer blow” to the Australian export thermal coal industry after vowing to stop finance of new coal plants beyond its borders. Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a short, sharp statement that could spell the end to an expansion of the world’s coal fired generation capacity – the very basis of Australia’s massive investment in coal mining infrastructure. “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” Xi Jinping said in translated remarks. It was seen as a stunning development because after the withdrawal of Japan and South Korea earlier this year, China was basically the world’s last significant backer of international coal generation projects. Its sudden commitment to cease its support is expected to eliminate three quarters of current proposed coal fired power stations and deliver a significant blow to global coal demand – including for Australian thermal coal. Xi’s remarks were significant, because there was concern that China would play hard ball on climate after the nuclear subs deal between the US, UK and Australia. Apart from the coal remarks, its comments were almost exactly as they were a year earlier, with a promise to cap domestic emissions ben 2030. Xi’s remarks came in a UN session that also saw US president Joe Biden tell the General Assembly that the US will double its contributions to sustainable finance initiatives, increasing its pledge to provide around US$11.4 billion in financial support each year by 2024. “This will make the United States a leader in public climate finance,” he said. “And with our added support, together with increased private capital and other — from other donors, we’ll be able to meet the goal of mobilising $100 billion to support climate action in developing nations.”

State OK still lacking for cryptocurrency firm's North Tonawanda project – A Canadian cryptocurrency company's plans to buy a North Tonawanda power plant have not yet been approved in Albany, but local officials have greenlighted the project despite the concerns of environmental groups. Public comments on Digihost's planned purchase of the natural gas-fired Fortistar plant on Erie Avenue will be taken until Oct. 12, according to a spokesman for the state Public Service Commission. Over Digihost's objection, the PSC decided Sept. 10 to extend the comment period after Digihost submitted a revised application Aug. 26 that included a notice of plans to convert the Fortistar plant to burn renewable natural gas, or RNG, from biomass in 2022 and hydrogen in 2023. The revision provides "a bridge biomass alternative to natural gas that will allow us to operate with a zero carbon footprint in our early development," company president Alec Amar wrote to the PSC. "In 2023, we will begin to replace our use of RNG in stages with fully renewable energy, including a blend of solar, hydropower, and other sources that take advantage of what is naturally available in New York State. The plant itself will undergo upgrades at the end of 2023 to install and use hydrogen power to replace the use of RNG." Amar told the PSC that the plant "will be powered through 100% zero emissions sources by 2025." Two environmental groups, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, sought the extended comment period, arguing that the fuel choices needed to be evaluated for greenhouse gas emissions. The 57 public comments submitted as of Tuesday were heavily negative from environmentalists and several city residents, but there were supportive statements from business people and from Robert E. Pecoraro, president of the North Tonawanda Common Council and Republican candidate for mayor. "This will reduce the carbon footprint in the short term (replacement of natural gas with renewable natural gas) and long term (implementing green hydrogen and other renewable technologies)," Pecoraro wrote to the PSC Sept. 3. "The end goal for Digihost is to achieve zero carbon generation by 2025. After careful consideration and my own personal research, I am in full support of Digihost's efforts and welcome them to North Tonawanda." Pecoraro's mayoral opponent, Councilman Austin Tylec, has expressed skepticism about the proposal and, citing public unease, called for a moratorium on any proposed data mining projects.

Nuclear Is the Bastion of Pennsylvania’s Newest Climate Action Plan -- Pennsylvania, a major power producer that relied on fossil fuels for 66% of its net power generation in June, plans to maintain its nuclear generation at current levels until it can ramp up other carbon-free supplies to 100% by 2050, the state’s Sept. 22–released 2021 Climate Action Plan suggests. The measures are part of a broader 18-strategy suite outlined in the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) fifth iteration of the plan, which is updated periodically as required by the 2008 Pennsylvania Climate Change Act. But because electricity generation is the greatest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Commonwealth, accounting for nearly 30% of total emissions, they are a priority, officials told reporters on Wednesday. The plan acknowledges Pennsylvania’s historic and current role as a significant regional energy hub. The state is the third-largest energy-producing state in the U.S. (after Texas and Florida); it ranks in the top three for coal and natural gas production, and it is the nation’s second-largest nuclear generator. However, the state’s power profile has been in flux, driven mainly by market developments in PJM, the regional transmission organization that operates the state’s electricity grid. And owing to the recent significant growth in natural gas production, natural gas power has overtaken coal and nuclear as the largest fuel source of power generation. In June 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration, natural gas produced 52% of net generation, followed by nuclear at 31%, coal at 14%, and renewables at 3%. Though the plan acknowledges natural gas “is expected to provide an increasing share of electricity in future years,” it also highlights state modeling results that suggest that two strategies—maintaining nuclear generation at current levels and creating a carbon emissions–free grid—could most effectively reduce emissions in electricity generation by up to 55,741,567 MTCO2e by 2050, compared to business as usual.’

'Cheaper to arrest them': IDB looks for solutions to Phipps Bend nuke plant trespassers - (surveillance photos) The Hawkins County Industrial Board may begin prosecuting unauthorized visitors to the old Phipps Bend nuclear reactor structure in hopes of curbing trespassing before someone gets hurt. Trespassing at the reactor site has been a problem at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park since construction of a Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear plant was canceled there 40 years ago. IDB chairman Larry Elkins told the board at last week’s meeting that videos surveillance at the site is capturing images of trespassers on almost a daily basis. “We’re still having a lot of visitors, and we’ve not arrested anybody, but we’ve got a lot of pictures,” Elkins said. “I don’t know what they’re doing in there but we’ve got all kinds of folks who are visiting on a regular basis. We would hope that we can put a halt to this, but I don’t really know how.” Elkins noted that he has consulted the TVA about the problem, and TVA agrees that it’s a serious problem. Elkins added, “If somebody falls down a hole in there and they’re never found again, they’re going to sue us. But they’re going to turn around and sue TVA and whoever’s got the deepest pockets. We’ve got the trail cameras, and just like we’re videoing people coming and going justice clockwork.” The facility is surrounded by security fence topped with barbed wire. In 2017 the IDB sealed up a main entrance to the reactor structure with a large metal bay door. Vandals cut a hole in the security fence and tore the bay door “plumb off the hinges,” Elkins said. That bay, which is the main entrance for trespassers, can’t be blocked permanently. If somebody got in and was injured or lost, that’s the only entrance large enough to allow rescue equipment into the structure.

Utica Shale Pumped Up Promises to Valley Landowners ---- Mel Cadle once envisioned years of lucrative royalties streaming directly into his bank account from oil and gas pumped from the two wells drilled on his property. Simply put, he wanted to get rich.“It didn’t work out like it was supposed to for me,” the 87 year-old Cadle says. “I don’t have any income from these wells. I lost five acres for nothing.” The site, dominated by six large, green storage tanks, is unkempt, strewn with weeds, and sits back on a 20-acre plot he owns along Blott Road.Cadle personifies a complicated legacy of the oil and gas industry 10 years after energy companies descended on eastern Ohio in search of reserves trapped in the Utica/Point Pleasant shale formation. The development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling made it possible – and profitable – for exploration companies to tap into tight shale formations 6,000 feet deep and extend laterals thousands of feet across these thin strata.The expectations of long-standing economic benefits to the region were enormous. Energy companies touted investments in the billions of dollars for drilling programs, leasehold contracts, processors, pipelines and support services to the industry. Companies supporting the oil and gas supply chain would also relocate, augmenting further job growth in the region.For some, drilling the Utica meant up-front lease signing bonuses between $1,000 and $6,000 an acre, and many believed the big payoff would come in the form of monthly royalty checks. Early in the play, it was estimated that landowners with a producing Utica well pad on their property could reap as much as $1,000 per acre, per month.For many landowners, though, the promise of sustained wealth remains just that

Central Corridor Pipeline: Ohio Supreme Court approves Duke Energy gas pipeline - The Ohio Supreme Court has approved the construction of Duke Energy’s controversial Central Corridor Pipeline. The pipeline runs about 14 miles through Sharonville, Sycamore Township, Blue Ash, Evendale, Reading, Amberley Village and Golf Manor.Duke says the new pipeline is necessary to replace aging infrastructure. It will reduce reliance on gas from stations south of the region and allow Duke to retire peaking plants that supply gas in cold weather. Residents in the communities on the pipeline's route have long opposed the project, saying they fear for their safety and worry the pipeline will leak or explode.Critics have said the risks outweigh the pipeline's potential benefits. For example, the pipeline will only reduce reliance on one southern station by 5%, according to a Duke consultant.Reading, Blue Ash, and Neighbors Opposed to Pipeline Extension appealed the Ohio Power Siting Board decision granting Duke a certificate to construct the pipeline. They argued the board misapplied the statutory criteria governing certificate approval, decided the case on incomplete information, misweighed the evidence, and limited their ability to meaningfully participate.The court ruled while the board failed to follow its own rule by allowing Duke to submit a proposed route without also providing a fully developed alternative route, those appealing the decision couldn’t prove they were harmed by the error.

Defiance County is NW Ohio's “Grand Central Station” for pipelines -Numerous underground oil and gas pipelines have been installed through Ohio farmland over the past several years. This has left many growers wondering if this installation will have lasting impacts on their soils and crops.Last fall, OSU collected soil and yield samples from 24 different farms impacted by pipeline installation in seven counties throughout Northern Ohio (Figure 1). The Rover, Utopia, and Nexus pipelines were targeted because of their recent installation, with each pipeline installed within the last 3-4 years. Grain crops like corn and soybeans were the primary focus. OSU sampled in two major zones for this study: the right-of-way (ROW) over the pipeline, also known as the easement area, as well as an adjacent, undisturbed area of the same field. Three areas of each field were sampled along a transect. This comparative cross-section of an impacted field provides a pseudo “before-and-after” viewpoint of the field.In preliminary findings, Ohio crop yields follow similar patterns to previous studies when pipelines are installed. On average, corn grain yields decreased an average of 23.8%, silage corn decreased an average of 28.8%, and soybean yield decreased an average of 7.4% over the pipeline compared with adjacent areas. Soils within the ROW had more rock fragments, lower soil moisture, and had a higher resistance to penetration which indicates lasting forms of soil compaction.

U.S. gas producer Gulfport Energy explores sale -sources – Gulfport Energy Corp., the US natural gas exploration and production company that emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, is exploring strategic options, including a potential sale, according to people familiar with the matter. The Oklahoma City-headquartered company, which has a market value of about $1.6 billion, is working with an investment bank on its options and potential takeover interest to help with, the sources said. No deal is certain, the sources said, asking not to be identified as the matter is confidential. Gulfport declined to comment. Gulfport was pushed into bankruptcy last year as the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily decimated demand for energy and left it unable to pay its debts. Control of Gulfport was handed over in May to its creditors, many of them hedge funds, upon completion of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, which swapped nearly $1.2 billion of debt for shares in the company. US natural gas prices hit a seven-year high earlier this month, prompting gas producers to explore sales. Gulfport has 266,000 net acres in the Utica Shale Basin of Ohio and the SCOOP Formation of Oklahoma. It estimated in a presentation to investors in August that 90% of its 2021 production would be natural gas, with 7% being natural gas liquids. Gulfport is currently seeking to renegotiate two contracts with pipeline companies. Scraping them can help save money. The company estimated in an August presentation that annual gross transportation fees could drop 55% to $131 million if both contracts were replaced with cheaper arrangements.

Weekly Shale Drilling Permits for PA, OH, WV: Sep 13-19 - Marcellus Drilling News - A nice bump up (finally) in the number of permits to drill new shale wells in the M-U, although it’s a lot of wells for a relatively few well pads. Pennsylvania issued 19 new permits across five pads in both the northeast and southwest portion of the play, including 8 permits for a single Cabot Oil & Gas pad in Susquehanna County. Ohio issued just 3 new permits, all to Encino Energy for a single pad in Carroll County. And West Virginia issued a surprisingly high 18 permits to two drillers on three pads in two counties: Marshall and Monongalia.

API President Mike Sommers highlights role of Pennsylvania natural gas and oil --American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Mike Sommers today spoke to the Economic Club of Pittsburgh where he highlighted the importance of Pennsylvania’s robust natural gas and oil industry to the nation’s efforts to provide affordable, reliable energy while continuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Surrounding Climate Week NYC, Sommers underscored how natural gas and oil should be part of the solution to shaping a lower-carbon future globally. “Pittsburgh is one of the energy capitals of the world. Without Pennsylvania energy resources, America wouldn’t be the world’s top producer of natural gas and oil – reversing decades of foreign imports,” said API President and CEO Mike Sommers. “Without support from Pennsylvania natural gas, America couldn’t have reduced power-related CO2 emissions 40% in the past 15 years – outpacing coal as the top source of U.S. electricity generation. And…America wouldn’t be in a position to continue exporting environmental progress – in the form of LNG – all over the world to power both a growing population and reverse energy poverty.” As the second largest state producer of natural gas in the U.S., Pennsylvania energy production is powering local economies throughout the Commonwealth. The industry supports nearly 500,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in Pennsylvania, and generates an additional 3.7 jobs elsewhere in the state. Natural gas and oil also contribute $78.4 billion to Pennsylvania’s GDP, or nearly 10 percent to the state’s total. “But the transformation isn’t limited to Pennsylvania. The shale revolution has spread and revitalized America. Import terminals became export terminals. America reduced its trade deficit. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are at generational lows. We reduced our energy dependence on foreign nations and unreliable regimes. And in the process, the state’s environmental progress transformed the world. In 2019, federal estimates show that natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica Shale has been shipped out to 20 different countries,” Sommers continued. As world leaders convene this week at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss policies and actions to tackle climate change, Sommers discussed what the natural gas and oil industry is doing to provide meaningful solutions to solve this problem. He stated, “The challenge of meeting the world’s growing energy needs at the same time that we are building a lower-carbon future is massive, intertwined and fundamental. Our industry also views it as the opportunity of our time, and one we are uniquely positioned to meet with our scale and expertise, aided by smart policies and relentless innovation.”

PennEast drops plan for pipeline on public lands - PennEast Pipeline Co. has dropped a plan to use New Jersey state lands for its controversial natural gas pipeline — at least for now — dealing a major blow to the long-delayed project in the state. The company’s decision not to pursue eminent-domain claims on 42 parcels of publicly owned land was announced in an agreement with the Attorney General’s office and recorded in a brief notice sent on Sept. 20 to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is overseeing the company’s claims. “The parties to these consolidated matters have agreed in principle to a stipulated voluntary dismissal of these matters,” the notice said, referring to the eminent-domain claims. In plain language, the notice means that PennEast won’t seek to seize the lands to build the pipeline, said Leland Moore, a spokesman for the AG’s office, which argued against the company’s use of public lands before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. The nation’s highest court had sided with PennEast, ruling that it had the right to use eminent domain to acquire the state land it needed for the project.Pat Kornick, a PennEast spokeswoman, would not say whether the agreement means the company has abandoned its plans for the New Jersey section of the pipeline, which has twice been denied state environmental permits, and has roused strong opposition in the communities where it would be built.

Pols Call on Hochul to Revisit Rate Hike - A group of 31 state and local officials on Friday called on the governor to review a state commission decision that will result in customers paying for fossil fuel projects, including parts of a controversial pipeline in Brooklyn.Representing Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island, the signatories of the letter — including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and State Sens. Julia Salazar, Jabari Brisport, Liz Krueger and Diane Savino — ask Gov. Kathy Hochul to uphold the state’s climate law, which mandates cuts of greenhouse gas emissions in a way that provides substantial benefits to “disadvantaged communities.”“At a time when we are seeing the impacts of climate change and New Yorkers owe nearly $2 billion in unpaid debt to corporate utilities it is unconscionable to force 1.9 million customers to pay for new pipelines and other fracked gas projects,” the letter reads.The missive follows the state Public Service Commission’s August approval of a gas bill rate increase averaging about $5 per month for National Grid customers in New York City and on Long Island.The hike would pay for some of the embattled Metropolitan Reliability Project pipeline and other infrastructure upgrades, as well as programs for energy efficiency, electrification and to encourage less demand for gas, according to the approved settlement.The natural gas pipeline is slated to run nearly seven miles, from Brownsville to Greenpoint, with four of five phases already operational. The final phase is awaiting further review and approval before it’s built.

Federal judge: $53.5 million settlement precludes Ritchie County royalty claims - A federal judge has ruled in favor of one of West Virginia’s largest natural gas producers looking to block gas leaseholders from going after the company in Ritchie County Circuit Court. U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey sided with Pittsburgh-based EQT Corp. after it asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia to block gas leaseholders from proceeding with their circuit court litigation against EQT. EQT had argued that a 2019 $53.5 million class-action settlement agreement to resolve a lawsuit that alleged the company was shorting thousands of state residents and businesses on gas royalty payments prohibited further action against the company for royalty claims. In the litigation, the plaintiffs are residents Philip Williams, Timothy Williams, Diana Weiss and Mahlon Harris, who own mineral interests on 500 acres in the Clay district of Ritchie County. They sued EQT in circuit court seeking compensatory damages for alleged breach of contract and money they say was unlawfully deducted by EQT from their royalties. The plaintiffs said they were not notified about the class-action lawsuit and never had an opportunity to opt out of the settlement. But Bailey ruled Sept. 14 that due process “only requires that notice be reasonably calculated to reach” members of a class, “not that it actually succeeds in reaching every individual class member.” The judge found the effort to notify the plaintiffs of the agreement was sufficient. “[I]t is a shame that these folks won’t be able to have their day in court on the egregious actions of EQT and the way that they’ve been cheated by a large out-of-state oil and gas corporation,”

Southwest Virginia landowners still fighting pipeline's use of eminent domain -Nearly four years after the Mountain Valley Pipeline began a legal process to take private land for the project, the controversial practice is still being challenged in court. A federal appeals court ruled this week that arguments from a group of landowners “are not so clear” as to merit the immediate reversal of an lower-court opinion that favored the pipeline. However, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., asked attorneys to submit additional written arguments before it makes a final decision. Cletus Bohon, who owns property in Montgomery County that the natural gas pipeline cuts through, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that contends the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should not have given a private venture the right to seize property by eminent domain. Similar legal challenges have been dismissed in the past. When a Washington, D.C., federal judge did the same for Bohon’s case in May 2020, he called it “the latest trickle in a veritable flood of litigation” against Mountain Valley. But Bohon appealed, and the case remains alive. In a brief opinion Wednesday, the appellate court asked that the next round of briefs submitted by lawyers address how the case is impacted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed a pipeline’s seizure of state-owned land in New Jersey. Shortly after FERC approved Mountain Valley’s request in 2017 to build a 303-mile pipeline that will pass through Southwest Virginia, the company filed suit against about 300 property owners who had refused to sell easements for the project to pass through their rural land. A federal judge in Roanoke granted Mountain Valley immediate possession of the parcels in early 2018. That cleared the way for the start of construction that continues today, and Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s ruling was upheld on appeal. An attorney for the landowners in the more recent case, who could not be reached Friday, has said earlier that they are hopeful their lawsuit will help others, even if it is too late to stop Mountain Valley. The lawsuit argues that Congress improperly delegated legislative power to FERC, which then gave Mountain Valley the power of eminent domain after determining there was a public need for the natural gas that it will deliver to markets on the East Coast. In court papers, attorneys for Mountain Valley said the landowner’s arguments were “simply a rehashing of the same flawed theories” that have been rejected in the past.

