reality is only those delusions that we have in common...

Saturday, March 18, 2023

week ending Mar 18

The Fed Can't Give Up The Inflation Fight Yet -Many people in Washington hoped for much better inflation numbers in February. Below zero would have released tears of joy following this rough weekend of bank failures and the first signs of financial instability in these three years of nonstop terrible. Alas, that did not happen. The report came in at a 0.4 percent increase for the month and 6 percent for the year, or three times the Fed’s target. Drilling down, there are some really terrible hot spots. Food at home, energy services, and transportation all registered double-digit increases on an annualized basis. You know this intuitively by looking at your utility and grocery bills. Shopping used to be a pleasure. Now it is nothing but pain. We look at those steaks, eggs, and even veggies and think twice and three times. We stand at the cash register with dread. The bill comes and we shake our heads with sadness at what we are going through. Remember the days when we would shop with smiles on our faces, see and greet friends, and leave with a spring in our step? Those days are gone, replaced with grumbling, sadness, and deep annoyance all around. Every aisle is filled with crabby people who have a sense that they are getting pillaged. We are alarmed not only at high prices but also the magically shrinking packages. “Good time to be on a diet,” everyone thinks. The diet called “one meal a day” (OMAD) starts looking very attractive. And truly Americans of all classes would do well to examine their eating habits. But one might like to do that under less financial duress. It’s fair to observe that inflation is not getting worse at the same pace it was last year. But a declining rate of worsening is not anything to cheer about. The Fed must still deal with a depreciation rate of the dollar in terms of goods and services that it cannot tolerate. Already, the dollar has lost 17 cents of value in two years. Something has to change. Informed opinion over the weekend hoped that the Fed would stop the wild war on inflation with fewer rate increases over the coming months. My own read on Jerome Powell is that he is in no mood to do that. He made up his mind two years ago that he was wrong to accommodate Congress’s spending mania for a virus and reversed course. He further knew that his rate increases would naturally devalue the portfolios of major banks that had stored its cash excess in fixed-rate government securities and other mortgage-backed products. They had plenty of time to sell those at a discount. So far as he is concerned, the balance-sheet problems of Silicon Valley Bank are not his problems. They are a matter for the risk-management team to solve. It appears too that there is a real difference of opinion between the Fed and the Biden administration at this point. Over the week, the Biden administration via the Treasury and the deposit insurers went out on a limb to guarantee the deposits of failing banks—an absurd and dangerous promise that cannot be applied across the board. Powell didn’t make that decision but neither is he in a position to stop it. That’s for regulators to decide and he is not among them. His job is to land the economy away from inflationary excesses come hell or high water. Unless someone gets to him, my bet is for the rate increases to continue. .

Barclays Joins Goldman In Expecting A Fed 'Pause' Next Week Due To Financial Market Turbulence - Hours after Goldman's Jan Hatzius confirmed the bank's new expectation that The Fed will not hike rates in March (next week), let alone consider a 50bps rise; Barclays' Marc Giannoni and the Economics Research team is out with a report forecasting no hike at the upcoming FOMC meeting, justified by risk management considerations as financial stability concerns move to the forefront. The market is now pricing in a coin-toss (0 or 25bps) for March, but expects the full 25bps in May... Their flip-flop - from forecasting a 50bps hike just last week - to a pause is driven by the financial market turbulence over the weekend, and signs of a sudden intensification of risk aversion (outweighing their interpretation of incoming data, including from the US labor market, in combination with Chair Powell’s willingness to consider a return to aggressive hikes).Additionally, Barclays lowers its terminal rate expectation to 5.1%...We emphasize “pause” because we believe that the turmoil is likely to be contained in the coming weeks, especially following the backstops implemented over the weekend. We continue to believe that the Fed will see additional hikes as the baseline scenario, which it would carefully condition on an assumption that markets settle and that credit continues to flow from regional banks. Although recent distress will temper the appetite for additional aggressive hikes, we think that March’s dot plot will show the median dot peaking at 5.1% in 2023.Which is still above the market's 4.815% terminal rate expectation currently...Even with financial stability considerations overshadowing data, Barclays does warn that a number of key prints will be released over the course of this week that will inform the evolution of rates at the coming meetings, including tomorrow’s CPI print for February and Wednesday’s estimates of retail sales.

Silicon Valley Bank collapse adds wrinkle to FOMC meeting - What a difference a week makes. The Federal Open Market Committee meets next week and after the employment report, the odds of a 50-basis point rate hike soared.With the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, the market is now expecting a 25 basis point hike, or perhaps a pause.After SVB's failure, "the 50-basis point probability plunged and now the market is pricing in a 25-basis point hike as more likely," said Tony Welch, chief investment officer at SignatureFD. "Also, the chances for a June/July hike fell." "Rather than mistakenly using the 1970s as a reference saying, 'history has taught us to not let up too soon,' the Fed would be better served recalling [the Fed Chair Alan] Greenspan's long slow series of rate increases that allowed banks time to adjust as rates increased and avoid this type of banking crisis," said Bryce Doty, senior vice president at Sit Investment Associates.The Fed, he said, has an opportunity to now "pause given the fed funds is at a positive real rate when using a more accurate measure for housing.""Obviously given the market turbulence over the past week, it is no surprise that expectations for the FOMC meeting on March 22nd are all over the place," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst for the Americas at OANDA.Many banks are expecting a pause, he noted, but Nomura, in addition to expecting a new Fed lending facility, suggests the FOMC makes a 25 bp rate cut and halts quantitative tightening. This, Moya said, "might be a bit of an overreaction."Nomura's statement preceded the CPI report.

Defying Pivot-Mongers, ECB Hikes by 50 Basis Points, QT Continues, Explains Tools to Calm a Bank Panic while Fighting Inflation Simultaneously by Wolf Richter - The ECB hiked its policy rates by 50 basis points today, defying predictions and fervent hopes out there that it would end its rate hikes. Yesterday, traders saw just a 20% chance of a 50-basis-point hike. They’d all been hoping that the ECB’s rate hikes would be shut down by the banking turmoil.Since the rate-hike cycle started in July 2022, the ECB has hiked by 350 basis points, raising the deposit rate from -0.5% to +3.0%, the biggest rate-hike cycle in its history, to fight the worst inflation in four decades. With this 50-basis-point hike, the ECB stuck to the rate-hike indications it gave at its last meeting.“Inflation is projected to remain too high for too long,” is how the ECB started out its press release today to point out where its emphasis was.“We are not waning on our commitment to fight inflation, and we are determined to return inflation back to 2% in the medium term – that should not be doubted. The determination is intact. The pace that we take will be entirely data-dependent,” ECB president Christine Lagarde said at the press conference.“There is no trade-off between price stability and financial stability. And I think that if anything, with this decision [hiking by 50 basis points when markets were expecting no hike], we are demonstrating this,” she said.ECB staff “have demonstrated in the past that they can also exercise creativity in very short order in case it is needed to respond to what would be a liquidity crisis if there was such a thing. But this is not what we are seeing,” she said. Calming a financial panic while tightening to fight inflation.The Bank of England showed the way. It had been hiking rates when soaring long-term yields of gilts caused UK pension funds to get into trouble last fall. They faced margin calls from the investment banks that had sold them the infamous LDI (liability-driven investment) funds. When pension funds were forced to unload their gilt holdings to deal with the margin calls, yields spiked further and prices dropped further, forcing the pension funds to sell even more gilts, which pushed their prices down further, thereby setting the gilts market up for a “death spiral.”The BOE stepped in with big rhetoric about massive buying of gilts, but in fact bought only small amounts. It calmed down the gilts market and gave pension funds time to clean up. In November, it started selling those bonds it had bought in September and October. And by January, it had sold all of them. With the panic settled down, the BOE’s rate hikes and QT continued.Today, the ECB – while “monitoring” the banking turmoil – said that it had different tools in its “policy tool kit”: One set of tools to fight inflation (rate hikes and QT) and another set of tools to deal with financial panics (liquidity support for banks), and that it was not one or the other, but that both could be used, and there was no “tradeoff” between them.The ECB “stands ready to respond as necessary to preserve price stability andfinancial stability in the euro area,” it said.“Our policy toolkit is fully equipped to provide liquidity support to the euro area financial system if needed and to preserve the smooth transmission of monetary policy,” Lagarde said – so it could provide emergency liquidity to a teetering bank, while continuing the inflation fight via monetary policy.She said if underlying inflation persists, more tightening would be needed. But the ECB refrained from giving specific forward guidance.The Eurozone banking sector is “resilient, with strong capital and liquidity positions,” the ECB said (Credit Suisse is not a Eurozone bank).This is an incredibly important concept, that central banks acknowledge they can deal with a bank liquidity problem without backing off their inflation fight. There have been some papers by Fed researchers to the same effect.

Summers warns Fed against 'financial dominance,' urges rate hike - Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said the Federal Reserve shouldn't be spooked into easing its campaign to contain inflation out of excessive concern about a credit crunch in the wake of the recent banking turmoil. "It would be very unfortunate if, out of solicitude for the banking system, the Fed were to slow down its rate of interest-rate increase beyond what was appropriate given the credit contraction," Summers said on Bloomberg Television's "Wall Street Week" with David Westin. Fed policymakers, who meet March 21-22 to set rates, will need to recognize that slower credit creation will result from the tumult triggered by the collapse of two banks last weekend, according to Summers. But "the slowing of credit is not nearly as much" as the amount of Fed tightening that has now been removed from market pricing, he said. "I do think that the Fed should not allow financial dominance," said Summers, a Harvard University professor and paid contributor to Bloomberg Television. Financial dominance is a condition where a central bank doesn't dare to tighten its policy stance as that would threaten the stability of the financial system. "It's appropriate — at least on current facts, and they're changing very quickly these days, but on current facts — to raise rates by 25 basis points" next week, Summers said. Reacting too strongly to the banking situation by altering interest-rate policy could make many observers "feel that if the Fed was scared, they should be as well" — worsening the situation, Summers said. Easing off on the fight to contain the cost-of-living surge could also lead to higher inflation expectations, he said. "So ironically, it could both raise inflation expectations and contract the economy," he said. "I hope the Fed can move forward 25 basis points." Summers reiterated his praise for the 50 basis-point rate increase by the European Central Bank on Thursday, and hoped that ECB President Christine Lagarde's example will be a "role model" for the Fed. "She made very clear that, with two different problems — inflation and financial stability — you can use two different instruments to respond to those of problems, and not sacrifice on the inflation dimension," Summers said.

Fed poised for quarter-point rate hike next week, despite turmoil - Even with turmoil in the banking industry and uncertainty ahead, the Federal Reserve likely will approve a quarter-percentage-point interest rate increase next week, according to market pricing and many Wall Street experts. Rate expectations have been on a rapidly swinging pendulum over the past two weeks, varying from a half-point hike to holding the line and even at one point some talk that the Fed could cut rates. However, a consensus has emerged that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his fellow central bankers will want to signal that while they are attuned to the financial sector upheaval, it's important to continue the fight to bring down inflation. That likely will take the form of a 0.25 percentage point, or 25 basis point, increase, accompanied by assurances that there's no preset path ahead. The outlook could change depending on market behavior in the coming days, but the indication is for the Fed to hike. "They have to do something, otherwise they lose credibility,". "They want to do 25, and the 25 sends a message. But it's really going to depend on the comments afterwards, what Powell says in public. … I don't think he's going to do the 180-degree shift everybody's talking about." Markets largely agree that the Fed is going to hike. As of Friday afternoon, there was about a 75% chance of a quarter-point increase, according to CME Group data using Fed funds futures contracts as a guide. The other 25% was in the no-hike camp, anticipating that the policymakers might take a step back from the aggressive tightening campaign that began just over a year ago. Goldman Sachs is one of the most high-profile forecasters seeing no change in rates, as it expects central bankers in general "to adopt a more cautious short-term stance in order to avoid worsening market fears of further banking stress." Whichever way the Fed goes, it's likely to face criticism. "This might be one of those times where there's a difference between what they should do and what I think they will do. They definitely should not tighten policy," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "People are really on edge, and any little thing might push them over the edge, so I just don't get it. Why can't you just pivot here a little and focus on financial stability?"

Fed's super discount window issues $12 billion of advances in three days - The Federal Reserve saw banks take nearly $12 billion in advances from an emergency liquidity facility within its first three days of operation. Through Wednesday, banks had pledged nearly $15.9 billion of government backed bonds — including Treasury securities, U.S agency mortgage-backed securities and U.S. agency debt securities — to the Fed's Bank Term Fund Program, according to the central bank's weekly balance sheet disclosure. Banks' reliance on the new facility represented just a fraction of the emergency borrowing that has taken place this week after a pair of bank failures — Santa Clara, Calif.-based Silicon Valley Bank, which was shuttered Friday, and New York-based Signature Bank, which was taken over by regulators over the weekend. A more popular option for banks seeking liquidity seems to have been the Federal Home Loan Bank system, which provided $250 billion of advances during the first three days of this week, including a record $111.8 billion on Monday alone. While insurance companies and other nonbanks have access to FHLB advances, community and regional banks are believed to be the primary recipients of advances in the past week. Banks also turned to the discount window — the Fed's standing last-resort lending mechanism — in record numbers during the past week, with borrowing from that facility jumping from $4 billion on March 9 to nearly $153 billion Wednesday, an all-time high, according to the research firm Autonomous Research. The Fed's new lending facility was announced Sunday night to quell concerns in the banking system after the bank failures and went live Monday. It serves as a sort of super discount window for banks with high-quality but discounted securities that need liquidity. Banks who borrow from the super discount window will pay an interest rate equal to the one-year overnight index swap rate plus 10 basis points. The rate will be fixed for the term of the advance. The current rate is 4.5% compared to 4.75% for primary credit borrowing at the standard discount window. The super discount window also allows banks to borrow for up to one year, as opposed to the 90-day limit at the standard discount window. Creating the facility required a vote of the Fed Board of Governors to invoke section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act. The emergency provision allows the central bank to create special lending facilities in times of severe economic shocks as means for protecting financial stability.

Fed Loaned $160 Billion to Banks and $142 billion to FDIC. But QT-Related Roll-off Continued - The Fed’s balance sheet through Wednesday, released today, shows to what extent the Fed has provided emergency loans at around 4.75% interest and against collateral to US banks; and how much it loaned to the FDIC which is tasked with bailing out all depositors at Silicon Valley Bank and at Signature Bank, which collapsed last Friday and over the weekend.At the same time, it shows that the QT-related roll-off of Treasury securities and MBS continued My monthly updates on the Fed’s balance sheet have had for months a section, titled, “Keeping an eye on potential warning signs,” in anticipation of what would happen. And it happened.The section discussed two accounts on the balance sheet that are unrelated to QT or QE, but are all about whether or not the banks are in trouble: “Primary Credit” (“Discount Window”) for banks in the US, and Central Bank Liquidity Swaps for banks in other countries for dollar liquidity.On today’s balance sheet, there are two new accounts, the Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP) and “Other credit extensions” that were announced last Sunday as part of the liquidity support for banks and the depositor bailout with the FDIC.

  • Discount Window: $153 billion. This Primary Credit, as it’s called, allows banks to borrow at 4.75% currently, against collateral. It spiked by $148 billion, from $5 billion a week ago to $153 billion today, the biggest jump in the data.This is expensive money for banks, and it requires collateral, and so banks won’t borrow long at this rate if they can avoid it, and they tend to pay back those loans quickly, as you can see from the chart below.They borrowed this way because they needed to have the funds like “right now” when depositors were yanking their money out late last week and this week, as SVB Financial collapsed and panic spread.But in relationship to the amount of overall deposits, the $153 billion is much smaller than during the financial crisis ($111 billion). In 2008, total deposits amounted to $6.7 trillion; at the beginning of March, total deposits were $17.6 trillion, over 2.6 times the level in 2008.
  • Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP): $12 billion. The new thingy that the Fed announced on Sunday. Under this program, the banks can borrow for up to one year, at a fixed rate for the term, pegged to the one-year overnight index swap rate plus 10 basis points, currently around 4.6%. Banks have to post collateral, which is valued at par. But no, banks cannot play cute games with this: To be eligible per term sheet, the collateral has to be “owned by the borrower as of March 12, 2023.” So banks cannot buy securities at market price and post them as collateral at par.The $148 billion increase in loans at the Discount Window and the $12 billion in BTFP funding amount to $160 billion in new loans that the banks have obtained from the Fed over the past seven days.
  • “Other credit extensions”: $142 billion. Loans to the new FDIC-owned banks that the FDIC set up to cover all depositors of collapsed Signature Bank and Silicon Valley Bank. The FDIC transferred all assets and deposits of the failed banks into these new banks. And it’s these FDIC-owned banks that borrow at the Fed, and they have to post collateral, while the “FDIC provides repayment guarantees.”This amount is set to decline as the FDIC sells the assets and with the proceeds from the asset sales pays down the loans.

Federal Reserve lent $300 billion in emergency funds to banks in the past week (AP) — Cash-short banks have borrowed about $300 billion from the Federal Reserve in the past week, the central bank announced Thursday. Nearly half the money — $143 billion — went to holding companies for two major banks that failed over the past week, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, triggering widespread alarm in financial markets. The Fed did not identify the banks that received the other half of the funding or say how many of them did so. The holding companies for the two failed banks were set up by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which has taken over both banks. The money they borrowed was used to pay their uninsured depositors, with bonds owned by both banks posted as collateral. The FDIC has guaranteed the repayment of the loans, the Fed said. The figures provide a first glimpse of the scale of the Fed’s assistance to the financial sector after the two banks collapsed this past weekend. The rest of the money was borrowed by banks seeking to raise cash — likely, at least in part, to pay off depositors who tried to withdraw their money. Many mega banks, such as Bank of America, have reported receiving inflows of funds from smaller banks since the bank failures last weekend. An additional $153 billion in borrowing from the Fed over the past week came through a longstanding program called the “discount window”; it amounted to a record level for that program. Banks can borrow from the discount window for up to 90 days. Typically in a given week, only about $4 billion to $5 billion is borrowed through this program. The Fed has lent an additional $11.9 billion from a new lending facility it announced on Sunday. The new program enables banks to raise cash and pay any depositors who withdraw money. Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, said in research note that the Fed’s assistance is, so far, about half what it was during the financial crisis 15 years ago. “But it is still a big number,” he said. “The glass half-empty view is that banks need a lot of money. The glass half-full take is that the system is working as intended.” The past week’s emergency lending from the Fed seeks to address a leading cause of the collapse of the two banks: Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank owned billions of dollars of seemingly safe Treasury and other bonds that paid low interest rates. Over the past year, as the Fed steadily raised its benchmark interest rate, yields on longer-term Treasurys and other bonds rose. That, in turn, reduced the value of the lower-yielding Treasurys that the banks held. As a result, the banks couldn’t raise enough cash from the sale of their Treasurys to pay the many depositors who were trying to withdraw their money from the banks. It amounted to a classic bank run. The Fed’s lending programs, particularly the new facility it unveiled Sunday, enable financial institutions to post bonds as collateral and borrow against them, rather than having to sell them. For its new lending facility, the Fed said it has received $15.9 billion in collateral, more than the $11.9 billion it has lent. Banks sometimes provide the Fed collateral before borrowing. That suggests that additional lending is under way.

DB- Today's Events Are Consistent With An Imminent US Recession - One of the better big picture recaps of today's price action comes from DB FX strategist George Saravelos, who writes that "the market is sending a consistent message today: it fears that a US recession is about to start." Below we excerpt from his note:We are now pricing in Fed cuts rather than hikes, the yield curve is bull steepening sharply, commodities and equities are down with cyclicals underperforming.This is all consistent with an imminent US recession. Without taking a strong view on whether this will indeed happen, it is worth making three observations.

  • First, a systemic financial event is not a necessary condition for recessionary dynamics. Competition for deposits is likely to become irreversibly more intense in the US banking system going forward, leading to an upward drift in the bank-based cost of financing and an extra layer of tightening hitting the real economy. How large this is remains to be seen but as our economists have highlighted, the starting point of bank lending conditions has in any case already been extremely weak.
  • Second, the dollar is behaving extremely unusually, down against the vast majority of G10 and EM currencies despite a recession priced in. Can this be sustained? If dollar funding and money markets remain well behaved, we argued earlier today the answer is most likely yes. This is an exceptionally unusual cycle where the dollar has front-loaded recessionary pricing far more than any other period in history. What is more, given the relative starting point of monetary policy, there remains asymmetric potential for an interest rate differential narrowing against the USD even in a slower global growth environment. In other words, what matters most for the USD is if the Fed decides to paused then eventually cut.
  • Third, the correlation breakdown between risk appetite and the dollar will put pressure on portfolio construction if sustained. Most asset manager's asset allocation has over the last decade been constructed on the basis of a negative correlation between the USD and risk appetite. When equities sell-off, the dollar rallies providing natural protection for foreign currency investors and creating an incentive to hold dollar positions unhedged. We highlighted earlier this year how this dynamic was slowly starting to shift. If the dollar entirely stops providing hedging value to underlying US risky asset positions it would likely add another leg of pressure to the USD.

2Y Treasury Yields Plunge Most Since 'Black Monday', Gold Soars As Rate-Hike Odds Collapse (graphs) The Fed/FDIC/TSY bailout has prompted a massive repricing of the market's expectations for The Fed's rate-trajectory from here. The terminal has plunged and pulled forward... Graphics Source: Bloomberg. After Goldman's forecast that The Fed will pause in March (next week), the odds of a 25bps rate-hike have dropped to 80% (from a 75% chance of 50bps on Wednesday after Powell's hawkish comments)... The market now expects rates to be lower than they are now by September... All bond yields are lower overnight, led by the short-end... In fact, the 2Y TSY yield is down almost 100bps in the last three days... The biggest 3-day drop since 1987's "black monday"... This has steepened the yield curve dramatically (2s10s now at 2023 highs)... ...and that is the straw that breaks the model camel's back on a recession warning. Against all that, Gold is soaring, with futures testing $1900... We leave you with the conclusion from The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board's post-mortem: "critics have a point. For the second time in 15 years (excluding the brief Covid-caused panic), regulators will have encouraged a credit mania, and then failed to foresee the financial panic when the easy money stopped. Democrats and the press corps may try to pin the problem on bankers or the Trump Administration, but these are political diversions. You can’t run the most reckless monetary and fiscal experiment in history without the bill eventually coming due. The first invoice arrived as inflation. The second has come as a financial panic, with economic damage that may not end with Silicon Valley Bank."

Back in the Real Economy: Business Cycle Indicators, Mid-March – Menzie Chinn - With industrial production for February (0% m/m vs +0.2% Bloomberg consensus), we have the following picture of key indicators followed by the NBER BCDC, plus S&P Market Intelligence monthly GDP. Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment, NFP (dark blue), Bloomberg consensus of 3/17 (blue +), civilian employment (orange), industrial production (red), personal income excluding transfers in Ch.2012$ (green), manufacturing and trade sales in Ch.2012$ (black), consumption in Ch.2012$ (light blue), and monthly GDP in Ch.2012$ (pink), GDP (blue bars), all log normalized to 2021M11=0. Q3 Source: BLS, Federal Reserve, BEA 2022Q4 2nd release via FRED, S&P Global/IHS Markit (nee Macroeconomic Advisers) (3/1/2023 release), and author’s calculations. Weekly Economic Indicators (Lewis-Mertens-Stock) for data available through March 11 indicates 0.96% for y/y growth. GDPNow as of yesterday indicates Q1 growth of 3.2% q/q SAAR, while S&P Market Intelligence/formerly IHS Markit has raised its tracking estimate to 0.6% (q/q SAAR), up from -0.5% a month ago.

Biden Rejects Spending Cuts and Embraces Tax Increases on Wealthy - Months after losing control of the House in 2010, President Barack Obama and his vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., released a budget proposal that bowed to Republican warnings about the need to rein in spending by promising a freeze in popular programs like education.Now president, Mr. Biden is confronting the same equation, with an emboldened new Republican majority in the House demanding deep spending cuts. But this time, Mr. Biden has made a sharp break from the past.His proposed budget does contain new steps to reduce deficits, but instead of talking about hard choices and freezing spending, Mr. Biden has pledged to defend popular federal programs from Republican attacks and instead rely almost exclusively on taxing corporations and high earners as the way to reduce the growth in the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over the next decade.The shifting strategy by Mr. Biden is rooted in his determination not to repeat political and economic mistakes from the Obama era, administration officials say privately. Economists now say economic mistakes from the Obama era slowed the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. And publicly, officials point to polls to contend that voters side with the president on how to reduce deficits.“The American people are absolutely right that having the super-wealthy and special interests pay their fair share is the right way to reduce the deficit,” said Jesse Lee, a senior communications adviser to Mr. Biden’s National Economic Council.The budget fight is expected to drag out for months as both sides attempt to pin the blame on the other. Mr. Biden is attempting adifferent sort of budget triangulation from Mr. Obama’s plan, as he nods to concerns over the $31.4 trillion national debt but seeks to redefine the issue and turn conservatives’ longstanding antipathy toward tax increases into a negotiating and electoral weapon.“The Republicans have taken off the table making the wealthy and the well connected pay a little more to help reduce the national debt — that means they’re not really serious about the national debt,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in an interview.“Higher taxes aimed at billionaires and giant corporations that are hiding their money overseas would have very little effect on our economy, other than the ability to reduce the national debt or to invest more,” she said.House Republicans are refusing to raise a cap on the amount of debt the United States can have outstanding unless Mr. Biden agrees to large federal spending cuts, which could include slashing antipoverty programs and new measures meant to fight climate change. They say the current national debt load and new spending programs approved by the president are weighing on economic growth, partly by driving up borrowing costs for private businesses.They are trying to assemble their own budget proposal that can pass the House, likely centered on cuts to housing assistance, health care programs and other aid to the poor. In a caucus that fractures on key issues like how much to spend on the military and whether to raise retirement ages for Social Security and Medicare, members have found common purpose in skewering Mr. Biden’s fiscal plans.

Biden’s $5 trillion tax gambit catches Congress by surprise -- President Biden went big in his $6.8 trillion annual budget proposal to Congress by calling for $5 trillion in tax increases over the next decade, more than what lawmakers expected after the president downplayed his tax agenda in earlier meetings. It’s a risky move for the president as he heads into a tough reelection campaign in 2024. Senate Democrats will have to defend 23 seats next year, including in Republican-leaning states such as Ohio, Montana and West Virginia, and Americans are concerned about inflation and the direction of the economy. Republicans say Biden’s budget plan marks the return of tax-and-spend liberal politics; they warn higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy will hurt the economy. Biden, however, thinks he can win the debate by pledging that he won’t raise taxes on anyone who earns less than $400,000 a year. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, called Biden’s ambitious tax plan “jaw-dropping.” “This is exactly the wrong approach to solving our fiscal problems,” he said of the $5 trillion aggregate total of proposed tax hikes. “I think this sets a new record, by far.” Many lawmakers were expecting Biden to propose between $2 trillion and $2.5 trillion in tax increases, based on what he said in his State of the Union address on Feb. 7 and on what media outlets reported in the days before the White House unveiled its budget plan. The $5 trillion in new tax revenues is more than what the president called for last year, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate. Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, a group that advocates for lower taxes, said “in dollar terms, it’s the largest tax increase in American history.”

Show me the money: The highest revenue raising taxes in Biden's proposed budget -President Joe Biden released his 2024 budget plan last Thursday that promises to cut the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade thanks to a flurry of new and increased taxes aimed at the richest Americans. The proposal is merely the first step in the federal government's budgetary process and is unlikely to be enacted in its current form facing a divided Congress now that Republicans hold the majority in the House of Representatives. Where is the money coming from? Here's a look at the greatest revenue-earning taxes outlined in the plan.

  • Raise corporate tax rate to 28%: $1.326 trillion - Biden's budget calls for increasing the corporate income tax to 28% from the current 21%. The White House argues the increase is still far below the 35% tax before former President Donald Trump slashed the tax in 2017.
  • Impose minimum income tax on 0.01%: $436.61 billion - Biden's budget calls for a minimum 25% tax on American households worth over $100 million, which would more than triple the 8% rate the wealthiest 0.01% currently pay.
  • Increase the wealthy's ACA tax: $344.37 billion - Biden's budget calls for increasing the 3.8% Affordable Care Act tax to 5% on Americans earning more than $400,000. The increase would go towards bolstering Medicare.
  • Close ACA tax loopholes: $305.94 billion - This is another reform that would help shore up Medicare. If enacted, it would close the loophole to ensure the Obamacare tax is always applied to high earners' so-called "pass-through businesses" where income flows to individual returns.
  • Increase top marginal income tax: $235.26 billion - Building off of the billionaires' tax, Biden's budget outlines bumping the top payroll tax rate to 39.6%, up from 37%, on Americans making more than $400,000 annually and married couples earning more than $450,000 a year. If enacted, the income tax hike would reverse cuts made by former President Donald Trump in his 2017 tax bill.
  • Quadruple the stock buyback tax: $237.91 billion - The new levy placing a 1% tax on all stock buybacks was passed under last year's Inflation Reduction Act and went into effect on Jan.1. It is projected to garner $74 billion over the next ten years. The president though argues it doesn't go far enough to curb share repurchases and proposed in his budget increasing the tax four-fold to 4%. The move, the White House states, would encourage investment in businesses themselves rather than share repurchases and dividends.

Biden wants $886 billion defense budget with eyes on Ukraine and future wars - (Reuters) -President Joe Biden's biggest peacetime U.S. defense budget request of $886 billion includes a 5.2% pay raise for troops and the largest allocation on record for research and development, with Russia's war on Ukraine spurring demand for more spending on munitions. Biden's request earmarks $842 billion for the Pentagon and $44 billion for defense-related programs at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Energy and other agencies. The total amount of the 2024 budget proposal is $28 billion more than last year's $858 billion. Congress has signaled, as it often does, it will increase defense spending over Biden's request during the months-long budget process that this request kicks off. The Senate and House typically pass bills setting policy and spending levels for the Pentagon much later in the year. Congress and the administration both have an eye on a possibly prolonged war in Ukraine and potential future conflicts with Russia and China. "Our greatest measure of success, and the one we use around here most often, is to make sure the PRC (Peoples Republic of China) leadership wakes up every day, considers the risks of aggression, and concludes, 'today is not the day,'" Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said on Monday. Relations between the United States and China have become highly contentious over issues ranging from trade to espionage as increasingly the two powers compete for influence in parts of the world far from their own borders. "This top line request serves as a useful starting point," U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said when the budget figures were unveiled on Thursday. This budget will be the first to procure missiles and other munitions with multi-year contracts, something that is routine for planes and ships, as the Pentagon signals enduring demand to top munitions makers such as Raytheon Technologies Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp and Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. The Ukraine war has shown the U.S. military it needs to make bigger lots of certain types of munitions, helping to explain the multi-year contracts for weaponry that would potentially also be used in a military conflict with China. The budget boosts procurement of sophisticated missiles such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER), and the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). Those "are for the broader strategy - for a higher end fight. They're not ground munitions," like those being used in Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official said. Thus far, funds to backfill the munitions sent to Ukraine, including the JAVELIN and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS), were handled by $35.7 billion in supplemental funds enacted in 2022. The Pentagon aid to Ukraine in the budget is the same as the prior year. If more funding is needed for Ukraine, the senior defense official said, another supplemental request could be drawn up. The 2024 budget boasts a historically large research and development budget for the Pentagon - $145 billion earmarked to develop new weaponry like hypersonic missiles, which are fired into the upper atmosphere and can evade even advanced radar systems. Russia has used these missiles in Ukraine. Biden's budget request also speeds the Department of Defense's pace for buying the stealthy F-35 fighter jet to 83. The F-35 is the Pentagon's largest weapons program and will be the lynchpin of U.S. air power in the near future. The 2023 budget request asked for 61 F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin and Congress increased that number to 77. Among the other top priorities for this budget are modernizing the U.S. nuclear "triad" of ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles, shipbuilding and developing capabilities in space. The budget would benefit the biggest U.S. defense contractors including Lockheed, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman Corp and General Dynamics Corp. .

GOP senator: Only way to improve Biden's budget 'is with a shredder' - Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-La.) took shots at President Joe Biden’s proposed budget Sunday, mocking the $6.8 trillion proposal the White House unveiled Thursday. “The president says that his budget will solve our financial problems in Medicare and Social Security; that is not true. Anything seems possible when you don’t know what you are talking about,” Kennedy said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “The only way I know how to improve the president’s budget is with a shredder,” he later added. Biden’s budget, which includes tax hikes on wealthy Americans and corporations, record military funding and a plan to cut the deficit by $3 trillion over the course of a decade, is seen of having little chance of passing in Congress. House Republicans have called for cuts to spending in return for lifting the debt ceiling later this year; the House Freedom Caucus offered a 10-point plan last week. In addition, Florida Sen. Rick Scott has suggested sunsetting Social Security and Medicare programs as a way to do so, a topic that became particularly contentious after Biden criticized the plan during his State of the Union speech earlier this year. On Sunday, Kennedy said there should be conversations about making changes to these programs, though he was quick to say people should receive the Medicare and Social Security benefits they’ve paid for. But he echoed recent comments by Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley suggesting the possibility of raising the eligibility age for Social Security.“Of course we ought to talk about it,” Kennedy told host Shannon Bream. “The life expectancy of the average American right now is about 77 years old. For people who are in their 20s, their life expectancy will probably be 85 to 90. Does it really make sense to allow someone who is in their 20s today to retire at 62? Those are the kind of things that we should talk about.” “There are a lot of things we could talk about,” Kennedy added, “but President Biden has taken that issue totally off the table.”

Is Congress Captured by the Arms Industry? Congress added $45 billion to the Pentagon’s budget for Fiscal Year 2023, much of it for weapons systems the department didn’t even request. This add-on pushed total spending on national defense to $858 billion, one of the highest levels since World War II.Earlier this year the New York Times did a thorough case study of the successful effort by key members of Congress to prevent the Navy from retiring a number of copies of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), a vessel that was so flawed that it couldn’t carry out its basic missions. The effort was spearheaded by corporations that stood to make billions repairing and maintaining the ships, joined by members of Congress with LCS-related work in their areas. It was a case study of a broken budgetary process that puts special interests above the national interest.Join the Quincy Institute for a panel that will address the issue of how pork barrel politics promotes the purchase of dysfunctional weapons systems that don’t align with any rational defense strategy, and what can be done to stop this wasteful and dangerous practice. The conversation will take place on Wednesday, March 15, from 4 to 5 pm ET.

Pentagon’s Next Budget Puts Focus on Munitions Productions as Ukraine War Depletes Stockpiles --The Pentagon’s 2024 budget request places focus on munitions production as shipping tens of billions of dollars worth of military equipment to Ukraine has depleted US ammunition stockpiles.According to The Hill, the budget request includes $30.6 billion that would go to arms makers to produce missiles and other types of munitions, representing a 12% increase from 2023 levels.The budget will also continue what has been dubbed “wartime purchasing powers” for the Pentagon that allows more multi-year contracts for weapons and waives other restrictions. The purchasing powers were first authorized by the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.The Pentagon is planning a drastic increase in munitions manufacturing and hopes to increase artillery ammunition production by 500% over the next two years, an example of how supporting Ukraine in its war is a boon to US defense contractors.The US has provided Ukraine with an enormous number of artillery rounds, including over one million 155mm shells. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has acknowledged that the entire alliance cannot produce shells as fast as Ukraine is using them. President Biden requested $886.4 billion for his 2024 military budget, including $842 billion for the Pentagon. Congress will likely raise the number as it has the previous two years.

US-Ukraine Unity Is Cracking Apart - Over one year since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, there are growing differences between Washington and Kyiv on how to move forward in the conflict, Politico reported Sunday. One issue is over Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city where Russian and Ukrainian forces have been locked in battle for over eight months. Biden administration officials think Ukraine has expended too many resources defending Bakhmut and worry it will impact their ability to launch a counteroffensive this spring, but officials in Kyiv have decided to keep fighting for the city.Another point of contention is over Crimea as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists they will retake the peninsula, which has been under Russian control since 2014 and is populated by people who are happy to be part of the Russian Federation.While some Biden administration officials have vowed support for Ukrainian attacks on Crimea, the Politico report said other US officials believe Zelensky’s insistence that there will be no peace talks until the peninsula is taken will only prolong the war. But publicly, President Biden and other US officials maintain that negotiations will only happen under Kyiv’s terms.Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also acknowledged the risk of escalation that would come with a Ukrainian attempt on Crimea, calling it a "red line" for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Pentagon has said it’s unlikely Kyiv can take the peninsula.The US also appears to be tired of Zelensky’s constant demands for weapons. Two White House officials told Politico that there are "grumblings" in Washington over Zelesnky’s constant requests and lack of gratitude. Despite the massive amount of support provided by the US and its allies, Ukrainian officials have frequently said that it’s "not enough" and are demanding fighter jets and longer-range missiles.

Ukraine's Death by Proxy - By Chris Hedges - There are many ways for a state to project power and weaken adversaries, but proxy wars are one of the most cynical. Proxy wars devour the countries they purport to defend. They entice nations or insurgents to fight for geopolitical goals that are ultimately not in their interest. The war in Ukraine has little to do with Ukrainian freedom and a lot to do with degrading the Russian military and weakening Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. And when Ukraine looks headed for defeat, or the war reaches a stalemate, Ukraine will be sacrificed like many other states, in what one of the founding members of the CIA, Miles Copeland Jr., referred to as the “Game of Nations” and “the amorality of power politics.” I covered proxy wars in my two decades as a foreign correspondent, including in Central America where the U.S. armed the military regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala and Contra insurgents attempting to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. I reported on the insurgency in the Punjab, a proxy war fomented by Pakistan. I covered the Kurds in northern Iraq, backed and then betrayed more than once by Iran and Washington. Belgrade, when I was in the former Yugoslavia, thought by arming Bosnian and Croatian Serbs, it could absorb Bosnia and parts of Croatia into a greater Serbia. Proxy wars are notoriously hard to control, especially when the aspirations of those doing the fighting and those sending the weapons diverge. They also have a bad habit of luring sponsors of proxy wars, as happened to the U.S. in Vietnam and Israel in Lebanon, directly into the conflict. Proxy armies are given weaponry with little accountability, significant amounts of which end up on the black market or in the hands of warlords or terrorists. CBS News reported last year that around 30 percent of the weapons sent to Ukraine make it to the front lines, a report it chose to partially retract under heavy pressure from Kyiv and Washington. The widespread diversion of donated military and medical equipment to the black market in Ukraine was also documented by U.S. journalist Lindsey Snell. Weapons in war zones are lucrative commodities. There were always large quantities for sale in the wars I covered.Warlords, gangsters and thugs — Ukraine has long been considered one of the most corrupt countries in Europe — are transformed by sponsor states into heroic freedom fighters. Support for those fighting these proxy wars is a celebration of our supposed national virtue, especially seductive after two decades of military fiascos in the Middle East. Joe Biden, with dismal poll numbers, intends to run for a second term as a “wartime” president who stands with Ukraine, to which the U.S. has already committed $113 billion in military, economic and humanitarian assistance. Should Russia prevail in Ukraine, should Putin not be removed from power, the U.S. will have not only cemented into place a potent alliance between Russia and China, but ensured an antagonism with Russia that will come back to haunt us. The flood of billions of dollars of weapons into Ukraine, the use of U.S. intelligence to kill Russian generals and sink the battleship Moskva, the blowing up of the Nord Stream pipelines and the more than 2,500 U.S. sanctions targeting Russia, will not be forgotten by Moscow. “In a sense, blowback is simply another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows,” Johnson writes,“Although people usually know what they have sown, our national experience of blowback is seldom imagined in such terms because so much of what the managers of the American empire have sown has been kept secret.”

DeSantis Issues Most Blistering Takedown Yet Of US Role In Ukraine “Territorial Dispute” --At a moment Western officials and even some mainstream media are beginning to express doubt over Ukraine's ability to push Russian forces back, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will likely enter the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has issued his sharpest criticisms yet of America's role in the Ukraine war, calling it fundamentally a "territorial dispute" which the US should stay out of. The statements came as part of his response to a questionnaire issued to possible 2024 presidential candidates by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. The questionnaire asked whether protecting Ukraine should be part of US "vital national interests". DeSantis ripped Biden's policy as a virtual "blank check" which serves to erode US interests and "distracts" from what should be more pressing priorities. He stressed that the United States government "cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland" - which also echoes the scathing critiques of a small cadre of GOP Congressional members like Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. "While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them," DeSantis said. Likely the reference is to the civil war which predates the Feb.24, 2022 Russian invasion by many years: the conflict in Donbas which went back to 2014 and by many estimates took over 14,000 lives on both sides. "The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges," he added. Crucially, he also used the questionnaire as an opportunity to point out that the Biden White House's irresponsible escalation of involvement in supporting Kiev has ultimately pushed Moscow into "a de facto alliance" with China.

Russian jet forces downing of US drone over Black Sea -- A Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Air Force drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, U.S. officials confirmed, bringing down the U.S. aircraft. President Biden was briefed Tuesday morning on the incident, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, calling it “unprofessional” and “unsafe.” “It is not uncommon for there to be intercepts by Russian aircraft of U.S. aircraft over the Black Sea,” Kirby said. “And there have been, even in just recent weeks, there have been other intercepts. But this one obviously is noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional it was … in causing the downing of one of our aircraft.” CNN reported that the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was flying over international waters in the Black Sea flanked by two Russian jets when one of the jets flew in front of the drone and dumped fuel. One of the jets then damaged the propeller of the unmanned drone, forcing it to land in the Black Sea. The incident takes place amid heightened tensions between Russia and the U.S., with the Biden administration imposing sanctions and seeking to isolate Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. has operated over the Black Sea for over a year, Kirby said, predating Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “It’s not uncommon for Russian intercepts of non-Russian aircraft over the Black Sea,” Kirby said. “I want to stress that this MQ-9 was operating in international airspace over international waters and posed a threat to nobody, and it was an unsafe and unprofessional intercept.” The State Department planned to reach out to Russian officials to express its concerns, Kirby said, but it was unclear if it had already done so. The U.S. would not be deterred from flying in international airspace and over international waters, including over the Black Sea, as a result of Tuesday’s incident, Kirby said. The fallout from Tuesday’s incident will be closely watched, given the tensions between Washington and Moscow for the past year over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Moscow to slow its war effort and provided military and economic assistance to Ukraine, as have European allies. Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded by claiming support for Ukraine has amounted to aggression toward Moscow.

Kremlin Blames US For Crashed Drone- 'Flying With Transponders Off Towards Russian Border' -After nearly two hours since the story first broke in international press, the Kremlin has issued its version of events concerning the US drone crash in the Black Sea Tuesday. The Russian Defense Ministry said nothing about the Pentagon's allegations that a Russian Su-27 aircraft dumped fuel on the MQ-9 drone, but instead blamed the pair of Russian jets' erratic maneuvering for the collision. "US drone MQ-9 fell into the Black Sea on Tuesday morning due to its own sharp maneuvering, Russian fighters did not come into contact with it and did not use weapons, the Russian Defense Ministry said," according to Russian media. The statement is as follows [emphasis ours]:"As a result of sharp maneuvering around 09:30 Moscow time [06:30 GMT], unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 went into an uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface. The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle and returned safely to their home airfield" the ministry said. The Russian fighters had been scrambled in response to the drone being picked up on radar: "The ministry clarified that on the morning of March 14, the airspace control of the Russian Aerospace Forces had recorded the flight of US unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 over the Black Sea in the region of the Crimean peninsula in the direction of the Russian state border." However, the ministry further noted that the UAV had been flying with its transponders turned off while headed towards Russia's border. Interestingly, the Kremlin is accusing the Pentagon of ignoring military-to-military protocols related to the war in Ukraine, established in order to avoid inadvertent NATO-Russia clashes:The flight of the drone "was carried out with transponders turned off, violating the boundaries of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace, established for the purpose of conducting a special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international standards," the MoD said. So given the Russian side has confirmed there was no shootdown, both sides can collectively breath a sigh of relief for now, given this was a highly dangerous incident that had the potential to unleash a shooting war as the two superpower rivals continue crisscrossing airspace over the Black Sea, not far from frontline fighting in Ukraine.

Senators from both parties press Austin on sending F-16s to Ukraine - A group of senators from both parties is pressing the Pentagon for more information on what it would take to send F-16 jets to Ukraine. The fresh push came in a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin from eight senators, and obtained by POLITICO, as top administration officials from President Joe Biden on down have poured cold water on bipartisan calls to send U.S.-made fighters into the fight for now. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is “now at a critical juncture,” the senators wrote, arguing F-16 fighters could give Kyiv an edge as Moscow’s full-tilt invasion enters a second year. “After speaking with U.S., Ukrainian, and foreign leaders working to support Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference last month, we believe the U.S. needs to take a hard look at providing F-16 aircraft to Ukraine,” the senators wrote. “This would be a significant capability that could prove to be a game changer on the battlefield.” The letter was organized by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). The senators requested Austin provide them with assessments by the end of the week on a variety of factors needed to successfully transfer F-16s to Ukraine. Among their questions, the lawmakers asked how high Ukrainian officials are ranking fighter jets when making requests for weapons and how the F-16s might be sourced if approved — either newly produced or from current inventories. They also sought the military’s assessment of what impact F-16s would have on the conflict and how quickly Ukrainian pilots could be trained on the jets. The group hailed reports that two Ukrainian pilots came to the U.S. for a fighter skills assessment at Tucson’s Morris Air National Guard Base, in Kelly’s home state, which they called a “critical step in gauging” their readiness to fly F-16s. Also signing onto the letter were Democrats Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Jacky Rosen of Nevada as well as Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Ted Budd of North Carolina.

US Officials Think Ukraine's Ammunition Use Is Unsustainable - Ukraine is firing thousands of artillery shells each day in its battle to defend the Donbas city of Bakhmut, a pace that US and European officials don’t think is sustainable, The New York Times reported Thursday.Two unnamed US officials told the Times that the Pentagon has raised the issue of Ukraine’s ammunition use in Bakhmut after a few days of non-stop firing. Ukraine’s war effort is entirely reliant on support from the US, as the Pentagon has shipped millions of artillery shells to the country.The report is the latest example of Ukraine’s Western backers expressing doubt about Kyiv’s war strategy. The US wants Ukraine to launch a spring counteroffensive, but Western officials think those plans could be jeopardized by the amount of resources Ukraine is using in Bakhmut.The US and Britain are preparing to ship thousands more artillery rounds and rockets to Ukraine to shore up its supplies for a counteroffensive. A senior Pentagon official described these shipments to the Times as a “last ditch effort” because Ukraine’s Western backers don’t have enough to keep up with Ukraine’s pace.The US and its NATO allies were not prepared to support such an intense artillery war. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has acknowledged that Ukraine is using munitions at a much faster rate than the entire 30-member alliance can produce. The Western powers have big plans to ramp up the production of artillery rounds, but it will take months before any significant progress is made. Ukrainian troops fighting in Bakhmut have told the media that they are already fighting with severe ammunition shortages. Ukraine is also losing a lot of people as fresh recruits are being sent into Bakhmut, which has become known as the “meat grinder,” with very little training.

March Against US Proxy War in Ukraine - On March 18 protesters will gather at the White House to call for an end to Joe Biden’s cruel proxy war. "Cruel" is the operative word, because the war cynically uses Ukrainians as cannon fodder to weaken Russia and bring about regime change. We should all be there – or at one of the 5 sister demonstrations in other cities listed here. The March 18 Rally is organized by a variety of progressive organizations, including ANSWER Coalition, Black Alliance for Peace, Code Pink , The People’s Forum and UNAC (United National Antiwar Coalition). (A more complete list may be found here.)Only a month ago on February 19, the first national demonstration to oppose the US proxy against Russia in Ukraine broke the ice and drew thousands to Washington under the banner of Rage Against the War Machine. It was organized by the leftist Peoples Party and the Libertarian Party to organize an anti-interventionist movement across the entire political spectrum. Continuing its effort for the broadest possible antiwar movement, Rage Against the War Machine has also called for joining the March 18 demonstration. Everyone in; nobody out!The broad array of social forces represented by these two rallies is breathtaking. They reflect the growing dissatisfaction with the US proxy war, the fear of its careening out of control into a nuclear Armageddon and a dissatisfaction with squandering well over $100 billion in the cruel killing fields of Ukraine. This growing antiwar sentiment is also showing up in polling. (See below.) Potentially the power of this antiwar movement and the popular sentiment it represents is enormous, holding out the promise of actually stopping this war.The demands of the March 18 rally as listed by ANSWER and CodePink are:

  • Peace in Ukraine – Negotiations not escalation!
  • Abolish NATO – End U.S. militarism & sanctions on Syria, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iran and many other nations
  • Fund people’s needs, not the war machine!
  • No war with China!
  • End US aid to racist apartheid Israel!
  • Fight racism & bigotry at home, not other peoples!
  • US hands off Haiti!
  • End AFRICOM!
  • End the siege on Syria!
  • Free all political prisoners – Mumia Abu-Jamal, Julian Assange, Leonard Peltier, and many others.

The March 18 coalition deserves kudos for including "No War with China", because the intensity of anti-China sentiment is growing, fueled by unrelenting anti-China rhetoric by Biden and both Parties. We see this in the Justice Department’s assault on Chinese and Chinese American scientists known as "The China Initiative," which has had its name removed but proceeds apace sans name. And we see it dramatically in the street assaults on Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans. These results of the anti-China rhetoric coming out of Washington are all signs of war with China on the horizon. And that danger, another conflict with a major nuclear power, deserves mention at every turn. UNAC has a somewhat different wording for the first of these demands; it reads "Peace in Ukraine – No weapons, no money for the Ukraine War." This formulation appeals directly to the concerns of the American public over the war, as shown in the February, 2023, polling by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In January, 2023, a minority, 48%, supported sending weapons to Ukraine, down from 60% in May, 2022. And a smaller minority, 37%, supported sending government funds directly to Ukraine, down from 44% in May, 2022.

China-brokered Iran-Saudi deal raises red flags for US -An agreement struck by Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday to re-establish relations has shifted concerns back to the state of the U.S. role in the Middle East — especially since the deal was brokered by Washington’s main adversary, China. The diplomatic agreement, reached after four days of talks with senior security officials in Beijing, eases tensions between the Middle East powers after seven years of hostilities.Both Iran and Saudi Arabia announced they will resume diplomatic relations and open up embassies once again in their respective nations within two months, according to a joint statement. Alex Vatanka, the director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute, said the Iran-Saudi Arabia deal was an important agreement for the region but questioned whether it would put an end to any violence, including in war-torn Yemen. “It remains to be seen if they can have a meaningful dialogue. Opening up embassies is not the same as having a meaningful dialogue,” Vatanka said. “There will be a steep journey ahead.” Saudi Arabia, a dominant Sunni Muslim country, cut ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters stormed the nation’s embassy in Iran after the execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric along with the execution of other prisoners. Both nations have also been on opposing sides of the deadly civil war in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia supporting Yemen’s government and Iran backing the opposition Houthis. The news on Friday was a diplomatic and political success for Beijing, which also recently published a peace plan to end the war in Ukraine.

US ‘Imperial Anxieties’ Mount Over China-Brokered Iran-Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Deal - --While advocates of peace and a multipolar world order welcomed Friday’s China-brokered agreement reestablishing diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, U.S. press, pundits, and politicians expressed what one observer called “imperial anxieties” over the deal and growing Chinese influence in a region dominated by the United States for decades. The deal struck between the two countries—which are fighting a proxy war in Yemen—to normalize relations after seven years of severance was hailed by Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, as “a victory of dialogue and peace.” The three nations said in a joint statement that the agreement is an “affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in internal affairs.”Iran and Saudi Arabia “also expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the leadership and government of the People’s Republic of China for hosting and sponsoring the talks, and the efforts it placed towards its success,” the statement said. Amy Hawthorne, deputy director for research at the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, toldThe New York Times that “China’s prestigious accomplishment vaults it into a new league diplomatically and outshines anything the U.S. has been able to achieve in the region since [President Joe] Biden came to office.”Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., called the deal a sign of “a battle of narratives for the future of the international order.” CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi called the agreement “the start of a new era, with China front and center.”Meanwhile, Ahmed Aboudouh, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, another D.C. think tank, wrote that “China just left the U.S. with a bloody nose in the Gulf.”At the Carnegie Endowment, yet another think tank located in the nation’s capital, senior fellow Aaron David Miller tweeted that the deal “boosts Beijing and legitimizes Tehran. It’s a middle finger to Biden and a practical calculation of Saudi interests”Some observers compared U.S. and Chinese policies and actions in the Middle East.“The U.S. is supporting one side and suppressing the other, while China is trying to make both parties move closer,” Wu Xinbo, dean of international studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Times. “It is a different diplomatic paradigm.”Murtaza Hussein, a reporter for The Intercept,tweeted that the fact that the agreement “was mediated by China as a trusted outside party shows shortcomings of belligerent U.S. approach to the region.”While cautiously welcoming the agreement, Biden administration officials expressed skepticism that Iran would live up to its end of the bargain.“This is not a regime that typically does honor its word, so we hope that they do,” White House National Security Council Strategic Coordinator John Kirby told reporters on Friday—apparently without any sense of irony over the fact that the United States unilaterally abrogated the Iran nuclear deal during the Trump administration. Kirby added that the Biden administration would “like to see this war in Yemen end,” but he did not acknowledge U.S. support for the Saudi-led intervention in a civil war that’s directly or indirectly killed nearly 400,000 people since 2014, according to United Nations humanitarian officials.

China-finalized deal marks the beginnings of a multipolar Mideast - The Washington Post --Henry Kissinger must have a sense of deja vu as he watches China broker a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The triangular diplomacy is very similar to the former secretary of state’s own opening to China in 1971.“I see it as a substantial change in the strategic situation in the Middle East,” Kissinger told me during an interview this week. “The Saudis are now balancing their security by playing off the U.S. against China.” In a comparable way, Kissinger notes, he and President Richard M. Nixon were able to play off tensions between Beijing and Moscow in their historic engagement with China.The de-escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf is good for everyone — in the short run. And if Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to take on the role of restraining Iran and reassuring Saudi Arabia, good luck to him. The United States has been trying since 1979 to bend the arc of the Iranian revolution toward stability.But over the longer run, Beijing’s emergence as a peacemaker “changes the terms of reference in international diplomacy,” Kissinger argues. The United States is no longer the indispensable power in the region — the only country strong or supple enough to broker peace deals. China has claimed a share of that convening power.“China has in recent years declared that it needs to be a participant in the creation of the world order,” explains Kissinger. “It has now made a significant move in that direction.”China’s growing role also complicates Israel’s decisions. Israeli leaders have viewed a preemptive military strike against Iran as a last resort, as Tehran moves ever closer to becoming a nuclear-weapons state. But as Kissinger notes, “Pressure on Iran will now have to take into account Chinese interests.” Secret Saudi-Iranian talks began two years ago in Baghdad under the sponsorship of then-Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, a U.S. partner. Some sessions were held in Oman, an even closer U.S. ally. In six negotiating sessions, Iranian and Saudi representatives agreed on a road map for resumption of diplomatic relations, which Saudi Arabia suspended in 2016 to protest Iran’s covert support of Houthi rebels in Yemen. Before reaching final agreement to reopen embassies, the Saudis demanded that Iran acknowledge its support for the Houthis and curb their attacks.

China: US, allies on ‘wrong and dangerous path’ with nuclear submarine deal - China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom are on a “wrong and dangerous path” after a deal was struck for Australia to buy nuclear-powered submarines from the U.S. “The latest joint statement issued by the U.S., U.K., and Australia shows that the three countries have gone further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters at a daily briefing. Wang also said the deal showed a “typical Cold War mentality which will only motivate an arms race, damage the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and harm regional stability and peace.” Australia is moving to modernize its submarine fleet amid tensions in the Indo-Pacific, working with the relatively new nuclear partnership AUKUS, or Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the agreement together in San Diego, Calif., and released a joint statement explaining how the move benefits the three powers and works with nuclear nonproliferation standards. “Our plan elevates all three nations’ industrial capacity to produce and sustain interoperable nuclear-powered submarines for decades to come, expands our individual and collective undersea presence in the Indo-Pacific, and contributes to global security and stability,” the leaders wrote. “For more than a century, our three nations have stood shoulder to shoulder, along with other allies and partners, to help sustain peace, stability, and prosperity around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific,” they added. “We believe in a world that protects freedom and respects human rights, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states, and the rules-based international order.” Why Saudi snub of Biden on China-Iran deal may help US relations Veterans Affairs will cover pricey experimental Alzheimer’s drug But Beijing argues AUKUS may be violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a 1970 agreement recognized by 191 nations, including the U.S. and China, to limit nuclear weapons production.

The Drums Of War With China Are Beating Much Louder Now – Caitlin Johnstone - The Chinese government has finally broken from its usual restrained commentary on the way the empire has been aggressively encircling the PRC with war machinery in ways that Washington would never permit itself to be encircled and waging economic warfare that it itself would never tolerate.“Western countries—led by the U.S.—have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression against us, bringing unprecedentedly severe challenges to our country’s development,” President Xi Jinping said in a speech last week.China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang followed up on Xi’s comments the next day with a warning of “conflict and confrontation” should US aggressions and encirclement continue. “If the United States does not hit the brake, but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there surely will be conflict and confrontation,” he said, adding, “Who will bear the catastrophic consequences? Such competition is a reckless gamble with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity.”The US is very plainly the aggressor in this standoff, and China is very clearly reacting defensively to those aggressions.These comments come not long after PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning issued a stern warning to the US to “stop walking on the edge, stop using the salami tactics, stop pushing the envelope, and stop sowing confusion and trying to mislead the world on Taiwan,” calling the Taiwan issue “the first red line that must not be crossed” in US-China relations. As we’ve discussed previously, these increasingly frequent “red line” warnings are very similar to the ones that were being issued with greater and greater urgency by Moscow before US brinkmanship provoked the invasion of Ukraine. The official head of the US intelligence cartel made some comments before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday which appear to have put the final nail in the coffin of the question of Washington’s “strategic ambiguity” on whether the US would go to war with China in defense of Taiwan.Asked by Congressman Chris Stewart about President Biden’s increasingly explicit assertions that the US would go to war with China over Taiwan, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines asserted that, despite the White House’s repeated walk-backs of those claims, it is clear to China that this is in fact Washington’s actual policy on the Taiwan question.“In this particular case, I think it is clear to the Chinese what our position is based on the president’s comments,” Haines said. There’s been a marked spike in rhetoric from US officials about war with China being something that’s inevitably going to happen, or even something that is already underway.At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, Senator John Cornyn expressed concernthat difficulties in replenishing weapons stocks from the proxy war in Ukraine indicate that the US may not yet be “ready” to fight a “shooting war in Asia.”“I think the war in Ukraine has demonstrated the weakness of our industrial base when it comes to replenishing the weapons that we are supplying to the Ukrainians,” said Cornyn. “In World War Two we became the Arsenal of Democracy and saved Britain and Europe, but if we got involved in a shooting war in Asia, we would not be ready.”“I know what war looks like — we’re at war,” Congressman Tony Gonzales said at a House Homeland Security hearing on Thursday. “I mean, this is a war, maybe a Cold War. But this is a war with China,” Gonzales added, citing things like Chinese aircraft intercepting US aircraft on China’s border and China “invading Taiwan via their cyberspace” as evidence that the US is “at war” with the PRC.

Why China Is Unlikely to Invade Taiwan --Is China really on the verge of invading the island of Taiwan, as so many top American officials seem to believe? If the answer is “yes” and the U.S. intervenes on Taiwan’s side — as President Biden has sworn it would — we could find ourselves in a major-power conflict, possibly even a nuclear one, in the not-too-distant future. Even if confined to Asia and fought with conventional weaponry alone — no sure thing — such a conflict would still result in human and economic damage on a far greater scale than observed in Ukraine today. But what if the answer is “no,” which seems at least as likely? Wouldn’t that pave the way for the U.S. to work with its friends and allies, no less than with China itself, to reduce tensions in the region and possibly open a space for the launching of peaceful negotiations between Taiwan and the mainland? If nothing else, it would eliminate the need to boost the Pentagon budget by many billions of dollars annually, as now advocated by China hawks in Congress. How that question is answered has enormous implications for us all. Yet, among policymakers in Washington, it isn’t even up for discussion. Instead, they seem to be competing with each another to identify the year in which the purported Chinese invasion will occur and war will break out between our countries. All high-level predictions of an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan rest on the assumption that Chinese leaders will never allow that island to become fully independent and so will respond to any move in that direction with a full-scale military assault.. In line with that mode of thinking, only one question remains: Exactly when will the Chinese leadership consider the PLA ready to invade Taiwan and overpower any U.S. forces sent to the island’s relief? Until 2021, U.S. military officials tended to place that pivotal moment far in the future, citing the vast distance the PLA needed to go to duplicate the technological advantages of U.S. forces. Pentagon analysts most often forecast 2035 for this achievement, the date set by President Xi Jinping for China to “basically complete the modernization of national defense and the military.” This assessment, however, changed dramatically in late 2021 when the Department of Defense published its annual report on the military power of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). That document highlighted a significant alteration in China’s strategic planning: whereas its leaders once viewed 2035 as the year in which the PLA would become a fully modern fighting force, they now sought to reach that key threshold in 2027, by accelerating the “intelligentization” of their forces (that is, their use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies). If realized, the Pentagon report suggested, that “new milestone for modernization in 2027… would provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.” Still, some Pentagon officials suggested that the PLA was unlikely to achieve full “intelligentization” by then, casting doubt on its ability to overpower the U.S. in a hypothetical battle for Taiwan. That, however, hasn’t stopped Republicans from using the prediction to generate alarm in Congress and seek additional funds for weaponry geared toward a future war with China.

US Intelligence Official Says China Preparing for War It Doesn't Want to Fight - A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) official assesses that China’s growing pessimism over its relationship with the US is making Beijing prepare for a future war it would rather not fight, Voice of America reported Wednesday.“China doesn’t want to start a fight with us over Taiwan,” Doug Wade, the head of the DIA’s China Mission Group, said at a virtual event hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.“They will if they have to … they haven’t ruled it out,” Wade added. China’s official position is that it seeks “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan but doesn’t rule out using force.While China is reluctant to start a war, Washington’s increasing support for Taipei has led to Beijing putting more military pressure on Taiwan. The US’s overall military buildup in the Asia Pacific is also naturally making China think they have to prepare for a future conflict.The US has shown no interest in backing off, and US military officials areopenly discussing their plans for a future war with China. Wade warned that the two powers are entering an “increasingly confrontational period,” which he expects to play out across all domains.“It’ll manifest itself pretty much across the spectrum – every warfighting domain in every sphere of diplomatic, informational, economic, commercial,” Wade said. Chinese officials have been calling for better relations with the US but have also stepped up their warnings about where the two powers are heading. “If the United States does not hit the brake, but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there surely will be conflict and confrontation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told reporters earlier this month.

North Korea Fires Cruise Missiles From Submarine Amid Large US-South Korea Drills -North Korea's to be expected muscle-flexing has begun in response to the US and South Korea going ahead with recently announced joint military exercises, expected to be one of the largest joint drills between the allies in recent history.On Sunday North Korea fired at least one missile from the Sea of Japan. Notably it was from a submarine, which is a rarity given the past year's spate of land-based launches. The Hill notes that "North Korea claimed to have fired two missiles from a submarine in the sea, but South Korean military officials said they only tracked one missile fired from the submarine near the North Korean port city of Sinpo."The sub-fired missile serves as a warning in conjunction with this week's kick-off of 11 days of US-South Korea joint military exercises dubbed 'Freedom Shield'. The drills have been previewed as being the largest in a half-decade. The launch came within less than 24 hours of the start of the US drills. CNN details:North Korea launched two missiles from a submarine in waters off its east coast over the weekend, according to state media, and vowed to take "the toughest counteraction" against the largest joint military drills by the United States and South Korea in years that kick off Monday.Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency said the "strategic cruise missiles" were launched on Sunday morning from a "8.24 Yongung" submarine in the Sea of Japan, also known in Korea as the East Sea. The same vessel was used to test North Korea’s first submarine-launched ballistic missile in 2016, CNN previously reported.North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lately warned of "unprecedented strong responses" to the joint drills if they go ahead, while his sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned that "the frequency of using the Pacific Ocean as our shooting range depends on the nature of the US military’s actions," according to a prior statement posted on the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

US-Philippines Annual Military Drills Will Be the Biggest Ever --The US and the Philippines will conduct their largest-ever annual military exercises together in April amid heightened tensions with China, Reuters reported Tuesday.The annual Balikatan exercises will be held from April 11 to 28, and about 17,600 military personnel will take part, including 12,000 US troops. About 111 Australian soldiers will also take part.“This is officially the largest Balikatan exercise,” said Philippine Col. Michael Logico, a spokesman for the exercises. He said the drills will include “live-fire exercises into the water” for the first time. The previous largest Balikatan exercise took place in 2015 when more than 11,000 troops participated.The planned exercises come after the US signed a deal with the Philippine government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which gives the US access to four more military bases in the Philippines, part of Washington’s military buildup against China. The exercises will be held across the Philippines, including in Palawan, a province on the South China Sea, disputed waters that are the source of tensions between Beijing and Manila.Chinese and Philippine vessels often have stand-offs in the South China Sea, and the US always uses the incidents to remind Bejing that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine boats. This means if the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines ever turns hot, the US would intervene.

Syrian Sanctions Punish Earthquake Victims - On February 6th, 2023, Northern Syria and Southern Turkey was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. For reference, the famous 2010 Haiti earthquake that dominated headlines for weeks was a 7.0 on the Richter Scale. For Syria – a country already war-torn from over a decade of conflict – the tremors brought devastating results. More than 7,000 deaths and 8,700 injuries have been reported thus far, and more than 10,000 buildings were partially or completely destroyed.Relief efforts in the country have been impeded by the presence of sanctions, which the United States and western allies have levied against Syria for over forty years. After originally claiming that the sanctions would have no effect on relief efforts, the Biden Administration quickly announced a 180-day temporary window where the sanctions would not be enforced. As welcome as this news was, local humanitarian groupsmaintained that this limited window was still not enough. Three weeks after the earthquake, on February 27, the U.S. House of Representativesvoted on House Resolution 132, which stated that although the House "mourns the horrific loss of life" and "expresses its deep condolences to the families", none of the sanctions on Syria would be lifted. The bill passed, with 414 voting in favor, and only 2 voting against. I’m sure their condolences were well-received by the Syrian people.Unfortunately, this earthquake and its aftermath is just the latest in a long line of sanction-induced suffering by the Syrian people.In 2011, following the famed "Arab Spring" protests, civil war broke out in Syria between the Bashar Al Assad regime and coalition rebel forces – dubbed the "Syrian Free Army". Despite these rebel forces being dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliated forces, the CIA supported them with weapons and munitions in an effort to overthrow Assad and bring Syria under the US sphere of influence. The result was a bloody civil war that raged on for the better part of a decade and killed more than 300,000 Syrian civilians. In an effort to escape the brutal fighting, Syria became the source of an unprecedented immigration crisis, with an estimated 6.8 million Syrian citizens fleeing the country to nations all over the world. Furthermore, the war decimated the Syrian economy, cutting GDP from 252.2 billion USD in 2010 to just 12.6 billion USD in 2016.With the destruction caused by the February 6th earthquake, the needs of the Syrian people are at an all-time high. What was the United State’s response to this crisis? Well, we feel bad for you, but because your country has the wrong government, nothing is going to change. Sure, they get a 180-day window, but after that the strangling of Syria will continue as scheduled. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I would have thought that even the cold-blooded creatures in Washington D.C. would have some heart in such a desperate situation. Such is the mentality of empire. The mantra of the United States’ foreign policy was and remains geopolitical interests above all else – regardless of the consequences. The result of this myopic focus has been repeated foreign policy failures and humanitarian crises to boot. We can see this pattern at work in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria.