Proposed Chickahominy Pipeline map released; county officials complain about lack of information - A map of the proposed Chickahominy Pipeline through Louisa, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Charles City County was released this week, although officials from several counties complained they have been unable to obtain more details about the project. “We have attempted to reach out to the company’s representatives to get no response, and the only information that we have received from the company is what was required by the State Corporation Commission,” said Cari Tretina, chief of staff for Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas. “The only way Henrico County actually received any information about the pipeline was either from our residents who made us aware and also Louisa County.” Louisa County supervisors also described a dearth of information about the proposal at a Sept. 20 board meeting. Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes said his biggest concern was whether the pipeline would be able to exercise eminent domain. “Do they have eminent domain or not?” he asked. “That’s a huge question that has to be answered … because that’s really going to affect our citizens.” The project first came to public attention this July when residents of the five counties received letters from Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC asking for permission to enter their property to conduct surveys for a possible 24-inch gas pipeline, which shares an address and registered agent with Chickahominy Power, LLC, a subsidiary of developer Balico, LLC, which is planning a proposed 1.6-gigawatt natural gas power plant in Charles City County. Tretina said that sending letters to landowners before contacting county officials about a potential infrastructure project is “completely the opposite way that we’re used to engaging with other companies.” She estimated that if the pipeline is built, about 18 to 20 property owners in the northeastern part of Henrico would be impacted. If constructed, the pipeline would provide natural gas to the proposed Chickahominy Power plant in Charles City County, which is being developed by Balico, LLC.

U.S. natgas futures fall to one-week low on milder forecasts (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures fell to a fresh one-week low on Monday on forecasts for milder weather over the next two weeks. Traders noted U.S. prices fell even though gas in Europe and Asia soared to record highs over $25 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) versus just $5 for the U.S. fuel, prompting buyers around the world to keep purchasing all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) the United States can produce. The problem for Europe is, the United States is already producing as much LNG as it can. The amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants has averaged 10.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in September, the same as in August, according to data provider Refinitiv. That compares with a monthly record of 11.5 bcfd in April. Traders said U.S. LNG exports would have been higher this month but were reduced by a brief shutdown at Freeport LNG's plant in Texas during Tropical Storm Nicholas and the start of maintenance at Berkshire Hathaway Energy's Cove Point in Maryland on Monday. U.S. front-month gas futures fell 12.0 cents, or 2.4%, to settle at $4.985 per mmBtu, their lowest close since Sept. 10 for a second day in a row. After the U.S. front-month remained in overbought territory for much of the past two weeks, gas speculators last week cut their net long positions on the New York Mercantile and Intercontinental Exchanges for the first time since August in anticipation of the price drop that started late last week following a bigger-than-expected storage build, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). U.S. gas stockpiles, however, were still about 7.1% below the five-year normal for this time of year. Low inventories, like those in Europe, helped boost U.S. gas prices to their highest in seven years early last week. Refinitiv said gas output in the U.S. Lower 48 states fell to an average of 90.6 bcfd so far in September, down from 92.0 bcfd in August, due mostly to Ida-related losses along the Gulf Coast. That compares with a monthly record high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019. About 0.6 bcfd, or 27%, of gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico remained shut-in since Ida, according to government data on Friday. With the coming of milder weather, Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would fall from 86.8 bcfd this week to 83.4 bcfd next week as air conditioning use declines. This week's forecast was higher than Refinitiv expected on Friday.

Cove Point, Freeport Production Curbed as Energy Crisis Deepens in Europe — LNG Recap -- Natural gas prices continued to rise in Asia and Europe on Monday as competition intensified for limited liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes on the spot market with two U.S. facilities down. Freeport LNG in Texas continues to experience production issues after Tropical Storm Nicholas knocked out power last week. The facility has not fully restarted operations, a spokesperson said Monday. Just two trains are back online after a third tripped when the plant restarted over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Cove Point LNG terminal in Maryland stopped operations Monday for a 20-day stretch of maintenance. European natural gas prices continued climbing higher Monday after benchmarks in the UK and Northwest Europe broke through the $24/MMBtu mark last week. The Dutch Title Transfer Facility and UK National Balancing Point contracts again set records Monday when both finished above $25 for October. The market was squeezed further Monday when Russia did not book additional pipeline transportation capacity through Ukraine at a monthly auction. Traders also took just a small fraction of the capacity offered on the Yamal-Europe pipeline. Skyhigh power and natural gas prices prompted chemical and fertilizer producers to curb some of their output last week. Other manufacturers took similar steps. “These extortionate prices are forcing some UK steelmakers to suspend their operations during periods when the cost of energy is quoted in the thousands per megawatt hour,” said UK Steel Director General Gareth Stace. “…Even with the global steel market as buoyant as it is, these eye-watering prices are making it impossible to profitably make steel at certain times of the day and night.”

U.S. natgas futures hold at two-week low despite soaring global prices (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures held steady at a two-week low on Wednesday as forecasts for lower demand next week than previously expected offset continued strong interest in U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) arising from soaring global gas prices. Front-month gas futures remained unchanged to settle at $4.805 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), the same as on Tuesday, when the contract closed at its lowest since Sept. 7. Since hitting a seven-year high last week, the front-month has shed about 12% on growing expectations the United States will have enough gas in storage for the upcoming winter heating season. U.S. gas stockpiles were about 7.1% below their five-year normal for this time of year. Analysts said the storage situation was much worse in Europe, where prices have soared to record highs primarily because stockpiles in some countries were 20% or more below normal for this time of year. With gas prices at or near record highs of around $25 per mmBtu in Europe and near $28 in Asia, versus just about $5 in the United States, traders noted that buyers around the world were purchasing all the super-chilled gas the United States can produce. Despite reductions at several plants this month, data provider Refinitiv said, the amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants was only down to an average of 10.4 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in September from 10.5 bcfd in August. That small LNG feedgas decline came despite a three-week maintenance outage at Berkshire Hathaway Energy's Cove Point in Maryland, a brief shutdown last week at Freeport LNG's plant in Texas during Tropical Storm Nicholas and what is expected to be a brief reduction this week at Cameron LNG's plant in Louisiana. No matter how high global prices rise, however, the United States only has the capacity to turn about 10.5 bcfd of gas into LNG. Global markets will have to wait until later this year to get more from the United States when the sixth liquefaction train at Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass and Venture Global LNG's Calcasieu Pass in Louisiana will likely start producing LNG in test mode. About 0.5 bcfd, or 24%, of gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico remained shut-in since Ida hit Louisiana on Aug. 29, government data showed on Tuesday.

Henry Hub prices remain higher than Northeast hubs - The U.S. benchmark natural gas spot price at the Henry Hub in Louisiana remains at a premium to Northeast natural gas hubs. The premium increased in the third quarter of 2020, as total Appalachian supply exceeded demand growth and storage levels were above average. Although storage levels fell in 2021, other factors, such as record high Gulf Coast LNG exports, winter freeze-offs in Texas and neighboring producing areas, and Appalachian pipeline outages kept the Henry Hub price premium over Northeast hubs higher than 2018-2020 annual averages in 2021.In 2020, total Appalachian supply and net imports together were 3% higher than 2019 levels, while Northeast demand remained low, partly as industrial and commercial activity fell following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The natural gas that is not consumed in the region or exported out of the region is injected into storage. The Eaststorage region has about 1 trillion cubic feet of storage capacity to balance seasonal demand against supply. In the first week of September 2020, before the winter withdrawal season started, storage levels were 6% above the five-year average, at 803 billion cubic feet (Bcf). With production growth continuing throughout winter of 2020, and demand remaining muted, natural gas in storage in the East reached near weekly 2016-2020 five-year highs.While total Appalachian supply and net imports keeps rising, natural gas demand has recently increased as well. Total Appalachian supply and net imports grew by 6% to 30.8 Bcf/d during the first half of 2021, compared to same time last year. This year’s first half demand totaled 20.9 Bcf/d, or 0.8 Bcf/d higher than last year’s first half values, according to demand data from IHS Markit.With rising demand, storage levels have fallen below their five-year average and Appalachian prices have risen. For the first eight months of 2021, prices in the Eastern Gas South averaged $2.60 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), or $1.18/MMBtu higher than the same period last year. Other Northeast hubs followed similar trends. Henry Hub prices have also increased in 2021, and consequently still trades at a premium to Northeast hubs. Several factors contributed to this Henry Hub premium. In 2021, record LNG exports out of U.S. terminals located around the Gulf Coast increased South region demand. This February’s winter-freeze disproportionately increased prices in the South Central and Southeast, where processing facilities are not as well winterized as those in the Northeast. In addition, recent pipeline outages reduced southbound capacity out of the Appalachia basin.Although pipeline capacity out of Appalachia has grown, it has not kept pace with recent production growth. The 2.0 Bcf/d Mountain Valley Pipeline is scheduled to come online in 2022, but it is mostly an intra-region and may not affect basis differentials substantially.

EIA Reports Build of 76 Bcf in Natural Gas Inventories - After Natural gas futures fell under $5.00 in manic trading ahead of EIA reported a build of +76 Bcf of working gas in storage. With natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico still shut-in. Output was already trailing consumption with elevated demand from both Europe and Asia for U.S. exports of LNG. Cooling Degree Days (CDDs) came in at 60 vs 52 normal and 88 in the prior week. This week's forecast: This week, CPC predicts CDDs will hold at 60 vs 44 normal. The National Hurricane Center said over the next few months as the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season reaches its peak. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration raised the number of named storms forecast to 15-21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes, up from its May prediction for 13-20 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes, though its prediction of major hurricanes was unchanged. With storms we watch Gulf of Mexico production and the impact on demand with the increasingly tight U.S. gas market. In 2020 back-to-back hurricanes in Louisiana knocked offline the Cameron LNG facility, as well as thousands of other Gulf Coast electricity customers for about a month. Wind capacity is up more than 15 GW versus 2020, wind utilization has been below normal over the last two months, with July wind utilization realizing around 5% below normal and setting a new five-year minimum for the month. - Reic Fell of Wood McKenzie. However, it is unlikely that wind utilization would remain that far below normal over the balance of the summer. Hydro output has averaged close to 7 average GW hours below the five-year average so far this summer, according to Fell. This is being driven by a severe western drought, which has added nearly 1 Bcf/d in gas burn relative to the five-year average.

Natural Gas Futures Rebound as Supply Worries Mount - -- Natural gas futures rebounded with vigor on Thursday, propelled by domestic and global supply challenges as the peak winter demand season looms. The October Nymex contract shot up 17.1 cents day/day and settled at $4.976/MMBtu. November jumped 18.8 cents to $5.043. A day earlier, the prompt month broke even, ending a four-day losing streak that was driven by forecasts for mild weather into early October. NGI’s Spot Gas National Avg. gained 3.5 cents to $4.715. Anemic production levels and below-average gas in storage, with only a few weeks before heating demand revs up, moved to the forefront of traders’ minds Thursday, sparking a new rally. Only last week, futures touched seven-year highs above $5.00, fueled by supply crunch worries, with both Europe and Asia scrambling to fortify stockpiles and ensure ample fuel levels to power furnaces and industrial plants this winter. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the latest storage report Thursday, renewed concerns about domestic supplies, as well. Utilities injected 76 Bcf natural gas into underground storage for the week ended Sept. 17, EIA reported. The print was essentially on par with market expectations. However, it left supplies below historic norms at a time when global demand for U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is soaring ahead of winter. Prior to the report, major polls showed analysts looking for a mid-70s build. In the year-earlier period, EIA recorded a 70 Bcf injection, while the five-year average injection was 74 Bcf.

U.S. natgas futures rise on cooler weather, rising heating demand - (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures climbed over 3% to a one-week high on Friday as some parts of the country start to crank up their heaters with the coming of cooler weather and as near record global gas prices keep demand strong for U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. On their second to last day as the front-month, gas futures for October delivery rose 16.4 cents, or 3.3%, to settle at $5.140 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), their highest close since Sept. 16. November futures, which will soon be the front-month, were up 16 cents to $5.20 per mmBtu. For the week, the front-month rose less than 1%, putting the contract up for a fifth week in a row. During that time the front-month gained about 30% on record global gas prices and the slow return of production after Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana in late August. With the coming of cooler weather, Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would fall from 86.2 bcfd this week to 82.7 bcfd next week as air conditioning use declines before climbing to 84.4 bcfd in two weeks as heating use rises. The forecast for next week was higher than Refinitiv expected on Thursday. With gas prices near record highs of around $24 per mmBtu in Europe and $27 in Asia versus just about $5 in the United States, traders said buyers around the world would keep purchasing all the LNG the United States could produce. Despite reductions at several plants this month, the amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants slipped modestly to an average of 10.4 bcfd so far in September from 10.5 bcfd in August, data provider Refinitiv said. That small LNG feedgas decline came despite a three-week maintenance outage at Berkshire Hathaway Energy's Cove Point facility in Maryland, a brief shutdown at Freeport LNG's plant in Texas during Tropical Storm Nicholas and a brief reduction this week at Cameron LNG's plant in Louisiana. Prices in the United States have remained much lower in part because the market expects the country to have enough gas in inventory for the winter. Stockpiles were about 7% below normal for this time of year in the United States versus over 20% below normal in some European countries. But gas prices in some parts of the United States were still expected to soar this winter. Analysts expect much higher prices in New England due to pipeline constraints and a reliance on what is now expensive LNG and in California where a severe drought, wildfires and lack of battery backup for intermittent renewable power sources has boosted the use of gas-fired power plants.

 Can Higher Crude Oil Prices Revive The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Play? --A long, long time ago — or, more precisely, in the spring of 2014, when WTI was selling for more than $110/bbl — a handful of exploration and production companies were convinced they were onto something big in southwestern Mississippi and east-central Louisiana. There, they believed, the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) was poised to become the next Bakken, the U.S.’s premier shale play at the time, but even better for producers seeking more robust crude prices because of TMS’s very low gas-to-oil ratio — an oil cut north of 92%! –– and proximity to Gulf Coast refineries. While there had been a host of failed efforts by producers to wring out large volumes of premium-priced Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) oil from the marine shale’s sedimentary silts and clays, the E&Ps felt in their bones that they were finally “cracking the code.” Then, at just the wrong time, came an oil price crash that set the whole industry back on its heels and activity in the TMS quickly slowed to a crawl. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, an even smaller cadre of Tuscaloosa Marine Shale true believers is now banking on a production revival in the core of the play. As we said in our first blog on the TMS back in 2013, the sedimentary rock formation — generally only a couple of hundred feet thick — lies 12,000 to 18,000 feet below the surface of a swath of central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi (purple-shaded area in Figure 1). A 1997 study by the Louisiana Geological Survey estimated the 8-million-acre shale play has potential reserves of 7 billion barrels of oil, which would make it among the most hydrocarbon-rich regions in the U.S. The dark gray marine shale within the formation consists of fine-grained, organic-rich sedimentary silts and clays deposited more than 80 million years ago. The Eagle Ford deposits in South Texas were formed at about the same time, but they are closer to the surface — 5,000 to 7,000 feet, typically — and the rock is more brittle and far more permeable. The sediment that washed down the Mississippi River gave the TMS a different geological composition that makes it much more difficult to recover oil from it. The depth and low permeability of the play’s soft rock and clay scared off many a driller, as did the thin layer within it that offers natural fracturing (and increased permeability).

Iberia Parish Council passes resolution in support of resuming federal oil & gas leases– The Iberia Parish Council passed a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting, in support of resuming federal off-shore leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. The council wants everyone to know, especially elected leaders in Washington, D.C., this is the lifeblood of Acadiana’s economy. “”In Iberia Parish, the oil and gas industry was the number one revenue generator. It has been for decades,” said M. Larry Richard, president of Iberia Parish. “It’s a big deal for the parish, and it still is, if we can get it back.” The Biden administration put a hold on all lease sales earlier this year. Louisiana, and several other states, the challenged the president’s moratorium in federal court. A federal judge ordered an injunction. Since then, the U.S. Government has appealed the order, and it is currently under consideration. The Department of the Interior, which runs the oil and gas land lease program, recently told congress that there was still a hold in place. The states then filed a contempt of court brief against the feds. Shortly thereafter, one lease in the Gulf was approved.

Louisiana gets judge's OK to join case over oil drilling auctions -A federal judge in Washington, D.C., is allowing Louisiana to intervene in a lawsuit if it is challenging an upcoming drilling lease auction, giving the stifling proponent of the federal oil and gas leasing program another chance to defend it in court.Last month, the Biden administration announced its intentions to comply with a court order requiring it to resume lease auctions, citing environmental advocates like Friends of the Earth. District Judge Randolph Moss of the United States on Wednesday authorized Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to join the case as a defendant in the Interior Department's delegation (DOI).Brittany Miller, the spokesperson for Friends of the Earth, declined to comment. Earthjustice's lawyers represent it. Tyler Cherry, DOI's spokesperson, also declined to comment.Cory Dennis, the AG's office''Spokesman for Landry, said the decision was gratifying to the company. "Joe Biden's unlawful attempt to halt these sales only punishes hard-working Americans with higher gasoline and electric bills, and forces the Nation to depend on foreign energy," he added. Friends of the Earth and its co-plaintiffs sued on Aug. 31 to block the federal government from holding a fall lease sale that would provide almost all available, unleased blocks in oct. 90-million-acre area in the Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit claims that the planned sale violates the National Environmental Policy Act because its authorization relies on a poor and outdated analysis of its environmental implications. Last week, Louisiana sued to enter the case, argumenting in a brief that if savagery won "contradict" revocation of federation drilling auctions in another case injunction that would halt the ostracization of federal drilling projects. The injunction is still in effect pending the final resolution of the lawsuit in Lake Charles, Louisiana, federal court, which was brought by Louisiana and 12 other states over Biden's freeze on new drilling auctions, or awaiting orders from higher courts. The administration has filed a complaint against him.

Over 16% US Gulf oil, 24% offshore natgas output remains shut in | ICIS --Over 16% of the US crude oil production and 24% of the offshore natural gas output remained shut on Wednesday, according to US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The following table shows the number of platforms and rigs evacuated, including the total of oil and natural gas that have been shut in.US supply worries have persisted following the production disruption caused by Hurricane Ida in late August.The percentage of oil and natural gas production shut in has continued to slowly decrease. Crude oil has decreased .46% while offshore gas production has decreased 1.15% from Tuesday.US crude oil inventories decreased 3.5m barrels for the week ended on 17 September, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest report.Inventories are about 8% below the five-year average for this time of year at 414m barrels.On Monday, Shell announced that its WD-143 platform will remain offline until the end of the year due to “significant structural damage” from Hurricane Ida.Offshore oil wells account for 17% of the nation’s crude oil production, while federal Gulf of Mexico production is about 3% of total US dry natural gas production.Total working gas in storage is 3.01 trillion cubic feet (tcf), down nearly 17% from last year, said EIA in its storage report.