Bush-Era Neocons Should Shut The Fuck Up About Iraq (And Everything Else) – Caitlin Johnstone - David Frum and Max Boot, two neoconservatives who helped grease the wheels for the invasion of Iraq, have some thoughts they’d like to share with us as we approach the 20th anniversary of that horrific and unforgivable war. Both of these perspectives can be read in widely esteemed mainstream publications, because everyone who was responsible for inflicting that war upon our species has enjoyed mainstream influence and esteem to this very day. Both men concede in their own ways that the war was a mistake, while simultaneously cheerleading the US proxy war in Ukraine that has brought humanity closer to nuclear armageddon than it has been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both men mix their Iraq War retrospectives with war apologia, historical revisionism, and outright lies. And both men should shut the fuck up. About everything. Forever.

‘This Land’ is not his song: Woody Guthrie’s family rejects Josh Hawley’s use of lyrics The family of the singer behind the classic tune, “This Land is Your Land” has a message for Sen. Josh Hawley: This song is not your song to “co-opt.” The Missouri Republican referenced the 1940 folk music hit by Woody Guthrie last week when introducing the This Land is Our Land Act, S. 684, which would “ban Chinese corporations and individuals associated with the Chinese Communist Party from owning United States agricultural land.” In a Monday statement to The Kansas City Star, Guthrie’s daughter said the late performer’s family rejected Hawley’s use of the song in legislation. “In this particular case, the co-opting or parodying of the lyric by those not aligned with Woody’s lyrics — i.e. misrepresentation by autocrats, racists, white nationalists, anti-labor, insurrectionists, etc. — is not condoned,” Nora Guthrie said. While saying she accepted “This Land is Your Land” being used for political purposes from time to time, Guthrie explained, “We do not consider Josh Hawley in any way a representative of Woody’s values therefore we would never endorse or approve of his reference to Woody’s lyrics.” Her father’s song, Guthrie said, is “more of a vision of democracy.” “The song simply reiterates the concept, ‘By the people, for the people,’” she said.

U.S. government agencies may have been double billed for projects in Wuhan, China, records indicate; probe launched The U.S. government may have made duplicate payments for projects at labs in Wuhan, China, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to records reviewed by CBS News. "What I've found so far is evidence that points to double billing, potential theft of government funds. It is concerning, especially since it involves dangerous pathogens and risky research," said Diane Cutler, a former federal investigator with over two decades of experience combating white-collar crime and healthcare fraud. Cutler found evidence of possible double payments as she investigated U.S. government grants that supported high risk research in China leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was hired by Republican Sen. Roger Marshall, who took her records to USAID and the internal watchdog at USAID, which launched a new probe, details of which have not been previously reported. Cutler said she has viewed over 50,000 documents, and that the U.S. government may have made duplicate payments for possible medical supplies, equipment, travel and salaries. Sources told CBS News that tens of millions of dollars could be involved. Sources familiar with the grant records did not dispute CBS News' reporting. A spokesperson for USAID declined to comment. A USAID inspector general spokesperson declined to comment "on the existence of a specific open investigation." The press office for NIH did not respond to CBS News' questions. Sources told CBS News the investigation of possible double-billing could take at least six months to conclude. Marshall is now calling for a 9/11-style commission. "I think there's 1.1 million reasons that American taxpayers should care," he said. "You'll have a plane crashes. We want to find out why the plane crashes. We go to any lengths to do that. And the hope is we don't have another plane crash for the same reason." While intelligence agencies have not been able to reach a consensus on the origin of the pandemic, the FBI and Energy Department have found an accidental lab leak is plausible. The Wuhan Institute of Virology conducted viral research in the city where the SARS-CoV-2 virus first emerged. During a recent congressional hearing regarding the origins of COVID-19, the House voted unanimously on a bill ordering the declassification of intelligence about the origins. Robert Redfield, the former director of the CDC, testified that money from the NIH, the State Department, USAID and the Defense Department provided funding for high-risk virus research in Wuhan.

New Wuhan Scandal- US Agencies Double-Paid Virus Research Costs - The US government may have made tens of millions of dollars in duplicate payments for virus research at the Wuhan Institute for Virology, according to a review of government records by a former federal investigator, CBS News reports. "What I've found so far is evidence that points to double billing, potential theft of government funds. It is concerning, especially since it involves dangerous pathogens and risky research," said Diane Cutler, whose services were engaged by Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall. Cutler has more than 20 years of experience investigating healthcare fraud and white-collar crime, an her conclusions spring from her review of over 50,000 documents relating to US grants that financed coronavirus research in China. The apparent double-payments, made via the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and US Agency for International Development (USAID), related to a variety of claimed costs, including salaries, travel, medical supplies and equipment. Anonymous sources told CBS the damage may amount to tens of millions of dollars. Marshall has turned over Cutler's findings to USAID and the agency's internal watchdog, which has launched an investigation of its own. It could take six months or more. On Feb. 28, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau had long ago concluded the Covid-19 pandemic was most likely the result of a leak from a Chinese lab. Days earlier, it was reported that the Department of Energy had -- in 2020 -- reached its own determination that a lab leak was most likely.

Rep. Mike Turner doubles down on COVID lab leak theory despite uncertainty - ABC News -House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, on Sunday said he thinks there is "significant evidence" COVID originated in a lab. A new assessment from the Department of Energy concluded with "low confidence" that the virus that led to the COVID-19 pandemic originated in a Wuhan, China, lab despite previous suggestions it was more likely transmitted from an animal. "I think there's significant evidence that lends itself to that. And I still do," Turner told ABC's "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "That's why you just saw unanimously -- both the Senate and the House -- pass legislation demanding that the administration declassify the intelligence the Intelligence Committee has with respect to COVID-19." MORE: What the 'lab leak' theory report about COVID's origins does and doesn't mean Turner also alleged that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was working to fund the Wuhan lab and had reason to contradict the theory. Fauci frequently appeared alongside Donald Trump in the former president's daily COVID-19 briefings at the White House. He also served as Biden's chief medical adviser. Turner said he was frustrated to see Fauci's television appearances, accusing him of giving guidance that contradicted intelligence the chair saw firsthand./p>

Video: Hear Dr. Fauci's response to Covid lab leak theory | CNN -Dr. Anthony Fauci joins CNN's Jim Acosta to discuss the minority view that the Covid-19 virus occurred as a result of work in a Chinese lab known as the "lab leak theory."

Fauci lashes out at Elon Musk over COVID claims: ‘Prosecute me for what?’ --Dr. Anthony Fauci lashed out at Twitter CEO Elon Musk after the billionaire suggested Fauci should be "prosecuted" as critics blasted his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauci responded to a December tweet from Elon Musk during a Saturday appearance on CNN, telling host Jim Acosta that calls for his prosecution were "insanity." Acosta displayed the tweet, which read, "My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci," and asked what Fauci's response was. "There's no response to that craziness, Jim. Prosecute me for what? What are they talking about? I wish I could figure out what the heck they're talking about. I think they're just going off the deep end," Fauci said. Fauci went on to say the widespread criticism of him was resulting in death threats against him and his family. "I mean, [my family doesn't] like to have me getting death threats all the time. Every time someone gets up and spouts some nonsense that's misinformation, disinformation and outright lies, somebody somewhere decides they want to do harm to me and or my family," Fauci stated. "That's the part of it that is really unfortunate," he continued. "The rest of it is just insanity, the things they're saying. But it does have a negative effect when people take it seriously and take it out on you and your family."

Biden administration threatens to ban TikTok if Chinese parent company doesn’t sell stakes - The Biden administration has demanded the Chinese owners of TikTok sell their stakes in the social media app or risk a possible ban in the U.S., the company told The Hill on Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the U.S. Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) made the push. TikTok confirmed it had heard from CFIUS and said it did not dispute the reporting. The CFIUS demand comes amid security concerns about the video-sharing app, which is owned by China-based parent company ByteDance — specifically, that the Chinese government could gain access to American user data. Congress has been increasingly scrutinizing TikTok and talking about a potential ban — and Republicans have knocked the Biden administration for not taking action on the perceived threat. TikTok on Wednesday didn’t divulge further details about the new demand from CFIUS, but countered that a sale wouldn’t solve the perceived security problems. “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan told The Hill in a statement. “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing,” the spokesperson said. TikTok and CFIUS have been negotiating for more than two years on a way to let the app keep operating in the U.S. The social media platform boasts more than 100 million U.S. users, according to Reuters. TikTok said that for now it’s still going ahead with “Project Texas,” a plan to route user traffic through the Texas-based company Oracle’s cloud servers in an effort to address some security concerns. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to appear later this month before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as lawmakers examine the app’s consumer data privacy and security practices.

TikTok tit-for-tat: US may finally reciprocate China’s internet protectionism -China has for decades banned leading American internet firms from its market on national security grounds, but America has never reciprocated. News that the Biden administration may force a TikTok divestiture could mark the beginning of a new approach imposing de facto reciprocity.To be sure, the legal issues in the TikTok case have nothing to do with reciprocity, and the case will not be decided on that basis. The case is pending before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). TikTok is legally vulnerable to divestiture because the company did not notify the U.S. government of the 2017 acquisition of a U.S. company. The specific national security concern at issue is potential Chinese government misuse of sensitive TikTok user data. The background of the TikTok case may be unique, but enhanced national security restrictions on TikTok and perhaps other Chinese internet firms would nonetheless have reciprocal impact. New legislation that Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 7 would broaden the scope and impact of national security reviews to include not just TikTok but apps and other IT products from China and other foreign adversary nations. The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act purports to comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries. The bill, which has the support of the Biden administration and 17 Senate co-sponsors, authorizes the Commerce Department to “identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit and mitigate” technologies from China and other adversary nations to defend national security. The Commerce Department would have discretion to evaluate “undue or unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the safety of United States persons.” Commerce’sreluctance thus far to regulate “emerging and foundational technologies” suggests that the department will not abuse that authority, but it may not apply technology restrictions as aggressively as some in Congress advocate.Nevertheless, the bill could be strengthened by explicitly adding national security reciprocity as one of the factors Commerce should consider. The legislation should state that the definition of “national security” includes the same national security restrictions that adversary governments impose on American IT firms. The current draft bill could be interpreted expansively to incorporate this approach, but including language suggested above would explicitly prevent the foreign practice of banning U.S. firms and then exporting services or products substantially similar to those banned at home.

Justice Dept. Investigating TikTok’s Owner Over Possible Spying on Journalists - — The Justice Department is investigating the surveillance of American citizens, including several journalists who cover the tech industry, by the Chinese company that owns TikTok, according to three people familiar with the matter.The investigation, which began late last year, appears to be tied to the admission in December by the company, ByteDance, that its employees had inappropriately obtained the data of American TikTok users, including that of two reporters and a few of their associates.The department’s criminal division, the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia are investigating ByteDance, which is based in Beijing and has close ties with China’s government, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.A Justice Department spokesman had no comment.Confirmation of the investigation comes as the White House hardens its stance toward forcing the company to address national security concerns about TikTok. They include fears that China might be using the popular video service to gather data about or spy on Americans, undermine democratic institutions and foster internet addictions among young people.TikTok disclosed this week that the Biden administration had asked its owner to sell the app — which is already being blocked from government phones in the U.S., Europe and more than two dozen states — or face a possible nationwide ban.The federal criminal inquiry was reported earlier by Forbes magazine. The journalist who wrote the story said she was one of the people whose data had been tracked by the company.The ByteDance employees implicated in the surveillance, who were later fired, were trying to find the sources of suspected leaks of internal conversations and business documents to journalists. They gained access to the IP addresses and other data of the reporters and people they were connected to via their TikTok accounts.Two of the employees were based in China. The company said it was making changes to prevent such breaches in the future.

Congress braces for flare-up over Biden's solar panel move --Senate Democrats are preparing to rehash a fight over solar panel tariffs they thought they had won last summer, when President Biden used his executive power to suspend tariffs on solar parts from Southeast Asia. Last summer's showdown between solar panel importers and domestic producers pitted Democrats against each other and nearly froze solar panel projects across the country.A bipartisan push in the House to use the Congressional Review Act to undo Biden's solar decision is threatening to reopen the wound. A veto-proof CRA vote in both chambers would overrule Biden's decision and potentially prevent the president from achieving some of the climate goals he envisioned in his Inflation Reduction Act. : Republicans have successfully used the Congressional Review Act to drive a wedge among Democrats and notch symbolic wins on so-called ESG investing and crime.During last Tuesday's closed-door caucus meeting, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) implored her colleagues to oppose a Senate CRA resolution, which has eight Republican co-sponsors.She followed up with a memo to Senate Democratic offices, warning that the "misguided resolution could have a devastating impact on American solar jobs and hamper efforts to transition to renewable energy under the Inflation Reduction Act." "Biden’s two-year pause was a prudent compromise to allow a transition period to ramp up U.S. manufacturing," the memo argued. “We believe most lawmakers want to protect American jobs, reduce air pollution and fuel the U.S. economy,” said Abby Hopper, president and CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association. "Passing the CRA will severely limit opportunities for those positive outcomes." Companies are facing the possibility of some $1 billion in retroactive fines if Biden's order is nullified, SEIA has estimated.

Treasury Department guidance urgently needed to tap IRA’s clean energy ‘gold mine,’ analysts say -- Federal clean energy supports in the August 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, could transform the U.S. economy, analysts widely agree.By December, announcements for “over $40 billion” in new capital were committed to over 13 GW of new clean energy, and 20 manufacturing facilities representing over 6,850 new jobs, the American Clean Power Association, or ACP, reported in December.But by March 1, nearly 4,000 comments submitted to the U.S. Treasury Department by clean energy advocates and analysts had requested clarification on how investors can be certain of qualifying for the IRA’s new and extended tax credits, grants, and programs.Many of the IRA’s boldest programs are “far from prescriptive,” and federal agencies, other regulators and utilities “will ultimately shape” them, Regulatory Affairs and Market Development Manager Erica Larson and Senior Director, Energy Business Development Justin Rodgers, both with global business consulting firm ICF, wrote in October.A major hurdle remains. “The big job in front of us is implementing the laws we passed,” President Biden told House Democrats March 1. That will require Treasury Department rulings, expected in the first half of 2023, on IRA terms like prevailing wages, qualifying apprenticeships, energy communities, domestic content, and direct pay of tax credits, people preparing to do the implementation said.But the IRA’s potential to drive game-changing energy sector transformation remains clear.With the IRA added to 2022’s record-breaking generation from clean energy sources, the clean energy sector will be “hard-wired into the U.S. economy,” Amy Farrell, senior vice president of government and public affairs for clean energy advocate CRES Forum, said March 6.The expanded tax credits and funding for rebates and research in the IRA, valued at $369 billion, represent “the boldest action Congress has taken on climate,” the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, or EESI, reported in August 2022.The IRA could improve projected U.S. emissions reductions through 2030 by 10% and increase clean energy’s estimated 40% share of U.S. electric generation in 2021 to as high as 81% in 2030, a 2022 Rhodium Group study found. Overall “household energy costs will decrease by between $717 and $1,146 in 2030, relative to 2021 levels” as a result of greater use of lower cost renewables, Rhodium added.

House Republicans unveil energy, permitting package - House Republicans on Tuesday officially unveiled the text of their planned energy and permitting package set to hit the House floor by the end of this month.Dubbed the “Lower Energy Costs Act,” the legislation combines bills advanced by the Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources and Transportation and Infrastructure committees over the past few weeks that focus largely on long-held Republican priorities. House leaders assigned the bill H.R. 1 to signify the legislation’s importance to the new GOP majority.“Every time we need a pipeline, road or dam, an average of almost 5 years and millions of dollars in costs get added to the project to comply with Washington’s permitting process. That’s too long,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a video. “We can streamline permitting and still protect the environment. That’s a goal worthy of the number one.”The package is set to reach the House Rules Committee the week of March 27 before making it to the floor. Leaders are hoping for passage before the end of the month under a limited amendment process.The three committees have been racing to assemble the package by holding hearings, subcommittee markups and then full committee markups over the past month — a breakneck pace for lawmakers, although much of the package echoes provisions offered by Republicans last year in response to high energy prices.Provisions from the Energy and Commerce Committee would promote natural gas exports, ease some permitting related to critical minerals and repeal the Democrats’ methane fee (E&E Daily, March 10).From Transportation and Infrastructure, the package would limit the ability of states to block projects by using Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (E&E Daily, March 1).Natural Resources Committee member Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) helped write the “BUILDER Act” to codify Trump-era rules to speed up environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (E&E Daily, March 10).“From the gas station to the grocery store, President Biden’s war on energy is making life unaffordable for the hardworking people of this country and forcing us to be dangerously reliant on supply chains controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said in a statement. “We must reverse course.”

Schumer slams House GOP's energy permitting bid - Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday dismissed House Republicans’ energy package, calling it “as bad and partisan as it gets” and a “nonstarter” as the basis for negotiations to ease permitting for clean energy and fossil fuel projects. House Republicans on Tuesday formally introduced their sprawling energy bill, H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, in what will be their first big policy agenda push of the year.“H.R.1 will lock America into expensive and volatile dirty sources of energy and will set America back a decade or more in our transition towards clean, affordable energy,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor. “The package is a wish list for Big Oil, gutting important environmental safeguards on fossil fuel projects.” The bill combines measures to streamline permitting reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act for energy projects and mines, which Republicans hope will form a basis to negotiate with Senate Democrats, with longtime partisan priorities like prohibiting a ban on fracking, mandating oil and gas lease sales and disapproving of President Joe Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. But these provisions are unlikely to gain traction in the upper chamber given Democratic opposition. The bill, which is expected to receive a vote on the floor the last week of March, would also repeal major programs in the Inflation Reduction Act such as the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the methane tax. Schumer criticized the GOP’s opening bid on easing the permitting review process, saying it includes “none of the important permitting reforms that would help bring transmission and clean energy online faster.” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) introduced a permitting proposal last Congress — backed by Schumer and the White House — that was rejected by most Republicans and failed to pass that would have set targets on the length of environmental reviews under NEPA. It also would have granted more authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to site transmission lines needed to connect wind and solar generation to far away demand centers. Despite that failure, House Republicans have insisted they’re serious about negotiating with Democrats on a permitting bill.

Mexican President Threatens Republicans Calling For US Military To Target Drug Cartels - Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has threatened to start a public “information campaign” in the United States against Republican lawmakers after several have called on the U.S. military to target drug cartels south of the border.“I would just like to tell them either they change their treatment of Mexico or from today we will start an information campaign in the United States so that all Mexicans, our fellow countrymen, know about this aggression by Republicans against Mexico,” López Obrador said Thursday during a news conference.In the wake of the kidnapping of four Americans and the killing of two of them in the border city of Matamoros, Mexico several Republicans in Congress have demanded the United States step up its fight against Mexican drug cartels, even if that means crossing the border to do it.“The kidnapping and murder of American citizens in Matamoros prove that Mexico is a narco-state,” Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) told The Epoch Times. “President Biden must make it clear that this horrible violence will not go unpunished. If Mexico can’t stop the cartels, then our nation must use any tool in our arsenal to solve it for them.”Pfluger’s call to action is also shared by Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), who introduced legislation in January that would create the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to target Mexican drug cartels in Mexico.“The cartels are [at] war with us—poisoning more than 80,000 Americans with fentanyl every year, creating a crisis at our border, and turning Mexico into a failed narco-state,” Crenshaw said. “It’s time we directly target them. My legislation will put us at war with the cartels by authorizing the use of military force against the cartels. We cannot allow heavily armed and deadly cartels to destabilize Mexico and import people and drugs into the United States. We must start treating them like ISIS—because that is who they are.”During his news conference, López Obrador specifically called out Crenshaw who posted a video message in Spanish on Wednesday to the Mexican president, asking why López Obrador rejected his proposal for the U.S. military to take action against drug cartels in Mexico.“Yesterday was the last straw. According to the report presented [to] me this morning, this man, [Crenshaw] dares to say that they are going to use the armed forces of the United States to enter our territory as in an invasion,” said López Obrador.“We are not going to permit any foreign government to intervene in our territory much less that [foreign] governments armed forces intervene,” he said. “We could go to the U.N. “

Spring break: What to know about Mexico’s ‘do not travel’ warnings – March is here, which means many Americans are planning spring break trips. Ahead of the busy travel season, the U.S. Department of State is warning about visiting certain vacation hotspots, especially in Mexico.Last month, the State Department issued a Level 4 “do not travel” warning for many parts of Mexico. As of March 9, many of those warnings remain in place. That includes the Guerrero state due to crime, and five states due to crime and kidnapping: Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas (where two Americans were killed earlier this month), and Zacatecas.The State Department advises tourists to “reconsider travel,” a Level 3 warning, to seven more states: Baja California, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos and Sonora. If you are traveling to popular tourist spots like Cancun or the Riviera Maya (listed as top destinations for 2023 by AAA), the government urges you to “exercise increased caution.”If you are planning to travel to Mexico or anywhere else for spring break, it’s important to do your research, Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of Travel for AAA tells Nexstar.“The travel region may not be anywhere near the area considered [level] three or four,” Twidale explains, noting that a travel agent can help you navigate your trip planning and what you need to know. She also recommends registering for the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, which allows you to receive notifications from the nearest U.S. Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. It also allows the Embassy to contact you regarding an emergency in the country and to help friends and family reach you if necessary.

Eight dead after two migrant boats capsize near San Diego - - At least eight people have died after two fishing boats capsized off the coast of San Diego, California, in an apparent migrant smuggling operation, emergency officials said on Sunday. San Diego emergency crews began a search and recovery operation late Saturday night, after receiving a 911 call from a Spanish-speaker about fishing boats in distress off the coast of San Diego's Black's Beach. Crews arrived to find two fishing boats capsized in a 400-foot (366 m) area, and eight bodies were recovered from the water and the beach, San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division Chief James Gartland said. "This is one of the worst smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego," Gartland said. Officials did not know the nationalities of the victims but told reporters that they were all adults. Hazardous weather conditions likely contributed to the danger of the maritime smuggling operation, and also hindered rescue efforts overnight, officials said. The U.S. Coast Guard and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard division were still involved in the recovery operation late Sunday morning.

Hundreds of migrants try to force their way into US at Mexico border (Reuters) - U.S. officials stopped hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants entering the country from Mexico on Sunday after a large group broke through Mexican lines to demand asylum in the U.S., only to be thwarted by barbed wire, barriers and shields. Frustrated with problems securing appointments to seek asylum using a new U.S. government app, the migrants gathered at the frontier in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, but could not breach the crossing connecting the two countries. Many of the migrants had small children with them. At one point, some migrants attempted to hurl an orange, plastic barrier at the U.S. line, Reuters images show. Some people said pepper spray was deployed to repel them. "Please, we just want to get in so we can help our families," said Camila Paz, an 18-year-old Venezuelan, sobbing heavily. "So I can have a future and help my family." Neither U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) nor the Mexican government's national migration authority immediately replied to requests for comment. After some pushing and shoving with the officials, the crowd of migrants eventually withdrew, with some heading down to the banks of the Rio Grande where they were monitored by U.S. immigration officials arrayed on the other side. Many migrants have become fed up with the asylum process since the Biden administration made an app called CBP One available to them that was meant to streamline applications. They say the app is beset by persistent glitches and high demand, leaving them in limbo in perilous border regions. Describing her situation as "horrible, horrible," Paz said she had been trying to cross the border for a month, watching her money disappear and getting no nearer to claiming asylum. "We want answers please," she said, "the (CBP One) application has done absolutely nothing for us."

Republicans launch opening salvo against food aid - House Republicans are taking their first shot at slashing federal spending on nutrition programs for low-income Americans. It won’t be their last. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), is introducing a bill Tuesday, shared exclusively with POLITICO, to expand current restrictions on who qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. It’s the first of what is expected to be a wave of GOP efforts this year to set limits on SNAP, the country’s largest food assistance program, which grew significantly during the pandemic. But while Republicans have telegraphed their desire to curb nutrition spending, House Democrats have yet to mount a coordinated response, raising concerns in the caucus about whether they can fend off likely GOP attacks on the program during the negotiations over the debt limit, budget and 2023 farm bill. Johnson’s bill would expand the age bracket for able-bodied SNAP recipients without dependents, who have to meet complicated work requirements. The legislation would also limit the federal government’s ability to waive those work requirements for states he says are abusing loopholes in the system. Supporters say enhancing work requirements as outlined in Johnson’s proposal is key to reducing cycles of perpetual poverty, and it will also save taxpayers money. “We know that work is the only path out of poverty,” said Johnson, a member of the House Agriculture Committee whose family received SNAP benefits when he was a child growing up in Pierre, South Dakota. Johnson hopes his proposal will be folded into the upcoming farm bill, which lawmakers will draft later this year, but it will face stiff resistance in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Other GOP lawmakers are now pressing for similar work requirements to be part of any deal on the debt limit between the White House and the House GOP. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) reintroduced a bill in January that would raise the age for food assistance work requirements by a decade to 59. Democrats, however, note the majority of people who receive SNAP benefits are already working and, at the moment, are grappling with surging food prices, a challenge exacerbated by the end of a pandemic-era increase in aid.

Senate GOP to target Biden student loan forgiveness -Republican senators announced on Friday they will be introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution in another attempt to foil President Biden’s student debt relief program, which is already facing potential termination at the Supreme Court. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to examine new regulations made by government agencies and overturn them with a majority vote. The effort to use the CRA to stop Biden’s plan is led by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.). “It’s a shame for working families across the country that Republican lawmakers continue to fight tooth and nail to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents impacted by the pandemic. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and [Education] Secretary [Miguel] Cardona recognize how essential this relief is for tens of millions of working families, and they will continue fighting to deliver much-needed support to borrowers trying to get back on their feet after the economic crisis caused by the pandemic,” a White House spokesperson said in response to their resolution. The senators introduced the resolution following a report from the Government Accountability Office that declared Biden’s student loan relief and payment pause are rules subject to the CRA. In response to the GAO’s decision, the White House said the student debt relief plan “is based on the Department of Education’s decades-old authority granted by Congress and is a result of the same procedures used by multiple administrations over the last two decades to protect borrowers from the effects of national emergencies.” “This longtime statutory authority has never been subject to the Congressional Review Act. GAO’s decision is at odds with clear longstanding practice, and the Department remains fully confident that its debt relief plan complies with the law,” the spokesperson added. If a Senate majority supported the resolution, Biden’s student loan forgiveness would be overturned and a federal agency would not be able to propose another plan similar to it unless it was put into law.

Republicans push wave of bills that would bring homicide charges for abortion - For decades, the mainstream anti-abortion movement promised that it did not believe women who have abortions should be criminally charged. But now, Republican lawmakers in several US states have introduced legislation proposing homicide and other criminal charges for those seeking abortion care.The bills have been introduced in states such as Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Some explicitly target medication abortion and self-managed abortion; some look to remove provisions in the law which previously protected pregnant people from criminalization; and others look to establish the fetus as a person from the point of conception.It is highly unlikely that all of these bills will pass. But their proliferation marks a distinct departure from the language of existing bans and abortion restrictions, which typically exempt people seeking abortion care from criminalization.“This exposes a fundamental lie of the anti-abortion movement, that they oppose the criminalization of the pregnant person,” said Dana Sussman, the acting executive director of Pregnancy Justice. “They are no longer hiding behind that rhetoric.” Some members of the anti-abortion movement have made it clear the bills do not align with their views, continuing to insist that abortion providers, rather than pregnant people themselves, should be targeted by criminal abortion laws. “[We] oppose penalties for mothers, who are a second victim of a predatory abortion industry,” said Kristi Hamrick, the chief media and policy strategist for Students for Life of America. “We want to see a billion-dollar industry set up to profit by preying on women and the preborn held accountable. The pro-life movement as a whole has been very clear on this.”A spokesperson for Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America echoed the same sentiment: that the organization unequivocally rejects prosecution of the pregnant person.The bills are likely to be controversial as they proceed, even within conservative circles: Republicans have frequently hit walls when trying to pass anti-abortion legislation, with lawmakers at odds over exactly how far bans should go.The reproductive justice organization If/When/How points out these bills are an indication of the different wings and splinter groups in the anti-abortion movement, increasingly evident since the Dobbs decision last year that overturned Roe v Wade.“What we’re seeing, post-Dobbs, is a splintering in tactics that abortion opponents are using, and emboldening on the part of more hardline” factions within the movement, said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director at If/When/How. The bills being introduced in Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky and South Carolina look to establish that life begins at conception. Each of these bills explicitly references homicide charges for abortion. Homicide is punishable by the death penalty in all of those states.

House GOP panel launches probe into Air Force’s ‘unauthorized’ record disclosures - The House Judiciary Committee is launching an investigation into the various unauthorized record disclosures the Air Force acknowledged it made last year, including known cases of the military branch releasing personnel records of GOP candidates to a Democratic-aligned group.A GOP-led Judiciary subpanel investigating the politicization of the federal government announced Thursday it had launched a probe after the Air Force acknowledged that an internal investigation had concluded 11 individuals were affected by improper disclosures.In a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) sought additional information on the matter, including all records and communications related to the improper disclosures.“In late February 2023, media reports highlighted how the OSAF improperly disclosed Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) of 11 servicemembers without appropriate authorization or lawful consent. The [Office of the Secretary of the Air Force] reportedly released the personnel files of at least two Members of Congress to an opposition research firm that received money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC),” they wrote.“While the Air Force has rightfully taken responsibility for these inappropriate OMPF disclosures, questions remain unanswered about the U.S. Air Force’s collection, maintenance, and dissemination of this sensitive information,” their letter to Kendall continued.Other panels, including the House Armed Services and Oversight committees, have sought details from the Pentagon on the disclosures. POLITICO first reported that the Air Force had notified at least two sitting House Republicans — Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Zach Nunn (R-Iowa) — that it had improperly released their personnel military records to a third party.In the case of Bacon, a letter last month from the Air Force identified Abraham Payton of the Due Diligence Group, a research firm with Democratic ties, as “inappropriately” requesting and successfully obtaining these records.Payton, according to the letter, said he was seeking the records for employment and benefit purposes, but the Air Force acknowledged such records were released without their authorization, which is protected under the Privacy Act of 1974. The letter noted that Payton was already in possession of the Nebraska Republican’s social security number when filling out the information request form.

Top ‘weaponization’ subcommittee Democrat: Jim Jordan ‘not an honest broker’ - The top Democrat on the newly created House subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the federal government accused Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) of not acting as “an honest broker” in his position as chairman. Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) criticized Jordan’s management of the subcommittee in an interview with The Washington Post’s The Early 202 newsletter published on Friday. “I always saw [Jordan] as an aggressive, very bullish member of Congress, and I don’t have any problems with that,” Plaskett said. “That is his personal style. That’s who he is. I’ve always felt that as a lawyer trained in a courtroom, I can have an argument with you and still be respectful.” “But the manner in which Jim Jordan has conducted himself in the hearings thus far is a cavalier manner in which he dismisses other members of Congress’s arguments,” she continued. “I do not agree with members mocking loudly each other, laughing at each other, making degrading comments during the hearing.” Plaskett also pointed to Jordan’s approach to the witnesses that Republicans have described as whistleblowers. “Because he has also done things such as presenting information about what he calls whistleblowers — who do not fit the term of whistleblowers — to reporters lets me know that he’s not an honest broker,” she added. “I’m going to always have to be prepared for the worst, unfortunately.” House Judiciary Democrats claimed in a report earlier this month that the three witnesses that Republicans have identified as whistleblowers did not “present actual evidence of any wrongdoing” by the FBI. The group acknowledged the unusual nature of their report, noting that it was not a step they would take “in the ordinary course of business.” Plaskett also accused Jordan of declining to engage with her on particular issues where she thought they might be able to find some common ground, such as reports of an FBI special agent who colluded with Russia or of the IRS disproportionately auditing working-class people.

McCarthy Says He Will "Slowly Roll Out" Jan. 6 Footage To News Outlets - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he will “slowly roll out” the security footage recorded during the Jan. 6 Capitol breach to news outlets.“We will slowly roll out to every individual news agency, they can come see the tapes as well,” McCarthy told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”“Let everyone see them to bring their own judgment,” he added. “The first thing I found is that the January 6 committee was not honest with us. That it’s not 14,000 hours of tapes, there’s 41,000 hours of tapes.”McCarthy has provided Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of surveillance footage from Jan. 6. The host then aired some of the clips on March 6.“Taken as a whole, the video record does not support the claim that January 6 was an insurrection,” Carlson said during his program. “In fact, it demolishes that claim.”Footage shown by Carlson raised questions about “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley’s time in the Capitol and U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick’s death.McCarthy’s decision to share the footage with Carlson has been criticized by Democrats, including President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).When asked if he had any regret over sharing the footage with Carlson, McCarthy stood by his decision.“I didn’t give the tapes. I allowed him to come see them, just like an exclusive with anybody else,” McCarthy said. “My goal here is transparency.”The top House Republican added that it was important to have “equal justice,” pointing to protests after the death of George Floyd in 2020. “What really raises the point with me is, why did I watch federal courts, why did I watch cities burn, federal agencies or something, and nobody arrested there? I think we should have equal justice across this country.

What Tucker Carlson Said About Trump Privately - Tucker Carlson is the most-watched cable news host in the country. He is a primary source of pro-Trump political punditry and has advanced the false notion that the Jan. 6, 2021, attempt to violently overtake the Capitol was a peaceful protest.But Carlson’s on-air rhetoric was in dramatic opposition to private sentiments he shared with colleagues, in which he professed to “passionately” hate Trump and yearn for the end of his presidency. Those private communications, which were released as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, show how Carlson struggled to publicly support the president’s false voter-fraud theories that he privately scoffed at. Fox has said that Dominion used “cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context, and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.” The cable news juggernaut has accused the voting technology company of trying “to silence the press” through its lawsuit. Carlson has not responded to inquiries about his internal communications. But the vast distance between what he said privately and what he said on-air deepens questions about what Fox’s biggest star really believes.

Lynching the Deplorables - By Chris Hedges --There is little that unites me with those who occupied the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Their vision for America, Christian nationalism, white supremacy, blind support for Trump and embrace of reactionary fact-free conspiracy theories leaves a very wide chasm between their beliefs and mine. But that does not mean I support the judicial lynching against many of those who participated in the Jan. 6 events, a lynching that is mandating years in pretrial detention and prison for misdemeanors. Once rights become privileges, none of us are safe. The U.S. legal system has a very sordid history. It was used to enforce segregation and legitimize the reign of terror against Black people. It was the hammer that broke the back of militant union movements. It persecuted radicals and reformers in the name of anti-communism. After 9/11, it relentlessly went after Muslim leaders and activists with Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). SAMs, established by the Clinton administration, originally only applied to people who ordered murders from prison or were convicted of mass murder, but are now used to isolate all manner of detainees before and during trial. They severely restrict a prisoner’s communication with the outside world; prohibiting calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. The solitary confinement like conditions associated with SAMs undermine any meaningful right to a fair trial according to analysis by groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights and can amount to torture according to the United Nations. Julian Assange faces SAMs or similar conditions should he be extradited to the U.S. The Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, also allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from defendants. The courts, throughout American history, have abjectly served the interests of big business and the billionaire class. The current Supreme Court is one of the most retrograde in decades, rolling back legal protections for vulnerable groups and denying workers protection from predatory corporate abuse.At least 1,003 people have been arrested and charged so far for participation in events on Jan. 6, with 476 pleading guilty, in what has been the largest single criminal investigation in U.S. history, according to analysis by Business Insider. The charges and sentences vary, with many receiving misdemeanor sentences such as fines, probation, a few months in prison or a combination of the three. Of the 394 federal defendants who have had their cases adjudicated and sentenced as of Feb. 6, approximately 220 “have been sentenced to periods of incarceration” with a further 100 defendants “sentenced to a period of home detention, including approximately 15 who also were sentenced to a period of incarceration,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. There are six convictions and four guilty pleas on charges of “seditious conspiracy.” This offense is so widely defined that it includes conspiring to levy war against the government on the one hand and delaying the execution of any law on the other. Those charged and convicted of “seditious conspiracy” were accused of collaborating to oppose “the lawful transfer of presidential power by force” by preventing or delaying the Certification of the Electoral College vote. While a few of the organizers of the Jan. 6 protest such as Stewart Rhodes, who founded Oath Keepers, may conceivably be guilty of sedition, and even this is in doubt, the vast majority of those caught up in the incursion of the Capitol did not commit serious crimes, engage in violence or know what they would do in Washington other than protest the election results.

Jan. 6 Attorney Alleges FBI Criminally Altered Evidence, Requests Special Master Review Of Leaked Messages -Rogers Roots, an attorney representing Dominic Pezzola, a Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach defendant, alleged on Sunday that the FBI had committed crimes by altering evidence and requested that the court appoint a special master to review the evidence.Roots’s move came days after the testimony of FBI Special Agent Nicole Miller, who was involved in the agency’s investigations of the Jan. 6 defendants. When cross-examining Miller, Nick Smith, an attorney representing Proud Boys member Ethan Nordean (listed as co-defendant on Pezzola’s case), revealed classified FBI emails that were hidden in a tab in an Excel spreadsheet, which included a directive to Miller to “destroy” 338 pieces of evidence and “edit out” an FBI agent from an informant report.“Destroying evidence is a federal crime. It actually falls under a federal crime under more than one statute. The same goes with altering documents, altering records, that is a federal crime,” the John Pierce Law attorney told The Epoch Times in an interview on Sunday.In a filing on Sunday, Roots requested that Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee presiding over the case, either dismiss the case in its entirety or appoint a special master to independently review the FBI messages that were revealed in court.“The unceremonious and uninhibited nature of Miller’s discussion of committing these serious crimes suggests an FBI culture of corruption and lawlessness that must be immediately stopped, and fully investigated,” Roots said in the filing.“Accordingly, this case must be dismissed en toto and with prejudice,” Roots’s filing continues. “Even if the Court were to overlook this massive trail of FBI corruption and the trial were to proceed, defendants have a right to cross-examine Agent Miller regarding all of these crimes, her missing emails, her discussions of violating defendants’ 6th amendment rights, her discussions of evidence tampering, and her discussions of altering documents involving [confidential human sources] in this case.”“All January 6 prosecutions should be paused for evidentiary hearings and investigations by a Special Master and Special Counsel,” the filing reads.

Former editor of Jewish newspaper charged for Jan. 6 actions - The former editor of an Orthodox Jewish newspaper in New York City — identified two years ago as a member of the Jan. 6 mob by POLITICO — was charged Thursday with two felonies for his actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6.Elliot Resnick, who had drawn controversy prior to Jan. 6 for incendiary and bigoted commentslabeling African religions as “primitive” and suggestingwhite supremacy is fictional — grabbed a Capitol Police officer’s arm while he was attempting to defend the doors leading to the rotunda, according to charging documents. After those doors were breached, Resnick remained by the entrance and helped pull other rioters into the building at one of the earliest moments of the breach, according to the documents.Resnick faces charges of civil disorder and impeding police officers, as well as misdemeanor counts for entering and remaining in a restricted building, as well as disorderly or disruptive conduct in a Capitol building. In a statement of facts accompanying the case, the FBI special agent who investigated Resnick indicated that an April 8 POLITICO story played a role in the FBI’s identification of Resnick, when a tipster brought it to the bureau’s attention. At the time, the Jewish Press’ editorial board defended Resnick’s presence at the Capitol, contending that he was there in a professional capacity to cover the events of the day. But videos and images from that day portrayed Resnick as an active participant in the unrest, pushing his way to the doors of the Capitol, waving rioters on and bursting through the rotunda doors despite resistance from police. Prosecutors included images suggesting Resnick aided other rioters’ entry into the building.

DOJ: Trump cannot save Navarro from contempt of Congress prosecution - Donald Trump never asserted executive privilege to block Peter Navarro from testifying to the Jan. 6 select committee — and even if he did, it wouldn’t have excused the former Trump trade adviser’s decision to blow off the committee entirely, Justice Department prosecutors argue in newly filed court papers.“[N]o assertion by former President Trump could have covered most of the information that the Committee asked the Defendant to produce in documents or at his deposition,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi wrote in the 26-page brief.The brief is a bid by the Justice Department to convince U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta to keep Navarro’s criminal contempt of Congress trial on track. Navarro had been slated to go to trial in January, but Mehta put it on hold amid a tangle of legal issues related to Navarro’s claim that Trump — more than a year after leaving office — had privately asserted executive privilege. Navarro claims that the purported assertion prevented him from responding to the select committee’s subpoena.The trial proceedings have renewed extraordinarily complex issues surrounding the immunity presidential advisers enjoy from being forced to testify to Congress, as well as the relatively untested puzzle of what courts should do when a current and former president disagree on assertions of executive privilege. While the Nixon-era Supreme Court has ruled that the incumbent president’s determination carries far more weight, courts have never drawn precise lines — and the issue has remained dormant until Trump’s post-presidential efforts to stymie investigations of his bid to overturn the election.The issues were similarly prominent during the contempt of Congress trial for Trump ally Steve Bannon, also for defying the Jan. 6 committee. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols largely rejected Bannon’s arguments that he believed he was immune from testifying to Congress. Bannon was convicted by a jury in July. He’s currently appealing the verdict.Navarro, unlike Bannon, was a sitting presidential adviser at the time of Jan. 6, which has added additional complexities to his caseBut DOJ said there’s no need for Mehta to resolve those thorny issues. Navarro, Aloi noted, hasn’t shown any evidence that Trump actually did assert privilege over his response to the committee’s subpoena. A Jan. 23 letter from Trump’s lawyer — a belated effort by Trump to suggest Navarro was correct to defy the select committee — failed to make the case, she said. That’s because the majority of the select committee’s questions for Navarro had little to do with his role as Trump’s trade adviser, or indeed with Trump at all.

Trump And "J6 Prison Choir" Song Hits #1 On iTunes -- A song recorded by former President Donald Trump and the "J6 Prison Choir" hit the #1 spot on iTunes over the weekend.The "J6 Prison Choir" is a group of men jailed for their involvement in the Jan. 6 2021 breach of the US Capitol.The two-minute song, "Justice for All," was released on March 3, surpassing "Flowers" by Miley Cyrus to reach the #1 spot on March 11. While the Choir sings the Star Spangled Banner, Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance."J6 Prison Choir consists of individuals who have been incarcerated as a result of their involvement in the January 6, 2021 protest for election integrity after President Donald J. Trump stated ‘I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard," reads the choir's website. "The J6PC continues to make their voices heard through the power of music and sings ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ every evening before bed."

Michael Cohen testifies again before grand jury probing hush money scheme Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to ex-President Donald Trump, testified Wednesday afternoon in front of a New York grand jury as part of an investigation into hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.“This isn’t a question of vindication. It’s not a question, as I stated before, about revenge … My position is that, at the end of the day, Donald Trump needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds, if in fact that’s the way that the facts play out,” Cohen told reporters after wrapping up his testimony.Cohen testified for “a couple” of hours Wednesday following about three hours of testimony on Monday, according to his attorney, Lanny Davis. As he arrived for his testimony on Wednesday, Cohen told reporters that it would “hopefully” be his last time appearing before the grand jury.The testimony from Trump’s one-time fixer comes as the investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office reached a critical period, with prosecutors having invited the former president last week to testify in the probe. The invitation represents the clearest indication yet that prosecutors are nearing a decision on whether to take the unprecedented step of indicting a former president since potential defendants in New York are required by law to be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury weighing charges.Cohen was a key player in the hush money scheme. He facilitated the payments, made days before the 2016 presidential election, and was reimbursed by the Trump Organization for advancing the money to Daniels. Cohen pleaded guilty to nine federal charges, including campaign finance violations, and was sentenced to three years in prison.Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, is investigating Trump’s role in the payments. Trump has denied wrongdoing as well as the affair with Daniels.Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina told CNN that the former president will not appear before the grand jury.Speaking to CNN Thursday in his first on-camera interview since his testimony, Cohen wouldn’t say what he was asked specifically, but suggested the questions may include topics that were broader than just the hush money scheme.“Their questioning of me started out at, like, 35,000 feet. By the time I hit the 20th interview (with the district attorney), we were down to, like, three feet, ready to land,” Cohen told CNN’s Don Lemon. “The grand jury was the actual take-off back to, we’ll call it, ‘accountability-ville.’

Stormy Daniels speaks to New York prosecutors as possible Trump indictment looms - The porn actress at the center of the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation of former President Donald Trump spoke Wednesday to prosecutors as the probe enters its final stages, according to her attorney.Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 in so-called hush money at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign after alleging an affair with Trump, talked to prosecutors at their request, her attorney Clark Brewster said.Brewster wrote on Twitter that Daniels “responded to questions and has agreed to make herself available as a witness.”A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment.Daniels’ meeting with prosecutors comes after a flurry of activity signaling an indictment of the former president is likely imminent.Earlier this week, the grand jury examining evidence in the inquiry heard from Trump’s one-time attorney Michael Cohen, he confirmed to POLITICO. Cohen facilitated the payment to Daniels and has said in court that he paid hush money to Trump’s accuser “in coordination with and at the direction of” the former president. Trump has denied the Daniels affair.Michael Cohen says Trump should be held accountable for 'dirty deeds'And an attorney for Trump, Joe Tacopina, said prosecutors had offered the former president an opportunity to go before the grand jury, but that Trump had no plans to do so. Prosecutors typically offer a potential defendant the chance to speak to the grand jury near the conclusion of their inquiry.Prosecutors are weighing a felony charge against Trump related to how his real estate company, the Trump Organization, reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment. Federal prosecutors, who charged Cohen in a separate case in 2018, said the firm falsely recorded the reimbursement payments as legal expenses. Cohen pleaded guilty in that case.

Trump attorney ordered to testify in Mar-a-Lago documents probe - A federal judge ordered Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify before the grand jury assembled to review the mishandling of White House records at Mar-a-Lago, multiple outlets reported Friday. In a sealed ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, she found sufficient evidence that Corcoran’s legal advice was given in furtherance of a crime, one of the few determinations that can compel an attorney to discuss communications that would otherwise be covered by attorney-client privilege. The development is a significant win for special counsel Jack Smith and could make Corcoran a key witness as prosecutors advance an investigation into more than 300 classified records discovered in Trump’s Florida home. In a warrant to search the property, prosecutors said their removal to Mar-a-Lago could violate the Espionage Act, which prohibits removing or concealing national defense information. Neither Corcoran or his attorney immediately responded to request for comment. Corcoran has been representing Trump in his dealings with the Justice Department for the bulk of the time the department has sought the return of the documents. The repeated attempts to secure them included a June subpoena for the records, with Cororan then handing over a folder with some 38 documents. Corcoran is also reported to have been the attorney who drafted a letter certifying that all remaining records with classified markings at Mar-a-Lago had been returned, but the letter was ultimately signed by another attorney, Christina Bobb. She reportedly insisted on adding language that said all records had been returned “based upon the information that has been provided to me.”

House Oversight GOP gets access to financial activity reports tied to Biden family businesses - House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) on Tuesday announced the Treasury Department granted the panel access to long-sought financial transaction reports related to companies associated with the Biden family or their associates, following delays and pushback. The reports, called suspicious activity reports, will add to the panel’s probe into the business activities of the president’s son Hunter Biden and brother James Biden, as well as their associates. Treasury is providing the committee “in camera” review of the reports, the panel said, which means there will be some restrictions on its access. And with the access to the reports, the committee is postponing a scheduled transcribed interview that was scheduled for this week with a Treasury Department official. “After two months of dragging their feet, the Treasury Department is finally providing us with access to the suspicious activity reports for the Biden family and their associates’ business transactions,” Comer said. “It should never have taken us threatening to hold a hearing and conduct a transcribed interview with an official under the penalty of perjury for Treasury to finally accommodate part of our request. For over 20 years, Congress had access to these reports but the Biden Administration changed the rules out of the blue to restrict our ability to conduct oversight.” President Biden has previously said he had no involvement in his family’s business dealings, and the White House has previously called the House GOP investigation “politically motivated” and based in debunked conspiracy theories. Obtaining suspicious activity reports related to companies associated with Biden family-associated companies shot to the top of Republicans’ to-do list after CBS News reported last year that U.S. banks flagged for review more than 150 financial transactions related to the business affairs of either Hunter or James Biden. Banks are required to file suspicious activity reports about transfers if there is reason to suspect the funds came from illegal activity. They must also file currency transaction reports for any cash transaction exceeding $10,000. The reports do not necessarily mean illegal activity occurred, and only a small percentage of the millions of reports from banks filed each year lead to law enforcement investigations. Republicans had sought the reports last year when they were in the minority, and then renewed that request after they took control of the House majority in January. “According to bank documents we’ve already obtained, we know one company owned by a Biden associate received a $3 million dollar wire from a Chinese energy company two months after Joe Biden left the vice presidency,” Comer said in a statement. “Soon after, hundreds of thousands of dollars in payouts went to members of the Biden family.” “We are going to continue to use bank documents and suspicious activity reports to follow the money trail to determine the extent of the Biden family’s business schemes, if Joe Biden is compromised by these deals, and if there is a national security threat,” Comer said. “If Treasury tries to stonewall our investigation again, we will continue to use tools at our disposal to compel compliance.”

"It's As Bad As We Thought": CCP Money Flowed To Biden Family According Bank Records, Documents Obtained By House GOP -- Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have been working with four witnesses with close ties to the Bidens, who have provided documents and other evidence tying the Bidens to the Chinese Communist Party. "It’s as bad as we thought… Since we’ve last spoken we have bank records in hand. We have individuals who are working with our committee," Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo on "Sunday Morning Futures.""In the last two weeks we’ve met with either these individuals personally or with their attorneys. And that would be four individuals who had ties in with the Biden family in their various schemes around the world. So now we have in hand documents We have in hand documents in hand that show just how the Biden family was getting money from the Chinese Communist Party." Watch:

Hunter Biden files countersuit against laptop repair shop owner - Hunter Biden filed a countersuit on Friday against the computer repairman who said he distributed the contents of a laptop that Biden left behind at his Delaware shop. The 42-page filing in federal court includes six privacy-related counts against John Paul Mac Isaac, the repairman. It takes aggressive aim at Mac Isaac, saying he violated Hunter Biden’s privacy by viewing the salacious contents and then distributing them in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election both to members of his family and an attorney for Rudy Giuliani. “Mac Isaac knowingly and willfully shared with others the personal data of Mr. Biden that he came to possess (regardless of how he came to possess the data), despite it being reckless and unreasonable for any computer repairman to make copies of another’s personal and sensitive information and to then send that data to third parties without the authority to do so,” Biden’s attorneys wrote in the filing. The purported laptop’s contents came to light in October 2020, when the New York Post published emails it said shows Biden leveraging the influence of his father, who served as vice president at the time, in the younger Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine. The president has said his son did nothing wrong. The story became the subject of intense controversy in the final days of the 2020 presidential campaign amid debates over the hard drive’s veracity, and Republicans have since lambasted social media companies for limiting the spread of the story since some of its contents have been verified. Biden’s attorneys did not concede that the president’s son dropped off the laptop at Mac Isaac’s shop in April 2019, as Mac Isaac claims, but acknowledged in the filing that “at some point, Mac Isaac obtained electronically stored data, some of which belonged to Mr. Biden.” The president’s son’s attorneys noted the shared contents included drug use and other private material, asking for a jury trial to order Mac Isaac to return any data he claims belonged to Biden and pay an unspecified amount of damages.

Bannon-allied Chinese billionaire arrested on fraud charges - Federal prosecutors in New York arrested exiled Chinese billionaire and Steve Bannon ally Guo Wengui Wednesday morning on charges that he and his financier orchestrated a more than $1 billion fraud scheme aimed at Guo’s hundreds of thousands of online followers.Guo, who also goes by the name Miles Kwok, and his financier, Kin Ming Je, were charged in a 12-count indictment with wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. Je, who remains at large, was also charged with obstruction of justice.A lawyer for Guo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He is set to make an initial court appearance Monday afternoon. In 2020, Bannon was arrested on federal fraud charges while aboard Guo’s yacht. Bannon pleaded not guilty and was subsequently pardoned on those charges by former President Donald Trump.As part of the investigation of Guo by federal prosecutors, authorities seized $634 million in alleged fraud proceeds from 21 different bank accounts between September 2022 and March 2023. On Wednesday morning, they seized other assets allegedly purchased with fraud proceeds, including a Lamborghini. According to the indictment, Guo also treated himself and his relatives to a $26.5 million 50,000-square-foot mansion outfitted with $978,000 worth of Chinese and Persian rugs, a $3.5 million Ferrari, a $140,000 piano, two $36,000 mattresses, and a $37 million luxury yacht, all purchased with stolen funds.

Taibbi- The Democrats' Disastrous Miscalculation On Civil Liberties - Authored by Matt Taibbi via Racket News Civil liberties have officially gone out of style, a phenomenon on full display at the Weaponization of Government Hearing at which I just testified. The circus-like scene featured a ranking member calling two journalists a “direct threat,” a Stanford-educated former prosecutor who confused accusation with proof, and a Texas congressman, Colin Allred, who proudly held up the results of an adjudicated criminal case to argue against due process in another arena. When I asked Allred’s permission to point out that he’d just demonstrated that a proper forum for dealing with campaign abuses already existed in the court system, he basically told me to shut up. “No,” he said, “you don’t get to ask questions here.”I then had to keep my mouth shut as an elected official shifted to Dad mode to admonish me to “take off the tinfoil hat,” because “there’s not a “vast conspiracy,” by which he meant he apparently meant my last three months of research.Allred then went on MSNBC, where my former friend Chris Hayes with a straight face suggested he didn’t see a “government angle” in either the Twitter Files or our testimony — both of which were more or less entirely about that issue — and Allred beamed in agreement, saying the discovery of Truthout and Ultra Maga Dog Mom on federal blacklists was just the FBI “pointing out that certain actions are probably Russian disinformation ops.” He also offered the ironic criticism that some people are “stuck in an information loop, in which you’re not allowing outside information in”: At the hearing, Pee-Wee’s words of the day were clearly cherry-picked, money, and Elon Musk. Nearly every question asked of Michael Shellenberger and me involved our associations or motives. Florida’s Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said “being a Republican witness certainly casts a cloud over your objectivity” (only a Democratic witness can be trusted), while Dan Goldman tweeted that only someone who signed his version of a loyalty oath — a question about whether or not we “agreed” with Robert Mueller’s two indictments of Russian defendants — can “belong” in the public conversation:These are behaviors we associated with Republicans in the War on Terror years, when Democrats howled over accusations that John Kerry “looks French.” That the roles have been reversed is old news, but the big question remains: why did this happen?In the coming days you’re going to see a new release of Twitter Files material, about the creation of a multi-agency working group to address what experts described as vaccine “disinformation and misinformation.”This cross-platform group looked for people who were just “asking questions,” which they viewed as a rhetorical trick for introducing misinformation. They took aim at people who “framed” ideas like vaccine passports as compulsory or authoritarian, as opposed to emphasizing their utility and necessity, which they interpreted to mean a tendency to more generally negative opinions about vaccines. Moreover, as disclosed last week, they saw a threat in people who wrote about “true stories of vaccine side effects” or “true posts which could fuel hesitancy.”Most disturbing was a letter to a long list of academics, tech executives, and communications specialists from a staffer for the non-profit Institute for Defense Analysis. It referred to a new type of online influencer, “some of whom enjoy reach commensurate with mass media channels”:In an age of declining trust in media, government, and institutions, influencers occupy a position of trust and enjoy a perception of authenticity. In addition to the rise of influencers, now-prevalent online crowds have been transformed into a significant force in shaping narratives; they are persistent and can be leveraged to achieve amplification of particular messages in the battle for attention.“Online crowds have been transformed into a significant force in shaping narratives” is just another way of saying, “independent groups now have politically effective ways to organize,” which the authors clearly saw as a problem in itself.

The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok | WIRED - HERE IS HOW platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die. I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two-sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them. When a platform starts, it needs users, so it makes itself valuable to users. Think of Amazon: For many years, it operated at a loss, using its access to the capital markets to subsidize everything you bought. It sold goods below cost and shipped them below cost. It operated a clean and useful search. If you searched for a product, Amazon tried its damndest to put it at the top of the search results. This was a hell of a good deal for Amazon's customers. Lots of us piled in, and lots of brick-and-mortar retailers withered and died, making it hard to go elsewhere. Amazon sold us ebooks and audiobooks that were permanently locked to its platform with DRM, so that every dollar we spent on media was a dollar we'd have to give up if we deleted Amazon and its apps. And Amazon sold us Prime, getting us to pre-pay for a year's worth of shipping. Prime customers start their shopping on Amazon, and 90 percent of the time, they don't search anywhere else. That tempted in lots of business customers—marketplace sellers who turned Amazon into the "everything store" it had promised from the beginning. As these sellers piled in, Amazon shifted to subsidizing suppliers. Kindle and Audible creators got generous packages. Marketplace sellers reached huge audiences and Amazon took low commissions from them. This strategy meant that it became progressively harder for shoppers to find things anywhere except Amazon, which meant that they only searched on Amazon, which meant that sellers had to sell on Amazon. That's when Amazon started to harvest the surplus from its business customers and send it to Amazon's shareholders. Today, Marketplace sellers are handing more than 45 percent of the sale price to Amazon in junk fees. The company's $31 billion "advertising" program is really a payola scheme that pits sellers against each other, forcing them to bid on the chance to be at the top of your search. Searching Amazon doesn't produce a list of the products that most closely match your search, it brings up a list of products whose sellers have paid the most to be at the top of that search. Those fees are built into the cost you pay for the product, and Amazon's "Most Favored Nation" requirement for sellers means that they can't sell more cheaply elsewhere, so Amazon has driven prices at every retailer.

Banking On Censorship: Sen. Kelly Becomes Latest Dem To Suggest Barring Opposing Views On Social Media by Jonathan Turley - Concerned about your money after recent bank failures? You might want to keep those thoughts to yourself. While some rushed to get their money after the collapses, at least one leading Democrat is pushing for censorship of those who do not have faith in the banking industry. The Democratic Party for more than a decade has alienated many of us in the party with its embrace of censorship and speech controls. Democratic leaders actively promote censorship on social media and vehemently defend government efforts to target citizens or groups. Some have even adopted McCarthyite labels like “Russian lovers” to paint free-speech advocates as disloyal or dangerous in opposing censorship efforts. Subjects from climate change to gender identity to COVID to elections have been gradually added to the list of prohibited thoughts. Now Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) has put bank solvency on the list. It is only the latest example of censorship’s slippery slope. Kelly shows how censorship is addictive; it not only builds an increasing tolerance for speech limits but a decreasing tolerance for opposing views. The immediate inclination becomes to silence those who challenge you or refuse to accept your “truth” on any given subject. In a Zoom call this week with a couple hundred participants, Kelly asked representatives from the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation about censoring social media to remove those raising doubts over bank solvency in the wake of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank crises. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) confirmed Kelly suggested “that government should work with social media companies to censor information that could lead to a run on banks.” As in past censorship calls, Kelly reportedly cited the danger of “foreign actors” using social media — to undermine banks. It’s those pesky Russians again. The list of subjects justifying censorship keeps getting longer. In a critical November 2020 hearing, tech CEOs appeared before the Senate. Twitter’s then-CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for censoring The Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story but pledged to censor more people in defense of “electoral integrity.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), however, was not happy. He was upset not by the promised censorship but that it wasn’t broad enough. He noted it’s hard to define the problem of “misleading information,” but tech companies had to impose a sweeping system to combat the “harm” of misinformation. “The pandemic and misinformation about COVID-19, manipulated media also cause harm,” Coons said. “But I’d urge you to reconsider” putting in place a “standalone climate change misinformation policy” because “helping to disseminate climate denialism, in my view, further facilitates and accelerates one of the greatest existential threats to our world.”

Markets at risk of more upheaval as banking uncertainty persists - Traders are steeling themselves for the risk of more turbulence after the biggest U.S. bank collapse since the 2008 financial crisis sent shockwaves through markets. The unravelling of SVB Financial Group's Silicon Valley Bank was driven in large part by the fallout from higher U.S. interest rates, prompting questions about whether other institutions might also be at risk as investors debate just how much further the U.S. central bank is likely to tighten policy. Meanwhile, the outlook for the economy — and likely policy responses to it — remain in flux. Foreign-exchange markets will be the first to take the spotlight as the new week begins and Asia-Pacific trading gets underway Monday. Traders will be keen to see whether haven currencies such as the Swiss franc and Japanese yen extend the gains they made Friday, and whether the dollar continues to move lower along with expectations for shorter-term Treasury yields. "The market is flitting from theme to theme, unveiling underlying fragility," JPMorgan Chase strategists including Meera Chandan wrote in a note to clients Friday. Attention will be keenly focused on anything that gives clues about the next steps from the Federal Reserve and its global peers — or hints at greater spillover in the U.S. banking sector beyond SVB. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the central bank were weighing creating a fund that would allow regulators to backstop more deposits at banks that run into trouble, according to people familiar with the matter. Meanwhile, U.S. regulators overseeing SVB's breakup were racing to sell assets and make a portion of clients' uninsured deposits available as soon as Monday, people familiar said.

Schiff says there’s ‘profound concern in California’ over Silicon Valley Bank collapse - Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that there there is “profound concern in California” about the health of the economic sector after the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank. Federal regulators seized the California-based bank on Friday, and put the institution up for auction over the weekend, multiple news agencies reported. The closure of the bank sent ripples into the tech-world as depositors were unsure of how much money they could get back. “I would add that also there’s profound concern in California, given that this sector is such an important part of our economy, that is the entrepreneurial sector,” Schiff told CNN’s Jim Acosta. Schiff said that the best outcome would be if another bank takes over the Silicon Valley Bank’s assets and portfolio. He said the most urgent priority is making sure people get their paychecks so that they could provide their families. Schiff also said federal agencies should examine the possibility of pausing the interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve Board. He questioned whether other institutions will be in “jeopardy” as a result of the interest hikes. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin and both Democrat and Republican lawmakers said on Sunday that they oppose a potential bailout of Silicon Valley Bank.Federal agencies announced on Sunday that Silicon Valley Bank customers will be able to access all of their money starting on Monday at no cost to the taxpayer. The three agencies said in their joint statement that the Federal Reserve will make additional funding available to eligible institutions “to help assure banks have the ability to meet the needs of all their depositors.”

Satyajit Das: SVB Collapse and Bank Turmoil – Latest Chapter in the Unwinding - The dominoes are, predictably, beginning to topple. In 2022, there was the crypto-crash, the UK gilt problems which triggered issues for pension funds’ liability driven investing strategies and the still ongoing emerging market debt crisis. The latest chapter in this unwinding, which has some way to go, is the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (“SVB”) in the US.Underlying these developments is the reversal of a 13-year period of low or zero interest rates and highly accommodative liquidity policies of central banks globally. An economic architecture built around artificially low cost of capital which over-stimulated segments of the economy and encouraged leverage and speculation, on a large scale, was neither sustainable nor costless. The assumption that raising rates and withdrawing monetary stimulus would result in a painless adjustment back to a new normal was naïve in the extreme. Unfortunately, the financial reckoning under way will create winners and losers as well as suffering. On Friday 10th March 2023, SVB was taken into administration by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”). The Bank, which had around $200 billion in assets, was the second largest US bank failure after Washington Mutual which collapsed in 2008. Bank failures in the US have been relatively rare in recent years with the last FDIC insured bank closing in October 2020.The information available suggests that the collapse resulted from a confluence of events:

  • SVB invested depositors’ fund in highly rated, long duration US Treasuries and Federal Agency backed Mortgage Backed Securities (“MBS”).
  • These investments, which are of high credit quality, have lost value due to sharp increases in interest rates leading to unrealised losses estimated at around $15 billion.
  • Concern about these losses led to a bank run with depositors withdrawing funds, culminating in $42 billion of withdrawals (around a quarter of all deposits) on Thursday 9th March 2023.
  • The withdrawals left SBV potentially insolvent and incapable of paying its obligations as they come due.

The chronology of the collapse is murky. There are suggestions that SVB sought to protect their portfolio of interest rate sensitive assets by selling around $20 billion of longer term securities and investing the proceeds in shorter dated instruments. This realised a loss of $1.8 billion but would have boosted interest earning due to the fact that the yield curve is inverse with short rates offering higher returns. Simultaneous to the portfolio restructuring, SVB sought to raise new capital – $1.25 billion in shares and $500 million mandatory convertible preferred shares – to cover the losses on the sales of securities and also strengthen the balance sheet and liquidity. The fund raising was abandoned.An additional factor was the highly concentrated SBV’s customer base which was heavily focused around US West Coast technology and bio-technology start-ups. It is alleged that as SVB’s problems intensified a number of venture capital firms and luminaries advised firms that they had invested in to withdraw their deposits from SVB deepening their liquidity problems. It seem that the technologically advanced adhered to the age old adage ““if you’re going to panic, panic first.”

SVB – No One Should be Surprised - by Menzie Chinn -SVB was a collapse waiting to happen. One indicator is the increasing reliance on debt acquired on the capital markets (as opposed to deposits).From WSJ: SVB’s year-end balance sheet also showed $91.3 billion of securities that it classified as “held to maturity.” That label allows SVB to exclude paper losses on those holdings from both its earnings and equity.In a footnote to its latest financial statements, SVB said the fair-market value of those held-to-maturity securities was $76.2 billion, or $15.1 billion below their balance-sheet value. The fair-value gap at year-end was almost as large as SVB’s $16.3 billion of total equity.Here’s a picture of assets from Bloomberg: It’s kind of funny to think of credit risk associated with Treasurys, but one can make a capital loss (as opposed to loss due to default) if prices change a lot, as they have for Treasurys in the wake of QT and rises in the Fed funds rate.Hence, SVB experienced a classic bank run in the face of solvency concerns, given that deposits exceeded the insured amount. In the run-up to the crisis, the bank increased its reliance on debt acquired in the capital market (as opposed to deposits which would’ve required higher interest rates). In this sense, incurring more debt should be viewed as a signal, rather than a causal factor. Figure 1: End of quarter debt as share of total net minority liability, % (blue, left scale), and ten year-three month Treasury spread, % (tan, right scale). Source: YahooFinance, Treasury via FRED, and author’s calculations.