Oil-covered birds found after Hurricane Ida rehabilitated, released - The first two birds among dozens being rehabilitated after being stained with oil in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida were released at the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in Franklin. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has documented more than 100 oiled birds with some degree of their bodies stained with oil, the department said.At least 34 birds have already been captured and are at a rehabilitation facility in New Iberia. The agency will continue its capturing and rehabilitation efforts to save the oil-coated birds, found at the Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse days after Ida.The first two, a purple gallinule and a king rail, were released Thursday. Wildlife and Fisheries said the secretive marsh birds tend to hide under vegetation upon release. A number of oil-coated birds documented at the Alliance Refinery have been seen primarily within heavy pockets of crude oil and nearby flooded fields and retention ponds, according to Wildlife and Fisheries. They include black-bellied whistling ducks, blue-winged teal and a variety of egret species. Other wildlife, including alligators and river otters, have also been seen with some level of oiling, the agency said. Rescue efforts began with documenting birds the Sunday following the storm, with an initial visit to the refinery. That visit was implemented in partnership with the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Coast Guard continues Hurricane response in Ida aftermath - The Coast Guard is continuing efforts to reopen waterways impacted by Hurricane Ida in the areas of Bayou Lafourche, Houma Navigation Canal and portions of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.To date, 25 obstructions have been identified in the Bayou Lafourche channel, the Coast Guard said. They are mainly fishing vessels, crew vessels and offshore supply vessels.Additionally, 30 submerged targets have been identified in the Houma Navigation Canal. Fifteen of those targets in the Houma Navigation Canal have been cleared or removed, the Coast Guard said. The Coast Guard continues to coordinate operations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify and remove waterway obstructions.The Coast Guard also continues to receive and investigate all reports made to the National Response Center, with crews working to identify and prioritize threats to the environment and navigable waterways through overflights and surface inspections of areas impacted by the storm.Coast Guard Sector New Orleans oversees 1,082 total aids to navigation in their area of responsibility. Of the 1,082 aids, 384 have been identified as damaged or as offline as a result of Hurricane Ida. Aids to navigation teams have restored or have made temporary corrections to 277 of those aids, which is 72 percent of those identified.The Coast Guard is working closely with the state of Louisiana, Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to respond to reports of pollution. As of September 16, the Coast Guard had assessed 2,259 out of 2,464 reports of pollution. Of the reports, there are:

  • • 1,217 reports that have been closed or transferred to appropriate jurisdictions;
  • • 326 reports where the reports were unverified as there was no remaining evidence of pollution on-site;
  • • 602 reports where the Coast Guard is actively supervising the mitigation efforts that are being carried out by responsible parties; and
  • • 23 reports under investigation by the Coast Guard.

These numbers will change as the environmental response teams continue to assess and reprioritize targets. Those who have uncompensated removal costs or damages resulting from an oil spill to the navigable waters or the threat of an oil spill to the navigable waters may be entitled to compensation from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Oil refineries recovering from Ida; power outages led to so-called “stranded fuel” - Oil refineries impacted Hurricane Ida and power outages are recovering. At one point nearly a dozen refineries were offline and because of power outages they had so-called stranded fuel. Nathan McBride is Regulatory Affairs Manager for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. “There’s really eight between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but they brought the Krotz Springs refinery in as well because it could have an impact on the supply,” he said. McBride said most of the impacted refineries are back in operation. “I think the vast majority are back online. There are a couple that were, they’re still ongoing damage assessments and things like that. I believe it’s two of them at this point that are still undergoing damage assessments to decide, you know, how to bring them online safely,” said McBride. Professor Pierre Conner is Executive Director of Tulane University’s Energy Institute. “ Most of those nine Louisiana refineries that were shut down are back up and running and the refineries are getting back up actually sooner than production out in the Gulf of Mexico, kind of a reversal to what had happened during Katrina,” said McBride. Still, Conner said some refineries turned to the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “A couple of the refineries did take advantage of the SPR for some ability to bring crude oil in as they were getting restarted,” he said. “Refineries had fuel in tankage on-site, even the ones who happened to lose power especially down in the New Orleans area, so there was fuel in tankage, so the first hurdle we had to clear was get power to the terminals, otherwise known as racks at the refineries so that they could pull that fuel out of tankage and dispense it into the local markets, so you may have fuel at the refinery even though your refinery is not actually running,” said McBride. “A lot of the refineries, yes they shut down for safety reasons during the storm but then they were not able to come back up because they didn’t have electricity, so it really does all come down to power supply.

Will taxpayers bear the cost of cleaning up America’s abandoned oil wells? - Oil and gas companies have a century-old bad habit of drilling wells and ditching them. And while Congress finally has a plan to plug some abandoned wells, new proposals effectively pass the fossil fuel industry’s cleanup costs on to taxpayers and may even enable more drilling.Concerned parties seem to agree on the scale of the crisis: millions of wells sit untended across the US, leaking toxins that pose public health problems along with the potent greenhouse gas methane, which contributes to the climate emergency.But powerful special interests have carved out a presence in federal well-plugging efforts – one of the most bipartisan corners of Joe Biden’s $1tn infrastructure bill, which is due for a vote later this month. Instead of requiring fossil fuel companies to cover the actual cost of drilling and cleanup, policy experts say the proposal is an additional multibillion-dollar subsidy for the industry most responsible for driving the climate crisis. Congress’ 30-page proposal does provide a much-needed plan to inventory, measure and track methane emissions and groundwater contamination associated with orphan wells – abandoned wells with no identifiable owner. But tucked inside the proposal is $2m in funding that goes directly to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), an organization closely linked to the fossil fuel industry. The draft bill empowers the group to consult with the federal government as it issues billions of dollars in grants for states to plug, remediate and restore orphan wells.The infrastructure bill treats the commission innocuously, granting it duties and access to federal research and development funds as if it were a formal government entity.The trouble is, it’s not.And as recent comments from the IOGCC vice-chair, Wayne Christian, suggest, the organization’s involvement in the infrastructure negotiation process includes more explicit pocket-padding priorities.“If the bill passes, and we’re pretty close to it passing, 25 million [dollars] will be coming to Texas to clean up abandoned wells, and larger amounts than that in the future,” Christian – an avid climate change denier and head of the Railroad Commission of Texas with notoriously close ties to the oil industry – boasted on 20 August at the North American Prospect Expo, an oil industry gathering, according to a recording of the event.“So, we will be helping the energy industry to some of these trillions of dollars,” he said.

Royal Dutch Shell Is Selling Its Permian Basin Oil Holdings to ConocoPhillips - — Royal Dutch Shell sold its oil and gas production in the Permian Basin, the biggest American oil field, to ConocoPhillips for $9.5 billion in cash on Monday.The deal marks a turning point for Shell, which had put considerable effort into developing the 225,000-acre field sincebuying it from Chesapeake Energy nine years ago, expanding its production to about 200,000 barrels a day.The sale is the latest sign that Shell, like other European oil companies, is under pressure to sell off oil and gas production and move toward producing cleaner energy in response to growing concerns about climate change among investors and the general public. Shell is retreating from the Permian as American shale oil production is recovering. The Permian Basin yielded 4.7 million barrels a day in August — more than 40 percent of total American oil output and a nearly 400,000-barrel-a-day increase from January. Rising oil prices have enticed crews to return to the fields, where they use hydraulic fracturing — commonly known as fracking — to blast open shale rocks and force oil out of the ground.A wave of acquisitions in the Permian began last year with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic as companies sought to cut costs. The scale of the Shell deal is similar to Conoco’s acquisition of Concho Resources for $9.7 billion in October, a deal that made Conoco a major player in the Permian, which straddles Texas and New Mexico. In April, Pioneer Natural Resources bought DoublePoint Energy for $6.4 billion.With the acquisition of Shell’s acreage, Conoco consolidates its position as a top-tier Permian producer along with Pioneer, Occidental Petroleum, Exxon Mobil and Chevron.Shell’s sale of its West Texas Permian holdings, which provided an estimated 6 percent of the company’s global oil and gas production last year, had been expected for months. Shell recently sold its stakes in offshore oil and gas fields in Malaysia and the Philippines. Its American operations include offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico along with refineries.Shell has been talking about cutting emissions since 2017, and it has accelerated its shift to cleaner fuels over the last two years, although not enough to satisfy many environmentalists. In addition to a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, it has set a target of reducing oil output up to 2 percent a year by 2030 through divestments and lower investments in exploration and production.

Shell sells off its oil and gas business in Texas’ Permian Basin, seeking to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels -- Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell sold its oil and gas business in the Permian Basin, the country’s largest oilfield, to ConocoPhillips for $9.5 billion cash on Monday.The deal is a major move for Shell, which produces more than 175,000 barrels of oil per day in the Permian Basin, as it faces pressure to reduce its oil and gas production and produce more clean energy in response to concerns from investors and the public about climate change.For Houston-based ConocoPhillips, Monday’s announcement furthers the company’s investment in the Permian Basin. Last year, the company bought large oil driller Concho Resources for $9.7 billion. Acquiring Shell’s land makes ConocoPhillips a top Permian producer alongside Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Pioneer Natural Resources, which bought DoublePoint Energy for $6.4 billion earlier this year.“The Permian Basin is not going anywhere,” Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association, said in an interview Monday. “And that’s going to continue to be the most prolific and highest [oil] producing region in the country.”But Shell and other major energy companies have faced growing scrutiny for their role in climate change and their public messaging about how fossil fuels contribute to it.Last week, the U.S. House Oversight Committee widened its inquiry into what it characterized as the oil and gas industry’s “longrunning, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.” The committee called on top executives from Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil to testify before Congress next month.

ConocoPhillips bets $23 bln on U.S. shale oil as rivals retreat – ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Ryan Lance on Monday doubled down on U.S. shale and the world’s continued demand for oil with his second blockbuster acquisition in less than a year. His $9.5 billion purchase of Royal Dutch Shell (LON:)’s West Texas properties, nine months after closing a $13.3 billion deal for Concho Resources (NYSE:), puts the company’s future squarely in shale after exiting Canada’s oil sands, U.S. offshore and British North Sea fields. The strategy depends on a world thirsty for cheap oil and Conoco’s ability to extract it with less carbon emissions. While Shell, BP (NYSE:) and Equinor quit shale for renewable fuels, Lance argues oil and gas will not be soon supplanted. “We don’t believe the existential threat to this business is right around the corner,” he told analysts in June. With Shell’s assets, Conoco gets more than 10 years of output and rewards shareholders willing to stick with fossil fuels, said Lance. “We’re going to create a lot more value over the next 10 years and beyond with this acquisition,” Lance told analysts on Tuesday, promising to deliver higher returns for shareholders than paying a one-time dividend. Lance, who became CEO in 2012, joins Chevron (NYSE:) and Exxon Mobil (NYSE:) in rejecting the shift to solar, wind and batteries embraced by European oil majors. Shareholders want the company to focus on its strengths, he said. “This is what we’re good at. This is what we do really really well,” Lance said, referring to generating strong cash flow from modest investments in new oil and gas. The deal increases capital spending by $1 billion per year, but will add $10 billion to free cash flow and shareholder payouts over a decade. Shell’s more efficient assets will help Conoco reduce its carbon emissions per unit of production by as much as half its 2016 levels by 2030, he said. But the acquisition does not sit well with environmentalists, who this year pushed Conoco to address customers’ emissions from using its fuels. In May, 58% of shareholders voted in favor of a non-binding petition to set reduction targets including from products. “Buying fossil fuel assets is exactly the opposite of what investors actually want,” Mark van Baal, founder of Dutch advocacy group Follow This, said in a phone interview. “Eventually he will have to listen,” he said. Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Climate goals help drive Shell's Permian oil basin exit | S&P Global Market Intelligence - Royal Dutch Shell PLC's decision to sell all of its assets in the Permian Basin to ConocoPhillips for about $9.5 billion appeared to mark a quick shift in strategy for the Dutch energy giant that had described the business as "core" just a few months ago. But the deal disclosed Sept. 20 by both companies comes at a time when major oil and gas companies face mounting pressure from investors and regulators to curb emissions and diversify outside of fossil fuels. And for Shell, selling off its Permian business helped the company make progress on its goals of cutting its emissions that are the most difficult to reduce. The sale — one of the largest recent transactions in the U.S. shale patch — also freed Shell of an asset seen as lacking the scale needed to drive cost efficiencies that rival oil and gas giants have in the region, which is the country's most prolific in oil production. "They were in a position where they either had to grow it or get out of it, and they found a willing buyer in Conoco," Morningstar analyst Allen Good said in an interview. "The net-zero [target] on top of that certainly made it an easier decision." Shell emphasized the economies of scale as the driving force behind the sale. "Our operated position was sub-scale and needed additional materiality to reach its competitive potential," Shell spokesperson Natalie Gunnell said in an email. "In an effort to optimize value from our Permian business, we reviewed multiple strategies and portfolio options for these assets, including opportunities to increase scale. This offer emerged as a very compelling value proposition." Shell owns about 225,000 net acres in the Permian that produce about 175,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. That is a significant acreage, but a fraction of what other oil and gas giants such as Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. possess in the region. Shell might not have been in a position to make an acquisition to grow its Permian business, Good said, adding that growing the Permian business might not have even been consistent with the company's overall divestment strategy and climate targets. Shell said in July that it expected its oil production to decline by 1% to 2% annually over the next decade, after peaking in 2019, as it limits upstream investment to focus more on energy transition areas such as its LNG business and renewables. Shell's Permian assets represented less than 1% of the company's carbon emissions from operations, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Shell is also attempting to cut its carbon emissions and invest more in renewable energy under a more aggressive timeline than many of its peers, after a Dutch district court in May ordered the oil and gas giant to reduce its net carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels.

Shell's Big Sale of Oil and Gas Holdings Is a Climate Bait-and-Switch - Royal Dutch Shell on Monday said it was selling off all of its oil and gas assets in Texas’s Permian Basin for $9.5 billion in cash to ConocoPhillips, one of the biggest recent transactions in the industry.The sale represents 225,000 net acres of land in the Permian that produces 175,000 barrels of fuel per day, the companies said in a news release; a Shell executive told the Wall Street Journal that its employees in the Permian would join ConocoPhillips. After the sale is complete, Shell will have no remaining presence in onshore production in the Permian, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producing fields. While Shell’s announcement makes no mention of its climate or energy plans, the sale comes as Shell and other oil companies come under increasing scrutiny from climate activists and the general public for their plans to cut emissions. Shell, in particular, is facing a historic legal challenge to its business: in May, a stunning ruling from a court in the Netherlands ordered Shell to cut its emissions 45% by 2030, in line with what the Paris Agreement mandates. (The company has said it will challenge the ruling, with CEO Ben van Beurden penning a LinkedIn post to explain the reasoning.)Shell has also faced a flurry of other legal challenges in the Netherlands and the U.S. over its climate commitments. Earlier this month, another Dutch court (the Dutch legal system is really pulling its weight here) ruled that Shellneeded to stop using advertisements that claim that customers can make their purchases “carbon neutral” if they buy offsets at the pump. (This is a campaign that Shell also hired Instagram influencers to promote.) And last week, the U.S. House of Representatives said it was launching an investigation into Big Oil’s use of misinformation, calling representatives from major oil firms to testify, including Shell. The sale could be read as a sign that the industry is slowly recognizing that fossil fuels may not be a cash cow forever. The Shell executive told the Journal that the decision to sell came after the company considered acquiringnew assets in the Permian, but ultimately decided that the most profitable move for shareholders would be to sell. Shell has indicated that it seems to recognize the writing on the wall when it comes to fossil fuels: Earlier this year, the company said in a statement that it had reached peak oil production in 2019, peak emissions in 2018, and its fossil fuel production would gradually start to decrease (albeit at a rate far, far slower than what the Dutch court has ruled and what science dictates). Van Beurden also said in May that the company is “absolutely needed” for the energy transition and that people will see Shell “do the right thing.” OK, Ben!

Shell leaving Permian Basin unlikely to impact Texas workforce, climate - Midland Mayor Patrick Payton expects most people working for Royal Dutch Shell in West Texas to keep their jobs after the energy giant sold its oil and gas business in the Permian Basin to ConocoPhillips for $9.5 billion cash on Monday. Instead, Payton said, many of Shell’s oil and gas workers will likely do similar jobs for ConocoPhillips, the Houston-based company that appears to be going all-in on oil and gas in West Texas. With the sale, Conoco now owns land in the oil patch comparable to the largest players there. For Shell, the motivation for the sale was to meet the company’s goals of shrinking its carbon dioxide emissions and increasing its share of renewable energy sources, objectives made legally binding by a Dutch court this summer. The company has faced pressure to reduce its oil and gas production and produce more clean energy in response to concerns from investors and the public about climate change. But despite Shell’s climate goals, energy experts said the deal, which moves more than 175,000 barrels per day in production from one major company to another, isn’t a signal that the industry is focusing more on protecting the environment. “You’re not reducing emissions, you’re just transferring who produces them,” said Arvind Ravikumar, who leads the University of Texas at Austin’s Sustainable Energy Transitions Lab. “This is not a symbol of global movement to take climate action,” said Kenneth B. Medlock III, senior director at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University. “This is a symbol of what two different entities viewed was in their own commercial best interest.”

Attorney: More public disclosure needed in historic natural gas price proceedings --State regulators’ refusal to dig deeper into the causes of a historic spike in natural gas prices this winter effectively shuts down the investigation, an attorney says. Prices for the largest natural gas pipeline serving Kansas rose to about 200 times their normal price this winter during a severe cold snap that pushed the electrical grid to the brink. Months later, regulators are sorting out huge spikes in energy prices caused by the storm. The total statewide is nearly $1 billion. The biggest chunk comes from Kansas Gas Service, the state’s largest natural gas utility, which paid more than $390 million in extraordinary costs when gas prices rose from less than $3 to more than $620. With carrying costs, the total comes to $451 million. Instead of recouping the total all at once, KGS customers will pay off costs from the storm for up to 10 years. Black Hills Energy incurred $87.9 million total, which will cost customers an extra $12.23 per month over five years. Evergy, which also gets energy from coal and renewable resources, plans to recoup $152.3 million over two years from its Kansas customers outside the Kansas City metro. Evergy customers on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro will see savings because the company has far more sources to generate power in the area. But Jim Zakoura, an attorney representing the Natural Gas Transportation Customer Coalition, unsuccessfully urged Kansas regulators to require KGS release records about its natural gas purchases, including supplier names, and subpoena a national natural gas price index to investigate market dysfunction. “If you’re asking the public to foot the largest rate increase in history, $451 million for seven days of gas, everything should be made available to them,” Zakoura said.

White House pledges to fight court order on oil and gas leases, but activists want more - The Biden administration plans to appeal a federal court decision forcing the government to restart oil and gas leases that have been paused since January. But administration officials are also promising to comply in a way that takes into account the damage caused by fossil fuel development. The two-part move worries progressive activists and members of Congress, who have urged President Joe Biden to permanently shut down the federal oil and gas leasing program because of its contributions to climate change. In addition, the oil and gas industry is questioning whether there’s any intent by the government to fall in line with the court ruling, since lease sales have not been scheduled. The reactions came after the Interior Department said Monday it would comply with U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty’s June 16 ruling to reinstate the oil and gas leasing program while the appeal is pending. But the department reserved the right to “to conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the program’s many deficiencies,” including its impact on climate change. An Interior spokeswoman declined to elaborate Tuesday on what the department’s compliance would mean in practice. Biden paused oil and gas leases on federal lands in a Jan. 27 executive order that also called for a comprehensive review of the program. Lease sale auctions are generally held quarterly. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, and 12 other Republican attorneys general, including those in Georgia, Missouri and Montana, sued earlier this year to stop the pause. In an interim step, Doughty ruled in favor of the states and issued an injunction forcing the federal government to resume lease sales. Interior said immediately following the ruling it would comply with it, but has not announced any new lease sales. Monday, the department again said it would comply, but added several criticisms of the oil and gas leasing program, including that it has failed to account for contributions to climate change. The statement’s emphasis on the program’s faults led some conservation activists to believe that the Biden Interior Department would approve fewer leases or otherwise curb what they see as the program’s excesses in previous administrations.