Silicon Valley Bank's 'old-fashioned' failure highlights lingering risks -All the shiny promises of California's gleaming tech world couldn't save Silicon Valley Bank from the basic banking reality of a poor balance sheet. The second-biggest failure in U.S. history by assets is raising concerns about whether other banks are inadequately managing interest rate risks, overexposed on uninsured deposits, or — as in the case of Silicon Valley Bank — both. Its failure was, in large part, due to bond investments that left the bank too vulnerable when the Federal Reserve jacked up interest rates. "This is a really old-fashioned way of tanking a bank," said Bert Ely, a bank consultant and principal of Ely & Co. Silicon Valley Bank's problematic reliance on uninsured deposits is another troubling aspect for regulators, who worry about how to unwind failed institutions with that profile. As of the fourth quarter of 2022, deposits that were under the $250,000 insurance limit accounted for just 2.7% of the bank's total deposits, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Gerard Cassidy. Together, these shortcomings — alongside a substantial push from the bank's uneasy depositors who rushed en masse to pull money from their accounts — fueled a perfect storm that took down Silicon Valley Bank, experts say. "This is quite a mess. I think it could snowball," said Christopher Whalen, chairman of Whalen Global Advisors. News reports circulated this weekend that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is working quickly to auction pieces of Silicon Valley Bank to make some portion of uninsured deposits available to its depositors as early as Monday. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department and banking regulators are said to be contemplating creating a backstop for uninsured deposits at other banks that share some of the same problems as Silicon Valley Bank. Former regulators and other policy watchers worry that the risks that drew the bank to this point remain for a handful of other institutions. Simply put, Silicon Valley Bank experienced a classic run: A bunch of people with a lot of deposits using the same bank all starting fleeing at around the same time once the bank said it was experiencing problems. Investors and depositors reacted by initiating withdrawals of $42 billion of deposits on Thursday, causing a run on the bank, California regulators said Friday. Because a large number of those deposits were uninsured, held by startup companies, venture capitalists and tech firms, the depositors now join a long, likely arduous process of ever seeing that money again. "There is the risk that depositors get paid out up to the specified [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.] deposit insurance limit, and then a haircut gets taken on the residual," said John Popeo, a principal at The Gallatin Group and a former FDIC lawyer who led failure deals during the financial crisis. "Basically what happens is you're subject to the FDIC claims process, which is analogous to the bankruptcy process. So whatever residual assets the receiver has post resolution, they will pay you out on that claim, no guarantees." Silicon Valley Bank's problem goes back to 2021, when banks were struggling to make loans and some sought other ways to get some income. For its part, the bank loaded up on mortgage-backed securities, a strategy that flopped as soon as the Fed started raising interest rates last year. The pace of those increases has been swift, hurting the value of Silicon Valley Bank's and other banks' bond investments as higher-paying options became available. "It's more about banking fundamentals. Overall you have to look at the asset quality and funding of the banks," said Keith Noreika, former acting comptroller of the currency and current executive vice president and chairman of the banking supervision and regulation group at Patomak Global Partners. "As interest rates go up, the market value of assets on a banking balance sheet goes down and also the funding costs go up." Unrealized losses aren't a problem if banks can hang onto the bonds, as bonds recoup their original value as they mature. But if banks are forced to sell underwater bonds, they are sold at a loss and the "unrealized" losses quickly become real. Where Silicon Valley Bank ran into problems was that its tech customers, many of whom were dealing with costlier credit and other economic challenges, were burning through cash quickly. Deposits have gradually been flowing out of the banking system in recent months, but its tech depositors' heavy spending meant that outflows were far faster at Silicon Valley Bank. In need of liquidity, it was forced to sell a big chunk of its bonds. What were previously on-paper losses turned into a $1.8 billion hit, and that's when the panic started.

The Bank Crisis Has Democrats Scrambling Behind The Scenes To Find A Scapegoat - Democratic representatives are scrambling in the wake of the potentially contagious Silicon Valley Bank implosion, looking for a way to divert attention away from them should the crisis expand. One avenue for scapegoating the event that has been suggested among Dems and the media is to blame a 2018 law that eased Dodd-Frank capital requirements for midsize and small banks. Republicans led the effort to pass the law, which President Donald Trump signed, but 33 House Democrats and 17 Senate Democrats also voted for it. No mention, of course, of the cancerous exposure SVB had to numerous woke investments through venture capital, including money losing ESG related projects, climate change-based companies and World Economic Forum stakeholder capitalism projects.The Dems have found their narrative, which is an old narrative: “The conservatives did it.”What Democrats do not seem to understand is that the easing of Dodd-Frank capital requirements was in direct response to the Federal Reserve's announced plan to tighten liquidity and raise interest rates through 2018. With more expensive credit and a shrinking Fed balance sheet, reducing requirements for bank buffers was one of the few ways to prevent the stimulus addicted lending sector from plummeting. The extra capital also allowed banks to continue lending to companies that engage in stock buybacks, keeping stock markets afloat.With a larger capital buffer even more liquidity dries up, revealing the true economic weakness underneath that Dems have denied for the past few years. So, if Biden and the Dems get what they want (more strict capital requirements for banks), then there will be an even swifter collapse of markets and the overall economy due to lack of liquidity. By the end of 2018, markets began to plunge anyway under the strain of higher interest rates, which led to the Fed reversing course, and this seems to be what Democrats are really hoping for. They have called for endless liquidity measures and have consistently demanded lower rates and looser monetary policy. However, when Donald Trump's Administration called for rate cuts during his term, Dems attacked. Once again, when Republicans do it, it's wrong; when they do it, it's good policy.

Shareholders file class action lawsuit against Silicon Valley Bank parent company - Shareholders for the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank have filed a class action lawsuit against the bank’s parent company and its leaders over allegations that they did not disclose how interest rate increases could have an effect on business. The shareholders, led by Chandra Vanipenta, filed the lawsuit on Monday against SVB Financial Group, former CEO Greg Becker and Chief Financial Officer Daniel Beck to seek unspecified damages for investors who backed the bank between June 16, 2021 and March 10, 2023. The complaint states that quarterly and annual financial reports from the bank did not take into account warnings that the Federal Reserve gave about raising interest rates. It also alleges that the 2020 annual report understated that the Fed’s interest rate hikes could cause “irrevocable” damage to the bank. The complaint comes after a bank run led federal authorities to take over Silicon Valley Bank on Sunday. A lack of liquidity caused the bank to not have enough cash on hand to give to its customers seeking withdrawals, leading to the collapse. The crash has rattled markets with some concerns that Silicon Valley Bank’s closure could have ripple effects on companies from the technology industry and small businesses. The Biden administration stepped in when it announced that all individuals who had deposits in the bank would be able to have access to their money on Monday in an effort to calm the markets down. Bank customers are only federally insured up to $250,000 per account under federal law. Novo Nordisk becomes second company to announce cuts to US insulin prices Feds investigating Silicon Valley collapse: reports The shareholders also allege that the bank violated two sections of the Securities Exchange Act from false statements that leaders made while knowing or deliberately neglecting that they were misleading and from artificially inflating the market value of the company’s assets.

Elon Musk teases purchase of Silicon Valley Bank after demise - Elon Musk teased the idea of Twitter buying Silicon Valley Bank after its sudden and somewhat unexpected demise earlier this week. Musk responded to a suggestion from Min-Liang Tan, CEO of gaming computer company Razer, who stated, “Twitter should buy SVB and become a digital bank.”Musk was not totally against the idea based on his response, saying, “I’m open to the idea.” It could be a catalyst for Musk’s venture “X,” which he called “the everything app” earlier this month. X has been utilized for several things, including his $44 billion Twitter acquisition, which funded the buyout prior to its finalization mid-last year.SVB was the 16th largest bank in the U.S. and suddenly lost nearly all its value this week after a meteoric collapse.Musk’s potential purchase through Twitter of SVB was met with support from some. “What an opportunity. 2-3 years to get a banking charter otherwise. Just make sure you go through those toxic assets with a fine-tooth comb!!,” said Kevin Paffrath, CEO of HouseHack.“You’re just missing a bank in your ecosystem,” Antonio Altamirano said.Others are not keen on the idea, especially Tesla investors, who believe that another sizeable purchase to round out Musk’s ventures would mean he would have to sell more of the electric automaker’s stock. Last year, Musk sold shares to fund his purchase of Twitter, which ultimately affected Tesla stock negatively, contributing to the over 60 percent slide the company felt on Wall Street in 2022.Musk has some expertise with financial companies, as he was one of the original founders of PayPal, which revolutionized online payments and money transfers.Of course, there is no movement on Musk’s potential purchase of SVB, yet. However, there could be an opportunity for it to happen, and it would not be unheard of for Musk to make a move on it.

Exclusive: PNC, RBC interest in SVB cools as regulators seek bids (Reuters) - Interest from two early suitors for Silicon Valley Bank - PNC Financial Group Inc and Royal Bank of Canada - had cooled on Sunday, as U.S. regulators invited bids for the failed lender, according to sources familiar with the matter.The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) had given a Sunday afternoon deadline for bids for the failed bank, one of the sources said. Reuters could not determine which banks had bid.The FDIC has been trying to find a buyer for Silicon Valley Bank this weekend after taking control of it on Friday so that the bank's corporate clients that had their money frozen can meet their payroll obligations. But a deal on a tight timeline has proven to be hard. Bids were due for SVB at 2:00 pm ET (1800 GMT), two of the sources said.PNC, one of the 10 largest U.S. banks by assets, wanted to pursue a bid for the entirety of Silicon Valley Bank, one of the sources added, but then studied a bid for parts of Silicon Valley Bank. A separate source familiar with the matter said PNC had decided to withdraw from any further talks. RBC also explored a takeover of Silicon Valley Bank but it was unlikely to pursue it, three sources said. One of the sources added that RBC has struggled to get comfortable with the risks involved and the complexities of justifying the deal to regulators in its home country of Canada. RBC bought City National Bank in 2015. It is the eighth largest bank by deposits in California, according to FDIC data.U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday ruled out a government bailout of Silicon Valley Bank and said she was working with regulators to find a solution.

HSBC Pays £1 For Silicon Valley Bank's UK Unit In Rescue Deal - Banking regulators in the Western world are taking urgent action to prevent a crisis in 'confidence' from further spreading across regional banks following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. In the US, on Sunday, the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said all deposits at SVB, including insured and uninsured, would be fully paid. Across the Atlantic, UK regulators rushed a deal with HSBC UK Bank plc to take over the UK arm of SVB to restore confidence in the banking sector. HSBC acquired SVB UK for the nominal sum of £1 (equivalent to $1.21 at current exchange rates). The transaction has been completed with immediate effect, and funding will be sourced from HSBC's existing resources.The acquisition means SVB UK "can continue to bank as usual, safe in the knowledge that their deposits are backed by the strength, safety, and security of HSBC," CEO of HSBC Group Noel Quinn stated. According to an email response received by Decrypt, the UK finance ministry said, "customers of SVB UK will be able to access their deposits and banking services as normal from today," while the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt ensured in a tweet that deposits are 'safe.' This morning, the Government and the Bank of England facilitated a private sale of Silicon Valley Bank UK to HSBC. Deposits will be protected, with no taxpayer support

Regulators shut Signature Bank, pick industry veteran to run bridge bank - Regulators shut down Signature Bank in New York on Sunday amid fears of an industry liquidity crisis and tapped a veteran regional bank executive to run the bridge bank that will take its place. The shutdown of Signature by its state-chartering authority marks the second U.S. bank in three days to be closed by regulators, following the abrupt closure Friday of Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, California. The $110.4 billion-asset Signature is the third-largest bank failure by assets ever in the United States, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.The New York State Department of Financial Services took possession of Signature "in order to protect depositors," the department said in a press release Sunday evening. The FDIC, which was appointed receiver of the bank, said that it has transferred all of Signature's deposits and "substantially all" of its assets to Signature Bridge Bank, which will be operated by the FDIC as a full-service bank while the regulator attempts to "market the institution" to potential buyers.Greg Carmichael, who retired as the CEO of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp in July, will lead the bridge bank, the FDIC announced. Carmichael was scheduled to vacate his post as executive chairman of Fifth Third's board of directors on April 18, but he "has stepped away from the board to assist the FDIC in stabilizing Signature Bridge Bank," a Fifth Third spokesperson said.All of Signature's depositors will be made whole and no losses will be borne by taxpayers, the FDIC said Sunday. Depositors and borrowers of Signature Bank will automatically become customers of Signature Bridge Bank and all banking activities, including online banking, will resume Monday, the FDIC said. Official Signature checks will continue to clear and loan customers should be able to make their loan payments as usual, the FDIC added.In a joint statement Sunday, the FDIC, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve tried to ease fears about the state of the U.S. banking system, which has been fraught with uncertainty since Friday's shutdown of Silicon Valley Bank, the banking subsidiary of SVB Financial Group in Santa Clara, California. In the statement, the regulators said they issued a systemic risk exception to protect uninsured customer deposits at both Silicon Valley Bank and Signature.The trio of regulators said the nation's banking system "remains resilient and on a solid foundation." "Those reforms combined with today's actions demonstrate our commitment to take the necessary steps to ensure that depositors' savings remain safe," the joint release said.

Signature Bank becomes next casualty of banking turmoil after SVB (Reuters) - State regulators closed New York-based Signature Bank on Sunday, the third largest failure in U.S. banking history, two days after authorities shuttered Silicon Valley Bank (SIVB.O) in a collapse that stranded billions in deposits. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) took control of Signature, which had $110.36 billion in assets and $88.59 in deposits at the end of last year, according to New York state's Department of Financial Services. All of the depositors of Signature Bank and Silicon Valley Bank will be made whole, and "no losses will be borne by the taxpayer," the U.S. Treasury Department and other bank regulators said in a joint statement. Signature's failure followed Silicon Valley Bank's Friday shutdown, the second largest in U.S. history behind Washington Mutual, which collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis. Investors were unnerved by the speed at which startup-focused SVB, the 16th largest lender in the U.S., was toppled by customer withdrawals. The episode last week erased more than $100 billion in market value from U.S. banks, prompting swift action from government officials over the weekend to try and restore confidence in the financial system. The FDIC established a "bridge" successor bank on Sunday which will enable customers to access their funds on Monday. Signature Bank's depositors and borrowers will automatically become customers of the bridge bank, the FDIC said. The regulator named former Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB.O) Chief Executive Greg Carmichael as CEO of the bridge bank. Silicon Valley Bank customers will have access to their deposits starting on Monday, U.S. officials said on Sunday. The federal government also announced actions to shore up deposits and try and stem any broader fallout. Signature was a commercial bank with private client offices in New York, Connecticut, California, Nevada and North Carolina, and had nine national business lines including commercial real estate and digital asset banking. As of September, almost a quarter of its deposits came from the cryptocurrency sector, but the bank announced in December that it would shrink its crypto-related deposits by $8 billion.

In abrupt reversal, regulators to cover Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank uninsured deposits — In a stunning decision, federal regulators issued a systemic risk exception to protect uninsured customer deposits at Silicon Valley Bank of Santa Clara, California, in the wake of the bank's sudden failure on Friday, and the Federal Reserve announced the creation of a lending facility large enough to cover all the insured deposits in the banking system. The regulators also said they would enact a similar systemic risk exception for Signature Bank of New York after its state chartering authority closed the bank on Sunday. Regulators are seeking to insulate the rest of the banking system from the contagion effects of the two failures, including the potential for runs at other financial institutions that cater to specific industries. Guaranteeing the banks' uninsured deposits is meant to reassure jittery depositors at other banks who might have rushed to pull out their funds as soon as markets opened Monday morning. The new lending facility gives banks an option to access near-par value liquidity for discounted securities to quell liquidity concerns. "This stuns me that they would do two systemic risk determinations of banks of this size, this early in the game," said Arthur E. Wilmarth Jr., a professor emeritus at George Washington University Law School. "The fact they did this so early indicated to me that there is tremendous vulnerability at other banks."Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen approved the systemic risk exceptions, allowing the banks to be resolved in a way that "fully protects all depositors," including those that contributed to the unusually high pile of uninsured deposits at Silicon Valley Bank. Treasury received the recommendation to do so from the boards of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Fed. The Fed's Bank Term Funding Program, or BTFP, will act as a supplement to the central bank's discount window, its standard last-resort lending facility, albeit with several advantages. Qualified depositories will be able to take out loans from the facility at the overnight swap rate plus 10 basis points for up to one year — instead of the typical 90-day limit — by posting U.S. Treasuries, agency debt or agency-backed mortgage-backed securities as collateral.Critically, the BTFP will lend against assets at their book values, rather than their market value minus a set discount — known as a haircut — as is the case for the discount window. This allowance enables banks to offset paper losses that have been a drag on many securities portfolios since the Fed began increasing interest rates last spring. When interest rates go up, bond values typically fall."It's a robust facility," a senior Fed official said. "The program's capacity is huge and intentionally so. The facility is large enough in the aggregate to cover all the banking system's uninsured deposits."

"This Should Scare The Hell Out Of Bankers & Regulators Worldwide" -From "everyday joes" to the corporate CFOs, men, women, and others, are frantically battling a prisoner's dilemma about their banking relationship this weekend: "I’m fine if they don’t draw their money, and they’re fine if I don’t draw mine..." But, given the lines outside banks and less than reassuring sentiment from Washington, we suspect it is too late and the that dilemma is over - now it's every man, woman, and child for themselves. As The FT report on one CFOs decision-tree: “I got a text from another friend - he was definitely moving his money to JPMorgan. It was happening,” the finance chief said. “The social contract that we might have collectively had was too fragile. I called our CEO and we wired 97 per cent of our deposits to HSBC by midday on Thursday.” And as explained below, the new normal 'bank run' is instant, huge, and devastating. Given that there are many 'bad' (read: biased and/or uninformed) takes on the situation at SVB, Bianco Research's founder and President, Jim Bianco, tried to clarify in a brief Twitter thread: (emphasis ours) This is not a solvency crisis like 2008. Bad loans or poor investments were not made. Money was not lost. So, everyone is going to get their money back. (And please no takes about no interest rate hedging. Asset/liability mismatches are how banking works.) [ZH: We agree broadly but do worry, as we detailed on Thursday, about the CRE/office exposure overhang on small banks and how higher rates will actually translate to actual loan losses, not just HTM "temporary" losses.] Instead this is an old fashion 1930s liquidity crisis. Too many depositors demanded cash at once (as in right now) and SVB (and SI) could not convert loans and securities (and crypto) to cash that quickly. So, everyone is getting their money back from SVB (and SI), just not at 8AM Monday. And, yes this is a big problem as this is working capital for a lot of companies. They have payrolls to meet and vendors to pay next week. And if they don’t pay bills and employees, they in turn don’t pay their bills and this can quickly cascade into a major economic problem. The important question is why so many demanded their money back at once. And I’m not referring to the last two days. I’m asking about the days/weeks leading up to this last two days forcing SVB to sell securities and realize a $1.8B loss, necessitating a capital raise. Why were depositors withdrawing in big enough amounts before Thursday/Friday? First, welcome to the world of mobile banking. Gone are the frictions of standing in line with tellers instructed to count money slowly. Question: How did $42 billion get withdrawn Friday alone without thousands in line? Answer: your phone! This is not the Bailey Savings and Loan anymore. This should scare the hell of bankers and regulators worldwide.

Fed Panics: Signature Bank Closed By Regulators; Fed, TSY, FDIC Announce Another Banking System Bailout -Panic is finally here. On Friday, we said that the Fed will have to make an announcement before the Monday open, and we didn't have to wait that long: in fact, the Fed waited just 15 minutes after futures opened for trading to announce the new bailout, alongside even more shocking news: the Treasury announced that New York State regulators are shuttering Signature Bank - a major New York bank - adding that all depositors both at Signature Bank, and also the now insolvent Silicon Valley Bank, will have access to their money on Monday.And as we process the shock of yet another small bank failure (which makes JPMorgan even bigger), the Fed just issued a statement saying that "to support American businesses and households, the Federal Reserve Board on Sunday announced it will make available additional funding to eligible depository institutions to help assure banks have the ability to meet the needs of all their depositors. This action will bolster the capacity of the banking system to safeguard deposits and ensure the ongoing provision of money and credit to the economy."The Fed also said that it is prepared to address any liquidity pressures that may arise, which in turn has just unveiled the first bailout acronym of the new crisis: the Bank Term Funding Program, or BTFP. Some more details:The financing will be made available through the creation of a new Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP), offering loans of up to one year in length to banks, savings associations, credit unions, and other eligible depository institutions pledging U.S. Treasuries, agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, and other qualifying assets as collateral. These assets will be valued at par. The BTFP will be an additional source of liquidity against high-quality securities, eliminating an institution’s need to quickly sell those securities in times of stress.The Fed explains that the Department of the Treasury will make available "up to $25 billion from the Exchange Stabilization Fund as a backstop for the BTFP." And while the Federal Reserve - which was completely clueless about this banking crisis until Thursday - does not anticipate that it will be necessary to draw on these backstop funds, we anticipate that the final number of needed backstop liquidity be somewhere north of $2 trillion.What is more notable is that the BTFP - or Buy The Fucking Pivot - facility, will pledge collateral at par, not at market value, thus giving banks credit for all those hundreds of billions in unrealized net losses, and allowing banks to "unlock liquidity" based on losses which the Fed and TSY now backstop!

Fed's Barr to lead review of supervision practices for Silicon Valley Bank -The Federal Reserve's top regulator will lead a probe of its supervision activity that preceded the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history, the central bank announced Monday.Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr will conduct a review of the regulation and supervision activity applied to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Silicon Valley Bank, which was shut down by state regulators and taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last week.The Fed was the primary regulator for the $209 billion state-chartered member bank, which was shuttered after a blistering run on deposits drained $42 billion from its balance sheet in 44 hours.In a statement, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the events surrounding the bank's swift demise "demand a thorough, transparent, and swift review." The Fed will publish Barr's findings by May 1, the Fed noted in a press release.In the days since Silicon Valley Bank's failure, the FDIC has also taken over Signature Bank in New York and federal regulators have implemented emergency actions to shore up the banking sector against further runs. On Monday morning, President Joe Biden attempted to quell concerns by assuring consumers that their deposits were safe. He also called for a "full accounting of what happened and why."Some industry participants, policy experts and scholars have pointed the finger at the Fed for failing to address the underlying weaknesses at Silicon Valley Bank, including its heavy reliance on uninsured depositors — those with more than $250,000 at the bank — its exposure to underwater mortgage-backed securities and its failure to hedge against interest rate risks.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Uninsured Depositors Bailed Out. Crypto Signature Bank Shut Down, All Depositors Bailed Out. Senior Execs Fired. All Shareholders, Some Bondholders Bailed In by Wolf Richter - We started hearing this yesterday from “sources” cited by Bloomberg. Now we got it officially, in a joint announcement by Yellen, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, and FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg. The bailout of uninsured depositors has arrived, so now all depositors of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, which was shut down today, will be made whole, not just insured depositors. The banks that are still standing can borrow from the Fed under a new facility. But investors in failed banks are on their own.“After receiving a recommendation from the boards of the FDIC and the Federal Reserve, and consulting with the President, Secretary Yellen approved actions enabling the FDIC to complete its resolution of Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, California, in a manner that fully protects all depositors. Depositors will have access to all of their money starting Monday, March 13,” the statement said.The Fed will pay for it at first. The Fed will print the needed funds to cover the deposits and give it to the FDIC (and the proceeds from asset sales will chip in to cover the losses). “No losses associated with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank will be borne by the taxpayer.”Later, the FDIC will charge other banks for those losses it incurred from bailing out uninsured depositors. And maybe the Fed will eventually get is money back from the FDIC? The statement said: “Any losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund to support uninsured depositors will be recovered by a special assessment on banks, as required by law.”The way it seems to work, with lots of tough love in the statement:

1. The Fed gives the money to the FDIC as needed.
2. The FDIC makes all deposits available on Monday.
3. The FDIC then sells the assets of the banks, which takes some time.
4. The difference between the cost of bailouts of the depositors and the proceeds from the asset sales is the actual amount the FDIC lost.
5. The FDIC charges other banks a “special assessment” to cover those losses, “as required by law.”
6. And it may then pay the Fed back with those funds it collected from other banks?

Signature Bank was shut down on Sunday by New York Department of Financial Services, which announced that it took possession of the bank and that it appointed the FDIC as receiver of the bank.Depositors of Signature bank are included in the bailout, as the joint statement by Yellen, Powell, and FDIC spelled out:“We are also announcing a similar systemic risk exception for Signature Bank, New York, New York, which was closed today by its state chartering authority. All depositors of this institution will be made whole. As with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank, no losses will be borne by the taxpayer.”In other words, the Fed will pay the FDIC for those losses initially, and then the FDIC will collect the funds to cover those losses via special assessment from other banks, and pay the Fed its money back? Sounds like it.The FDIC, in its statement on Signature Bank, said that it transferred all deposits and will transfer all assets to “Signature Bridge Bank, N.A., a full-service bank that will be operated by the FDIC as it markets the institution to potential bidders.”“Depositors and borrowers will automatically become customers of Signature Bridge Bank, N.A. and will continue to have uninterrupted customer service and access to their funds by ATM, debit cards, and writing checks in the same manner as before. Signature Bank’s official checks will continue to clear. Loan customers should continue making loan payments as usual,” the FDIC said.Shareholders and some unsecured bondholders of both banks get bailed in. Should have done your homework, darn. The joint statement said for both banks: “Shareholders and certain unsecured debtholders will not be protected,” with Tough Love from Powell, Yellen, and Gruenberg.Senior management gets axed. No word about claw-backs or indictments or anything, but nevertheless at least they weren’t promoted and put in charge of the bailouts. “Senior management has also been removed,” the statement said.Other banks with a run-on-the-bank can get funding from the Fed. The Fed “will make available additional funding to eligible depository institutions to help assure banks have the ability to meet the needs of all their depositors,” the joint statement said.

US Officials Make Non-Bailout Bailout of Silicon Valley and Signature Bank and Continue Class - by Yves Smith -The great unwashed American public is being subjected to yet another round of “Cream for me, crumbs for thee” in the form of a bailout of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and the creation of a facility to shore up uninsured deposits at other wobbly institutions.This tender concern for spillover effects in the economy comes a mere five days after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee that the central bank was likely to change course at its next policy meeting on March 21 and 22 and go back to larger rate hikes, after moderating at its last meeting.Elizabeth Warren called out that the Fed’s own forecasts showed that it was setting out to destroy jobs. From Fortune:Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, noted that Fed officials have projected that the unemployment rate will reach 4.6% by the end of this year, from 3.4% now. Historically, when the jobless rate has risen by at least 1 percentage point, a recession has followed, she noted.“If you could speak directly to the 2 million hardworking people who have decent jobs today, who you’re planning to get fired over the next year, what would you say to them?” Warren asked. But the prospect of oh so special, connected, and innovative Silicon Valley companies possibly going bust as a result of uninsured depositors was too unfair to let stand. By contrast, ordinary Americans losing their jobs is merely a statistic.Mind you, the justification for the emergency measures was contagion risk and that was real. Personal contacts, as well as chatter on the Internet, indicated that plenty of individuals and businesses with more than $250,000 in deposits were planning on Monday to move some funds into another bank or withdraw deposits and buy safe securities. Both would stress and potentially create runs at other banks. The likely winners would be the biggest banks, such as JP Morgan and Citigroup. As the Financial Times noted: Anat Admati, a finance professor at Stanford University, said regulators over the past few years had allowed the banking system to become fragile again and had no choice but to bail out Silicon Valley Bank.“When it gets to this point and you are in a hostage situation, there is nothing else you can do,” Admati said. “But there is no other word for this other than to call it a bailout.”The officialdom is trying to pretend that these interventions do not amount to bailouts because they are wiping out shareholders and bondholders. Many experts and commentators do not find that argument convincing. For instance:It’s true that the Treasury, FDIC, and Fed moves today - together and separately - will not provide *more* to these parties, but the guarantees now on tap make the bonanzas to these parties in the preceding years possible in the first place. Shareholders and managers especially had a stellar run through privatized upsides all along the way. There’s a substantial amount of cold hard cash that these individuals have pocketed (which will stay in their pockets) because of this asymmetry.

Pence: It’s disingenuous for Biden to say taxpayers won’t pay for bank ‘bailout’ -Former Vice President Mike Pence slammed the Biden administration for what he called a “bailout” of the failed Silicon Valley Bank, arguing that it is “disingenuous” for federal officials to suggest that Americans will not pay for backstopping depositors. “President Biden says taxpayers won’t pay for the bailout, but that is disingenuous – every American with a bank account will pay higher fees to replenish the billions spent by the (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) FDIC to backstop failing banks,” Pence said in an op-ed for the Daily Mail. While the FDIC insures each depositor up to $250,000, federal regulators announced that they would tap into a separate insurance fund paid into by U.S. banks to backstop all deposits, making sure that Silicon Valley Bank customers had access to their money. The Biden administration insists that the backstop of deposits is not a bailout, saying bank executives and shareholders will not reap the benefits. However, Republicans including Pence and presidential candidate Nikki Haley have been quick to push back. Pence laid the blame for the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and subsequent panic in the banking industry at the feet of the Biden administration. He said the administration’s “spending spree” pushed inflation rates higher, forcing the Federal Reserve to hike up interest rates. He also said that the administration encouraged the banking industry to make investment decisions based on an environmental agenda, pursuing “woke” projects. “The bank boasted that it was ‘living its values’ by pursuing left-wing environmental, social and governance goals and donating millions of dollars to liberal nonprofits,” Pence said. “When interest rates went up, their long-term bonds imploded and SVB was left holding the bag.” Proponents of backstopping the uninsured deposits saw the move as a way to ensure consumer confidence in the banking industry and stave off any deeper slide in the sector. Still, a number of regional banks at the start of this week saw significant drops in the share prices. Ultimately, Pence said he was vehemently opposed to the “bailout”, arguing “no business is ‘too big to fail.’”

Four days into banking crisis, questions outnumber answers - Policymakers — especially President Biden — hoped Monday to dispel fears about the banking system after two high-profile bank failures, but several major questions remained unanswered four days into the crisis. For starters, who are the potential buyers of either Silicon Valley Bank or Signature Bank after their collapses, and what remains to be acquired? Are other banks at risk of a collapse? Will the emergency measures put into place by the federal government prevent more bank runs, and what are the long-term ramifications of those measures, including the decision by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to guarantee uninsured deposits at the two failed banks? It's hard to predict what happens next, but there is likely to be fallout, including the possibility that banks' margins will get squeezed as they pony up and pay higher rates on deposits to preserve liquidity, said Kevin Crowley, a former investment banker who now teaches finance at Emory University in Atlanta. "Even if people don't pull money rapidly out of banks, banks are now under pressure to either provide higher interest rates on those deposits or risk losing them," Crowley said Monday. Some details about what happens next were clearer Monday, one day after Signature in New York was seized by its state-chartering authority and three days after regulators shut down Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, California. In a press release, the FDIC announced that it had created a bridge bank that will be operated by the FDIC to protect Silicon Valley Bank depositors, and it appointed ex-Fannie Mae CEO Tim Mayopoulos to lead the entity. In a separate press release about Signature Bank, the FDIC said it also transferred all "qualified financial contracts" of the failed bank to the bridge bank that has been set up for Signature. The FDIC defines such contracts as "any securities contract, commodity contract, forward contract, purchase agreement, swap agreement and any similar agreement that the [FDIC] determines by regulation, resolution or order to be a qualified financial contract." As for who might acquire Silicon Valley Bank or Signature, some analysts suggested that large banks could be likely candidates, though it is unclear how the largest banks would make a deal given federal rules that prohibit banks from holding more than 10% of the nation's deposits. Other industry watchers have crossed off the big banks. Cliff Rossi, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business, said he doesn't anticipate banks such as Citigroup or U.S. Bancorp "coming out of the woodwork" and doing a deal. "There has to be some strategic value for taking on the assets of these companies," Rossi said in an interview. "I don't see a ready buyer that's waiting in the wings." One major player that apparently isn't interested in Silicon Valley Bank: PNC Financial Services Group, the nation's sixth-largest bank by assets. A spokesperson confirmed Monday evening that the Pittsburgh-based company is not in talks to acquire Silicon Valley Bank or its holding company, SVB Financial Group. "There's not one clear buyer, obviously," David Smith, an analyst at Autonomous Research, said in an interview Monday. "I'm sure there will be interested parties. It's just a question of regulators finding someone they think is a good fit and someone that offers a good deal."

Opinion | If banks want federal rescue, they should accept federal regulation - The Washington Post - There is nothing funny about the second-biggest bank failure in the nation’s history, which has roiled financial markets at a time when the economy is already unsettled. It is richly ironic, though, to hear luminaries of the tech sector, after years of complaining that “big government” was the problem, suddenly clamoring for massive federal intervention and largesse. I’m talking about people such as David Sacks, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is a member of the so-called PayPal mafia, a group of founders and early employees that includes bombastic anti-government billionaires Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. On Twitter, Sacks has railed against “profligate spending and money printing coming out of Washington” and the evils of what he calls “Bidenomics.”But on Friday, Sacks was frantically calling for big government to come to the rescue of Silicon Valley Bank. He tweeted: “Where is Powell? Where is Yellen? Stop this crisis NOW. Announce that all depositors will be safe. Place SVB with a Top 4 bank. Do this before Monday open or there will be contagion and the crisis will spread.” And I’m talking about people like another Musk confidant, investor Jason Calacanis, who was tweeting along the same lines on Saturday, but in all caps: “@POTUS & @SecYellen MUST GET ON TV TOMORROW AND GUARANTEE ALL DEPOSITS UP TO $10M OR THIS WILL SPIRAL INTO CHAOS.”Shorter version: I want my big-government rescue, and I want it now. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen acted decisively on Sunday, assuring the failed bank’s depositors that they would have immediate access to all of their funds, not just the $250,000 guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It was the right move, and with a suite of other measures has been successful — so far — in preventing what could have been a catastrophic run on regional banks. But these steps could only have been taken by a great big government with enormous resources and the willingness to use them for the common good. It turns out that “profligate spending and money printing” aren’t always such bad things after all.And neither is prudent, effective government regulation. In 2010, following the financial crisis and the Great Recession, President Barack Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Act establishing a comprehensive set of new rules for how banks could operate and how they would be scrutinized. In 2015, Greg Becker, the chief executive of SVB — which he was until last Friday, when the bank collapsed and he was fired — joined lobbyists asking Congress to weaken mandated safeguards for “mid-sized” banks such as his. Congress complied by passing a deregulation law signed by President Donald Trump in 2018. In a letter to Becker this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote that if the original Dodd-Frank rules had still been in place, the SVB crisis might not have happened. The bank “would have been required to maintain stronger liquidity and capital requirements and conduct regular stress tests that would have required SVB to shore up its business,” Warren wrote.