Methane fee collides with EPA rules. 'It's very unusual' - Methane emissions are in the crosshairs of Democratic climate politics like never before, creating the prospects of a collision between the oil and gas industry and simultaneous restrictions from both Congress and EPA. Democrats in the House and Senate are moving to slap a fee on natural gas vented from wellheads and storage facilities as part of their reconciliation package. At the same time, EPA is preparing to release an aggressive new suite of Clean Air Act rules within weeks that would boost requirements for the industry to find and fix leaks. Both moves will follow President Biden’s agreement with European Union leaders on Friday to cut human-made methane across the economy by 30 percent this decade. It’s a cascade of new pressures for a fossil fuel industry that only recently accepted the idea that methane regulation and carbon pricing are potential outcomes of current climate politics. And they’re crying foul. “On the one hand we have a situation where we’ve been regulated at the federal and state level on methane and are working with the Biden administration on new regulations that would capture new and existing sources,” said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president for policy and regulation at the American Petroleum Institute.. “And then along comes this fee.” API, the largest U.S. oil and gas lobbying group, cheered former President Trump’s efforts to dismantle Obama-era methane rules in favor of laxer standards. It took that position even as some of its members from the oil industry called for tougher federal limits on leaked natural gas. Then as President Biden prepared to take office in January, API reversed itself and pledged to help the administration craft rules for new and existing oil and gas infrastructure that would target methane directly. In March, API released "principles" for the kind of carbon tax it would support as part of a Climate Action Framework. They were derided by environmentalists as “greenwashing.” Now the industry is not extending its conditional support for carbon pricing to the Democratic proposal for a methane fee — a policy Macchiarola called “duplicative” and “a punitive tax that’s just going to harm natural gas producers and ultimately add to costs throughout the system.”

Top Ad and PR Firms Exposed for Helping Big Oil Greenwash Their Climate Destruction -- On the heels of congressional Democrats calling the heads of fossil fuel companies and industry lobbying groups to testify about their role in spreading climate disinformation, campaigners published a report Tuesdayexposing the contributions of major advertising and public relations firms.The aim of Clean Creatives' report, as its introduction explains, was to "document the many known relationships between PR, advertising, and other creative agencies and fossil fuel companies that are responsible for climate change, and compare holding company pledges for climate action with their work for polluting clients."Unveiled last year by the nonprofit Fossil Free Media, the Clean Creatives campaign pressures ad and PR agencies to ditch clients fueling the climate emergency."Fossil fuel companies are the biggest polluters, the biggest greenwashers, and the biggest opponents of life-saving climate action. There is no room for ad and PR professionals to continue promoting companies that are doing so much damage to our future," said Clean Creatives director Duncan Meisel in a statement about the report, entitled The F-List 2021The F-List 2021. “The most important step any agency can take to address the climate crisis is to rule out working with fossil fuel companies," Meisel added. "We need creatives and communications experts to bring their full energy towards ending this crisis, not extending it."The report focuses on the work of 90 agencies across three different regions—Australia, Europe, and North America—and notes that "fossil fuel industry clients include the full range of corporations involved in the business of extracting, transporting, refining, and selling fossil fuels, their trade associations, and front groups representing their interests."

Judge deems Line 5 mediation at ‘standstill' -- - The federal judge tasked with determining which court — state or federal — will determine whether Gov. Gretchen Whitmer can shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline has formally acknowledged the mediation breakdown between the parties. In a Tuesday order, Judge Janet Neff dismisses the state’s Sept. 14 motion regarding its issue with the mediator as moot while settling any doubt as to whether the mediation process is complete. “The Court determines from the parties’ filings that the formal VFM [voluntary facilitative mediation] process is at least at a standstill, although the parties remain under a continuing obligation to engage in good faith to resolve this case,” Neff wrote. The agreed-upon facilitative mediator, former Judge Gerald E. Rosen, had been working with the parties in State of Michigan v Enbridge for nearly six months. The last scheduled session on Sept. 9 ended without a settlement; but, upon notice that Rosen intended to file additional documents to potentially continue the process past that point, the state filed a complaint and asked Neff to block any further filings from him. “The mediator subsequently filed a Report Following Voluntary Facilitative Mediation (‘the Report’), indicating only that mediation is ‘continuing,’ with the date of any next session ‘to be determined,’” Neff said. But, regardless of the propriety of Rosen’s filing, Neff acknowledges that there has been an “apparent breakdown” in the mediation process that prevents it from continuing either way. “While the Enbridge Parties indicate their willingness to continue to work towards a mutually acceptable resolution, the State Parties filed a ‘response’ to the mediator’s Report indicating that they have ‘no desire to continue with the mediation process’ and requesting that the Court treat the process as ‘completed without a settlement,’” Neff wrote. “Voluntary facilitative mediation necessarily requires voluntary participation by both parties,” she added. Accordingly, Neff dismissed the state’s motion to enforce notice of appointment of facilitative mediator as moot.

Enbridge fined more than $3 million - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Sept. 16 that Enbridge Energy has been ordered to pay $3.32 million for failure to follow environmental law.The fine is related to the breach of an artesian aquifer back in June, resulting in what the DNR calls “an unauthorized groundwater appropriation during the construction of the Line 3 Replacement Project near Enbridge’s Clearbrook Terminal.” DNR’s civil enforcement orders require Enbridge to pay mitigation and penalty funds of $3.32 million. This includes a restoration order requiring $300,000 in initial mitigation funds to pay for the loss of groundwater resources, $250,000 for DNR monitoring of calcareous fen wetlands near the area of the aquifer breach and a $20,000 administrative penalty order – the maximum amount allowed under Minnesota state law.The DNR has also ordered Enbridge to place $2,750,000 in escrow for restoration and mitigation of any damage to the calcareous fen wetlands. DNR will determine what restoration and mitigation is required.The DNR’s restoration order also requires Enbridge to implement a restoration plan to stop the unauthorized groundwater flow within 30 days. The order requires the company to conduct additional groundwater and site monitoring and report the results, as well as to develop a Calcareous Fen Management Plan. Additionally, to ensure that violations haven’t occurred elsewhere, the DNR is requiring Enbridge to fund a re-inspection of any and all areas along the entire route where construction depths deviated from plans (as they did at the Clearbrook Terminal site).Separately, the DNR has also referred this matter to the Clearwater County Attorney for criminal prosecution. The DNR has determined that Enbridge Energy violated Minnesota Statute 103G.141, subdivision 1, which makes it a crime to appropriate “waters of the state without previously obtaining a permit from the commissioner.”The DNR identified the potential breach of the aquifer June 15, and started an investigation. Through Sept. 5, 2021, this violation has resulted in an estimated release of approximately 24.2 million gallons of groundwater from the aquifer. This water has been pumped from the trench, treated to remove sediment and released to a nearby wetland.

‘They screwed up our lake’: tar sands pipeline is sucking water from Minnesota watersheds -Along the eastern boundary of the White Earth Indian Reservation in north-western Minnesota, Indigenous Anishinaabe wild rice harvesters Jerry and Jim Libby set down a row of wooden pallets into the mud just beyond the dock of Upper Wild Rice Lake. It was a clear day, and tight, lush clumps of green rice heads were visible across the lake’s horizon. In a typical year, the entrance to this – one of a long necklace of wild rice lakes in northern Minnesota to which the region’s Indigenous people flock every year in the late summer – would be covered in at least two feet of water. But now it is composed of suspended sediment as solid as chocolate pudding, through which the Libbys need to create a makeshift ramp simply to carry their canoe out to the waterline. Minnesota is weathering an historic drought, but there is another problem beyond the weather: Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline has taken a substantial toll on watersheds in the region, including through a permit to pump five billion gallons of water for construction. In the case of Upper Wild Rice Lake, a road construction contractor named Knife River Construction stuck a pump directly in the lake this past June, sucking out an unknown quantity of water, which locals suspect was related to the use of heavy trucks for the pipeline. “As far as I’m concerned, Enbridge screwed up our lake, and they’re taking money directly away from our families,” Jerry Libby says. “It makes us feel anguished – this is our staple food, you know.” The Indigenous-led struggle against Line 3, which seeks to move 930,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen daily from Alberta to a shipping and refinery hub in Superior, Wisconsin, has been the biggest environmental and Indigenous land protection campaign in the US this summer. More than 900 people have been arrested opposing the pipeline, including nearly 70 who were kettled in late August during protests outside Minnesota governor Tim Walz’s residence in Minneapolis. Branded as a “replacement” project, the new pipeline would double the old Line 3’s capacity to carry tar sands bitumen. Enbridge, a Canada-based energy company, has announced it will begin sending oil through the pipeline next month. The processing and combustion of bitumen for the pipeline would release greenhouse gases equivalent to 50 coal plants, according to analysis by the nonprofit Oil Change International, thereby significantly contributing to the global climate crisis. But one of the pipeline’s most immediate impacts is on wild rice harvesters such as the Libbys, for whom the annual harvesting season began in late August and runs through much of September. Wild rice – known to many Anishinaabe people as “manoomin,” or “the food that grows on water” – is a dense, nutritional grain that grows naturally in the abundant lakes and rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and parts of Canada. Thousands of Anishinaabe people continue to harvest it with the same traditional methods used for generations, by propelling a canoe or small boat through the rice beds with a long pole. Indigenous people of the region believe they have a sacred covenant to protect manoomin and numerous other nonhuman beings, without which they would cease to exist as distinct peoples, notes longtime Anishinaabe rice harvester Bob Shimek. “During any kind of ceremony we do here, wild rice is involved,” Shimek says. “It’s kind of like the Anishinaabe soul food.”M

Criminal cases against Line 3 protesters stress rural Minnesota legal system | MPR News -Maya Stovall was a student at Carleton College helping organize on climate issues when she learned about the Line 3 oil pipeline. She decided to travel to northern Minnesota to join the protests against the pipeline — and kept going back. “Fighting Line 3 felt like the thing to be doing,” said Stovall, 20, who is from Illinois and majoring in political science and international relations. “We can't have new fossil fuel infrastructure like Line 3 if we're going to have a breathable planet.” In March, Stovall was arrested along with other protesters who locked themselves together surrounding a prayer lodge at a pipeline construction site in Hubbard County. She was arrested twice more at other protest actions during the summer. For the March incident, Stovall faces misdemeanor charges of trespassing, unlawful assembly and public nuisance. But after a July arrest in Pennington County, she received a more serious gross misdemeanor charge of trespassing on critical infrastructure. Stovall had to wait months to be assigned a public defender to represent her. "It's stressful — a lot of weight from not being able to move forward,” she said. “I would really like to file motions to dismiss my charges, and I cannot do that without representation.” Nearly 900 people have been arrested during protests against the Line 3 oil pipeline, which is being built in northern Minnesota. Most were cited with misdemeanors. But many, like Stovall, have been charged with gross misdemeanors, and some face felony charges. The number of legal cases is straining resources in the northern Minnesota counties where most of the protests took place. In addition to waiting for months for a public defender, some defendants also argue that the charges they're facing are unfairly severe.

As insurers retreat from oil projects, Enbridge says coverage will be harder to get - Enbridge will have a tougher time finding insurance for its controversial Line 3 pipeline as insurers increasingly limit coverage of oil and pipeline projects — particularly those tied to Canada. That was the upshot of filings Enbridge made last week with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The Calgary, Alberta-based company reported that it has the coverage required by the PUC. But the insurance market has an increasing aversion to oil projects due to carbon emission concerns and the low profitability of insurers hit by pollution-related losses, according to a report done for Enbridge by Marsh, one the world's largest insurance brokerages. "As we continue to see insurers reduce participation or withdraw from the crude oil infrastructure coverage, replacing their participation will become extremely challenging, and it is unlikely that a $900 million limit will continue to be available for Enbridge and other pipeline risks in the near future," the Marsh report said. The PUC has assumed that Enbridge will maintain general corporate liability coverage of $900 million, which would backstop specific insurance requirements for Line 3. The PUC also required Enbridge to buy a specialized "environmental impairment liability" policy with aggregate annual coverage of $200 million. Getting a $200 million damage limit for that environmental impairment policy will also become "more challenging," the Marsh report said. "This is a challenge for all pipeline companies, particularly those with Oil Sands connections." Alberta's oil sands, also called tar sands, are the source of most oil exported from Canada. Extracting such oil is particularly carbon intensive, and it's often mined from open pits. In a statement, Enbridge said "it maintains significant amounts of insurance and is appropriately insured for its operations."The amount of Enbridge's general liability coverage "is at the high end of amounts carried by our peer group," the company said. "Also, like any organization, we adjust our insurance based on the evolving market conditions we face each year when we renew," Enbridge said. "As the market evolves, we make decisions to ensure we are appropriately insured." The company noted that it would be responsible for any oil spill clean-up, "regardless of the ability to later recover those expenses under an insurance policy." Enbridge's last major oil spill in Minnesota was in 2002, when Line 3 ruptured and leaked 252,000 gallons. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline in southwestern Michigan spilled 834,000 gallons of oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The Michigan leak was one of the worst oil onshore oil spills in U.S. history and cost Enbridge $1.2 billion to clean up. A worst-case spill in Minnesota would cost $1.4 billion to mop up and remediate, according to a 2018 Enbridge analysis required by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Environmental and Indigenous groups have been waging campaigns against the financiers and insurers of oil projects. Some have also faced pressure from their own shareholders. The efforts have had an effect: At least 14 insurance companies have pulled out of providing coverage for the Trans Mountain pipeline, which will carry oil from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.

Summit Midstream Partners pleads guilty in largest U.S. inland spill from oil drilling | Reuters -- Pipeline operator Summit Midstream Partners pleaded guilty in federal court in Bismarck, North Dakota on Wednesday to criminal water pollution charges in what prosecutors call the largest land-based spill from oil drilling. The company agreed to pay $36.3 million to settle criminal charges, as well as parallel civil charges filed by the US government and the state of North Dakota. The company acknowledged that in August 2014, 29 million gallons (132 million liters) of produced water, a waste product from fracking, spilled from its pipeline near Williston, North Dakota, contaminating groundwater as well as more than 30 miles (30 km) of water. 48.28 km) Tributaries of the Missouri River. The water produced due to this method of drilling contains saline, as well as high concentrations of oil, radioactive material and pollutants such as ammonia, aluminum and arsenic. The spread continued for five months before it was finally contained and reported to the federal government as required by the Clean Water Act. Email evidence obtained by government investigators suggests that company officials and contractors were aware of several explosions while the pipeline was being pressure tested, with an inspector saying at one point that the company was less-recommended. was using test pressures. “What is known is that the installation was negligent and that the breakdown was consistent with the negligent establishment,” the government wrote in the court filing.

Company agrees to pay hefty fine in large oil spill case (AP) — The company responsible for the largest oil field spill in North Dakota has pleaded guilty to criminal charges after reaching an agreement with the federal government to pay $15 million in fines. Summit Midstream Partners entered the pleas in federal court Wednesday. Summit was charged for negligently discharging oil and for failing to immediately report the spill, which occurred north of Williston over a period of five months in 2014 and 2015. A pipeline leaked 700,000 barrels, or 29 million gallons, of produced water, which is highly saturated saltwater that comes up in wells along with oil and gas. Produced water can contain oil, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Some of the wastewater reached Blacktail Creek, which eventually flows into the Missouri River. The U.S. Department of Justice said the $15 million will go toward the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which can be used to clean up oil spills. Summit also has agreed to take steps to prevent future spills by implementing better training, installation, operating and testing requirements. The company said it has spent $75 million on those improvements and spill cleanup.

Dakota Access asks court to reverse decision requiring environmental review - The Dakota Access Pipeline is asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court determination finding that it needs additional environmental review. At the start of the year, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision that the federal government needed to conduct a rigorous environmental review called an Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline. The appeals court also upheld a decision to vacate a permit for the now-operational pipeline, while the review is conducted. In its new filing, the company asks the high court to consider whether the appeals court was wrong to vacate the permit under environmental laws. It also takes issue with the appeals court’s assertion that it was judging whether the federal government had “convinced the court that it has materially addressed and resolved serious objections to its analysis.” Dakota Access, in the new filing, also asks the high court to weigh whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issued the approval, needed to also “‘resolve’ those criticisms to the court’s satisfaction.” In the meantime, the pipeline will continue to operate without the permit, after the Biden administration and a federal court declined to shut it down. A Justice Department lawyer said at the time that whether or not to shut down the pipeline was a matter of “continuing discretion,” and, in its new filing, the company argued that the court decision leaves the pipeline “at a significant risk of being shut down.” This is not the first time the company has asked the Supreme Court to review the case, previously trying to get the court to take a look at it in April.

Dakota Access review 'gravely off track,' tribes say in calling for fresh start - The head of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the federal agency tasked with overseeing an ongoing environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline “is already gravely off track,” and he wants the process to start over. Chairman Mike Faith and leaders of other tribes fighting the pipeline sent a letter Wednesday to a top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official, taking issue with the contractor the agency has tapped to complete the review over its ties to the oil industry. Tribal leaders say the Corps is working with Environmental Resources Management, a London-based company with offices in 40 countries including the United States. One of the tribes’ concerns is that the company is a member of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group that lobbies for the oil industry and has submitted court briefs supporting Dakota Access. The tribes also point to testimony an Environmental Resources Management worker offered to South Dakota regulators in 2015 after reviewing the proposed pipeline, concluding that it “is not likely to pose a threat of serious injury to the environment.” “In essence, ERM is an agent of DAPL, rather than a neutral party,” reads the tribes’ letter, which they sent to Jaime Pinkham, acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. The tribes say the Corps’ selection of the company “compromises” the integrity of the environmental review process. Environmental Resources Management declined to comment on the letter. Opponents of the Keystone XL project raised similar concerns regarding a potential conflict of interest in the mid-2010s when the U.S. State Department used the company to complete the environmental review of that proposed oil pipeline. A federal judge ordered the new, more thorough environmental study of Dakota Access last year and revoked a permit for the pipeline’s crossing under the Missouri River just upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation. Tribal members are concerned about a potential oil spill. The pipeline developer has long maintained that the line is safe. The review process began one year ago and is expected to wrap up next September. It will be instrumental in the Corps’ decision on whether to reissue the permit.

Latest bout over North Dakota royalties goes to oil industry (AP) — The latest bout of legal wrangling over the collection of North Dakota oil and gas royalties has been won by the energy industry, over a bill it promoted and was passed by the 2021 state Legislature. A state judge on Thursday ruled in favor of the law that limits how much interest companies have to pay for unpaid oil and gas royalties and sets a statute of limitations on how far back they have to pay. The decision came after a state agency argued that the legislation is unconstitutional. McKenzie County Judge Robin Schmidt is unlikely to have the last word, however. Fargo attorney Joshua Swanson, who has successfully represented clients over oil and gas mineral rights in North Dakota, said when the law was challenged in court last month that the issue is likely headed to the state Supreme Court regardless of Schmidt’s opinion. A brief filed on Aug. 6 on behalf of the Board of University and School Lands, referred to as the Land Board, complained that the legislation violates the U.S. Constitution because it harms the obligation of previously agreed-upon contracts. The board said it will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars that mostly go to schools. Few of the key players in the long-running dispute are talking. State Land Commissioner Jodi Smith did not immediately return a phone message Monday seeking comment. A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who filed the motion challenging the constitutionality of the law, first referred all questions to the Land Board, of which Stenehjem is a member, and then directed inquiries to Smith. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, a member of the Land Board, and David Garner, an attorney for Smith and the board, did not immediately respond to email requests by The Associated Press. The law approved earlier this year by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Burgum states that the Land Board cannot collected royalty payments from before August 2013. It also reduces the amount of interest the state can charge companies for unpaid oil and gas royalties, from 30% to 15%. The state Supreme Court sided with the Land Board two years ago in the debate that started with a lawsuit filed by an operator in 2018 after the state determined that companies were taking improper deductions.

Eighth Circuit reverses dismissal of Andeavor trespassing case  -The legal battle will continue for Andeavor’s Tesoro High Plains crude oil system for the foreseeable future, after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision dismissing a class action suit filed by landowners over claims of trespass. The High Plains system carries about one-third of the Bakken’s crude oil to a refinery in Mandan, and it has been embroiled in a legal quagmire since 2013, when negotiations to renew its right of way leases fell apart. On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision in the 2018 class action suit, which seeks both compensatory and punitive damages for ongoing trespass and injunctive relief requiring the pipeline to be dismantled. The Eighth Circuit agreed that the outcome of the Bureau of Indian Affairs administrative process would be an important turning point for the case, but disagreed that it lacked jurisdiction until after that administrative process is completely exhausted, especially given the back and forth in the Bureau’s decisions with new administrations coming on board. Instead of a dismissal, they granted a stay, to give the BIA more time to finish its current administrative process under the Biden administration. It also remanded the case back to the lower court for further consideration in light of its ruling. Individual landowners control 66 of the 90 acres in question for the pipeline’s right of way, and the MHA Nation controls 24. The individual landowners rejected their offers after learning that MHA Nation had been offered substantially more per acre than they had been. They filed suit to try and force the pipeline to pay them more per acre or sun down. Marathon had partially shut the system down in 2020, after an order from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, amid claims that the pipeline has been trespassing on Native American land for seven years. Marathon was also fined $187 million in damages in connection with the BIA order under the Obama administration. The Trump administration later reduced that to $4 million.

Encinitas just banned natural gas in new buildings, including homes -- The Encinitas City Council passed a sweeping building electrification ordinance late Wednesday that, with just a few exceptions, will eliminate installing natural gas infrastructure on new residential and commercial construction within the city limits. The ordinance, which passed on a 5-0 vote, is similar to other measures adopted by 49 other communities in California in the past couple of years but most of those municipalities are located in Northern California. The Encinitas ordinance is the most comprehensive ordinance passed by a community in San Diego County. “We’re really excited because we’re doing our part, we care about climate change, we want to be a more environmentally committed city and we’re doing everything we can to get there,” said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. The exceptions are quite narrow and are reserved for emergency buildings that are deemed essential facilities as defined by the California Health and Safety Code and construction in extreme scenarios for projects that would need significant utility upgrades. Restaurants that demonstrate they need to cook with a flame also could qualify for an exception. Examples include eateries that use woks, pizza ovens and barbecue-themed restaurants. However, if an exception is made, the restaurant must employ methods that will reduce the gas-fueled appliance’s greenhouse gas impacts. When an exception is made to the ordinance, the new construction must be wired so it can transition to be electric-ready in the future. The ordinance also applies to accessory dwelling units, more commonly called granny flats.

Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill --A group of House progressives is renewing a push for Democrats’ multi-trillion spending bill to repeal certain fossil fuel subsidies that have been on the books for years. In a new letter to congressional leadership, six top members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), said that they were “dismayed” that the House’s current version of the legislation didn’t include such measures. “There is no reason that the fossil fuel industry deserves special privileges over other businesses,” they wrote. Specifically, they call to end certain benefits for “intangible” costs like wages, repairs, supplies and another that lets some companies deduct as much as 15 percent of the revenue they get from a well.While Senate committees haven’t yet released their versions of the spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) office has indicated that the package is expected to address fossil fuel subsidies. The upper chamber’s finance committee put forward legislation earlier this year tackling the subsidies.

Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill -Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Wednesday that he’s pushing for legislation to address fossil fuel tax breaks to be included in Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending bill. “President Biden, to his credit, in the campaign, said that there should not be special tax breaks — his words, not mine — for fossil fuels. Clean Energy for America meets that campaign pledge,” he told reporters, referring to a bill advanced by his committee. “We’re going to push for it in the reconciliation bill as well,” he added during a press conference. Such provisions have not been included in the House version of the reconciliation bill — sparking criticism from some progressives. During Wednesday's press conference, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said the eventual Democratic bill “may well have” provisions like a carbon tax to encourage the transition to clean energy. “Will any of these be in it? Well, we will see, but I wanted to mention that they are part of the conversation at this point,” he said, also referring to a methane fee and a carbon border fee. But, the future of the entire reconciliation package remains uncertain amid doubts from moderates in the caucus, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), over the price tag. Democrats can't lose any votes in the Senate given the 50-50 split and the unified GOP opposition to the spending package, which contains much of President Biden's domestic agenda. Manchin has raised concerns about the cost of the bill as well as a provision in which utilities would be paid to switch their power to clean sources. Asked about Manchin's remarks, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Wednesday said lawmakers are making the climate case to all of their fellow Democrats. "The inaction is not something we can tolerate, or live with, or wait another year. We are making that case to every member of our caucus," she said.

Alaska lawmakers seek allies to save ANWR drilling - Alaska’s Republican senators say they are actively exploring avenues to ensure the still-in-flux reconciliation bill does not restrict drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan are preparing to go on offense as House Democrats grow increasingly more vocal in their demands that the drilling prohibition, which was included in the House Natural Resources Committee’s portion of the reconciliation package, remains in play amid negotiations with the Senate. Sullivan told E&E News yesterday that he and Murkowski’s teams “have been working on it,” while Murkowski said in a separate interview on Capitol Hill that she was “working to build our allies” on the issue. Their most likely ally at this point is Sen. Joe Manchin, the moderate West Virginia Democrat and critical swing vote who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the ANWR issue in the reconciliation process. In 2017, the Republican-controlled Congress put language in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — which was passed and signed into law through the reconciliation process — to lift the ban on oil and gas drilling in ANWR’s coastal plain. Manchin supported it. Asked specifically about Manchin, Sullivan said “those conversations are in the works.” Murkowski said earlier this week, “I’m talking to my friend Senator Manchin about everything, all the time, whatever it may be.” While Manchin backed ANWR drilling four years ago, it’s not clear whether he would maintain this stance today as he prepares to negotiate over dozens of other provisions, large and small, especially the inclusion of the Clean Energy Payment Program. He’s also currently a holdout on the entire reconciliation bill as it currently stands (Energywire, Sept. 16). He has not yet commented on this specific line item in the context of this political fight. Sullivan and Murkowski acknowledged they were skittish about the potential to see their 2017 victory dashed. “I’m not sure what the fate of reconciliation is writ large,” said Murkowski, “but obviously I’m very concerned that our efforts to advance ANWR, as we’ve been able to do, could be really thwarted if reconciliation is advanced.”

British energy firms fear collapse as Europe’s gas crisis sees prices surge 250% - --Britain's energy industry could be headed for a significant shake-up, industry insiders have warned, as countries all over Europe grapple with an unprecedented crisis in the power sector.Wholesale gas prices have spiked across the region, with the U.K. being hit particularly hard.The front-month gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, a European benchmark for natural gas trading, gained on Monday to trade at 73.150 euros ($85.69) per megawatt-hour, hovering close to the record high seen last week.Since January, the contract has risen more than 250%.In the U.K., day-ahead energy prices for Monday reached an average of 291.18 euros per megawatt-hour, according to energy analysis firm LCP Enact. However, the maximum price for the U.K. on Monday could be as high as 1,083.78 euros per megawatt-hour, LCP Enact's analysis showed.Robert Buckley, head of relationship development at Cornwall Insight, told CNBC that the crisis was being caused by a "cocktail of pretty potent things" that were outside of suppliers' control.These included strong competition for natural gas deliveries between Europe and Asia, some outages at U.S. production facilities, and a tightening of EU carbon market rules, as well as various other factors."All suppliers will be finding it very tough at the moment," Buckley said. "Some of them are bigger and more resilient than others. But scale doesn't automatically equal resilience."He added that "it looks like it's going to get worse before it gets better" in terms of suppliers leaving the British electricity and gas market."[Suppliers are] caught between this rapture of the rising energy price wholesale market and the default tariff cap, and depending on who you believe, this is anywhere up to £200, £250 [$273, $341] below what a market-related cost would be at the moment, so that's 20% of the total bill," he said, referring to a cap on consumer energy prices in Britain. "That's -20% of gross margins. Very few [companies] can sustain that for any length of time."Meanwhile, Bill Bullen, founder of U.K. supplier Utilita Energy, warned that surging wholesale prices would inevitably lead to more insolvencies in the energy sector."We're heading back to an oligopoly at this rate and going backwards," he said in an email Monday.

Rising gas prices threaten a “winter of discontent” in Britain - The British media is filled with warnings that the huge rise in global gas prices will provoke a “winter of discontent” due to the desperate situation confronting millions of working people. According to trade association Oil & Gas UK, the price of wholesale gas has more than quadrupled since this time last year. It has jumped by 250 percent since January and 70 percent since August. The natural gas price hike is due to a combination of global events. Gas storage is low in most countries, particularly in Europe, and this has been exacerbated by the reopening of economies. Moreover, there is increased demand for gas in Asia, especially China, which has been moving away from coal and becoming more reliant on gas-fired power plants. These shortages have attracted the attention of the financier parasites in the imperialist countries, who have made a killing in the natural gas futures markets. Investors have been slow to unwind speculative positions they developed previously amid supply bottlenecks, driving up gas prices. This orgy of speculation is driven by the multi-trillion pandemic bailouts by the Fed, European Central Bank, Bank of England, et al. A growing narrative in the media pins the blame on the Putin administration in Russia. Typical was a Financial Times article on Monday headlined, “Why some see the hand of Russia in Europe’s gas price crisis”. The Guardian also referred to “Russian gas games” and complained, “As shipments of gas have turned from Europe towards China, flows of pipeline gas to Europe from Russia have failed to make up the shortfall.” The situation in Britain is particularly acute, with its energy market overexposed to the gas shortage. Less than 1 percent of Europe’s stored gas is held by the UK—which has among the lowest gas storage capabilities in Europe. Gas shortages have raised the spectre of a shutdown of large sections of the UK economy, including its food and drink sector, due to the crisis at fertiliser producer CF Industries. Its plants produce most of the carbon dioxide (CO2) used in food production and cold storage. Moreover CF's CO2 is used by nuclear power stations for cooling, and in the National Health Service for procedures including invasive surgery and endoscopy.

The ‘Big Lie’ of Blue Hydrogen Starts With Ignoring Basic Economics - As the oil and gas industry achieves success in pushing the world towards widespread adoption of methane-based blue hydrogen, some unexpected voices are calling out the industry on its deception of selling blue hydrogen as an affordable and clean source of energy.In August, Chris Jackson resigned as head of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, calling blue hydrogen an “expensive distraction.”To support his argument against blue hydrogen, Jackson accused the oil and gas companies pushing blue hydrogen of making false claims about the fuel’s true costs, noting that the UK Treasury has “been told that blue hydrogen is cheap.”A recent opinion piece at oil industry publication OilPrice.com, noting Jackson’s comments on the high cost of blue hydrogen, ran with the title “Exposing The Blue Hydrogen Lie.” The two biggest false claims about blue hydrogen are that it is clean energy and that it is economically viable. By misleading the public about these facts, the oil and gas industry, along with partners like investment banking company CitiGroup, hope to get billions in public money to pursue blue hydrogen without having to worry about its economic viability.As DeSmog reported, industry-backed lobbying efforts to sell the world on the promise of blue hydrogen are succeeding. These efforts include false claims but also often ignore the existing facts about blue hydrogen and the carbon capture technology that it required for its production.There are several ways to produce hydrogen, but almost all of it currently in production uses methane (natural gas) as the feedstock, with non-renewable energy powering that production. This process is called steam reforming, and breaks down methane into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The result is what is known as “gray hydrogen,” or, if technology is used to capture the carbon dioxide emissions released during production, it becomes known as “blue hydrogen.”Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), which is primarily funded by the oil and gas industry, is actively pushing blue hydrogen as clean energy. In April, CGEP released a paper advocating for large investments in the U.S. natural gas pipeline system, arguing that in the future the pipelines could be repurposed for hydrogen, thereby making it part of the climate solution.Then in August, CGEP held a presentation on what they call “Zero-C hydrogen” — the ‘C’ representing carbon. The panel was moderated by Adam Sieminski, senior advisor to the board of trustees for the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center. Sieminski was part of a heavy Saudi presence for the event, joined by Khalid Abuleif, chief negotiator for climate agreements for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Dr. Aqil Jamal, chief technologist for the carbon management research division at Saudi Aramco, the state owned oil and gas company. Such heavy representation by Saudi Arabia on a panel about hydrogen inevitably implied widespread industry support for blue hydrogen. Saudi Aramco’s CEO has told investors the company has big plans for blue hydrogen.The panel did not include any members who were critical of blue hydrogen.

How the natgas crisis emulates the Northern Rock crisis -- Izabella Kaminska - Britain’s natural gas shortage, and fears of a possible winter of discontent featuring 70s-style rolling blackouts, have been driving headlines all week. But a fact largely missing from the coverage is just how closely the structural situation resembles the one that drove the collapse of Northern Rock in 2007, and which later catalysed the wider financial crisis of 2008.Before we set out how, though, it’s worth stressing that the natgas shortage is not solely a UK phenomenon. Europe is suffering too. Significantly.The shortages themselves are the product of a perfect storm of global issues. These include under-stockpiling during the summer period in Europe due to more competition for LNG (liquid national gas) supplies from Asia; uncertainty related to delays in the launch of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia; and colder-than-expected weather in many parts of continental Europe, including Russia itself.While it may feel like the natgas price hike is particularly acute in the UK relative to Europe, where prices have at times been significantly lower, this is not outside the norm. Because the UK is a net importer, it often has to attract supplies from Europe via its Interconnector system by paying a premium. Bar a few transitory spikes every now and then the two markets, however, tend to trade very closely together.Another under-appreciated point is that the natgas market as a whole — not dissimilar to its close cousin the power market — has a historical susceptibility to extreme price moves and volatility. This is a function of there only being so much pipe and long-term storage in the system, and of a market incentive to never pay for expensive storage or excess reserves if it can be avoided. In recent years the rise of the LNG spot market, and the capacity to ship in volumes in an ad hoc manner from beyond the core pipeline system, has tempered some of that volatility. UK prices were remarkably stable throughout 2015-2019 as a result.But a big part of this crisis is related to the unexpected removal of that LNG buffer due to the additional demand from Asia. Prices are therefore reverting to their historically spikey norms. But even then, advocates of market-based solutions would not call that a problem. There is no better cure for high prices than high prices in their eyes. They see the market’s capacity to ease unexpected shortages by way of sudden but short-lived price hikes as a feature of the system, not a bug. This is because a finely balanced market needs very strong incentives to divert supplies to Britain when they are needed most, as well as extremely costly penalties for oversupplying when there are sudden collapses of demand. One important factor is that Britain was until recently an energy-independent nation, which made it very complacent about market-based risks. The other is more than a decade’s worth of efforts to liberalise the UK natgas market and make it increasingly dependent on real-time wholesale supplies.By 2017, such efforts had successfully driven consumer prices down relative to wholesale costs by increasing competition in the UK market from the incumbent Big Six players to as many as 70 organisations. Many of these new providers were happy to gain market share by undercutting rivals and offering below-cost deals to consumers.But the competition also had a downside. It made investing in critical infrastructure incredibly unappealing for any player still managing legacy assets.It was on the back of such market conditions that one of the UK’s largest natgas suppliers, Centrica, decided to close its Rough natural gas storage facility — the biggest in the country — in 2017. The facility was coming to the natural end of its life anyway, and would have needed a significant investment to modernise and revive it. But also, the chances of ever achieving a return on that investment were becoming increasingly negligible — especially in the context of ESG trends that risked making the underlying asset become stranded in the long term too.As a result, a vital reserve mechanism that had helped the UK stockpile gas in the summer for release in the winter months for many decades — smoothing supply and demand price shocks shocks in the process — was permanently lost.

It's all connected: The natural gas market and its casualties - Natural gas was supposed to be the so-called bridge fuel to the low-carbon renewable energy economy. It was abundant, cleaner to burn than oil and coal, and more and more available to anyone who wanted it as a global market in liquefied natural gas (LNG) blossomed and boomed.But this season it is looking increasingly like that metaphorical natural gas bridge is going to come up short. And, the effects are starting to ripple throughout the economy, not only in the natural gas markets themselves, but also in the electricity and agricultural markets.First, there are the obvious signs in the natural gas market. In both North America and Europe natural gas prices have bounded upward. In Europe gas import prices have zoomed up more than 400 percent in the last year from $2.86 per million BTUs (MMBtu) to $15.49 per MMBtu. In the United States the levitation is not as dramatic, but that may change once the cold weather sets in. U.S. natural gas futures prices were around $2.90 per mcf a year ago and closed Friday at $5.10 per mcf for the October contract. But the U.S. natural gas price was only about $3.90 per mcf just before Hurricane Ida knocked half of the natural gas production from the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico offline. The other cause for rising natural gas prices is the surge in demand worldwide as economies boom in the wake of record fiscal stimulus and low interest rates in response to the pandemic. It wasn't supposed to be this way, we were told a decade ago. Natural gas from newly available shale deposits was going to provide the United States and the world with ample gas supplies for decades. Skeptics of this claim (myself included) thought we had a few years or at best a decade of incrementally better supply, but only if investors kept throwing money at the shale gas drillers despite ongoing losses—which investors did. Now, seven of the 10 major shale gas basins in the United States are in decline. The spike in U.S. prices is partly due to reduced drilling as investors finally pulled back from throwing good money after bad. The other problem is that drillers have exploited many of the sweet spots and soon will have to move on to gas that is harder to get and that will cost more to extract. In electricity markets the natural gas price spike had, well, electrifying effects, and not in a good way.Electricity prices in Europe have climbed 250 percent since January owing in part to the rise in the price of natural gas which now powers an increasing number of electric generating plants. In the United Kingdom electricity prices traded near all-time highs. The culprit once again was the price of natural gas and the fuel's expanded role in electricity generation. In the United States, the ability of power plant operators to switch between natural gas and coal may keep electricity prices from spiking there. But that's if U.S. coal prices don't continue to rise dramatically as they have all year. The effects on agriculture may also be dramatic because nitrogen fertilizers are made largely from natural gas. Two fertilizer factories closed in the U.K. recently because of high natural gas prices. It is an irony that high fossil fuel energy prices increase the cost of fertilizer which, in turn, increases the cost of growing biofuel crops such as soybeans and corn. Soybean and corn prices are soaring this year as their use for food competes against their use as feedstocks for fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.A second irony is that just at this moment American consumers would be glad to have extra natural gas supplies and thus lower prices. They heard natural gas producers promise growing natural gas production far into the future. Investors heard that, too, and financed liquefied natural gas export terminals in the United States to send the excess production abroad.

Europe’s green ambitions could be hit as gas prices reach record highs - The European Union could struggle to advance its green agenda as gas prices soar across the bloc, according to experts who warn against slowing down investment into the sector.The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has vowed to become carbon neutral by 2050, presenting a concrete plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by the end of this decade.However, these ambitions could be hit as a natural gas shortage on the continent drives prices higher. The front-month gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, a European benchmark, has risen more than 250% since the start of the year. It traded at about 74 euros ($87) a megawatt-hour on Tuesday — just shy of its record high of 79 euros it hit last week.The recent spike is already having a tangible impact. Spain, for instance, has announced emergency measures to limit the profits that energy companies can make from gas alternatives, including renewables. The government is also hoping to cap what consumers are paying for their electricity."Soaring energy prices have hit economies across Europe, and if Madrid's actions are imitated elsewhere as governments prioritize cheap energy over the green transition, the EU's credibility in advancing global climate action could take a hit," Henning Gloystein, director of energy at the consultancy firm Eurasia Group, said in a note Friday.Spain is not the only country to cap energy price increases, with France and Greece making similar moves. But the plan in Spain has been the subject of some criticism.Iberdrola, a Spanish energy firm with a focus on renewables, said the move "would undermine investor confidence in the country" at a time when the nation needs private money to achieve its climate ambitions."The risk to climate policymaking lies perhaps mostly in a loss of credibility ahead of the global COP26 climate talks in Glasgow later this year," Gloystein told CNBC via email."If wealthy countries in the EU are seen subsidizing energy for households that is in part supplied by fossil fuels, then the EU can hardly tell poorer countries to stop subsidizing household fuel consumption supplied by fossil fuels," Gloystein added.There is a wider problem, however: Some European leaders and lawmakers have blamed the EU for the energy price increases.Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, for instance, said earlier this month that "Polish power prices are tied to the EU's climate policies," according to Politico.When asked if comments like these could hurt the E U's green ambitions, Kirkegaard said: "There's absolutely that risk because clearly the Polish government want to extract more money from the EU for the green transition."