Watch- Woke Signature Bank Videos Go Viral After Fed Shut-Down - After New York state regulators shut down Signature Bank Sunday, a series of woke videos produced by the company has gone viral, with critics noting it’s no wonder the bank went under if this was what they were concentrating on.Grit Capital founder Genevieve Roch-Decter shared the videos, asking “Is it surprising that Signature Bank failed?”“Their executive team spent millions of dollars to produce music videos & TV shows about themselves,” she continued, adding “Try not to cringe as you watch this.”Is it surprising that Signature Bank failed?Their executive team spent millions of dollars to produce music videos & TV shows about themselvesTry not to cringe as you watch this: pic.twitter.com/16K70FQq5o— Genevieve Roch-Decter, CFA (@GRDecter) March 13, 2023 Roc h-Decter also noted that a source from inside the bank told her the management were like something out of the TV show The Office:The execs also tried their hands at a comedy sketch/musical combo. I'm speechless. pic.twitter.com/y3lWDCcSlp— Genevieve Roch-Decter, CFA (@GRDecter) March 13, 2023The Parodies continue with this one, based on a Katy Perry song, and using the Pink Floyd Money sample, presumably without consent: Who would have trusted their money to these guys after watching this video?This is a circus not a bank. pic.twitter.com/UYXxyifD4b

Silicon Valley Bank Was a Wall Street IPO Pipeline in Drag as a Federally-Insured Bank; FHLB of San Francisco Was Quietly Bailing It Out - by Pam and Russ Martens - If you want to genuinely understand why Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failed and why Jerome Powell’s Fed led the effort yesterday to make sure $150 billion of the bank’s uninsured depositors’ money would be treated as FDIC insured and available today, you need to take a look at how the bank defined itself right up until it blew up on Friday. (That history is still available at the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine at this link. Give the page time to load.)This was a financial institution deployed to facilitate the goals of powerful venture capital and private equity operators, by financing tech and pharmaceutical startups until they could raise millions or billions of dollars in a Wall Street Initial Public Offering (IPO). The bank was also involved in managing the wealth of those startup millionaires or billionaires once they struck it big in an IPO.Many of the former startup companies also continued to keep their operating money at the bank – in many cases in the millions of dollars, ignoring the fact that just $250,000 of that was insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Last Friday, dozens of publicly-traded companies made filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating that they had large sums of uninsured deposits now frozen at Silicon Valley Bank. Several indicated that the amounts represented 23 to 26 percent of the company’s cash and/or cash equivalents.Roku, Inc., the publicly-traded manufacturer of digital media players for video streaming, reported the following to the SEC: “The Company has total cash and cash equivalents of approximately $1.9 billion as of March 10, 2023. Approximately $487 million is held at SVB, which represents approximately 26% of the Company’s cash and cash equivalents balance as of March 10, 2023.”Publicly-traded Oncorus, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing RNA-based medicine for cancer patients, reported the following to the SEC: “The Company informs its investors that it has deposit accounts with SVB with an aggregate balance of approximately $10 million, which is approximately 23% of the Company’s total current cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments. In addition, the Company has a standby letter of credit in place with SVB of approximately $3.4 million securing obligations under its lease agreement with IQHQ-4 Corporate Drive, LLC.”In big, bold type on its website, Silicon Valley Bank bragged that “44% of U.S. venture-backed technology and healthcare IPOs YTD [year-to-date] bank with SVB.”To put it bluntly, this was a Wall Street IPO machine that enriched the investment banks on Wall Street by keeping the IPO pipeline moving; padded the bank accounts of the venture capital and private equity middlemen; and minted startup millionaires for ideas that often flamed out after the companies went public. These are the functions and risks taken by investment banks. Silicon Valley Bank – with this business model — should never have been allowed to hold a federally-insured banking charter and be backstopped by the U.S. taxpayer, who was on the hook for its incompetent bank management.We say incompetent based on this fact alone (although there were clearly lots of other problem areas): $150 billion of its $175 billion in deposits were uninsured. The bank was clearly playing a dangerous gambit with its depositors’ money.Adding further insult to U.S. taxpayers, the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco was quietly bailing out SVB throughout much of last year. Federal Home Loan Banks are also not supposed to be in the business of bailing out venture capitalists or private equity titans. Their job is to provide loans to banks to promote mortgages to individuals and loans to promote affordable housing and community development.According to SEC filings by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, its loan advances to SVB went from zero at the end of 2021 to a whopping $15 billion on December 31, 2022. The SEC filing provides a graph showing that SVB was its largest borrower at year end, with outstanding advances representing 17 percent of all loans made by the FHLB of San Francisco.

SVB's tech failings were a problem long before the bank run that led to its demise, critics say -Silicon Valley Bank's historic meltdown last week was largely attributed to deteriorating business conditions in the firm's concentrated customer base and an ill-timed decision to invest billions of dollars in mortgage-backed securities. But long-time clients and others with intimate knowledge of how SVB operated say the bank did itself no favors. Between the bank's refusal to upgrade its technology to meet the demands of modern-day businesses and its treatment of many startup customers, SVB's problems extended beyond its risk profile and a challenging economy. An ex-SVB manager, who worked on risk initiatives and asked not to be identified, said the bank remained technologically stagnant even as it was a haven for startups that had an eye for cutting-edge software and products. As she described it, "the backend of the bank is all bubblegum and wires." Three startup CEOs who bank with SVB agreed, telling CNBC that the user experience was often clunky and at times, slow to fulfill requests. David Selinger, CEO of physical security company Deep Sentinel, told CNBC that SVB fumbled its response to the Covid pandemic, after the government initiated the emergency payment protection program (PPP). The loans from the program were designed to allow companies to continue paying employees during the economic shutdown. "It completely failed in the midst of all these companies needing to get their PPP funds," said Selinger, who spent the majority of Friday trying to pull assets out of SVB. Selinger, a former Amazon executive who has the backing of Jeff Bezos for Deep Sentinel, said his company had tried to use various automated services provided by SVB but ended up having to do everything manually, "clawing hand over foot to try to get to PPP funds, because the fulfillment didn't work.""I love SVB, but that was horrible for our business," he said. "They had written some code to try to make it faster and none of it worked."One CEO, who had millions of dollars housed at SVB and asked not to be named, described the bank's system as terrible, slow and "the worst in the industry." He said the tech looked like it was built in 2002.In April 2020, Tech Crunch reported on other SVB customers complaining that the bank mishandled the PPP process.CNBC sent an email to SVB's press address requesting a comment for this story but we haven't yet received a reply. Some SVB defenders told their followers that they needed to band together and support the 40-year-old bank, which has long been central to the tech ecosystem. One startup founder, Robert McLaws, responded to a particular tweet and offered a very different perspective."As an @SVB_Financial customer for the last 5 years, they are terrible as an actual bank & are getting what they deserve," wrote McLaws, CEO of BurnRate.io. "Their tech stack has not moved 1 iota, their fees are punitive, and if you're not in SV you're invisible."

Silicon Valley Bank Followed Exactly What Regulation Recommended - The second largest collapse of a bank in recent history could have been prevented. Now, the impact is too large, and the contagion risk is difficult to measure. The demise of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is a classic bank run driven by a liquidity event, but the important lesson for everyone is that the enormity of the unrealized losses and financial hole in the bank’s accounts would have not existed if it were not for ultra-loose monetary policy. Let us explain why. As of December 31, 2022, Silicon Valley Bank had approximately $209.0 billion in total assets and about $175.4 billion in total deposits, according to their public accounts. Their top shareholders are Vanguard Group (11.3%), BlackRock (8.1%), StateStreet (5.2%) and the Swedish pension fund Alecta (4.5%). The incredible growth and success of SVB could not have happened without negative rates, ultra-loose monetary policy, and the tech bubble that burst in 2022. Furthermore, the bank’s liquidity event could not have happened without the regulatory and monetary policy incentives to accumulate sovereign debt and mortgage-backed securities. The asset base of Silicon SVB read like the clearest example of the old mantra: “Don’t fight the Fed”. SVB made one big mistake: Follow exactly the incentives created by loose monetary policy and regulation. What happened in 2021? Massive success that, unfortunately, was also the first step to its demise. The bank’s deposits nearly doubled with the tech boom. Everyone wanted a piece of the unstoppable new tech paradigm. SVB’s assets also rose and almost doubled. The bank’s assets rose in value. More than 40% were long-dated Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The rest were seemingly world-conquering new tech and venture capital investments. Most of those “low risk” bonds and securities were held to maturity. They were following the mainstream rulebook: Low-risk assets to balance the risk in venture capital investments. When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, they must have been shocked. The entire asset base of SVB was one single bet: Low rates and quantitative easing for longer. Tech valuations soared in the period of loose monetary policy and the best way to hedge that risk was with Treasuries and MBS. Why would they bet on anything else? This is what the Fed was buying in billions every month, these were the lowest risk assets according to all regulations and, according to the Fed and all mainstream economists, inflation was purely “transitory”, a base-effect anecdote. What could go wrong? Inflation was not transitory and easy money was not endless. Rate hikes happened. And they caught the bank suffering massive losses everywhere. Goodbye bonds and MBS price. Goodbye tech “new paradigm” valuations. And hello panic. A good old bank run, despite the strong recovery of the SVB shares in January. Mark-to-market unrealized losses of $15 billion were almost 100% of the market capitalization of the bank. Wipe out.

Two Fed-Supervised Banks Blew Up Last Week; Two More Dropped Over 40 Percent Yesterday; and the Fed Wants to Investigate Itself — Again –by Pam and Russ Martens - Last Wednesday, federally-insured Silvergate Bank announced that it was closing shop and liquidating. Its parent’s stock price (Silvergate Capital, ticker SI) had lost over 90 percent of its value over the prior year; it was under a Justice Department investigation for how it moved money for crypto-kingpin Sam Bankman-Fried’s house of frauds; and its depositors were fleeing. Oh – and by the way – its primary regulator was the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Last Friday, California state regulators closed Silicon Valley Bank and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) became the receiver. Its stock price had lost over 80 percent of its market value over the prior year; $150 billion of its $175 billion in deposits were uninsured, either because they exceeded the $250,000 FDIC cap and/or they were foreign deposits. The bank was effectively operating as a Wall Street IPO pipeline in drag as a federally-insured bank. The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco had quietly been bailing it out – to the tune of $15 billion. Oh – and by the way – its primary regulator was the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. And while all of this hubris was occurring, the CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, Gregory Becker, was sitting on the Board of Directors of his regulator, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. This is far from the first time that the CEO of a questionable bank was sitting on the Board of a Federal Reserve Bank. As Citigroup CEO, Sandy Weill, was burying the bank under off balance sheet vehicles that would eventually crater the bank in 2008; send its stock price to 99 cents in early 2009; and require the largest bank bailout by the Fed in U.S. history, Weill was also serving on the Board of Directors of the New York Fed. And while Jamie Dimon was CEO of JPMorgan Chase and it was losing what eventually grew to $6.2 billion of bank depositors’ money in wild derivative bets in London, Dimon was also sitting on the Board of the New York Fed. Oh, and by the way, the Fed member banks in each of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts that can choose to be regulated by the Fed, literally own their regulator. That’s right, they own the stock in their regional Fed bank, which is a private institution, unlike the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. which is an “independent” federal agency. (See, for example, These Are the Banks that Own the New York Fed and Its Money Button.) Adding to the ongoing arrogance of the Fed, its Chairman, Jerome Powell, released a statement two minutes after the market closed yesterday, stating that “The events surrounding Silicon Valley Bank demand a thorough, transparent, and swift review…” So, once again, it’s decided to investigate itself. The Fed’s Vice Chairman for Supervision, Michael Barr, will oversee the investigation.The last time the Fed decided to investigate itself was over its unprecedented trading scandal where various Fed officials engaged in highly inappropriate trading during the pandemic when Fed officials had insider knowledge of bailout actions the Fed planned to take to stem the stock market rout. Powell referred the investigation into that matter to the Fed’s Inspector General – who reports to (wait for it) the Federal Reserve Board, which is headed by Powell. Against this backdrop of Fed hubris, the PBS program, Frontline, will tonight premiere a two-hour documentary on the Fed’s controversial monetary policies that have led us to this dangerous point in time. The Age of Easy Money comes from the award-winning producers James Jacoby and Anya Bourg. In the documentary, economist Nouriel Roubini says “We lived in a bubble, in a dream, and this dream and bubble is bursting.” Jim Millstein, Co-Chairman of Guggenheim Securities, shares this: “I’ve never been more worried in the 42 years that I’ve been a professional. The Fed is absolutely right to try and get it [inflation] under control by raising interest rates in slowing economic activity. But the most highly levered players in our economy are going to come under real stress whether that’s households or businesses or governments, as interest costs rise.” Actually, what’s blowing up right at this moment and scaring the daylights out of the American people are the U.S. banks (some of which were supervised by the Fed) that are sitting on a cumulative $620 billion of unrealized losses.

Top Audit Firm Defends Giving Clean Bill Of Health To SVB, Signature Bank Weeks Before Failure -- Audit giant KPMG is standing by its audits of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank, which collapsed when customers rushed to withdraw their savings in panic-fueled bank runs. The two banks failed not long after their respective annual reports were certified by KPMG, one of the so-called “Big Four” accounting firms, a list that also includes Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Paul Knopp, CEO of KPMG’s U.S. operations, defended the firm’s audit work on SVB and Signature in an interview with Financial Times during a Tuesday event at the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business. He pointed to “market-driven events” and “unpredictable” customer reactions to such events as examples of factors behind bank failures that audit work is powerless to address. “As we take into account everything we know today … we stand behind the reports we issued and we think we followed all professional standards,” Knopp told the outlet. Knopp insisted that KPMG “absolutely” considered all the facts that were known up until the day the audits were issued, adding that it’s impossible to know with certainty what will happen after the reports are released. He didn’t go into the specifics of the causes of the twin bank failures, speaking only in general terms about “actions” and “reactions” in the context of bank runs. The SVB collapse came as depositors rushed for the exits as word spread that the bank had booked huge losses on its bond portfolios, which eroded in value due to rising interest rates. Signature’s failure came as panic spread from the collapse of SVB and as Signature’s connections with the crypto space seemed to spook depositors, who rushed to withdraw their money. Both banks had above average amounts of uninsured deposits, meaning amounts above the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) deposit guarantee of $250,000 per depositor per account category. Uninsured amounts are subject to losses in case of bank failure.

The US bank system is more fragile than you’d think -- Academia isn’t exactly famous for churning out timely papers of practical value. But occasionally a gem emerges from the scholastic grind at the perfect moment. One such effort has landed in FTAV’s SVB-bloated inbox today.The abstract from five researchers at the University of Southern California, Northwestern University, Columbia University, Stanford University and NBER (our emphasis below): We analyze U.S. banks’ asset exposure to a recent rise in the interest rates with implications for financial stability. The U.S. banking system’s market value of assets is $2 trillion lower than suggested by their book value of assets accounting for loan portfolios held to maturity. Marked-to-market bank assets have declined by an average of 10% across all the banks, with the bottom 5th percentile experiencing a decline of 20%.We illustrate that uninsured leverage (i.e., Uninsured Debt/Assets) is the key to understanding whether these losses would lead to some banks in the U.S. becoming insolvent-- unlike insured depositors, uninsured depositors stand to lose a part of their deposits if the bank fails, potentially giving them incentives to run.A case study of the recently failed Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is illustrative. 10 percent of banks have larger unrecognized losses than those at SVB. Nor was SVB the worst capitalized bank, with 10 percent of banks having lower capitalization than SVB. On the other hand, SVB had a disproportional share of uninsured funding: only 1 percent of banks had higher uninsured leverage. Combined, losses and uninsured leverage provide incentives for an SVB uninsured depositor run.We compute similar incentives for the sample of all U.S. banks. Even if only half of uninsured depositors decide to withdraw, almost 190 banks are at a potential risk of impairment to insured depositors, with potentially $300 billion of insured deposits at risk. If uninsured deposit withdrawals cause even small fire sales, substantially more banks are at risk. Overall, these calculations suggests that recent declines in bank asset values very significantly increased the fragility of the US banking system to uninsured depositor runs.You can find the full paper here.The Silicon Valley Bank-related stuff will be painfully familiar to anyone who has read Alphaville since -checks notes- last… Thursday?? By now it’s clear that SVB was a huge outlier among banks when it came to uninsured deposits.But Erica Jiang, Gregor Matvos, Tomasz Piskorski, and Amit Seru estimate that there are quite a few banks with bigger unrecognised losses and worse capital positions than SVB. The $2.2tn of unrealised losses is much bigger than most other figures floating about. Here’s the breakdown:As KWB’s Tom Michaud told Alex yesterday: “These underwater bond positions are going to have to be addressed . . . Banks who have larger [mark-to-market losses] could be candidates to raise capital.”The SVB combination of factors still looks very idiosyncratic though. Even setting aside differing quality of risk management and intensity of regulations, the vast majority of banks will never have to recognise mark-to-market losses on their bond portfolios as they can and will just hold them until maturity. This isn’t junk, it’s overwhelmingly Treasuries and high-grade mortgage bonds.What forced SVB into booking the losses was an evaporating deposits as tech companies pulled money en masse. That meant it had to sell $21bn of bonds at a $1.8bn loss, and started the avalanche. But the fragile deposit base was the crucial weakness. As the paper notes: “If SVB failed because of losses alone, more than 500 other banks should also have failed.”

SVB collapse exposes deep problems in US financial system - In the wake of the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) on Friday, the second-largest bank failure in US history, followed by the takeover of the New York-based Signature Bank by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) on Sunday, the third largest, questions are being raised about the stability of the entire US financial and banking system. There was a certain irony in the demise of Signature. One of its board members was Barney Frank, a former House of Representatives member and co-sponsor of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which was enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and was supposed to prevent a repetition of such events. There are divergences in financial markets over what has been done. Ken Griffin, the founder of the hedge fund Citadel and a strident advocate of “free markets,” told the Financial Times that the rescue of uninsured depositors should not have taken place. “The US is supposed to be a capitalist economy, and that’s breaking down before our eyes,” he said. The losses to depositors would have been minimal and would have “driven home the point that risk management is essential.” Others have a completely opposed position, including prominent hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. Ackman called for a major intervention, tweeting that “our economy will not function effectively without our community and regional banking system.” During the meetings between the Fed, the FDIC and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, venture capitalists, who formed much of the client base of SVB, intervened heavily and played the military card. One anonymous source involved in the lobbying campaign, cited by the Financial Times (FT), said the theme of their pitch was “this is not a bank.” “This is the innovation economy. This is the US versus China. You can’t kill these innovative companies.” The SVB crash was triggered by two interconnected processes set into motion by the Fed’s interest rate rises over the past year, as it seeks to batter down the wages upsurge of the working class in response to the highest inflation rate in four decades. SVB had invested the money it received in 2020 and 2021, when the Fed was providing money virtually for free, into Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. However, the interest rate hikes have meant that the market value of these financial assets has fallen below their book value, and SVB made losses when it came to sell them to meet the cash outflow. When a move by SVB to strengthen its capital base with a new share issue failed, the FDIC intervened. There is no doubt that SVB’s dependence on Treasury bonds and its failure to hedge its operations—apparently in the belief, held by other sections of the market as well, that the Fed would have to start to cut rates in the not-too-distant future—was a significant factor in its collapse. But the SVB case, notwithstanding its peculiarities, has thrown the spotlight on other banks whose position has worsened with the decline in the value of their holdings of Treasury bonds. According to research undertaken by economists from five major universities and reported on by the FT under the headline “The US bank system is more fragile than you’d think,” the problems that hit SVB are present on a wide scale. The study found that with the rise in interest rates, “the US banking system’s market value of assets is $2 trillion lower than suggested by their book value of assets.”

Buy your ‘We have excellent capital and funding!’ t-shirt today -- FT Alphaville - Get ahead of those pesky questions.

First Republic secures new facility from JPMorgan (Reuters) - U.S. private bank First Republic Bank said on Sunday it had secured additional financing through JPMorgan Chase, giving it access to a total of $70 billion in funds through various sources.First Republic's announcement came after its share price was hit last week in the aftermath of a run on SVB Financial Group.Silicon Valley Bank's collapse on Friday prompted U.S. Federal Reserve and other regulators to announce a series of emergency measures to shore up confidence in the banking system. In a statement, First Republic said additional borrowing capacity from the U.S. Federal Reserve as well as that from JPMorgan had boosted the amount of liquidity it had available.

First Republic Gets Additional Funding From Fed, JPMorgan -WSJ - First Republic Bank said it has shored up its finances with additional funding from the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The fresh funding gives the bank, which was under pressure following the collapse of SVB Financial Corp. last week, $70 billion in unused liquidity. That doesn’t include money First Republic is eligible to borrow through a new Fed lending facility designed to help banks meet withdrawals.

First Republic Shares Crash 60% As Regional Bank 'Crisis In Confidence' Spreads - First Republic Bank's stock crashed in premarket trading in New York following a statement issued on Sunday night that sought to ease investor worries about its liquidity situation in the wake of the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Shares of the regional bank are down 60% in the premarket. The lender said in a statement late Sunday that it had more than $70 billion in unused liquidity to fund operations from agreements that included the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan Chase & Co."The additional borrowing capacity from the Federal Reserve, continued access to funding through the Federal Home Loan Bank, and ability to access additional financing through JPMorgan Chase & Co. increases, diversifies, and further strengthens First Republic's existing liquidity profile," the bank said, adding that more liquidity is available through the Fed's new lending facility. "The plunge in its shares is classic market psychology at work, with investors starting to question the credentials of any lender that may be remotely in the same category of Silicon Valley Bank," Bloomberg's Ven Ram wrote. We pointed out over the weekend, "as a result of the SVB failure - one look at what is already taking place at some smaller, vulnerable banks such as this First Republic Branch in Brentwood should be sufficient to see what comes tomorrow if the Fed makes the wrong decision today."

Moody’s weighs downgrade for six US banks following SVB collapse - Moody’s will review ratings for San Francisco’s First Republic Bank, Phoenix-based Western Alliance Bancorporation, Dallas-based Comerica Bank, Kansas City’s UMB Financial, Utah’s Zions Bank and Wichita, Kan.-based Intrust Financial. The firm said that First Republic Bank has substantial unrealized losses on its investments and a low level of capitalization compared to its peers. Because the bank has a “material” share of deposits that are above the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s $250,000 insurance limit, it faces an elevated risk of rapid and large withdrawals, according to Moody’s. “If it were to face higher-than-anticipated deposit outflows and liquidity backstops proved insufficient, the bank could need to sell assets, thus crystallizing unrealized losses on its [securities],” Moody’s analysts wrote. Regional banks’ shares saw huge selloffs on Monday before recovering the next day. First Republic’s shares plummeted 62 percent on Monday, then rose 49 percent on Tuesday. Federal regulators shuttered Santa Clara, Calif.-based Silicon Valley Bank following a bank run from its tech-focused clients who were concerned about the bank’s hefty unrealized losses on long-term treasury bonds, which took a hit due to the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes. Regulators also closed down New York’s Signature Bank and guaranteed that depositors at both banks would get their money back through a fund that is paid for by fees on banks. The Fed launched an emergency lending program to make sure banks have enough cash to fulfill withdrawals.

Moody’s Downgrades Entire U.S. Banking System; Credit Suisse Plummets. Welcome to Banking Crisis 3.0 - The “Related Articles” linked below (a tiny sampling of relevant articles) will remind our readers just how long and in how many different ways we have been attempting to warn that the U.S. banking system was incompetently structured and at risk of systemic contagion. We have also repeatedly warned that the crony, captured Fed was the worst possible banking supervisor and should be stripped of its bank regulatory powers and restricted to setting monetary policy. On a regular basis, we emailed these articles to key staff of the Senators and House Reps who sit on the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees. Late Monday, the credit rating agency, Moody’s, downgraded the entire U.S. banking system outlook to negative from stable. (Let that sink in for a moment – a downgrade of the entire U.S. banking system.) The news of the Moody’s downgrade did not hit the wires until yesterday, which should have cratered the most vulnerable bank stocks. Instead, there was a highly suspicious short squeeze that fueled a big rally in the prices of publicly-traded banks.That unwarranted optimism has now been reversed this morning with Dow futures down more than 600 points just after 8:00 a.m. in New York; major banks in Europe temporarily halted from trading after steep selloffs; and troubled Swiss behemoth bank, Credit Suisse, down 24 percent to a new all time low of $1.74 in morning trade in Europe following multiple trading halts. For the systemic contagion posed by Credit Suisse, see our February 10 article: Credit Suisse Tanks Yesterday to $3.02; It’s Lost Over 90 Percent of Its Market Value Since 2007; It’s Not Alone.We say in our headline above that this is Banking Crisis 3.0 because this is the third time (excluding the emergency measures taken in 2020 as a result of the COVID pandemic) that the Federal Reserve has deployed emergency measures to bail out the U.S. banking system in the past 15 years. (Prior to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which prevented the combination of Wall Street trading houses with federally-insured banks, there had been no major Fed bailouts for 66 years.)The banking crisis of 2008 was widely covered by the media, which even went to court to get the Fed to come clean on the dollar amounts and names of the banks that received trillions of dollars in secret, cumulative loans from the Fed. (See our report last year: Mainstream Media Has Morphed from Battling the Fed in Court in 2008 to Groveling at its Feet Today.)But because Congress failed to restore the Glass-Steagall Act after the 2008 financial crash – the worst since the Great Depression – the Fed was back to secretly bailing out the trading units of the behemoth depository banks in September 2019. Mainstream media – across the board – censored this critical story. See our report: There’s a News Blackout on the Fed’s Naming of the Banks that Got Its Emergency Repo Loans; Some Journalists Appear to Be Under Gag Orders. That censorship allowed Congress to kick the can down the road, leading to this even greater Banking Crisis 3.0 today.

Treasury Yields Collapse After First Republic Downgrade To 'Junk' (graphs) If the systemic risk hangover from Credit Suisse wasn't enough of a drag on US banking stocks, the news that S&P just downgraded First Republic Bank to 'junk' has accelerated the global de-risking. S&P cut First Republic Bank’s long-term issuer credit rating to BB+ from A- saying it thinks outflow risk remains elevated in the wake of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, despite regulatory help and the bank actively increasing its borrowing availability. “We expect increased wholesale borrowings to further weigh on its net interest margin” “We believe that First Republic’s deposit base is more concentrated than most large U.S. regional banks, which presents heightened funding risks in the current environment.” First Republic stock is down 20% in the pre-market... The Regional Bank index is crashing back near post-SVB lows... And that has swung back with safe-haven flows into USTs with the 2Y yield collapsing... To its lowest since Sept 2022... As the market's expectations for Fed action is dovishly disappearing... With over 120bps of rate-cuts now priced in for 2023... And the terminal getting smaller and sooner... With March now the 'terminal rate' with a 60% chance of a 'pause' now priced in... Simply put - the market is pricing in a central bank panic (on recession or systemic risk threat). Given the resurgence in FRA/OIS spread (indicator stress in the financial pipes)... We suspect the focus will be on saving banks or The Fed's transmission pipeline is broken and useless.

First Republic to get $30B in deposits from U.S.'s largest banks - Eleven of the nation’s largest banks announced Thursday that they would deposit a total of $30 billion into First Republic Bank, as Wall Street and U.S. officials staged an emergency intervention aimed at quelling tremors in the financial sector. Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo announced infusions of $5 billion each for First Republic, while Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will each deposit $2.5 billion. The Wall Street move, which was coordinated in part by Biden administration officials, is aimed at stabilizing First Republic and sending a signal to depositors and global markets that the U.S. financial system is secure despite the failures last week of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. “This show of support by a group of large banks is most welcome, and demonstrates the resilience of the banking system,” said a joint statement by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg and acting comptroller of the currency Michael J. Hsu. BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, State Street, Truist and U.S. Bank all also announced deposits at First Republic of $1 billion each. Yellen discussed the idea of an injection of private capital for First Republic personally on a phone call with JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon, who went to work getting the banks to agree on the concept, said two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. Yellen and Dimon both phoned multiple CEOs over the next few days as the plan cohered. Federal officials held an additional phone call with CEOs and regulators on Thursday morning to confirm the details of the plan, and Yellen met in person with Dimon at the Treasury Department shortly before the measure was formally announced, the people said. Yellen closely coordinated on the stabilization measure with White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and White House National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard.

Here’s why the ‘too big to fail’ banks bailed out First Republic - A consortium of 11 giant banks that are ostensibly in competition with one another came together Thursday to bail out one of their own, the California-based First Republic, in order to help stabilize the teetering U.S. financial system. The $30-billion transfer to First Republic by banks including JPMorgan, Citigroup and other banking juggernauts that were deemed “too big to fail” in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis is spurring a flight of deposits away from smaller lenders. It is also raising eyebrows about the relationship between Wall Street and the federal government. The private-sector rescue came just days after a public-sector bailout of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Reserve and Treasury Department. In that deal, taxpayer money is being used to backstop a federal line of credit extended to ailing banks. Administration officials maintain the move to save First Republic was done at the initiative of the financial sector, but multiple outlets report that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen leaned on JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon to get the deal done. The effects of the news on the beleaguered First Republic, which had at one point lost 80 percent of its share value since Monday, were immediate. First Republic stock rose 10 percent on news of the rescue package on Thursday but was down more than 30 percent during trading on Friday. Representatives for the banking industry told The Hill that the $30-billion bailout for First Republic was the banks’ idea and that the move was designed to stabilize the financial sector in the interests of the broader economy. The economy has been under pressure from eight consecutive interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. U.S. officials have repeated this line, saying they’re supportive of the move but not responsible for it. “This show of support by a group of large banks is most welcome, and demonstrates the resilience of the banking system,” a Thursday statement from the Treasury and other government agencies reads. But reporting by the New York Times and other outlets indicates that the private-sector bailout was Yellen’s idea and that she suggested it to JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, who then corralled industry leaders to pony up the funds. “Despite still feeling bruised by the fallout from JPMorgan’s rescues of Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns during the 2008 financial crisis, Dimon started calling other C.E.O.s to raise the money,” the Times reported in its Dealbook newsletter on Friday. “Jamie Dimon and Janet Yellen were on a call Tuesday, when she floated an idea: What if the nation’s largest lenders deposited billions of dollars into First Republic Bank, the latest firm getting nudged toward the brink by a depositor panic,” Bloomberg News reported Thursday.Political blowback from a second round of public bank bailouts may have been what the Biden administration was trying to avoid in asking private bankers for their help.

First Republic shares tank almost 33% despite $30 billion support (Reuters) - Shares of First Republic Bank tumbled nearly 33% on Friday, leaving them down more than 80% in the past 10 sessions, despite a rescue package with $30 billion in deposits injected by large U.S. banks. The beleaguered lender was in talks to raise money from other banks or private equity firms by selling new shares, the New York Times reported on Friday afternoon, citing three people with knowledge of the process. The bank could also negotiate to be sold, the report said. First Republic declined to comment. Concerns about the bank's health prompted top power brokers including U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon to put together an unprecedented rescue deal on Thursday. The lender also said it had borrowed up to $109 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve and an additional $10 billion from the Federal Home Loan Bank on March 9. "The significance of the changes in (the company's) balance sheet in just one week are staggering ... and along with the suspension of the common stock dividend, paints a very dire outlook for the company and shareholders," Late on Friday, Moody's downgraded First Republic Bank's debt ratings to reflect its "significant challenges". Shares of Wall Street banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM), Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C), Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) & Co involved in the San Francisco-based lender's rescue dropped between 2% and 4% on Friday. Los Angeles-based PacWest Bancorp, the holding company for Pacific Western Bank, slumped almost 19% during Friday's trading session. After the bell, the bank said in a statement that it had more than $10.8 billion in available cash, exceeding its total uninsured deposits. Founded in 1985, First Republic had $212 billion in assets and $176.4 billion in deposits as of the end of last year, according to its annual report. "Possibly the market is looking for an all-out sale/buyer rather than an injection of capital," said John Petrides, portfolio manager at Tocqueville Asset Management, adding the situation is not over. The bank's earnings profile is "clearly impaired" and the "new deposits effectively bridge the estimated $30.5 billion of uninsured deposits still on FRC's balance sheet providing time for FRC to likely explore a sale," Jefferies analysts led by Ken Usdin wrote in a note to clients. The banks that were part of First Republic's rescue package are its most likely suitors for an acquisition, but the U.S. government is less likely to endorse a purchase by the biggest banks, said a source who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation. The rescue package came less than a day after Swiss bank Credit Suisse clinched an emergency central bank loan of up to $54 billion to shore up its liquidity. Fed data on Thursday showed banks sought a record $152.9 billion in emergency liquidity from the U.S. central bank over recent days, surpassing previous high that was set during the most acute phase of the financial crisis. The borrowings speak to the "funding and liquidity strains on banks, driven by weakening depositor confidence," Moody's said. The ratings agency had downgraded its outlook on the U.S. banking system to negative earlier this week.