European carbon trade drives up global gas prices, by design - RBN Energy -- Global gas and LNG prices are currently at record high levels. If we sound like a broken record, it’s because this epic bull run that started in the spring, has been roaring in recent weeks and showing little sign of slowing down. European prices have hit new post-2008 or all-time highs more than 25 times since late June, and prices in Asia, which had been at seasonal all-time highs for most of the spring and summer, finally last week also topped its previous all-time record from last January. A confluence of bullish factors, including high global demand, low storage inventories, weather events, and supply outages, have all contributed to the surge in gas prices. While many of these are near-term drivers and will eventually flip in the other direction, there is one bullish driver of global gas demand — European carbon prices — that will remain a constant in the years to come. That is by design because the carbon market is meant to serve as an incentive for the industry to seek greener solutions over fossil fuels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the European Union’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS) and how it interacts with the global gas market. Europe has the world’s oldest and largest carbon trading system. We’ll start with its origins to get a better understanding of how it works. The market, which now covers all the countries in the EU as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, was established in 2005 to regulate emissions from power generation, manufacturing and some airline operations. Together, the sectors that fall under the ETS regulations account for about 40% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EU ETS is a cap-and-trade system, meaning that there is an annual limit or “cap” on the total allowable GHG emissions from each of the roughly 10,000 installations covered by the ETS regulations. Each of the installations (say, a power plant or factory) receives a certain number of emissions allowances for a year. If an installation emits its exact allowance, then it is all set, but if it has extra allowances or needs more, that’s where the “trade” portion of cap-and-trade comes in. If an installation has extra allowances, it can bank them for the following year or sell them using the ETS and, if it needs more allowances, it has to purchase them. The open trading of emissions allowances provides a financial incentive for participants to go green and does it in a least-cost-first way. Basically, those who can reduce emissions cheaply, do so and then sell credits, and those who can’t, buy them. Either way, the overall market is capped, guaranteeing that the emissions don’t go over that level even though individual participants may emit more or less than what they were allotted.

The natural gas crisis is a much-needed reality check -- As energy ministers of major gas-producing nations and top executives of the world’s largest gas companies and commodity traders gathered in Dubai for the start of Gastech this week, natural gas prices in Europe continued to surge amid a very tight market. Demand is surging ahead of the winter heating season, but gas stocks are at multi-year lows, and supply cannot catch up with demand. Weather in northern Europe in recent weeks has reduced wind power generation, forcing utilities to turn to more gas and even coal – despite the EU’s green ambitions – to keep the lights on and industrial activities running. Consumers are feeling the pinch, and so are industries, some of which are curtailing operations. The gas and power price spikes threaten to knock back the post-COVID recovery in European economies. Governments are forced to intervene to help lower-income consumers and smaller power providers, and all political leaders are wary of higher energy costs for consumers (voters). Norway, Europe’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia, will boost deliveries this winter season, as Equinor was allowed to raise gas exports from the Oseberg and Troll fields. But Russia is not rushing to book additional capacity via Ukraine, leaving the European gas market very tight. Europe’s push for greener energy sources is the right thing to do, but not by putting the cart before the horse, according to Claudio Descalzi, CEO at Italy’s oil and gas major Eni. “You cannot cut supply without also reducing demand,” Descalzi told the Financial Times. “This is not something that is for a limited time, it’s structural,” the executive told FT, referring to the gas price spike. Investment in supply is needed and will be needed in the future, regardless of calls for no more investment in fossil fuels, according to the world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, Qatar, and to the head of OPEC

Enabled by Biden, Putin declares energy war on Europe -- Former President Donald Trump's delusional deference to Vladimir Putin was generally limited to his statements .President Joe Biden has no such excuse. Punishing Biden's appeasement of his energy blackmail policy, Putin is now waging an energy war on Europe. Biden only has himself to blame. Abandoning Trump administration and congressional sanctions, Biden approved Putin's Nord Stream 2 Gazprom pipeline . Facing fierce criticism, Biden then reached a Monty Python-esque deal with Germany. That agreement was supposed to ensure that Russia wouldn't use Nord Stream 2 to cut off Ukraine's access to billions of dollars in energy transit fees and extort European political appeasement in return for stable energy supplies. The deal was always a complete joke.Because Putin has now rewarded Biden with a delivery of farcical vengeance to make the great Russian satirist Nikolai Gogol proud.As energy reserves run short and the cold winter beckons, Russian energy giant Gazprom is withholding gas supplies to Europe. On Monday, Gazprom was offered the opportunity to book additional gas flows through pipelines feeding Europe (including Britain). Instead, Gazprom booked only a third of available capacity through Poland and roughly a tenth of available capacity through Ukraine. This has sent energy prices soaring even higher, now above $900 per 1,000 cubic meters. Gazprom's move follows similar supply cuts earlier this summer.There should be no illusions as to who is responsible for the cuts.Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller is a Putin puppet risen from the Russian leader's old guard in St. Petersburg. The political, versus business, character by which Gazprom ultimately operates is well known to the U.S. intelligence community. Indeed, Miller was sanctioned by the *cough* Trump administration *cough* back in 2018. Miller is following Putin's directives.This is also a KGB goodbye present to Angela Merkel.Set to leave office next week, the German chancellor has been Putin's greatest enabler (even openly hosting GRU chemical weapons facilities on her soil). Putin is telling Merkel how much he appreciates her weakness. There is a distinctly Russian message at play here. Literally and figuratively, Putin is presenting himself as the God of ice and fire.In that sense, this is also a message to Biden. The Russians want Washington to look weak and the Europeans to feel dependent on Moscow. Putin is letting everyone know that the only way Europe will ever stay warm is if Europe bows before Nord Stream 2 — Poland, the Baltics, and Ukraine be damned.But don't worry, as in Afghanistan, Biden's adults are now in charge.

The European Energy Crisis Is About To Go Global - It was only a matter of time, really. In a globalized world, energy crunches can hardly remain regionally contained for very long, especially in a context of damaged supply chains and a rush to cut investment in fossil fuels. The energy crunch that began in Europe earlier this month may now be on its way to America. For now, all is well with one of the world’s top gas producers. U.S. gas exporters have enjoyed a solid increase in demand from Asia and Europe as the recovery in economic activity pushed demand for electricity higher. According to a recent Financial Timesreport, there is a veritable bidding war for U.S. cargos of liquefied natural gas between Asian and European buyers—and the Asians are winning.Coal exports are on the rise, too, and have been for a while now, especially after a political spat had China shun Australian coal. But supply is tightening, Argus reported earlier this month. In July, according to the report, U.S. coking coal exports dropped by as much as 20.3 percent from June. The report noted supply was constrained by producers’ limited access to funding and a labor shortage that has plagued many industries amid the pandemic.All this should be good news for U.S. producers of fossil fuels. But it may easily become bad news as winter approaches. The Wall Street Journal’s Jinjoo Lee wrote earlier this week high energy prices could be the next hot import for the United States. Lee cited data showing gas inventory replenishment was running below average rates for this season, and gas in storage in early September was 7.4 percent below the five-year average.Coal inventories are also running low because of stronger exports, with prices for thermal coal three times higher than they were a year ago. According to calculations from the Energy Information Administration cited in the WSJ report, coal inventories in the United States could fall to less than half last year’s inventory levels by the end of the year. Last year, energy demand was depressed because of the pandemic. This year, the U.S. economy is firing on all cylinders once again.No wonder electricity prices are already going up.In a way, the events in Europe could be seen as a trailer of what might happen in the United States. It is a trailer because it shows all the worst bits. The United States is much more energy independent than, say, the UK, and that’s a big plus. Yet exports bring in revenues, and it would require government intervention to make gas producers cut exports.In an alarming move, such intervention was requested last week by a manufacturing industry group. Industrial Energy Consumers of America, an organization representing companies producing chemicals, food, and materials, asked the Department of Energy to institute limits on the exports of liquefied natural gas in order to avoid soaring prices and gas shortages during the winter, Reuters reported on Friday. Opinions seem to differ on whether rising LNG exports are in fact hurting U.S. consumers. But the fact is that gas prices are already double what they were a year ago. According to the IECA, they are not, however, high enough to motivate a ramp-up in natural gas production. Therefore, in order to stockpile enough gas for the winter, the U.S. government must force a reduction in exports. “Buyers of LNG who compete for natural gas with U.S. consumers are state-owned enterprises and foreign government-controlled utilities with automatic cost pass through,” Paul Cicio, president of IECA, said, as quoted by Reuters. “U.S. manufacturers cannot compete with them on prices.” Traders are already getting jittery, and this will likely contribute to price uncertainty; regardless of how the fundamentals situation develops. Again, Europe is at the heart of the uncertainty – or rather the certainty that prices have higher to climb. But now, China has added to concern about gas supply and the potential for shortages.

Baker Hughes CEO lays out 'hard truths' behind the energy transition as gas prices surge - The CEO of energy technology firm Baker Hughes has outlined what he feels are key points related to the energy transition amid deepening concern about rising gas prices and the knock-on effects this could have in the months ahead.In an interview with CNBC's Dan Murphy at the Gastech conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates earlier this week, Lorenzo Simonelli was asked whether soaring gas prices were likely to be transitory or if he expected wider implications for consumers, markets and the broader economy."I think a lot of people are seeing what's happening in Europe and it's bringing to light the important discussion around the energy transition, and the importance that we have around gas as well," he said.It was still early to see if prices would remain high or if this rise was transitory, he said. Benchmark European gas prices have jumped over 250% since the start of the year, Reuters reported this week.The reasons for the spike are varied. The influential, yet typically conservative, International Energy Agency said on Tuesday that surging European gas prices had "been driven by a combination of a strong recovery in demand and tighter-than-expected supply, as well as several weather-related factors." "These include a particularly cold and long heating season in Europe last winter, and lower-than-usual availability of wind energy in recent weeks," it said.IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said given that the reasons behind the price rise were multifaceted, it would be "inaccurate and misleading to lay the responsibility at the door of the clean energy transition."Birol's statement would appear to contrast views expressed by figures such as OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo. Barkindo told CNBC on Tuesday that soaring gas prices were the cost of the attempted shift to renewable energy sources."I have talked about a new premium that is emerging in the energy markets that I term the transition premium," Barkindo said. The effect of the gas price rise is already being felt on the ground. In the U.K., for example, it has caused a number of small energy suppliers to go bust. “We need energy security," Baker Hughes' Simonelli said. "And look, there's plenty of gas around the world, there's plenty of energy available," he added. "It's a question of bringing it to the market."On the energy transition — a term referring to a move from fossil-fuel based sources to ones such as solar and wind — Simonelli sought to highlight a number of issues he felt were important."We think there's three hard truths," he said. "Firstly, we've got to work together, accelerate the move towards decarbonization and also eliminating emissions.""Secondly, hydrocarbons are here to stay … and natural gas, in fact, is a key element. And thirdly, we've got to do it together, collaborate and actually adopt the new technologies that are available."Burning fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, is the chief driver of the climate emergency. And despite policymakers and business leaders repeatedly touting their commitment to net zero strategies, the world's fossil fuel dependency is expected to get even worse in the coming decades.

'We need to stop': Inside the world's first diplomatic alliance to keep oil and gas in the ground — Costa Rica and Denmark are spearheading efforts to build the world's first diplomatic alliance to manage the decline of oil and gas production. The co-leaders of the initiative, known as the "Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance," are seeking to establish a deadline for the end of oil and gas production that would get countries aligned with the 2015 Paris Agreement. This legally binding treaty aims to limit global heating to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Meeting the conditions of the agreement is widely recognized as critically important to avoid an irreversible climate crisis.The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance is expected to formally launch at U.N.-brokered climate talks in early November, a summit known as COP26.Until then, Costa Rica and Denmark are seeking to persuade as many countries and jurisdictions as possible to join them in bringing an end to oil and gas production.It comes at a time when policymakers are under intense pressure to meet the demands of the climate emergency. Burning fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, is the chief driver of the climate crisis, and yet the world's fossil fuel dependency is expected to get even worse in the coming decades.Speaking on Thursday during an online webinar hosted by the International Renewable Energy Agency, Dan Jorgensen, minister for climate, energy and utilities for Denmark, said: "The science is clear. We cannot negotiate with nature.""There is no scenario in which we burn all the oil and gas that we can find and in which we stay below 2 degrees — and definitely not 1.5. It is just not possible, so we need to stop."

Fears remain oil still inside X-Press Pearl ship - Fears remain that there maybe oil still inside the sunken ship, X-Press Pearl, despite various assurances given earlier, officials said. Darshani Lahadupura, the Chairperson of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) told Daily Mirror that foreign experts believe that there is no bunker oil remaining in the ship. However, she said the ship owners have been informed that the wreckage can be removed only once there is 100 percent confirmation that there is no bunker oil remaining in the vessel. She said that divers will need to go inside and conduct a physical inspection and give an assurance that there is no oil left. “If there is oil left they will need to transfer it to another tanker before removing the wreckage. It’s a must,” she said. Lahadupura said that the wreckage continues to be monitored, including through the use of drones, to detect any possible oil spill. She said that a thin sheen of an oil slick which emerged after the ship sank, is still visible but has reduced. Asked if it was confirmed that the thin sheen was oil and not any other material as was claimed by some authorities earlier, Lahadupura insisted that it was oil but not bunker oil. She also said that Sri Lanka is keen to have the ship and containers which are in the seabed removed at the earliest. “We want to remove this as early as possible. Coastal fishing is banned mainly because of these sunken containers,” she said. She said that a caretaker company has deployed divers to conduct underwater surveys of the containers. Lahadupura said that the ship owners have called for tenders to remove the wreckage and a number of companies, including those from Sri Lanka have expressed interest. Meanwhile, MEPA said that samples of the plastic nurdles from the ship have been sent to overseas labs for testing. Lahadupura said that some samples have been sent to London for testing while others will be sent to other foreign labs to identify the hazardous material in the plastic.

China Risks Winter Energy Crunch -- China is at risk of the same energy-crunch chaos seen in Europe, with a state-run newspaper warning that coal-fired power plants will struggle to keep the lights on this winter. The nation’s coal-based power producers, which account for more than 70% of the country’s electricity generation, are unable to buy enough fuel after prices surged, state-run China Energy News said in a report dated Sept. 18. Officials at those plants say they have little coal in inventories, and it’s “almost impossible to buy” the fuel right now, the paper said. Many are struggling with deep operation losses, and some have even turned off their boilers to save costs, the report said. Energy markets across the world are being rocked by soaring fuel prices, with power companies clambering to secure supplies of everything from coal to gas to fuel oil. Europe has borne the brunt of the crunch, though the U.S. hasn’t been spared either, with electricity prices for the winter soaring to a seven-year high. In China, the situation has been exacerbated by President Xi Jinping’s ambitious climate goals that discouraged dirty coal mining. A lack of power to supply the world’s second-biggest economy could throw millions of factories and households into chaos, especially when consumption for heating is about to increase during winter. China’s power producers have such low inventories that some have even warned they only have about a week’s worth of coal left, the Chinese energy newspaper said, without identifying the officials or their plants. The paper, a mouthpiece of the state-run People’s Daily, used to be run by the National Energy Administration, the country’s top power regulator. Chinese power generators are prioritizing procuring enough coal at the moment and are willing to pay whatever the freight costs, the newspaper said, citing an unnamed official at a plant in the Northeastern region. Traders from the factory were hunting for supplies across the country, only to find out rivals in the Southwestern province of Guizhou, a major coal producing region itself, were competing with them, the newspaper said. Prices of coal, China’s principal source of energy, have leapt to unprecedented levels after a trade spat with Australia led Beijing to halt imports from the producer. Meanwhile, a spate of fatal accidents in China led to safety inspections earlier this year that curbed domestic output. The most-traded thermal coal futures in Zhengzhou closed at 1,057.8 yuan ($164) per ton on Friday, up 76% in the past year.

The future of China’s gas demand - After a pandemic slowdown last year, China’s demand for gas appears to have returned stronger than before. In H1 2021, China’s gas demand saw a 16% year-on-year increase, led by strong power and industrial demand. Underperforming hydropower in southwest China, tight coal supply coupled with high coal prices across the country, and high summer temperatures supported gas-fired power generation. Export-led economic growth and domestic consumption recovery benefited overall energy demand, including natural gas. So far, China’s gas demand has exceeded expectations and we now expect gas demand to increase by 13%, or 42 billion cubic metres (bcm), year-on-year in 2021. But how far can it go and how could carbon neutrality impact the role of gas in China? There are many reasons to believe gas demand still has vast room to expand above current levels. Natural gas fits into China’s strategies to diversify the coal-dominated energy mix, improve air quality, and pursue low-carbon development. To meet its rising demand, China has been boosting domestic production, debottlenecking infrastructure, diversifying import sources and introducing market-oriented reforms. In our base case, we expect demand to grow at 5.5% a year on average between 2020 and 2030. Post-2030, growth will decelerate but by 2050 China’s gas demand could reach around 660 bcm. The demand increase comes with structural changes. Historically, gas use in the industrial sector (as fuel and feedstock) dominated overall gas demand in China, contributing to about 50% of the market. The share dropped to 42% in 2020. Industrial gas demand will continue to grow as the potential for coal-to-gas switching in the coastal regions remains significant. Governments in coastal provinces are targeting the sector to reduce coal consumption and improve air quality. However, the growth rate will slow as China’s industrial energy demand peaks. In inland provinces, gas will struggle to increase its share where coal is the main pillar of local economies. By 2050, industrial gas demand will account for 34% of total gas demand. Residential, commercial and space heating (RCH) demand is fast catching up. Coal-to-gas switching in RCH has already magnified China’s winter demand peaks. The trends of urbanisation, higher affordability, gas distributors building new city gas projects and winter clean heating requirements will provide gas access to a broader population. Gas storage facilities and flexible supply sources like LNG will be key for peak shaving. By 2050, RCH gas demand could account for 40% of total gas demand.

Oil Down With China Demand Concerns - Oil declined amid growing concerns over the health of China’s economy that have triggered massive losses in equities. U.S. crude futures slid 2.3% to settle at the lowest level in more than a week as worries mounted over a possible implosion in the Chinese property sector that could impact the Asian giant’s appetite for crude. A stronger U.S. dollar is also making commodities priced in the currency less attractive. “China is the global swing demand center,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC. “If we lose China, we will lose much of the recent oil price gains.” Crude prices have fared well so far this month -- U.S. oil futures are up about 4% in September -- in part due to lingering supply disruptions from storms that have swept through the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Royal Dutch Shell Plc said some critical U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil-production assets for Mars crude supply will be out of service for the rest of this year. While oil fundamentals are pointing to higher prices, a planned U.S. Federal Reserve meeting this week could signal the central bank is moving toward scaling back asset purchases, possibly weakening global crude oil benchmarks. West Texas Intermediate for October delivery dropped $1.68 to settle at $70.29 a barrel in New York. Brent for November settlement fell $1.42 to settle at $73.92 a barrel. Investors are also continuing to monitor the energy crunch in Europe amid talk of switching from gas to oil. There are expectations diesel demand will expand in Asia during winter, while the use of oil to generate power in the U.S. may jump.

Oil falls 2% on risk aversion, dollar strength - Oil prices fell 2% on Monday as investors grew more risk averse, which hurt stock markets and boosted the U.S. dollar, making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies. Brent crude fell $1.42, or 1.9%, to settle at $73.92 a barrel after sinking to a session low of $73.52. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) declined $1.68, or 2.3%, to end at $70.29 after falling to as low as $69.86. The dollar, seen as a safe haven, rose as worries about Chinese property developer Evergrande's solvency spooked equity markets and investors braced for the Federal Reserve to take another step toward tapering this week. "As the U.S. dollar is usually a safe haven, its exchange rate against other currencies strengthens, a development that supplements the risk aversion environment and affects commodity prices, especially oil," Rystad Energy's oil markets analyst Nishant Bhushan said. "Oil gets more expensive for non-dollar markets and prices get a hit as a result, a bearish move backed by the stock market itself in an environment of risk aversion." Still, oil drew some support from signs that some U.S. Gulf output will stay offline for months due to storm damage. Brent has gained 43% this year, supported by supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, and some recovery in demand after last year's pandemic-induced collapse. Losses on Monday were limited due to supply shutdowns in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico due to two recent hurricanes. As of Friday producing companies had just 23% of crude production offline, or 422,078 barrels per day. Crude pared its decline on Monday after Royal Dutch Shell said it expects an installation in the Gulf of Mexico to be offline for repairs until the end of 2021 due to damage from Hurricane Ida. The facility serves as the transfer station for all the output from the company's assets in the Mars corridor of the Mississippi Canyon area to onshore crude terminals. Rystad Energy analyst Artem Abramov estimated the lost production will remove 200,000 to 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Gulf of Mexico oil supply for several months. The Gulf contributes about 16% of U.S. oil production, or 1.8 million bpd.

Oil Futures Reverse Higher as US Lifts Travel Restrictions - -- Following Monday's selloff triggered by concerns over China's economic growth and prospects for the U.S. Federal Reserve to taper pandemic-era monetary stimulus, oil futures nearest delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude traded on the Intercontinental Exchange reversed higher in overnight trade as investors turned their attention to an improved outlook for global oil demand in the fourth quarter after the United States lifted travel restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign travelers from 33 countries, boosting the prospect for increased international air travel and global jet fuel demand. Near 7:30 a.m. ET, NYMEX October West Texas Intermediate futures advanced $0.73 to trade just above $71 per barrel (bbl) ahead of the contract's expiration this afternoon, and next-month delivery November WTI traded at a $0.15 discount. Brent crude for November delivery added $0.68 to $74.60 bbl. NYMEX October ULSD futures surged 2.34 cents to $2.1824 gallon, and front-month RBOB futures gained 1.12 cents to $2.1264 gallon. The White House announced on Monday it would ease travel restrictions on all noncitizens visiting the U.S. willing to show proof of vaccination and/or a negative COVID-19 test within three days of departure. The changes will take effect in early November, which analysts believe would spur holiday bookings this year. Biden Administration has been reluctant to reopen U.S. airspace for noncitizen travels despite United Kingdom and European officials having lifted entry bans for U.S. and other visitors since vaccines became widely available this spring. Monday's announcement came after the peak summer travel season boosted domestic gasoline demand but a recovery in jet fuel consumption has long been elusive absent international travel. Average jet fuel consumption in August was more than 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), nearly 400,000 bpd higher than in March, while still well still below pre-pandemic levels of 1.8 million bpd in August 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Airlines have been using some of their biggest planes, normally reserved for international trips, for domestic routes, a trend that is now expected to change if demand from abroad rises with the new rules. Allowing more international travelers into the U.S. would also have a wide-ranging affect for domestic leisure, retail, and travel industries.

Oil edges up, as investors worry about global demand (Reuters) - Oil prices rose modestly in a see-saw session on Tuesday, as concerns about the global consumption outlook counterbalanced the struggle by big OPEC producers to pump enough supply to meet growing demand. Both benchmarks were at one point up by $1 per barrel, but Brent crude pared gains and settled just up 44 cents at $74.36 a barrel, after falling by almost 2% on Monday. The October West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract, which expired on Tuesday, rose 27 cents to settle at $70.56 a barrel, after dropping 2.3% in the previous session. The more active November contract rose 35 cents a barrel to $70.49. Brent and the November WTI contract earlier reached session highs of $75.18 a barrel and $71.48 per barrel, respectively. "It seems to be a very nervous trade today," said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures group in Chicago. "It's a little bit of ongoing concerns about the potential impact of demand going forward." The TASS news agency said Russia believes global oil demand may not recover to its 2019 peak before the pandemic, as the energy balance shifts. However, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia (OPEC+) struggled to pump enough oil in August to meet current consumption as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. Several countries appeared to have produced less than expected as part of the OPEC+ agreement - suggesting a supply gap could grow. Investors across financial assets have been rocked by fallout from the China Evergrande crisis that has harmed asset values in risk markets like equities. "Traders worried that it could trigger a domino effect in China’s major debt-driven companies, and a rollover bearish effect for stocks and commodity prices," said Nishant Bhushan, oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy. "However, given that all Chinese major banks and lending institutions are controlled by the government, there is a ray of hope in the market that the second biggest economy in the world would be able to absorb shock waves from the Evergrande." In addition, the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to start tightening monetary policy, which could cut investor tolerance for riskier assets such as oil. Fed policymakers began a two-day meeting Tuesday. U.S. oil production is still recovering from hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast region. Royal Dutch Shell, the largest U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil producer, said on Monday that damage to offshore transfer facilities from Hurricane Ida will cut production into early next year. About 18% of the U.S. Gulf's oil and 27% of its natural gas production remained offline on Monday, more than three weeks after Ida. U.S. crude oil, gasoline and distillate inventories fell last week, according to market sources, citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday, as numerous refineries and offshore drilling facilities remained shut following Hurricane Ida.

WTI Extends Gains After Across The Board Inventory Draws - Oil prices managed gains today, rebounding off an ugly tumble back below $70 (WTI) around the US cash equity open, as supply constraints trumped any Evergrande or Delta related demand concerns.The rise came as "the oil market will remain tight" for as long as demand concerns do not materialize, Carsten Fritsch, energy analyst at Commerzbank Research, said Tuesday in a note."U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to remain hampered for considerably longer than previously anticipated," he said. Algos' eyes wil be on API tonight and the official data tomorrow to see just how lasting the effects of Hurricane Ida will be. API

  • Crude -6.108mm (-3.8mm exp)
  • Cushing -1.748mm
  • Gasoline -432k
  • Distillates -2.72mm

Analysts expected crude stocks to drop for the 7th week in a row as the effects of Ida continue, and they were right as API reported a much bigger than expected 6.108mm barrel crude draw (and draws across products and at Cushing)... WTI hovered around $70.60 ahead of the API print.Some of the volatility in Tuesday’s trading session may have stemmed from traders adjusting positions ahead of the expiration of Nymex October crude futures. “There are supply issues all around the market,” Notably, U.S. stockpiles of the so-called big 4 - crude oil, gasoline, distillate, and jet fuel - are combined, below 2018 levels now, according to data compiled by HFI Research.

WTI Surges on Large Crude Draw Ahead of FOMC Announcement - Nearby delivery oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude traded on the Intercontinental Exchange pushed higher in pre-inventory trade Wednesday after preliminary data from the American Petroleum Institute showed U.S. commercial crude oil inventories once again fell above consensus last week amid ongoing production outages in offshore Gulf of Mexico, while global financial markets moved to risk-on sentiment following a reported deal between China's Evergrande and private creditors on more than $36 million in loan payments to fuel additional buying interest. Near 7:30 a.m. ET, NYMEX November West Texas Intermediate advanced $1.09 to $71.58 per barrel (bbl) and Brent crude for November delivery added $1.02 to trade back above $75 bbl. NYMEX October ULSD futures surged 2.55 cents to $2.1993 gallon, and front-month RBOB futures gained 2.62 cents at $2.1314 gallon. Early morning gains in the oil complex underpinned by the bullish inventory report released by the API Tuesday afternoon showing U.S. commercial crude oil inventories decreased 6.108 million bbl in the week-ended Sept. 17, more than twice calls for a draw of 2.4 million bbl. If confirmed in government data this morning, larger-than-expected crude draw would press oil inventories some 8% below the five-year average. Domestic crude stockpiles remained in a destocking pattern since the first week of August, drawing down more than 20 million bbl over the past two months. Data also showed stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma hub dropped 1.748 million bbl. Gasoline stockpiles declined 432,000 bbl in the profiled week, below estimates for a 1 million bbl decrease. DTN's Refined Fuels Demand data revealed total U.S. gasoline demand softened 1.3% compared to the same week in 2019, after being down 2.4% from 2019 levels in the prior week. API data show distillate inventories dropped 2.720 million bbl, surpassing an estimated decline of 190,000 bbl. Diesel demand was up 2.3% relative to the same week in 2019, according to DTN's Refined Fuels Demand data, weakening slightly after being up 2.8% compared to 2019 levels in the prior week. Separately, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Tuesday revised lower its 2021 global and U.S. growth projections, citing severe disruptions to global supply chains and higher-than-expected inflation across G20 countries.

WTI Slides After Surprise Gasoline Build, Smaller Than Expected Crude Draw - Oil prices are extending yesterday's gains this morning following a bigger than expected crude draw reported by API, and optimism from China as Evergrande pays a tiny coupon on a tiny yuan bond, and China injecting a metric fuckton of liquidity also. “Oil prices are gaining today as the API inventory forecasts show draws above what the market expects, while the supply side of the equation looks tight in the U.S. and at a global level,” according to Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy. DOE

  • Crude -3.481mm (-3.8mm exp)
  • Cushing -1.476mm
  • Gasoline +3.474mm
  • Distillates -2.554mm

This is the 7th straight week of crude draws (prior to this, we saw 8 straight weeks of draws during May-June-July when the pull from refiners preparing for a surge in summer demand along with relatively stable output sent volumes lower), but we note that the official draw was less than API reported and smaller than expected. Cushing crude stocks are now sitting seasonally below the 10-year average after a long stretch of declines. Gasoline stocks surprised with a build...US Crude production remains significantly impacted by Hurricane Ida shut-ins still (just this week, Shell announced that some of its offshore Gulf production would stay offline through the end of this year because of damages)... Crude prices have increased this month after extreme weather disrupted U.S. supplies, and as a rally in natural gas spurred expectations consumers may switch to oil.

Oil prices rise on U.S. stocks draw, rising fuel demand --- Oil prices climbed more than $1 on Wednesday after U.S. crude stocks fell to their lowest levels in three years as refining activity recovered from recent storms. Despite recent wobbles from U.S. economic figures, overall demand for fuel has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. Product supplied over the last four weeks has come in at nearly 21 million barrels per day, not far from 2019's peak. U.S. crude inventories last week fell by 3.5 million barrels to 414 million barrels, lowest since October 2018, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. "Crude oil prices remain supported as demand recovers around the world and inventories continue to draw," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled $1.74, or 2.47%, higher at $72.23 per barrel. Brent crude futures climbed $1.54, or 2%, to $75.89 a barrel. Oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico continue to return to production, with weekly output rising 500,000 bpd in the most recent week to 10.6 million bpd, the EIA said. BP on Wednesday said all four of its offshore facilities in the region have resumed operations after Hurricane Ida, brought back online and producing as of Sept. 12. Also supporting prices has been difficulties by OPEC members struggling to raise output. Rising prices in other markets like natural gas have also supported oil, with energy market shortages causing a supply crunch in Europe and Asia. "Given the variety of supportive factors in the energy space, notably sky-high natural gas prices ... dips in prices right now are likely to be short-lived," said Jeffrey Halley, an analyst at brokerage OANDA. The U.S. Federal Reserve, which began a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, is expected to start tightening monetary policy, which could cut investor tolerance for riskier assets such as oil.

Oil Rises Again With Brent At Three Year High - Brent crude futures settled at the highest level in almost three years as supplies shrink at a time when a global energy crunch makes it increasingly likely oil will be tapped for power generation. The global benchmark crude rose 1.4% on Thursday to close at the highest level since October 2018, while U.S. crude futures advanced 1.5%. U.S. equities rallied and the dollar weakened, boosting the appeal of commodities priced in the currency. Oil inventories are rapidly tightening. Supplies in the U.S. are at the lowest since 2018 with output levels weaker after recent U.S. Gulf Coast storms, while stockpiles at a key hub in Europe remain below average levels for the time of year. Some of the world’s largest oil traders and banks are predicting crude prices to surge even higher this year. Vitol Group sees oil rising above $80 a barrel, partly as surging gas prices boost demand for crude in power generation. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said crude may top $90 if the coming winter in the northern hemisphere proves colder than normal. Crude futures have steadily climbed higher this month as traders weigh the impact of a tightening natural gas market on the broader energy complex over winter. The focus has led to cross-commodity flows across the oil and gas markets, some of which have been unwound in recent days, which had helped to push crude higher. “We’re still not seeing a very robust recovery in U.S. production levels, so we have a situation where demand is deemed to look a little bit better and the supply side is at risk of not delivering what we thought,” said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at Toronto Dominion Bank. Prices: West Texas Intermediate for November settlement advanced $1.07 to settle at $73.30 a barrel in New York, the highest level since July Brent for the same month added $1.06 to end the session at $77.25 a barrel Oil is most likely headed above $80 a barrel, partly as higher gas prices boost demand, Vitol Chief Executive Officer Russell Hardy said in an interview from London on Thursday. That could force OPEC+ producers to add more supply into the market, he said.

Oil Closes On Five Week Win Streak - Oil prices rose for a third week in a row to a near three-year high on Friday as global output disruptions have forced energy companies to pull large amounts of crude out of inventories. The rally was slightly dampened by China's first public sale of state crude reserves. Brent futures rose 84 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $78.09 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 68 cents, or 0.9%, to settle at $73.98. That was the highest close for Brent since October 2018 and for WTI since July 2021, both for a second day in a row. It was the third week of gains for Brent and the fifth for WTI mostly due to U.S. Gulf Coast output disruptions from Hurricane Ida in late August. New York Harbor Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) futures also closed at their highest since October 2018. "As oil prices are on track to close another week of gains, the market is pricing in a prolonged impact of supply disruptions, and the likely storage draws that will be needed to fulfill refinery demand," said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy. Some disruptions could last for months and have already led to sharp draws in U.S. and global inventories. U.S. oil refiners were hunting to replace Gulf crude, turning to Iraqi and Canadian oil, traders said. India's crude imports rose to a three-month peak in August, rebounding from July's near one-year low. Some members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, have struggled to raise output due to under-investment or maintenance delays during the pandemic. Russia said it will remain a reliable supplier of energy to global markets. Russian gas giant Gazprom had been accused of doing too little to increase its natural gas supplies to Europe, where prices have soared. Iran, which wants to export more oil, said it will return to talks on resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal "very soon", but gave no specific date. Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, said: "Extra Iranian barrels of crude seem unlikely to be a 2021 story," noting negotiations "will be a long drawn-out process." Kazakhstan's biggest oil producer, Chevron-led Tengizchevroil (TCO), will delay components of its $45.2 billion expansion project by three to seven months. In the United States, drillers added 10 oil rigs this week, putting the oil and gas rig count up for a 14th month in a row. Brent could hit $80 by the end of September due to stock draws, lower OPEC production and stronger Middle East demand, UBS analysts wrote. China's first public sale of state oil reserves capped crude price gains. PetroChina and Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totaling about 4.43 million barrels, sources said. Analysts also noted indebted China Evergrande remains a risk to oil prices after the company's electric car unit warned it faced an uncertain future unless it got a swift injection of cash.

Oil hits highest in almost 3 years as supply tightens - Oil rose for the fifth straight week with the global energy crunch set to boost demand for crude as stockpiles decline from the U.S. to China. Futures in New York gained 2.8% this week. The global benchmark Brent settled at the highest in nearly three for the second day in a row. Global onshore crude supplies sank by almost 21 million barrels last week, led by China, according to data analytics firm Kayrros, while U.S. inventories are near a three-year low. The surge in natural gas prices is expected to force some consumers to switch to oil, tightening the market further ahead of the northern hemisphere winter. “The market is pricing in a prolonged impact of supply disruptions, and the likely storage draws that will be needed to fulfill refinery demand,” said Louise Dickson, oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy, in a note. In terms of oil demand, “no new lockdowns in Europe, robust recovery in China road activity, and the U.S. nixing its ban on foreign travelers from November 2021, all lift prospects for upside in the coming quarters.” Oil has steadily climbed higher this month after a period of Covid-induced demand uncertainty, with some of the world’s largest traders and banks predicting prices may climb further amid the energy crisis. Global crude consumption could rise by an additional 370,000 barrels a day if natural gas costs stay high, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Various underlying oil market gauges are also pointing to a strengthening market. The key spread between Brent futures for December and a year later is near $7, the strongest since 2019. That’s a sign traders are positive on the market outlook. Money managers increased their bullish ICE Brent bets positions to the most in six months, indicating many believe there’s yet more room for crude prices to climb. West Texas Intermediate for November delivery rose 68 cents to $73.98 a barrel in New York. Brent for November settlement climbed 84 cents to $78.09 a barrel, the highest since October 2018. At the same time, the premium options traders are paying for bearish put options is the smallest since January 2020, another indication that traders are less concerned about a pullback in prices.

Oil Futures Settle Notably Higher For The Session, Gain 2.8% In Week - Crude oil prices climbed on Friday and front-month WTI oil futures contracts recorded gains for a fifth straight week amid tighter supplies. Recent data showing a drop in U.S. crude inventories and output disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico due to the impact of two hurricanes supported oil prices. The public auction of state crude reserves by China limited oil's advance . According to reports, PetroChina and Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totaling about 4.43 million barrels in the auction. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for November ended higher by $0.68 or about 0.9% at 73.98 a barrel. WTI Crude futures gained about 2.8% this week. Brent crude futures posted a third straight weekly gain. The contract was up $0.72 or 0.93% at $77.97 a barrel a little while ago. A few members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, collective known as OPEC+, are reportedly finding it tough to increase output due to the pandemic and a lack of funds. According to the data released by Baker Hughes, the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil climbed by 10 to 421 this week. The total active U.S. rig count, including those drilling for natural gas, climbed by 9 to 521, the data said.

New Iranian president calls for resumption of nuclear talks in UN speech - Recently elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for a resumption in nuclear talks in a pre-recorded address given at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday."The Islamic Republic considers the useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive sanctions," Raisi said, as Reuters reported.Nuclear talks among Tehran negotiators and world powers in Viennaadjourned in June. The U.S. has so far not reengaged directly with the negotiations, instead participating indirectly through allies.Washington wants Tehran to reenter into the terms of the deal before moving forward, but the Iranians counter that U.S. sanctions must be lifted before they will be willing to return to the Obama-era accord.Raisi won the Iranian presidential election shortly the talks were adjourned. The state of ongoing negotiations was left up in the air following his election. The new Iranian president is known for being an ardent critic of the West and has been sanctioned by the U.S. for alleged human right abuses when he was a judge.Earlier this month, Raisi had indicated that Iran was prepared to rejoin nuclear negotiations."The Westerners and the Americans are after talks together with pressure ... What kind of talks is that? I have already announced that we will have talks on our government's agenda but not with ... pressure," Raisi on state television."Talks are on the agenda ... We are seeking goal-oriented negotiations ... so unjust sanctions on the Iranian people are lifted ... and their lives can flourish," he added.When reached for comment by The Washington Post, a State Department official said the U.S. does not "have a timetable" on rejoining negotiations, but added that "our position is that we’re ready to go back."However, the State official warned that eventually restarting negotiations "won’t be possible any more, because their nuclear advances will become irreversible, and it simply will not be feasible to go back the deal."