Biden calls for tougher banking rules after Silicon Valley Bank, Signature failures — President Joe Biden said that he will ask Congress and bank regulators to strengthen rules and oversight for banks to avoid further runs on banks and panic in the financial industry, like what was seen over the weekend. Biden, speaking from the White House, said that deposits at American banks "will be there when you need them." The remarks come after extraordinary action by U.S. banking regulators Sunday evening to stem deposits from leaving other banks en masse on Monday morning. The regulators granted Signature Bank and Silicon Valley Bank a systemic risk exception which lets the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. bail out uninsured depositors in both institutions using the agency's Deposit Insurance Fund. That pot of money is funded by assessment fees levied on banks, and is typically meant to cover the insured deposits of failed institutions. The unusual intervention from the federal government is expected to increase calls for oversight on the failed banks and other similarly sized and structured ones. "We must get the full accounting of what happened and why," Biden said. "Those responsible can be held accountable." Biden alluded to a 2018 law sponsored by then-Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and signed by former President Donald Trump that scaled back some rules for large regional banks. Biden called for those rules to be revisited, and for regulators to increase oversight. "During the Obama-Biden administration, we put in place tough requirements on banks like Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, including the Dodd-Frank law, to make sure that the crisis we saw in 2008 would not happen again," he said. "Unfortunately, the last administration rolled back some of these requirements. I'm going to ask Congress and the banking regulators to strengthen the rules for banks to make it less likely this kind of failure will happen again."

Dodd-Frank 2.0? Democratic lawmakers look to roll back regulatory relief for banks — Democratic lawmakers are zeroing in on the 2018 banking bill that eased requirements for some midsize banks as the culprit behind this weekend's bank failures, and are gearing up to repeal the measure as a means of ensuring such a crisis never happens again. Since the failure of Silicon Valley Bank on Friday, a Trump-era regulatory relief effort has come under scrutiny, with some questioning whether Silicon Valley Bank or Signature Bank would have failed had either still been subject to tougher liquidity and supervisory requirements. In 2018, lawmakers — led by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee — passed S. 2155 with broad support from the banking industry. More than a dozen Senate Democrats joined Republicans in passing the law, which raised the threshold for enhanced prudential standards from $50 billion to $250 billion and gave the Federal Reserve discretion to determine how banks with more than $100 billion of assets should be supervised. On Sunday evening, after financial regulators took extraordinary efforts to bail out uninsured depositors in Silicon Valley Bank and Signature, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview that he's focused on legislation to beef up the inspection and regulation of medium-size banks. "In 2018, Republicans passed the law that took away strict oversight of medium-size banks, and now we got Signature, we have Silicon Valley Bank," he said. "We should go back to something close to the Dodd-Frank rule where your medium large banks are subject to stress testing." Sherman said that there's been too much focus on credit risk when, especially in the case of Silicon Valley Bank, regulators should have been more focused on interest rate risk, and said that he believes that focus has hurt small business capital formation. "I think most medium-size banks are good institutions, I think they play an important role in our economy, and at the same time, two of them have bitten the dust," he said. "One bank failure can be sold to the people of this country as an aberration. Two is a flock." He joins Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., who's said that she's working on a bill to roll back S. 2155. Porter, a financial consumer protection lawyer who's close to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has announced that she's running for Senate in California in 2024. Warren herself said in a statement Friday that "President Trump and Congressional Republicans' decision to roll back Dodd-Frank's 'too big to fail' rules for banks like SVB — reducing both oversight and capital requirements — contributed to a costly collapse."

Sen. Brown urges review of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank failures — Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, asked banking regulators to tighten rules on banks following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank and the extraordinary government intervention to make both institutions' uninsured depositors whole. "Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank served venture capital firms and the broader tech industry – with sophisticated clients as well as small and medium sized businesses," Brown said in the letter to the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Treasury Department. "While the banks were based in California and New York, respectively, their failures reached throughout the country – including many businesses in Ohio – putting small businesses at risk of not being able to make payroll or to pay suppliers and potentially losing their hard-earned money because of risky decisions and poor management by the banks' executives." Brown has been skeptical that any legislative action would be coming from Congress, given the deep partisan divide that's expected to hamstring lawmakers for the next two years. He's also facing opposition within his own party – 12 Democrats voted for the bill that allowed some rules around the supervision of mid-sized banks to be weakened. Brown said that he wants regulators to "strengthen the guardrails for banks to prevent failures and mitigate contagion." As the regulators consider what went wrong in the failure of each bank, Brown said that they should consider the magnitude of uninsured deposits and the role of social-media-led coordination among depositors and any regulatory gaps or shortfalls. Brown also said that the administration should "hold those responsible for these bank failures responsible for their actions," including bonus and compensation clawbacks or taking "other appropriate regulatory actions."

Yellen seeks to calm lawmakers amid banking turmoil - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday sought to calm mounting concerns about financial instability as the banking industry reels over the collapse of two regional lenders. The failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank last week has kicked off a political battle around the government’s oversight of Wall Street as regional institutions face a flood of withdrawal requests from depositors. With lawmakers drawing sides over arcane financial rules, Yellen’s appearance before the Senate Finance Committee offered an opportunity to test their lines of attack. The Biden administration’s Sunday rescue plan for the Northern California bank’s customers, along with those of Signature — a New York institution that was shuttered that day — were essential for stemming a possible contagion that put “community banks across the country at great risk of runs,” Yellen said. In her prepared testimony, the former Federal Reserve chair assured lawmakers that the banking system remains sound and that “Americans can feel confident that their deposits will be there when they need them.” Still, lawmakers from both parties sounded alarms over the many failures that contributed to Silicon Valley Bank’s downfall. “Nerves are certainly frayed at this moment,” Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said at the start of the hearing. Markets have been jittery over the last week amid fears the crisis could spread beyond regional banks. Investors dumped shares of institutions that may be facing a financial crunch with rising interest rates. Moody’s earlier this week downgraded its outlook for the entire U.S. banking industry, citing a “rapid and substantial decline in bank depositor and investor confidence.” The bank run that sparked Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse on Friday left thousands of depositors — an overwhelming majority of whom weren’t covered by the FDIC’s deposit insurance limit of $250,000 — panicked that they wouldn’t be able to access their funds when banks opened on Monday morning. Republicans who have scrambled to chart a united response to the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis criticized regulators for failing to intervene. Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican and possible 2024 presidential candidate, said a “lax regulatory environment” and deficient bank examiners allowed the failures of the SVB’s management team to slip through the cracks. Others, like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said the implosion was a byproduct of a Biden-era economy that’s been stymied by soaring inflation and rising interest rates. Yellen bristled at questions from Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) about the potential long-term consequences of the rescue plan. The plan backstopped the banks’ uninsured depositors and made cash loans from the Fed available to lenders in exchange for safe collateral — an action that in theory would allow banks to handle deposit withdrawals of any amount for up to a year. While Democrats are also urging federal agencies to examine regulatory shortfalls, many have also seized on the crisis as an opportunity to toughen standards around capital requirements and oversight.

Not all deposits at other banks are guaranteed, Yellen tells Congress — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in her first public remarks since the stunning intervention by financial regulators Sunday evening to guarantee all uninsured depositors in two bank failures, fended off concerns from lawmakers about the extent of the government's actions. Yellen's testimony in the Senate Finance Committee is the first time a high-ranking official in the Biden administration has taken public questions on the decision to guarantee uninsured deposits for Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. She defended the administration's decision to step in and provide a systemic risk exception to both banks. "We wanted to make sure that the problems at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank didn't undermine confidence in the soundness of banks around the country," Yellen said. "We wanted to make sure that there wasn't contagion that could affect other banks and their depositors." Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., asked if community bankers in his state would get the same guarantee for their depositors in the event of a failure: "Will the deposits of every community bank in Oklahoma, regardless of their size, get the same treatment?" Yellen said that banks would only receive the systemic risk exception and intervention on the behalf of depositors under certain circumstances. "A bank only gets that treatment if a majority of the FDIC board, a supermajority, a supermajority of the Fed board and I, in consultation with the president, determine that the failure to protect uninsured depositors would create systemic risk and significant economic and financial consequences," she said. Lankford pressed Yellen on the movement of deposits from community banks to larger ones, and said that intervention from regulators makes moving deposits to large banks more attractive because it would make more sense for regulators to guarantee those deposits, compared to a smaller bank. "I mean that's certainly not something that we're encouraging," Yellen said. "If we have a lapse of the banking system and its economic consequences, that will have very severe effects on banks in Oklahoma," she continued. Yellen also pushed back on an attempt by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to characterize the intervention by regulators as nationalizing the banking system. "Absolutely not," Yellen said, asked if she sees the regulators' actions as a step in that direction. "I think this is a step toward stemming the contagion that could place community banks across the country at great risk of runs as well."

Pacific Western Bank faced 'elevated' withdrawals after bank failures (Reuters) - Pacific Western Bank, a unit of PacWest Bankcorp, said on Friday it had witnessed 'elevated' withdrawals following the collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, but deposit movements had stabilized since Monday. The Los Angeles-based bank gave no details on the sum of the withdrawals but said they were mainly from its venture banking business line. Stay ahead of the market In a statement, Pacific Western Bank said it still maintained solid liquidity, with available cash exceeding $10.8 billion as of Friday. The statement late on Friday came after PacWest's shares had slumped 19%, ending the week that was dominated by an unfolding crisis in the banking sector. "Since Monday, March 13, 2023, net outflows have fallen sharply, with deposit balance fluctuations substantially stabilizing," it said in a statement. Pacific Western Bank said that as of March 16, insured deposits accounted for over 62% of total deposits, while insured venture-specific deposits made up more than 77% of total venture deposits. The bank also said it had a diversified deposit base with venture deposits comprising approximately 25% of total deposits. Pacific Western Bank's announcement came after Reuters reported on Thursday that PacWest was in talks about a liquidity boost with Atlas SP Partners and other investment firms.

Silicon Valley, Signature banks lobbied hard to loosen bank rules -Banks that collapsed over the last week were some of the top supporters of a 2018 bill to loosen regulations aimed at preventing another financial meltdown. Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank aggressively lobbied for the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. The 2018 law exempted them from stringent stress testing and capital requirements in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that were implemented in response to the financial crisis. The bipartisan bill, signed by President Trump, made it so banks with $250 billion or less in assets were not “systemically important” — up from the previous $50 billion threshold — sparing banks from the strictest oversight conducted by the Fed. Prominent Democrats are blaming the second-largest U.S. bank failure in history on changes made in the 2018 law. “Unfortunately, the last administration rolled back some of these requirements,” President Biden said in a speech Monday, adding that he will ask Congress and banking regulators to “strengthen the rules.” Such changes are unlikely to make it out of a GOP-controlled House or clear a Republican filibuster in the Senate, where Democrats have narrow majority limited by key absences. In pushing for regulatory overhauls, SVB and Signature Bank argued that they weren’t a systemic risk to the economy, and thus shouldn’t be subject to the same rules as big banks. But when federal regulators intervened on Sunday to ensure that depositors got their money back, they cited systemic risks to the banking system. Meanwhile, shares of top regional banks plummeted on Monday amid fears that depositors could move their money to larger institutions. SVB, which had $209 billion in assets at the end of last year, pushed lawmakers to lossen regulations on mid-sized banks to reduce compliance costs. SVB chief executive Greg Becker told a Senate panel in 2015 that the bank “does not present systemic risks” and downplayed the idea that stricter regulations would reduce the risk of a collapse. He specifically floated the $250 billion cap that Congress would later enact. “These new burdens and the related compliance costs and necessary management time and other human resources are significant, and will require us to divert resources and attention from making loans to small and growing businesses that are the job creation engines of our country, even though our risk profile would not change,” Becker wrote in a written statement to lawmakers. Seventeen Senate Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the bill — despite outcry from progressives — following a banking industry lobbying effort.

Warren presses ex-Silicon Valley Bank CEO on efforts to roll back Wall Street Reform law - Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is pressing Greg Becker, who was CEO of Silicon Valley Bank when it collapsed, for answers about his role in lobbying Congress to roll back banking safeguards in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which some Democrats think later contributed to the 2nd biggest bank failure in U.S. history. Warren noted in a March 14 letter to Becker that he submitted a statement to the Senate Banking Committee in 2015 “calling on Congress to reduce safety standards for ‘mid-sized’ banks like your own.” She said Becker’s testimony to Congress misled lawmakers about the risks faced by Silicon Valley Bank, which were revealed over the past week as a liquidity crisis at the bank forced federal regulators to take it over. The bank had $209 billion in assets at the time of its collapse and federal regulators intervened after determining it posed a risk to the wider financial system. “Despite your assurances to Congress that SVB was sufficiently protected from risk because of your various efforts, it is now clear that SVB was wholly unequipped to independently assess its business’s risk,” she wrote. She noted that Silicon Valley Bank, which had $40 billion in assets in 2015, argued to Congress at the time that it did not present a systematic risk and claimed that it had hired additional “highly skilled risk professionals” and established an independent “Risk Committee” to safeguard against a failure. Warren, however, pointed out that Silicon Valley Bank did not have a chief risk officer for eight months prior to its collapse last week and said it failed to address the risks posed by the concentration of its client base and rising interest rates, which she called “a failure of Banking 101.” “Had SVB been subject to Dodd-Frank rules undone by” a 2018 banking deregulation law signed by then-President Trump, “the bank would have been required to maintain stronger liquidity and capital requirements and conduct regular stress tests that would have required SVB to shore up its business to weather the type of stress it experienced last week,” she wrote. A Senate GOP aide who spoke to The Hill, however, questioned whether regulators would have discovered what the source described as a “liquidity mismatch” even if Trump never signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which gave regulators more discretion about applying stress tests to mid-sized banks. Warren also took aim at Becker’s compensation before federal regulators stepped in to avoid panic from spreading throughout the financial markets. “SVB executives were doing just fine as the bank unraveled: you were awarded over $9.9 million in compensation last year, including a $1.5 million cash bonus, and you even paid out bonuses just hours before your bank was taken over by federal regulators,” Warren wrote. “While you and company executives appear to have been successful in cashing out before the crash, SVB’s customers were not as lucky. Many depositors were unable to access their funds last week, leaving small businesses and nonprofits questioning how they were going to make payroll in time,” she wrote.

SVB CEO Sold $3.6 Million Worth of Shares Before Bank's Collapse --Greg Becker sold his shares on Feb. 27, 11 days before Silicon Valley Bank was shut down by regulators. On a legal level, there is no problem a priori. But in terms of optics, it does not look good, and Greg Becker will have a hard time finding support. The CEO of Silicon Valley Bank sold shares on Feb. 27. SVB was shut down by regulators on March 10, after a run on the bank, due to a surprise announcement of a $1.8 billion loss following the sale of part of its investments. According to regulatory filings, Becker sold 12,451 SVB shares for $3.6 million on Feb. 27. The sale was in line with a rule set up in 2000 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), called Rule 10b5-1, to avoid insider trading.To avoid insider trading, the regulator has limited the sale of shares by the executives of a company to dates set in advance. Executives must notify in advance that they are going to sell shares. Becker respected this rule: he had indicated on Jan. 26 that he intended to sell shares, according to regulatory filings. In this case, the sale was made by a trust he controlled. In addition to the share sale, regulatory filings also show that Becker acquired options worth $1.3 million. The transactions were completed less than two weeks before SVB announced it was planning to raise $2.25 billion by issuing new common and convertible preferred shares, to shore up its finances, after it sold some bonds in its portfolio of investments at a $1.8 billion loss. This decision caused panic and a run on the bank. About $42 billion of deposits were withdrawn by the end of March 9, according to a regulatory filing. By the close of business that day, SVB had a negative cash balance of $958 million, according to the filing. As a result, the regulators shut down the bank on March 10, making SVB the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history, after Washington Mutual in 2008. Was Becker aware of the company's plans to raise capital when he filed his plan to sell shares? SVB didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Faced with criticism that executives are abusing Rule 10b5-1, Gary Gensler, the current SEC Chairman, proposed new rules last year. These require executives using Rule 10b5-1 to sell shares, to wait 90 days between the plan filing and the actual sale. These rules will become effective on April 1. Becker could not have sold his SVB shares if these rules had already been in place.

How much blame do supervisors deserve for Silicon Valley Bank's demise? - As the banking sector tries to make sense of the second-biggest bank failure in U.S. history, a debate has emerged over how much blame lies with the bank's supervisors. By all accounts, Silicon Valley Bank committed some cardinal sins in banking. It made itself massively vulnerable to rising interest rates, built its balance sheet around deposits that proved to be unreliable and failed to protect itself against what became fairly large bets. All of which has critics asking: How could this happen under its regulators' watch? "Where was everybody? Were they on vacation?" said David H. Stevens, CEO of Mountain Lake Consulting, and a former assistant secretary of housing in the Obama administration. The Santa Clara, California-based bank was overseen by California banking regulators and the Federal Reserve, which has undertaken a study of any potential shortcomings in its supervision. Those sympathetic to its regulators say hindsight is 20/20, that the issues may not have appeared as dire in real time and that any behind-the-scenes warnings and actions are not yet public. What's quickly become clear is that the bank had unique fragilities due to its outsized reliance on uninsured deposits, which exceed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s $250,000 guarantee. Those have historically been treated as safe, stable sources of funding, former Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles said in an interview. For that reason, supervisors likely didn't view the bank's unrealized losses on bond investments as needing an immediate remedy, such as raising more equity capital, he said. "The uninsured deposits at SVB behaved differently than uninsured deposits had over the previous 50 years," Quarles said. "So, both the structure of the regulations and the judgment, experience and expertise of the supervisors would be looking at those and saying, 'We don't have a smoldering flame here, notwithstanding the hole that has developed in these highly interest rate sensitive asset portfolios, because of the relative stability of the funding.'" Quarles and other former supervisors who spoke with American Banker this week argued that it is unlikely that Silicon Valley Bank's regulators were blind to the issues on the bank's balance sheet. But how they assessed those risks, what steps they took to address them and how Silicon Valley Bank responded to those actions remains unknown. "This certainly looks like a supervisory failure, but we don't know, will probably never know, what was being messaged to the bank by its supervisors in the run-up to this event," said Cliff Stanford, a regulatory lawyer with firm Alston & Bird and a former counsel on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's supervisory team. The Fed announced Monday that Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr will lead a six-week review of the central bank's supervisory and regulatory actions surrounding Silicon Valley Bank, to determine where its efforts might have fallen short. The Fed has committed to releasing a report on its findings by May 1. Following bank failures, the FDIC's inspector general also conducts a post-mortem review of the contributing factors.

San Francisco Fed draws political fire over Silicon Valley Bank oversight --The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has emerged as a political target in the wake of Silicon Valley Bank's failure last week.Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are among those who have voiced criticisms of the regional reserve bank, saying it is distinctly responsible for failing to remedy flaws on the $200 billion bank's balance sheet that proved fatal. "The San Francisco Fed's failure to address SVB's obviously risky structure is frankly shocking," Cruz, the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote in a letter to the heads of the reserve bank and Silicon Valley Bank this week. "As you know, one of the central purposes of the Federal Reserve System is to promote the safety and soundness of financial institutions. It employs a team of over 400 economists, including dozens in the supervision and regulation division."Warren, a frequent critic of the Fed and its reserve banks, sent a letter of her own on Thursday to Fed Chair Jerome Powell, inquiring whether the Board of Governors had examined the supervisory actions of the San Francisco Fed. She also questioned whether Silicon Valley Bank CEO Greg Becker's role as a board member of the reserve bank elicited favorable treatment for the bank."In particular, do you believe the conflict of interest posed by former SVB CEO Gregory Becker's role on the Board of Directors may have played a role in the SF Fed's supervision of SVB?" Warren wrote. "Have you acted to limit conflicts of interest like those posed by Mr. Becker's dual role as SVB CEO and SF Fed board member?"The missives are the latest in a growing list of grievances from politicians about the Fed's regional reserve banks. Concerns about research initiatives, the granting of so-called master accounts and disclosures about stock trades by reserve bank leaders have led to calls for reforms from both sides of the aisle in recent years.Yet even some who believe the reserve banks could benefit from some restructuring and enhanced transparency requirements say the critiques about the San Francisco Fed's role in the Silicon Valley Bank failure could be misplaced. David Zaring, a legal studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, said while reserve banks implement the Fed's supervisory objectives, they largely follow the lead of the Board of Governors. If there were noticeable differences among regions, Zaring said, banks would likely gravitate toward "lighter touch" districts.

Silicon Valley Bank’s former parent company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection - SVB Financial Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Friday, just days after U.S. regulators seized control of the beleaguered Silicon Valley Bank.The entity that once owned SVB listed assets and liabilities of up to $10 billion each in the petition, filed in the Southern District of New York.“The Chapter 11 process will allow SVB Financial Group to preserve value as it evaluates strategic alternatives for its prized businesses and assets, especially SVB Capital and SVB Securities,” William Kosturos, Chief Restructuring Officer for SVB Financial Group, said in a statement on Friday.“SVB Capital and SVB Securities continue to operate and serve clients, led by their longstanding and independent leadership teams,” he added.SVB Financial Group lost its affiliation with Silicon Valley Bank when it was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp on March 10. Trading of the company’s stock has been halted since, and a bankruptcy filing was expected to follow. Its collapse marked the second largest bank failure in U.S. history since Washington Mutual failed during the financial crisis of 2008. It also came just days before the shuttering of New York-based Signature Bank, with the state Department of Financial Services seizing its assets on Sunday.The move to begin bankruptcy proceedings comes after the Santa Clara, Calif. company said it was working to explore strategic alternatives for its businesses including, SVB Capital and SVB Securities. In another bid to shore up confidence,the federal government over the weekend moved to protect all the banks’ deposits, even those that exceeded the FDIC’s $250,000 limit per individual account.SVB Financial Group believes it has approximately $2.2 billion of liquidity as well as “other valuable investment securities accounts and other assets for which it is also exploring strategic alternatives,” according to the press release. It also noted a funded debt of $3.3 billion “in aggregate principal amount of unsecured notes,” which are only recourse to SVB Financial Group “and have no claim against SVB Capital or SVB Securities.”

SVB Financial goes bankrupt, buying time to repay creditors - Silicon Valley Bank's former parent company filed for bankruptcy a week after a run on deposits prompted regulators to seize its banking unit. SVB Financial Group listed assets and liabilities of as much as $10 billion each in a Chapter 11 petition filed in New York. Broker-dealer SVB Securities and venture capital arm SVB Capital aren't included in the filing, according to a statement. Because Silicon Valley Bank was a California-chartered commercial bank and part of the Federal Reserve system, it is not eligible for bankruptcy and landed in Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. receivership instead. Its former parent, however, is eligible to file in order to protect its remaining assets and work on repaying creditors, including bondholders. Following the receivership, SVB Financial is no longer affiliated with Silicon Valley Bank NA or its private banking and wealth management business, SVB Private, the company said. SVB "believes" it has about $2.2 billion of liquidity and counts its equity in SVB Capital and SVB Securities among its assets, according to the statement. It owes bondholders about $3.3 billion. Centerview Partners is helping SVB evaluate strategic alternatives for SVB Capital and SVB Securities. The process has garnered significant interest, and any sale would require bankruptcy court approval, according to the statement. "SVB Financial Group will continue to work cooperatively with Silicon Valley Bridge Bank," William Kosturos, chief restructuring officer for SVB Financial Group, said in the statement. "We are committed to finding practical solutions to maximize the recoverable value for stakeholders of both entities." Santa Clara, California-based SVB was the biggest bank to fail in more than a decade, with about $209 billion in total assets as of the end of last year, the FDIC said. It's also the second largest bank to fall under the agency's receivership, behind only Washington Mutual Inc., which imploded in 2008. Concern in tech circles swelled last week after Peter Thiel's Founders Fund and other high-profile venture capital firms advised their portfolio companies to pull money from the bank. That advice came a day after the bank's parent company announced it would try to raise more than $2 billion following a significant loss on its portfolio.

Fed, FDIC officials to testify before Congress on bank failures - Representatives from the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are set to testify before Congress later this month at a hearing about the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg and Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr are scheduled to attend the March 29 hearing as witnesses and answer questions about the banks' collapses. The bipartisan hearing is expected to be the first of multiple hearings on the issue, according to House Financial Service Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., and California Rep. Maxine Waters, the committee's top Democrat. "This hearing will allow us to begin to get to the bottom of why these banks failed," McHenry and Waters said Friday in a joint statement. Additional witnesses may be added as the hearing date approaches, McHenry and Waters said. The Federal Reserve and FDIC did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Waters: Expanded deposit insurance is 'on the table' — Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, is floating the idea of guaranteeing all uninsured depositors in the future. "Are we going to make sure that we take care of the uninsured in the way that we did with this fallout from Silicon Valley Bank?" the California lawmaker said in an interview. "I don't know, but I will have to put it on the table." Waters didn't commit to backing legislation for the idea but said that she's looking at different legislative solutions for what she called regulatory shortcomings that allowed Silicon Valley Bank to mismanage its liquidity risk. Waters, like other Democrats, wants to revisit the 2018 clawback of some requirements for midsize banks like the failed Silicon Valley Bank — which was based in her home state — and Signature Bank. "There are a number of issues to be looked at, everything from the uninsured to stress testing to understanding what rules should be in place for how you determine that your balance sheet assets are not worth today what they could have been some time ago because of inflation and the increase in interest rates," she said. "I'm sure some of it will need legislation." Any losses associated with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank or Signature Bank after their failures and extraordinary action by regulators to backstop uninsured depositors will come from the Deposit Insurance Fund and will be recovered by a special assessment on banks. "That fund is paid for by the premiums that are paid by the banks," Waters said when asked about the fee impacting small banks whose balance sheets don't have the same interest rate exposure, unlike the $209 billion-asset Silicon Valley Bank. "We've had no discussion about raising those amounts. It is very safe, [and] it is very secure now with ample assets by which to take care of the uninsured." While Democratic lawmakers like Waters have called for overturning some 2018 rollbacks of Dodd-Frank era regulations around midsize banks, banking industry groups have started to push back on that idea. "To the extent that these banks' failure reflected liquidity weaknesses, the liquidity coverage ratio — the liquidity rule that was eliminated for most bank holding companies with less than $250 billion in assets after [the 2018 legislation] — likely would not have prevented either bank's problems, and might have made them worse," said the Bank Policy Institute in a statement. "Although the LCR does require banks to hold a large pool of 'high-quality liquid assets,' it strongly encourages banks to hold primarily government securities for that purpose — precisely the securities that SVB and Signature held, exposing them to losses when the Fed raised rates."

Biden urges Congress to crack down on failed bank executives -President Biden urged Congress on Friday to give the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) more power to punish executives in charge of banks that fail and require assistance from the federal government. In a request to Congress, the president said the FDIC should have more authority to take back executives’ pay, levy fines against them and bar them from future employment in the banking sector. “When banks fail due to mismanagement and excessive risk taking, it should be easier for regulators to claw back compensation from executives, to impose civil penalties, and to ban executives from working in the banking industry again,” Biden said in a statement. Read more: What you need to know about this week’s banking crisis “Congress must act to impose tougher penalties for senior bank executives whose mismanagement contributed to their institutions failing.” With the House controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats, any legislation on the financial sector would have to surmount numerous hurdles. On Sunday, the FDIC, Treasury Department and Federal Reserve announced that they would fully insure deposits at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank after account holders started pulling out their money, causing the banks to fail. On Thursday, a consortium of 11 larger banks provided $30 billion to prop up California-based First Republic after its credit was downgraded by ratings agencies including Fitch, which cited “uninsured deposits as a percentage of total deposits” as a reason for the demotion. The government’s move to insure wealthy account holders at SVB and Signature above the FDIC’s $250,000 standard insurance limit raises the question of whether all accounts in the $26 trillion banking sector are now implicitly insured by the Federal Reserve and Treasury — and ultimately the U.S. taxpayer. Biden’s request to Congress doesn’t touch on this question, though some lawmakers have started talking about it themselves.

Biden calls for tougher punishments for executives of failed banks — President Biden called on Congress to pass a number of measures that would expand the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s ability to punish the executives of failed banks. "When banks fail because of mismanagement and excessive risk taking, it should be easier for regulators to claw back compensation from executives, to impose civil penalties, and to ban executives from working in the banking industry again," the White House said in a statement. The call comes after Biden promised to push for tougher bank regulation Monday morning in the wake of the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Since then, lawmakers have debated a range of policy changes to address the problems that led up to the panic in the financial system for the last week, including expanding the definition of deposit insurance to include those above $250,000 and rolling back S. 2155, which some Democratic lawmakers say allowed for lax regulation of institutions the size of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Specifically, Biden is asking Congress to strengthen the FDIC's authority to claw back compensation — including from stock sales — from the executives of failed banks of a similar size to Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Currently, the FDIC has that ability under the Dodd-Frank Act's special resolution authority, which applies only to the largest financial institutions. Biden's proposal would also expand the FDIC's authority to prevent executives from holding jobs in the banking industry after their bank fails. The FDIC now has the ability to bar executives from holding jobs at other banks only if they engage in "willful or continuing disregard for the safety and soundness" of the institution. Biden is calling on Congress to ease the legal standard for using that authority to when a bank is put into FDIC receivership. "The President believes that if you're responsible for the failure of one bank, you shouldn't be able to just turn around and lead another," the White House said in a statement. Biden is also asking that Congress allow the FDIC to seek monetary penalties from "negligent executives of failed banks when their actions contribute to the failure of their firms," an expansion from the current standard where the FDIC can seek monetary damages only when bank executives "recklessly" pursue a pattern of "unsafe or sound" practices." Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, echoed Biden's calls for tougher penalties for the executives of failed banks, saying that the country needs "stronger rules to rein in risky behavior and catch incompetence."

Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Flooded With Deposits As Bank Run Drains Small Bank Of Cash - Over the weekend, amid populist howls of outrage that a bailout of SVB would promote moral hazard (in the end depositors did get bailed out with a full recovery, but other unsecured creditors oddly enough would get nothing, while the common stock is a doughnut), we said that while technically true, the events that toppled SVB and now SBNY as well, are really a subsidy for the big banks.Today, one day after many small banks nearly failed amid a surge in deposit outflows, we read that "after the back-to-back collapse of three smaller banks, their biggest US counterparts are seeing a rush of depositors fearful the crisis will spread."According to Bloomberg, JPMorgan - or as we now call it JPMega - the largest US bank and about to become much, much bigger, alone received billions of dollars in recent days, and Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo & Co. are also seeing higher-than-usual volume.“The top six banks in the US are and have been too big to fail, the financial crisis over 10 years ago demonstrated that,” Michael Imerman, an assistant professor at the University of California Irvine’s business school, told Bloomberg. “So it’s safer to go with a name with higher degree of certainty.”Other banks are seeing increased deposit inflows as well. Citizens Financial Group Inc. announced Monday that it “has seen higher than normal interest from prospective new customers over the past few days,” and that it would temporarily extend branch hours to accommodate.Confirming BBG reporting, the FT writes that "Large US banks are inundated with new depositors as smaller lenders face turmoil", which of course means that small bank deposits are getting drained.

Memories of 2008 leave FDIC with few bidders for failed banks --The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s effort to find a buyer for the failed Silicon Valley and Signature banks is being made more difficult by lingering memories of arranged acquisitions during the 2008 financial crisis. When the FDIC takes over a bank, it is bound to accept the resolution arrangement that represents the "least cost" to the Deposit Insurance Fund. Typically, the cheapest resolution is the acquisition of the failed bank by a larger institution. Thomas Vartanian, a banking lawyer and former regulator, said potential suitors for Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank are hesitant to sign deals since some of the buyers in 2008 later regretted agreeing to those purchases. "Many of the banks — including JPMorgan [Chase]and Bank of America — felt like they got abused in the last crisis," he said. "JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns and [Washington Mutual], and Bank of America acquired Merrill [Lynch] and a few other things — and then the government turned around and sued them after the acquisition for the transgressions that had been committed by the companies they bought."In 2012, four years after JPMorgan Chase acquired the investment bank Bear Stearns, the New York attorney general accused the acquired investment bank of fraud and subsequently sued. CEO Jamie Dimon claimed JPMorgan lost billions of dollars and said his firm was punished for doing what he characterized as a favor to the Federal Reserve in buying the investment bank.Typically, when the FDIC thinks a bank might fail, the agency has a discrete, 90-day process to arrange a sale, and the agency is required by law to accept the arrangement that is the least expensive to the insurance fund. That process involves estimating asset values and assessing which of the failed bank's deposits are insured, accepting bids and setting up a receivership to manage any remaining balance sheet items.

Credit Suisse CDS Hits Record High As Silicon Valley Banking Crisis Spreads To Europe - Shares of European banks plunged on Monday, as yields on European bonds dropped on the implosion of Silicon Valley Bank could force central banks across the Western world to either slow the pace of interest rate hikes or even pivot if more regional banks fail. Credit Suisse Group AG is one bank that caught our attention this morning. The shares of this troubled bank, trading in Switzerland, plunged as much as 15%, hitting a new record low. This decline was due to concerns about the bank's ability to recapture client funds, revive its investment banking business, and manage ongoing legal and regulatory investigations. The selling pressure on Credit Suisse shares returned thanks to the collapse of SVB, sparking a crisis of confidence throughout the banking industry in the Western world. As a result, the Zurich-based lender's five-year credit default swaps jumped to a record high of 448 basis points, data compiled by Bloomberg show. And it's not just Credit Suisse, whole financial sector is seeing CDS spreads widen. Credit Suisse's demise and shares falling to a record low come as the bank faces a long list of challenges. Just last week, shares hit a new low after it announced it would postpone the release of its annual report at the request of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Another concern is whether the bank can survive, given the substantial outflows from its wealth management division.So much for aggressive interest rate hikes in Europe. As for US regional banks, and to prevent a wave of failures, rate traders have priced out hikes for the rest of the year as some of the first cuts could arrive in the second half of the year.