Yemen, devastated by war, now faces a Covid surge, a nonprofit says. -War-torn Yemen, where the overwhelming majority of the population is unvaccinated, is seeing coronavirus cases multiply and deaths soar, according to a report this week by the charity Oxfam. Oxfam, which describes itself as a global anti-poverty and humanitarian group, found that Covid deaths had increased by more than fivefold in the past month and that recorded Covid cases had tripled. The charity said actual figures were likely to be much higher, with many unregistered cases and deaths. The official Covid death toll is about 1,658, and recorded cases have reached 8,789. But the situation in the country of about 30 million is hard to gauge. “Countless” others have died in their homes or have not been diagnosed because of scarce tests and hospital beds, Oxfam said. Yemen is still embroiled in a war that began in 2014 when Iran-backed rebels know as the Houthis seized the country’s northwest, including the capital, Sana, sending the government into exile. The government has effectively collapsed, and tens of thousands have died. The country already faced many health challenges before the coronavirus emerged. Hunger is widespread, medicines are hard to find and there have been outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, and rights groups say that it is adding to the burden of an already wrecked health care system. “Covid has made life even worse for people across the country,” Abdulwasea Mohammed, Oxfam’s policy and advocacy lead for Yemen, said by phone from Sana. Some relief could come with vaccines, but fewer than 1 percent of Yemenis have so far received a single vaccine dose, and only 0.05 percent are fully vaccinated, according to Oxfam. The country is relying on vaccines from the global Covax program. But Covax is struggling to meet its global supply target, and only half a million out of a promised 4.2 million doses have reached Yemen so far, Oxfam said.

Amnesty International accuses Taliban of killing civilians, blocking humanitarian aid - Amnesty International on Monday detailed alleged human rights abuses being carried out by the Taliban about a month after the militant group took over the Afghan government. Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International's deputy director for South Asia, said in a statement, "In just over five weeks since assuming control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have clearly demonstrated that they are not serious about protecting or respecting human rights. We have already seen a wave of violations, from reprisal attacks and restrictions on women, to crackdowns on protests, the media and civil society." The international human rights organization said the Taliban have already gone back on their promises of amnesty for government officials and protection for journalists. Based on Amnesty International's research on the situation in Afghanistan, the Taliban have begun targeting Afghan police officers, including reportedly killing one who was pregnant at the time. The Taliban also allegedly kidnapped popular Afghan comedian Nazar Mohammad, a former police officer, from his home and had him killed. "While it is now almost impossible to carry out any human rights work, attacks on human rights defenders have reportedly been on the rise without any sign of abating," Amnesty International said. "Since 15 August, the Taliban and armed groups have engaged in large-scale door-to-door searches, forcing human rights defenders into hiding, and moving clandestinely from one place to another." One Afghan female human rights activist named only as Kobra said in Amnesty's briefing that she was questioned by Taliban sympathizers in the weeks before Kabul fell. She left the country about four days after Kabul was overtaken and said Taliban fighters went to her home on the day she left and questioned her neighbors. "Today, for what sin did we have to leave our homeland, our loved ones, and our life and for which sin we suffered such hardship at the gates to enter the Kabul airport," Kobra said.

Afghanistan’s Health System Is on the ‘Brink of Collapse,’ W.H.O. Says - Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. director general, warned of an “imminent humanitarian catastrophe” as the country’s health care system struggles with a loss of foreign funding and dwindling supplies. Over the past 20 years, significant health gains have been made in Afghanistan in reducing maternal and child mortality, moving towards polio eradication, and more. Those gains are now at severe risk with the country’s health system on the brink of collapse. There has been a surge in cases of measles and diarrhea. Almost 50 percent of children are at high — at risk of malnutrition. The resurgence of polio is a major risk, and 2.1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine remain unused. Unless urgent action is taken, Afghanistan faces an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Health workers are leaving, creating a brain drain that will have consequences for years to come. We visited a hospital where we met some nurses who have stayed. My heart broke when they told me they have not been paid in three months. The focus of our efforts now is to support and sustain the Sehatmandi Project, which is the backbone of Afghanistan’s health system, providing care for millions of people through 2,300 health facilities, including in remote areas. But a funding pause by major donors — only 17 percent of these facilities are fully functional. And two-thirds have stockouts of essential medicines.

Taliban hang body from crane in city square - The Taliban hung a body from a crane in the main square of Herat city, a witness to the incident told The Associated Press on Saturday.Wazir Ahmad Seddiqi, who runs a local pharmacy, told the AP that four bodies were brought to the square and three bodies were taken to other areas of the city for public display. According to Seddiqi, the Taliban said the men were taking part in a kidnapping and were killed by police.A Taliban-appointed police chief in the city later claimed that kidnappers had abducted a father and son, adding the pair were rescued after a gunfight that killed all four alleged kidnappers, the AP reported.The Taliban rapidly seized control of Afghanistan in mid-August and have since set out to earn international legitimacy, despite concerns that the militant group would return to its former brutality.Under previous Taliban rule, the Taliban shot murderers dead and cut off hands and feet from alleged thieves and highway robbers.Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, one of the Taliban’s founders, told the APearlier this week that the group has said executions and amputations will return as punishments for crimes. “No one will tell us what our laws should be," Turabi told the AP. "We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”

In Kabul, a Former American Citizen Keeps Running the City Under Taliban Watch – WSJ —After attending the funeral of a fellow United Airlines pilot who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Daoud Sultanzoy decided to return to his native Afghanistan and help build its post-Taliban government. These days, the 66-year-old mayor of Kabul is the most prominent official from the fallen Afghan republic to remain in his job after the Taliban returned to power on Aug. 15.Every morning, Mr. Sultanzoy, saluted by the municipality’s uniformed guards, runs up the staircase to the same spacious office he now shares with a senior Taliban official.“I’m not involved in any of their politics but I am here because I am responsible to the people of Kabul, and I’ve decided to stick to it,” Mr. Sultanzoy says, seated at his desk as municipality staff pass him paperwork to sign. “This is a responsibility that you cannot throw away frivolously because you just say, ‘Oh, I don’t like these people’. A day after the fall of the Afghan republic, as thousands of desperate members of the former government tried to escape via the U.S.-controlled airport, the Taliban contacted Mr. Sultanzoy to tell him that they guaranteed his security.His return to office ensured that some vital municipal services in the capital, such as trash collection and sanitation, remained uninterrupted.The mayor’s unusual and precarious position exposes the complexities of Afghanistan’s transitional period, as well as the Taliban’s attempts to move from a brutal rural insurgency to a government that can manage a country of 40 million and run its modern cities such as Kabul, home to one in eight Afghans.Asked whether his continuing service helped the Taliban shore up their legitimacy, Mr. Sultanzoy scoffs.“I am not helping. I was assigned to serve this city, and I am still serving this city,” he says. When people think of the Taliban, they think of the past and are shaken, he adds. “But I find them more tolerant. I am not saying I’ve met everybody, I am sure there are other elements. But the ones I have met are very polite, very understanding.” The Taliban’s new caretaker administrator of Kabul who shares Mr. Sultanzoy’s office, Hamidullah Nomani, served as the Afghan capital’s mayor and a cabinet minister in the Taliban regime before the 2001 U.S. invasion. Mr. Sultanzoy first came to America in the 1970s, to study aviation at the University of Miami, at the time when Afghanistan’s national airline, Ariana, was an affiliate of Pan Am, and he later became an American citizen. After participating in the 2001 Bonn conference that charted Afghanistan’s political future, he returned to the country to represent his family’s region, now part of the southeastern Ghazni province, in the new Afghan parliament.

Summarizing China’s Short Term Economic Outlook -Wells Fargo Economics analyses the extent of the current slowdown, and contemplates the impact on regional economies. Here’s the heat map:Source: McKenna/Guo, “China Economic Gauge and Sensitivity”, Wells Fargo Economics, 20 Sep 2021, Figure 1. From the report:Our dashboard (Figure 1) suggests the short-term outlook for China’s economy is indeed deteriorating, consistent with the multiple downward revisions we have made to our GDP forecast over the past few months. Given the signals our gauge is showing, we believe easier monetary policy could be the next major policy move from the PBoC, and another RRR reduction could be imminent as authorities look to offset some of the deceleration.This report is in line with the Goldman Sachs report (discussed here).Wells Fargo highlights Singapore, South Korea and Chile as most sensitive to growth developments in China (on the basis of exports). Looking more broadly at “beta’s” of equity returns and currency values as well as export dependence, the list of at risk countries expands to include South Africa, Brazil and Russia as well.

Australia could open its borders by Christmas, its tourism minister says. - Australia, which had planned to retain heavy international travel restrictions until mid-2022, now plans to open up months ahead of schedule.In a speech on Tuesday, Dan Tehan, the minister for trade, tourism and investment, encouraged Australians to keep getting vaccinated and “to stick to the national plan that will see our international border open up, at this rate, by Christmas, at the latest.”Mr. Tehan’s remarks at the National Press Club of Australia were a departure from the country’s earlier plans to keep its severe lockdown and travel restrictions in place.Australia’s borders “are closed,” according to the Department of Health’s website. “There is a ban on all overseas travel,” it says, unless an exemption from the government is granted.The only people allowed inside the country, according to the site, are Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members. Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand was temporarily suspended in August.In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Tehan also said that “hopefully, at the latest by Christmas,” Australians would be able to travel “with a QR code linked to their passport which will be able to show a proof of vaccination.”

Pandemic and surge in food prices deepens global hunger - Global food prices have risen 33 percent in the last 12 months, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Basic staples such as vegetable oil, grains and meat have shown some of the highest increases. Coming on top of the economic catastrophe visited on billions by the pandemic, these pressures will fuel inflation making it difficult for workers to feed their families as hunger surges across the globe. With the world’s poorest countries lacking the resources to provide food subsidies or social support; rising grain, oil and sugar prices threaten masses of people already living a hand to mouth existence with malnutrition and starvation. Analysts are expecting prices to continue rising, as extreme weather, the surge in fertiliser and freight costs, shipping logjams, supply chain blockages, export bans on key foodstuffs by some producer countries, stockpiling by others, and labour shortages compound the problems. They also point to the growing demand for corn and vegetable oils for biodiesel as well as China’s rising demand for grain imports. Women wait in line for food donated by the Covid Without Hunger organization in the Jardim Gramacho slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, May 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) While climate change and unfavourable weather conditions have played a role in driving up food prices, this does not explain the fact that lumber prices have also reached record highs and metals, such as iron ore, tin, copper, palladium and silver, have risen along with oil. What most analysts will not mention is the role of market manipulation, profiteering and speculation in pushing up prices. Speculation has been fuelled by the supply of ready cash provided by capitalist governments, particularly in the US and Europe in response to the financial market meltdown of March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The US has kept interest rates close to zero, while expanding the money supply via “quantitative easing”, currently running at $120 billion a month, and bought up corporate debt via its “asset purchasing programme.” These measures, along with Congress’s giant $2 trillion package for support to US corporations, including funds to cover the Federal Reserve’s losses and enable it to lend more than $4 trillion, flooded the market with cash and fuelled speculation in basic commodities. When inflation is taken into account, food prices are higher than at almost any time in the last 60 years, including during the 2008 and 2011 food crises. Consumer price inflation for food rose 6.3 percent in 2020, with the most affected regions being South America facing 21 percent food price inflation, Africa and South Asia 12 percent and Oceania 8 percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the impact would be “felt most by consumers in emerging markets and developing countries still wrestling with the effects of the pandemic.” The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) pointed out that whereas the 2008 and 2011 food crises that triggered dozens of riots across Asia, the Middle East and Africa were caused by either price increase or falling incomes, both are a feature of the current crisis. According to the WFP, 270 million people could face potentially life-threatening food shortages this year, up from 150 million before the pandemic. It estimates that the number of people on the brink of famine, the most acute phase of a hunger crisis, has risen to 41 million people, compared to 34 million last year.

Unvaccinated and defiant, Bolsonaro pushes back against criticism in his U.N. speech. - President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil kicked off the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday by defending the use of ineffective drugs to treat the coronavirus and by pushing back on criticism of his government’s environmental record.Brazil’s far-right president said doctors should have had more leeway in administering untested medications for Covid-19, adding that he had been among those who recovered after “off label” treatment with an anti-malaria pill that studies have found ineffective to treat the disease.“History and science will hold everyone accountable,” said Mr. Bolsonaro, whose handling of the pandemic in South America’s largest country has been widely criticized.Mr. Bolsonaro’s decision to not get vaccinated against the coronavirus has loomed large over his first couple of days in New York. It made for an awkward moment during a meeting on Monday with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who hailed the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed at Oxford University. Brazil’s president has led one of the world’s most criticized responses to the pandemic. Mr. Bolsonaro repeatedly downplayed the threat the virus posed, railed against quarantine measures and was fined for refusing to wear a mask in the capital.His government was slow to secure access to coronavirus vaccines even as the virus overwhelmed hospitals across the country. Covid-19 has killed more than 590,000 people in Brazil.Mr. Bolsonaro, who had a mild case of Covid-19 in July of last year, has said he is in no hurry to get a shot. Earlier this year, the president said he was undecided about getting a vaccine. “After the last Brazilian gets vaccinated, if there’s a spare shot, I will decide whether or not I get vaccinated,” he said in a televised video, adding, “that’s the example the boss must provide.”

Rates of infectious disease linked to authoritarian attitudes and governance – study - According to psychologists, in addition to our physiological immune system we also have a behavioural one: an unconscious code of conduct that helps us stay disease-free, including a fear and avoidance of unfamiliar – and so possibly infected – people.When infection risk is high, this “parasite stress” behavior increases, potentially manifesting as attitudes and even voting patterns that champion conformity and reject “foreign outgroups” – a core trait of authoritarian politics.Now, a new study, the largest yet to investigate links between pathogen prevalence and ideology, reveals a strong connection between infection rates and strains of authoritarianism in public attitudes, political leadership and even lawmaking.While data used for the study predates Covid-19, University of Cambridge psychologists say that greater public desire for “conformity and obedience” as a result of the pandemic could ultimately see liberal politics suffer at the ballot box. The findings are published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology.Researchers used infectious disease data from the United States in the 1990s and 2000s and responses to a psychological survey taken by over 206,000 people in the US during 2017 and 2018. They found that the more infectious US cities and states went on to have more authoritarian-leaning citizens.The US findings were replicated at an international level using survey data from over 51,000 people across 47 different countries, comparing responses with national-level disease rates. The most authoritarian US states had rates of infectious diseases – from HIV to measles – around four times higher than the least authoritarian states, while for the most authoritarian nations it was three times higher than the least.

Shooting at Russian university leaves at least 6 dead, 24 injured — At least six people were killed and 24 were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a university in the Russian city of Perm, authorities said Monday.The rampage at Perm State University, which sent students hurling themselves from windows to escape the gunfire, was extremely rare for Russia, a country with little experience with mass shootings of the kind seen routinely in the United States.

French universities reopen for in-person learning amid COVID-19 pandemic - As of the beginning of this week, French universities have fully reopened for in-person learning without basic protections against COVID-19 for students and staff. The only restriction in place is the mandatory wearing face masks, which are ineffective against the dominant Delta variant. The staggered reopening of universities has unfolded over the past few weeks. Many students entering university education for the first time took part in orientation activities with no restrictions. Sports clubs, drinking events, and other activities involving large group gatherings have resumed as if the pandemic did not exist. In a direct parallel of last year’s deadly reopening, students are daily confronted with overcrowded lecture halls and packed cafeterias. Huge numbers of students and the wider population remain unprotected in France. Contrary to the myth promoted by the bourgeois media and Macron government, students and young people also die from COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 91 people between the ages of 20 and 29 have died from COVID-19, including 10 since the beginning of August. Many students also remain unvaccinated. One in four people in France between the ages of 18 and 39 are not fully vaccinated, according to figures published by l’Assurance Malady on September 12. Proof of vaccination is not currently required to enter universities. Furthermore, increasingly vaccine-resistant variants will proliferate as long as the virus is not eradicated. As was the case last year, the entire reopening of universities has been subordinated to the Macron government’s de facto herd immunity policy. Although cases have been dropped since their August peak, on September 21 there were 7,851 cases and 201 deaths. Despite efforts in the media to promote the notion that life is “back to normal,” in just the last seven days, at least 497 people have died from COVID in France. Under these conditions, the World Health Organization predicts 236,000 further deaths across Europe before December 1.

France ordered officials to 'get revenge' on the US, UK, and Australia after it was ditched from $50 billion submarine contract, report says - France instructed its officials to "get revenge" on Australia, the US, and the UK after being booted from a contract to build Australia's submarines, Politico reported.A French official made the comment to Politico earlier this week asParis continued to react furiously to Australia's surprise decision to drop French-owned Naval Group from the $50 billion deal to replace its ageing submarines.Australia will now build the submarines with help from the UK and US instead as part of a new security pact called AUKUS.France — accusing the three nations of a "stab in the back"— recalled its ambassadors from the US and Australia, and moved to disrupt trade talks between the two nations and the EU, of which France is a leading member.French officials have also found support from other EU members to delay talks with the US scheduled for next week, Bloomberg reported.Both President Biden and Johnson were "astonished" at France's furious reaction to the announcement, the Telegraph reported.

A gas station attendant is killed in Germany after telling a customer to mask up.— A 20-year-old student working at a gas station in southwestern Germany was shot and killed after refusing to sell beer to an unmasked customer, the local prosecutor said.When an unmasked 49-year-old man entered the gas station on Saturday night and placed two six-packs of beer on the counter in the town of Idar-Oberstein, near the French border, the cashier insisted that he wear a mask, said Kai Fuhrmann, the district attorney in charge of the case, in a telephone interview.Masks have been mandatory in shops in Germany since shortly after the pandemic started.The man then left the store only to return an hour later, still unmasked but with a gun — one not licensed under Germany’s strict weapons laws. When the clerk asked him a second time to put on a mask, Mr. Fuhrmann said, he killed him with a single shot to the head.

Empty shelves, gasoline shortages and sky-high energy prices? Britain is facing a ‘difficult winter’ — Britain has been plunged into uncertainty as issues over gasoline, electricity and food have prompted warnings of "a really difficult winter" for the country. A significant lack of truck drivers has meant deliveries of fuel and goods have fallen short. In a bid to incentivize people to take the job, some employers have reportedly offered salaries as high as £70,000 ($95,750) a year, with joining bonuses of £2,000. Speaking to ITV News on Thursday, Paul Scully, the U.K.'s minister for small businesses, warned that "this is going to be a really difficult winter for people." "We know this is going to be a challenge and that's why we don't underestimate the situation that we all find ourselves in," he said. However, Scully told Times Radio on Friday that there was "no need for people to go out and panic buy." Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said earlier this week that there was no shortage of fuel in the U.K., and people should continue to buy gas as normal. He also described the U.K.'s food supply chain as "highly resilient," but acknowledged some businesses in the industry were facing challenges and said the government was having meetings with representatives from the sector. As supplies of some essential goods have dwindled, reports have emerged of empty shelves and long lines of cars outside gas stations. In a BBC interview Friday, U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people should continue to buy gasoline as usual, adding that military personnel would be brought in to drive trucks if it would help the situation. Oil giant BP confirmed Friday that it had temporarily closed a handful of its U.K. gas stations due to shortages of unleaded gasoline and diesel. "These have been caused by some delays in the supply chain which has been impacted by the industry-wide driver shortages across the U.K., and there are many actions being taken to address the issue," a spokesperson said via email. "We continue to work with our haulier supplier to minimize any future disruption and to ensure efficient and effective deliveries to serve our customers. We are prioritising deliveries to motorway service areas, major trunk roads and sites with largest demand." A spokesperson for Exxon Mobil's Esso told CNBC that a small number of the sites it operated in the U.K. had been impacted by fuel shortages, but that the company was "working closely with all parties in our distribution network to optimize supplies and minimize any inconvenience to customers." In an emailed statement on Friday, a spokesperson for Tesco, the U.K.'s largest supermarket chain and an operator of 500 gas stations, said,