Silicon Valley Bank Fallout Nudges World’s Most Troubled Systemic Lender, Credit Suisse, Closer to Edge -As the ripples of contagion from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank spread out, one European bank is particularly vulnerable. And despite losing over 95% of its market value since 2008, it is still too big to fail.The shares of Credit Suisse Group AG, the world’s most troubled systemic lender, fell by as much as 15% on Monday (March 13) to another fresh record low, before recovering slightly in the latter hours of trading. They are down a further 4% so far today (12pm CET, March 14). This latest crisis of confidence in global banking has also fuelled a fresh surge in the cost of insuring CS’s bonds against default. The five-year credit default swaps on CS’ debt surged to a new record of 453 basis points on Monday. It was the widest move of 125 European high-grade companies tracked by Bloomberg.The panic unleashed by the collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank has compounded concerns about Credit Suisse’s ability to restructure its business, attract new client funds (to plug the gaping gap left behind by last year’s historic exodus), revive its investment banking business, and navigate ongoing legal and regulatory challenges. Those concerns were further exacerbated by an admission from the lender on the delayed publication of its annual report on Tuesday that “management did not design and maintain an effective risk assessment process to identify and analyze the risk of material misstatements in its financial statements.”This comes on the heels of news last week that the Swiss lender had delayed the publication of its 2022 annual report after a “late call” on Wednesday evening from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. That call was apparently “in relation to certain open SEC comments about the technical assessment of previously disclosed revisions to the consolidated cash flow statements in the years ended December 31,2020 and 2019, as well as related controls.” None of this, of course, is confidence-inspiring. Most European banking shares have taken a beating since Friday but few as badly as Credit Suisse. One rare exception was Germany’s perennially embattled Commerzbank, which ended Monday 12% lower. But today Commerzbank, unlike CS, is in the green, albeit marginally. CS’ shares are now down 26% year to date, having fallen 67% last year. For banks, a sharp fall in the value of shares is important since equity, along with disclosed reserves and certain other assets, make up their tier-one capital. Since barely surviving the last financial crisis without a public bailout, Credit Suisse’s stock has been in a death spiral, having lost over 95% of its value since 2007. The bank’s shareholders have already poured around $16.5 billion of additional capital into the lender since 2015, including the $4.3 billion of fresh capital raise in October. That is almost double its current market value ($9.41 billion). As part of the most recent rights issue, the House of Saud-controlled Saudi National Bank (SNB) bought a 9.9% stake, making it Credit Suisse’s new largest shareholder. It also marked a further increase in Middle Eastern influence over the bank. Before SNB’s investment, Olayan Group (4,9%) and Qatar Investment Authority (5%) already had stakes in the lender. But SNB’s shareholders are already paying a high price for the investment. Since disclosing its interest in taking a stake in CS in October, SNB’s shares have fallen by roughly a third.Just days before Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, CS’s one-time largest shareholder, Harris Associates, announced it had sold all of its holdings in the lender. In August 2022, the Chicago-based firm held 10.1% of all Credit Suisse shares but has been cutting back its exposure as the scale of CS’ troubles became apparent.“There is a question about the future of the franchise,” Harris deputy chairman David Herro told the FT. “There have been large outflows from wealth management.”Since the beginning of last year, Credit Suisse has been suffering a gathering run on its deposits. In total, customers pulled CHF111 billion ($121 billion) from the lender — a significant sum of money even for a TBTF lender! As Reuters reported in February, attempts by the bank’s management to obfuscate this fact has further eroded investor faith in the lender.

"Too Big To Fail" Credit Suisse Domino Effect Far More Potent Than SVB - Should the markets’ worst fears on Credit Suisse come true, the euro-area economy will fall off a cliff, upend the global financial system and bring policy tightening by major central banks to a screaming halt. Unlike Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, the Swiss lender is classified as systemically important by the US Financial Stability Board — meaning it’s too big to fail as a collapse has the potential to trigger a financial crisis. European Central Bank officials contacted lenders Wednesday to ask about their financial exposure to Credit Suisse, the Wall Street Journal reported. Credit Suisse reported that its assets under management were almost 1.3 trillion Swiss francs, or the equivalent of $1.4 trillion, as recently as last month. For perspective, that would amount to almost 10% of the 14.5 trillion euro-area economy The cost of insuring Credit Suisse’s debt against default for one year jumped to a record 2728 basis points on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the company’s shares tumbled to a record and its bonds plunged to levels typically associated with distress. The latest leg lower was spurred by comments from Saudi National Bank — Credit Suisse’s top shareholder — that it had no intention of investing more into the Swiss lender, which is in the midst of a complex three-year restructuring in a bid to return to profitability. Over in the US, a swift response from policymakers including the Federal Reserve staved off a crisis that loomed over the financial landscape following the failure of SVB. The California-based lender collapsed after a loss of depositor confidence compelled the bank to sell assets that had lost value amid the Fed’s tightening. The Fed lost little time before unveiling a term-funding program that essentially allowed US banks — presumably those that may be in a predicament similar to SVB amid the increase in interest rates — to borrow against bonds that may have lost value at 100 cents on the dollar. That quick backstop helped assuage some of the worst fears of depositors and investors. It’s not exactly clear how the plot will play out in Europe, with UBS Group AG chief executive officer Ralph Hamers commenting that he won’t answer “hypothetical questions” about its struggling Swiss rival and that UBS is “focused on our own strategy.” Credit Suisse’s Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Koerner earlier this week pleaded for patience, citing its CET1 capital ratio of 14.1% in the fourth quarter and a liquidity coverage ratio of 144% that has since increased to about 150% on average Still, that patience may be in short supply in the global financial markets, with investors showing increased sensitivity to any perception of additional risk.

Credit Suisse shares slide after Saudi backer rules out further assistance - Shares of Credit Suisse on Wednesday plunged to a fresh all-time low for the second consecutive day after a top investor in the embattled Swiss bank said it would not be able to provide any more cash due to regulatory restrictions.Trading in the bank's plummeting stock was halted several times throughout the morning as it fell below 2 Swiss francs ($2.17) for the first time.Swiss-listed Credit Suisse shares ended the session down 24%, paring some of its earlier losses after dropping more than 30% at one point. The U.S.-traded American depositary receipts of Credit Suisse were last down about 15%.After European markets closed, Swiss regulators said that Credit Suisse currently meets capital and liquidity requirements and that the Swiss National Bank will provide additional liquidity if necessary.The share price rout renewed a broader sell-off among European lenders, which were already facing significant market turmoil as a result of the Silicon Valley Bank fallout. Some of the biggest decliners included France'sSociete Generale, Spain's Banco de Sabadell and Germany'sCommerzbank.Several Italian banks on Wednesday were also subject to automatic trading stoppages, including UniCredit, FinecoBank and Monte dei Paschi.Credit Suisse's largest investor, Saudi National Bank, said it could not provide the Swiss bank with any further financial assistance, according to a Reuters report, sparking the latest leg lower."We cannot because we would go above 10%. It's a regulatory issue," Saudi National Bank Chairman Ammar Al Khudairy told Reuters on Wednesday. However, he added that SNB is happy with Credit Suisse's transformation plan and suggested the bank was unlikely to need extra money.The Saudi National Bank took a 9.9% stake in Credit Suisse last year as part of the Swiss lender's $4.2 billion capital raise to fund a massive strategic overhaul aimed at improving investment banking performance and addressing a litany of risk and compliance failures.Credit Suisse CEO Ulrich Koerner on Wednesday sought to defend the bank's liquidity basis, saying it is "very, very strong," Reuters reported, citing an interview with CAN.Koerner added, "We fulfill and overshoot basically all regulatory requirements."Meanwhile, speaking to CNBC's Hadley Gamble during a panel session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday morning, Credit Suisse Chairman Axel Lehmann declined to comment on whether his firm would need any sort of government assistance in the future.When asked if he would rule out some kind of assistance, Lehmann answered, "That's not the topic.""We are regulated, we have strong capital ratios, very strong balance sheet. We are all hands on deck. So that's not the topic whatsoever." Investors are also continuing to assess the impact of the bank's Tuesday announcement that it had found "material weaknesses" in its financial reporting processes for 2022 and 2021.Switzerland's second-largest lender disclosed the observation in its annual report, which was initially scheduled for last Thursday but was delayed by a late call from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.The SEC conversation related to a "technical assessment of previously disclosed revisions to the consolidated cash flow statements in the years ended December 31, 2020, and 2019, as well as related controls."In late 2022 the bank disclosed that it was seeing "significantly higher withdrawals of cash deposits, non-renewal of maturing time deposits and net asset outflows at levels that substantially exceeded the rates incurred in the third quarter of 2022."Credit Suisse saw customer withdrawals of more than 110 billion Swiss francs in the fourth quarter, as a string of scandals, legacy risk and compliance failures continued to plague it.

Global banks rush to safeguard against Credit Suisse contagion -Banks that trade with Credit Suisse Group moved to safeguard their finances on Wednesday, snapping up contracts that will compensate them if the crisis rocking the Swiss lender deepens. So frantic was the demand for the contracts, known as credit-default swaps, that they spiked to levels that signal Credit Suisse is in deep financial distress — something unseen at a major global bank since the throes of the 2008 crisis. At least one bank, BNP Paribas, went a step further and informed clients it will no longer accept requests to take over their derivatives contracts when Credit Suisse is the counterparty — a process called novation — according to people familiar with the matter. The developments reveal growing concern over possible contagion stemming from the crisis at the Swiss lender and the extent to which global banks are going to shield themselves from any potential fallout. Still, there's little sign of widespread distress so far. For months now, the biggest U.S. banks have have been whittling their direct exposure to Credit Suisse, likely limiting the extent of the pain. "The trading levels have become somewhat a crisis in confidence in Credit Suisse," said Mark Heppenstall, president of Penn Mutual Asset Management. "People are looking for any way possible to get protection." Switzerland's second-largest lender has been pummeled over the last several years by blowups, scandals, leadership changes and legal issues. Its stock plummeted Wednesday after its biggest shareholder ruled out increasing a stake because of regulatory constraints. Switzerland's central bank and financial regulator said that Credit Suisse will receive a liquidity backstop if needed, in an effort to arrest the slump in confidence around the troubled lender.

Credit Suisse borrows more than $50 billion from Swiss National Bank after shares crash 30% — Hours after the Swiss central bank said it was ready to provide financial support to Credit Suisse, the beleaguered megabank took it up on the offer, hoping to reassure investors that it had the necessary cash to stay afloat. Credit Suisse said it would borrow up to 50 billion Swiss Francs ($53.7 billion) from the Swiss National Bank. Investors sent shares in the country’s second biggest lender crashing by as much as 30% Wednesday. The bank called the loan a “decisive action to pre-emptively strengthen its liquidity.” “This additional liquidity would support Credit Suisse’s core businesses and clients as Credit Suisse takes the necessary steps to create a simpler and more focused bank built around client needs,” the bank said in a statement. In addition to the loan from the central bank, Credit Suisse also said it repurchased billions of dollars of its own debt to manage its liabilities and interest payment expenses. The offer covers $2.5 billion of US dollar bonds and €500 million ($529 million) of euro bonds. The venerable but troubled bank, founded in 1856, is one of the biggest financial institutions in the world and categorized as a “global systemically important bank,” along with just 30 others, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and the Bank of China. Asian stocks fell sharply to start the day Thursday but bounced way off their lows after Credit Suisse’s action, cheered by the bank’s determination to restore confidence in its operations. Earlier Wednesday, in a joint statement with the Swiss financial market regulator FINMA, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) said Credit Suisse (CS) met the “strict capital and liquidity requirements” imposed on banks of importance to the wider financial system. “If necessary, the SNB will provide CS with liquidity,” they said. Already on edge after the failure of Silicon Valley Bank in the United States last week, investors dumped shares in the embattled Swiss bank earlier in the day,, sending them plummeting to a new record low after its biggest backer appeared to rule out providing any more funding. In their statement, the Swiss authorities said that the problems of “certain banks in the USA do not pose a direct risk of contagion for the Swiss financial markets.” “There are no indications of a direct risk of contagion for Swiss institutions due to the current turmoil in the US banking market,” the statement continued.

These Credit Suisse bonds signal the bank's $54 Billion lifeline may not be enough - A category of Credit Suisse Group AG bonds is warning that a liquidity lifeline from Switzerland's central bank may not be enough to stabilize the embattled lender.The bank's holding company has almost 76 billion Swiss francs ($82 billion) of bail-in senior bonds and additional tier 1 notes that are trading at distressed levels. If the regulator steps in to protect Credit Suisse's depositors, the AT1s would be written off while bail-in-able senior holding company debt would be converted to equity, according to Finma, which regulates banks in Switzerland. AT1s can also be written down if the bank's capital ratio falls below a predetermined level.Bail-in-able bonds were introduced by European and Swiss authorities after the euro-area debt crisis to ensure that taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for a bank rescue before investors take a hit first. AT1s were introduced after the global financial crisis, after previous types of capital proved incapable of acting as shock absorbers.Bail-in-able senior bonds rose on Friday, but are still deeply in distressed territory, with a 2.125% note due October 2026 trading at 66 cents on the euro. Bonds issued by Credit Suisse that are ring-fenced from such losses — and some of which are also part of a buyback offer — also edged higher Friday, with a 1.5% bond due in April 2026 trading at just under 82 cents on the euro."Credit Suisse's bond prices reflect a high perceived probability of some sort of resolution, resulting in losses for bondholders," said Jeroen Julius, a senior credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.Many of the lender's dollar-denominated debt also rose on Friday. Its 1.305% bond due 2027, which is among the bonds that lost most this week, traded four cents higher at 64 cents on the dollar as of 1:12 p.m. in New York.Credit Suisse shares were lower on Friday, capping off a volatile week that saw the lender's stock drop 25% and its bonds plunge to distressed levels. The cost to insure debt in the lender against near-term default rose again on Friday to around 3,000 basis points, based on CMAQ pricing, although liquidity is choppy."The bail-in senior spread widening reflects markets worries over the health of the bank," said Suvi Platerink Kosonen, a senior credit analyst at ING Bank.A bail-in could happen if the central bank's liquidity provision is deemed to be insufficient, or if the Swiss government demands an immediate solution to protect the bank's domestic banking business that may result in a breakup of the group, according to Bloomberg Intelligence's Julius.The bank has 35 billion Swiss francs of CET1 capital that would be the first buffer in any intervention scenario, followed by the 16 billion francs of AT1 debt, before the 59.8 billion francs of bail-in-able senior holding company debt would be hit. Credit Suisse also has a small amount of older tier two notes that may be affected.A Credit Suisse spokesman declined to comment on the bail-in bonds, but pointed to recent statements regarding plans to raise liquidity and buy back bonds. He also highlighted statements of support from Saudi National Bank and from Swiss authorities, who said that Credit Suisse meets the higher capital and liquidity requirements applicable to systemically important banks. Chairman Axel Lehmann said on Wednesday that government assistance "isn't a topic."

The Next Bomb to Go Off in the Banking Crisis Will Be Derivatives – Pam Martens - Yesterday, after the Swiss banking behemoth Credit Suisse had traded at an all-time low of less than two bucks; blown out its credit default swaps to unprecedented levels; and tanked the Dow Jones Industrial Average by more than 700 points intraday, Bloomberg News ran this headline at 12:54 p.m. – “US Treasury Reviewing US Banks’ Exposure to Credit Suisse.” By “exposure,” the Treasury really means how many billions of dollars of underwater derivatives are U.S. banks on the hook for as a counterparty to Credit Suisse. The Treasury also has to worry about U.S. banks’ exposure to Credit Suisse’s other major counterparties that U.S. banks do business with, even if the banks are not direct counterparties to Credit Suisse itself.If the U.S. Treasury Secretary and her staff at F-SOC were just yesterday getting around to finding out which U.S. banks had counterparty exposure to Credit Suisse’s derivatives, we are all in very big trouble. The serious problems at Credit Suisse have been making headlines for two years, including here at Wall Street On Parade. In July of 2021, the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison released a165-page report on the internal investigation it had conducted for the Board of Credit Suisse into how the bank came to lose $5.5 billion conducting highly-leveraged and dodgy derivative trades for the family office hedge fund, Archegos Capital Management, which went belly-up in March of 2021. The Paul, Weiss lawyers wrote:“The Archegos-related losses sustained by CS are the result of a fundamental failure of management and controls in CS’s Investment Bank and, specifically, in its Prime Services business. The business was focused on maximizing short-term profits and failed to rein in and, indeed, enabled Archegos’s voracious risk-taking. There were numerous warning signals — including large, persistent limit breaches — indicating that Archegos’s concentrated, volatile, and severely under-margined swap positions posed potentially catastrophic risk to CS. Yet the business, from the in-business risk managers to the Global Head of Equities, as well as the risk function, failed to heed these signs, despite evidence that some individuals did raise concerns appropriately.”Nervousness about Credit Suisse reached a pivotal moment in the fall of last year. On November 30, its 5-year Credit Default Swaps (CDS) blew out to 446 basis points. That was up from 55 basis points in January of 2022 and more than five times where CDS on its peer Swiss bank, UBS, were trading. The price of a Credit Default Swap reflects the cost to traders, or investors with exposure, to insuring themselves against a debt default by the bank.If all of this didn’t awaken Secretary Yellen from her slumber about the contagion risks posed by a deteriorating Credit Suisse, she should have been jolted upright on December 5 of last year when researchers for the Bank for International Settlement (Claudio Borio, Robert McCauley and Patrick McGuire) released an astonishing reportthat found that foreign banks had secret derivative debt that is “10 times their capital.”The report focused on the amount of derivative debt that was not being captured through regular statistical reporting because it is held off the banks’ balance sheets. The researchers refer to this exposure as “staggering” and note the potential for upsets to dollar swap lines to settle it as it comes due.The report raises further alarm bells with this: “For banks headquartered outside the United States, dollar debt from these instruments is estimated at $39 trillion, more than double their on-balance sheet dollar debt and more than 10 times their capital.” Their on-balance sheet dollar debt is $15 trillion.The most recent quarterly derivatives report from the U.S. regulator of national banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), found that as of September 30, 2022 four U.S. mega banks held 88.6 percent of all notional amounts of derivatives in the U.S. banking system. The total notional amount for all banks was $195 trillion. JPMorgan Chase held $54.3 trillion of that; Goldman Sachs held $50.97 trillion; Citigroup’s Citibank held $46 trillion; and Bank of America held $21.6 trillion. Even though the Dodd-Frank legislation required that most of these derivative trades move to central clearing, as of September 30, 2022 the OCC report found that 58.3 percent of these derivatives were not being centrally-cleared, meaning they were over-the-counter (OTC) private contracts between counterparties, thus adding another layer of opacity to an unaccountable system.

The Looming Quadrillion Dollar Derivatives Tsunami - by Ellen Brown -On Friday, March 10, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapsed and was taken over by federal regulators. SVB was the 16th largest bank in the country and its bankruptcy was the second largest in U.S. history, following Washington Mutual in 2008. Despite its size, SVB was not a “systemically important financial institution” (SIFI) as defined in the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires insolvent SIFIs to “bail in” the money of their creditors to recapitalize themselves. Technically, the cutoff for SIFIs is $250 billion in assets. However, the reason they are called “systemically important” is not their asset size but the fact that their failure could bring down the whole financial system. That designation comes chiefly from their exposure to derivatives, the global casino that is so highly interconnected that it is a “house of cards.” Pull out one card and the whole house collapses. SVB held $27.7 billion in derivatives, no small sum, but it is only .05% of the $55,387 billion ($55.387 trillion) held by JPMorgan, the largest U.S. derivatives bank. SVB could be the canary in the coal mine foreshadowing the fate of other over-extended banks, but its collapse is not the sort of “systemic risk” predicted to trigger “contagion.” As reported by CNN:“Despite initial panic on Wall Street, analysts said SVB’s collapse is unlikely to set off the kind of domino effect that gripped the banking industry during the financial crisis.‘The system is as well-​capitalized and liquid as it has ever been,’ Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi said. ‘The banks that are now in trouble are much too small to be a meaningful threat to the broader system.’No later than Monday morning, all insured depositors will have full access to their insured deposits, according to the FDIC. It will pay uninsured depositors an ‘advance dividend within the next week.'”A fuller report on the collapse of SVB will have to wait on developments that occur over the weekend and soon thereafter. This column, meanwhile, focuses on derivatives and is a followup to my Feb. 23 column on the “bail in” provisions of the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, which eliminated taxpayer bailouts by requiring insolvent SIFIs to recapitalize themselves with the funds of their creditors. “Creditors” are defined to include depositors, but deposits under $250,000 are protected by FDIC insurance. However, the FDIC fund is sufficient to cover only about 2% of the $9.6 trillion in U.S. insured deposits. A nationwide crisis triggering bank runs across the country, as happened in the early 1930s, would wipe out the fund. Today, some financial pundits are predicting a crisis of that magnitude in the quadrillion dollar-plus derivatives market, due to rapidly rising interest rates. This column looks at how likely that is and what can be done either to prevent it or dodge out of the way.

Bank trouble: Where First Republic, Credit Suisse, and others stand following the Silicon Valley Bank debacle. - The Silicon Valley Bank saga ain’t over yet. The federal government may have taken over the collapsed institution’s assets and guaranteed account access to depositors, but the persistent uncertainty over bank safety and financial sector health continues to wreak market havoc. It’s somewhat understandable: Last week, in just a few days, three banks—Silvergate, SVB, and Signature—all fell for different reasons, with the latter two making for the United States’ largest bank failures since the 2008 collapse of Washington Mutual, which presaged the financial crisis. As such, the Biden administration’s attempts to reassure the public of the banking industry’s stability (and the offer of a crisis-lending facility for banks to lean on) did calm turbulence among bank stocks. Shares in major international institutions were volatile all week, European countries took emergency measures to prop up their own sectors, the word contagion stuck to investors’ lips, overall stock indices remain down as of Friday, and to top it all off, SVB’s parent company has now filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to Bloomberg, the San Francisco–based First Republic Bank has had its “worst week ever,” despite outside players’ keen interest in holding the $212 billion institution aloft. On Monday, despite earning some emergency assistance from both the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan Chase, First Republic shares tanked by 62 percent, and Moody’s declared that it was looking into whether the bank warranted a downgrade from its A-minus rating. Other banks like Wells Fargo and Comerica also experienced significant losses that day, with the overall sector experiencing its worst selloff cycle in years, but First Republic underwent the steepest crash of all. By Thursday, as reported by Bloomberg, 11 other banks pledged $30 billion of assistance to First Republic. Still, on Friday morning, the bank shed nearly a quarter of its value after making some important announcements: that it had borrowed tens of billions of dollars from the Fed, and that it was suspending dividend payouts. Investors aren’t yanking the plug just yet, but they aren’t sure that First Republic will make a solid recovery, especially in light of news that the bank’s executives sold off $12 million worth of shares over the months leading up to the SVB bank run. Outside of First Republic, the Switzerland-based investment bank Credit Suisse Group AG probably caused the most headaches this week. As economist Adam Tooze detailed in his Chartbook newsletter, Credit Suisse has been battered by scandals since 2021, when it started facing legal consequences for various misdeeds over the decades: holding accounts with criminal enterprises, pushing Mozambique into economic crisis through a yearslong bribery scheme, reportedly spying on employees, and violating U.S. sanctions. So it was already in a precarious spot going into this year, as disgruntled investors yanked out their deposits en masse over the past few months, it shed employees, and the bank reported a multibillion-dollar lossby 2022’s end. A planned corporate reorganization, U.S. scrutiny over bank financials, and a March 5 full-stake selloff from Credit Suisse’s largest shareholder didn’t help things.Charles Schwab’s stock freefall was so severe this week that its namesake founder lost about $3 billion of his fortune. Like SVB, the Charles Schwab Corporation holds ample investment in long-term Treasury bonds, stoking fears that it would fall into the same sell-off-dwindling-stock-to-pay-off-panicked-depositors cycle that helped bring down Silicon Valley Bank. On Wednesday, executives and board members collectively bought upmillions of dollars of company shares, which helped give the firm a slight value bump. Investors still have concerns over Schwab, especially since its customers are rearranging their investments within the bank’s portfolio toward “safer” government-backed investments; the corporation’s stock value fell by nearly 7 percent Friday morning. Western Alliance Bancorporation lost 82 percent of its value on Monday, spurring the New York Stock Exchange to halt trading of Western Alliance shares. This plummet was surprising, since the business appeared to be in good shape even while SVB collapsed, and it had extra funds at its disposal. That even a safer investment bank like Western Alliance could fall so hard at week’s open? A potential contagion alert, no doubt. The bank’s stock fell again by 8 percent Thursday after credit analyst Fitch Ratings announced a review of Western Alliance’s debt for possible downgrade, just days after Moody’s issued its own downgrade warning. Overall financial nervousness further depressed Western Alliance stock by 18 percent Friday morning.The other regional bank to take a hard pounding from the SVB fallout was the Los Angeles–based PacWest Bancorp, which lost more than 52 percent of its value on Monday and also had its trading frozen that day. On Thursday, Fitch Ratings announced that it planned to downgrade PacWest’s credit in the short term, fueling another value PacWest value drop. The California bank was likely kept at a distance because of its own multibillion-dollar exposure to venture capital–funded startups—that is, the very type of flailing business whose economic frailty consigned the startup-indebted SVB to history. PacWest ended the week with total losses second only to those of First Republic, with the regional bank’s stock sliding by another 13 percent on Friday.

The Fed has a lot of options for adjusting midtier bank regulation - In the wake of two failures of midtier banks in the past week, the Federal Reserve is facing growing calls to adjust its regulatory regime for similarly sized institutions.The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s takeover of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Silicon Valley Bank last Friday and New York-based Signature Bank on Sunday have renewed a debate over how banks between $100 billion and $250 billion of assets should be regulated.While the broad requirements for the largest banks in the U.S. have been set by Congress, legal experts say the Fed has a fair amount of discretion for how to tweak its oversight of midtier banks."Short answer is that the Fed has some wiggle room," Cliff Stanford, a regulatory lawyer with the firm Alston & Bird and former chief enforcement lawyer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said.Stanford points to Title 12 of the U.S. Code, which sets the rules for banks and banking, as giving the Fed broad authority to impose new requirements on banks with more than $100 billion of assets to protect financial stability. These include requiring resolution plans, setting counterparty credit limits and subjecting these banks to annual stress tests, he said.Stanford said these changes can be implemented through a rule change — as the Fed has done in collaboration with the FDIC and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on many of these matters — or by issuing an order.Peter Conti-Brown, a professor of financial regulation at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, said the U.S. framework for small and medium banks is lackluster compared to many other countries that apply some version of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision's standards to all their banks. He agreed that it is within the Fed's authority to implement this type of structure to banks with between $100 billion and $250 billion unilaterally."That's something that the Fed could do tomorrow," Conti-Brown said.

Silicon Valley and Signature fallout will raise DIF fees. Who's paying? -Many in the banking industry fear that Sunday's intervention to shore up Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank could compel the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to hike assessments on all banks to replenish its Deposit Insurance Fund, and some smaller banks are particularly unhappy about paying to make up for larger banks' failures.FDIC's Deposit insurance guarantees up to $250,000 of depositors funds will be repaid even if the bank fails. Member banks pay deposit insurance premiums, known as assessments, to fund the DIF, which stood at $128.2 billion as of December 31, 2022. The FDIC has made clear that banks — not taxpayers — will pay for the rescue of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank's uninsured deposits."Any losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund to support uninsured depositors will be recovered by a special assessment on banks, as required by law," the agency wrote in a release detailing their response to the bank failures.While there is no doubt that the FDIC will raise fees, how they raise fees and from whom remains to be seen. Arthur Wilmarth, professor emeritus at George Washington University Law School, thinks the increasing regularity of the systemic risk exception should be factored into banks' future assessments. "We've essentially protected all bank deposits twice — during the financial crisis of 2008-09 and again this time," Wilmarth wrote in an email. "If we're going to protect all deposits during a crisis, banks should pay for that privilege on an ongoing basis. I've argued that the same should be true for money market funds, which we bailed out in 2008 and 2020."

This Week in Coins: Bitcoin, Ethereum Post Mega Rallies After Banking Intervention - After three consecutive weeks of losses, prices turned verdantly green for holders of the two largest cryptocurrencies by market cap this week. Bitcoin (BTC) blew up 36% over the past seven days and now trades at around $27,515 according to CoinMarketCap data.Last week, Bitcoin shed around 10% in reaction to news that the industry-servicing Signature Bank and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) had both failed.The industry’s No. 2 coin, Ethereum (ETH), is back where it was before the downturn. ETH is up 27% over the seven days and currently changes hands at $1,832. The entire crypto market surged back to life beginning last Sunday night after the Federal Reserve, U.S. Treasury, and FDIC announced they would step in to backstop all deposits at Signature and SVB. That promise was reiterated by President Biden.Crypto didn’t emerge fully unscathed, however: the industry has lost its two most crypto-friendly banks, and now conflicting reports are swirling over whether the FDIC is telling prospective buyers of Signature Bank that it will have to jettison the bank’s crypto business. Former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank claimed the Feds shut down Signature to send an "anti-crypto message" and a Reuters report late in the week appeared to confirm Frank's claims; the FDIC has since denied the claims made in the Reuters story.

Playboy Lost $4.9M on Ether It Accepted as NFT Payments -PLBY Group (PLBY), the parent company of the late Hugh Hefner's Playboy enterprise, said it took an impairment loss of $4.9 million on the ether (ETH) it held last year, as crypto winter created a significant decline in the broader market prices.The lifestyle and media company said it accepted ether as payments for its “Rabbitars” non-fungible tokens (NFT) launched in 2021, which it holds in its balance sheet as digital assets, according to an annual filing on Thursday. The value of the digital assets sits at $327,000 as of last year, the filing said.A previous filing shows the company's digital assets, which it refers to as Ethereum, were worth $1.75 million as of Sept. 30, 2022.The company explained that the company accounts for its digital assets as “indefinite-lived intangible assets,” which are subject to impairment losses if the fair value of the assets fall below their carrying value, at any time. The impairment losses the company takes on the digital assets can’t be recovered, even if the fair value of the assets rise after taking the impairment losses. “The market price of one [ether] in our principal market ranged from $964 to $3,813 during the year ended Dec. 31, 2022, but the carrying value of each Ethereum we held at the end of the reporting period reflects the lowest price of one Ethereum quoted on the active exchange at any time since its receipt,” according to the filing. "Therefore, negative swings in the market price of Ethereum could have a material impact on the company's earnings and carrying value, while only time a rise in prices will impact the company’s earnings positively, is when the Ethereum held in the balance sheet, are sold at a gain," the filing said.

Sam Bankman-Fried, U.S. prosecutors near new bail agreement (Reuters) - Lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried are nearing an agreement with U.S. prosecutors on revised bail conditions for the indicted FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder, who is trying to convince a skeptical judge he should remain free.In a letter filed on Friday night in Manhattan federal court, Bankman-Fried's lawyer Christian Everdell said both sides believed they were "close to a resolution", and expect to formally propose new restrictions by next week. Bankman-Fried, 31, faces a trial set for Oct. 2 on charges of stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at his Alameda Research hedge fund, and making large illegal political donations to buy influence in Washington, D.C.Bail talks occurred this week after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan at a March 10 hearing renewed his concerns that Bankman-Fried's electronic communications with others might exceed the bounds of his $250 million bail package.Kaplan's approval is needed to modify Bankman-Fried's bail.The former billionaire has pleaded not guilty to eight counts, and not yet been arraigned on four. He is living under house arrest with his parents in Palo Alto, California.Prosecutors raised the specter of witness tampering in January after Bankman-Fried tried to contact John Ray, who became FTX's chief executive when the company filed for bankruptcy in November, and an in-house lawyer.Bankman-Fried's lawyers have said their client was trying to help, not interfere.At the March 10 hearing, prosecutors and defense lawyers proposed giving Bankman-Fried a flip phone with no internet capability and a basic laptop with limited functions.That was too generous for Kaplan, who said Bankman-Fried was "inventive" and could conceivably "find a way around" the restrictions without being caught.In Friday's letter, Everdell also sought the judge's permission to let Bankman-Fried in the meantime use a laptop to access some FTX materials.Though the laptop would lack monitoring software or restrict Bankman-Fried's internet access, a lawyer or paralegal would oversee his use and take the laptop away when Bankman-Fried finished with it, Everdell said.

SBF got $2.2bn from Alameda and FTX, court docs say - Remember when FTX filed for bankruptcy and only crypto markets were in crisis? Those were simpler times.Anyway, here’s the latest from the bankruptcy proceedings:

All we’ll say is that maybe it’s not a huge surprise that Caroline Ellison decided to co-operate with prosecutors.

Ex-Wells Fargo executive Carrie Tolstedt agrees to guilty plea- Carrie Tolstedt, the former head of retail banking at Wells Fargo, has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal charge of obstructing a bank examination in connection with the company's phony-accounts scandal, prosecutors said Wednesday. The plea agreement could lead to prison time for Tolstedt — a rare outcome for a high-ranking big-bank executive accused of wrongdoing. The deal, which has yet to be approved by a judge, calls for a sentence of up to 16 months behind bars, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California said in a press release. The charge of obstructing a bank examination relates to Tolstedt's participation in the preparation of a May 2015 memo, which was to be provided to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Around that time, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office filed suit against Wells, and the bank's regulators were scrambling to assess the extent of the fake-accounts problem. In the memo, Tolstedt failed to disclose statistics on the number of Wells Fargo employees who were terminated or resigned for sales-related misconduct, according to prosecutors. She also failed to note that the company's retail banking unit proactively investigated only a very small percentage of employees who engaged in activity flagged as potential misconduct, the prosecutors said. "The justice system and regulators rely on corporations and their executives to fully cooperate during investigations into potential wrongdoing. But, in this case, Ms. Tolstedt took steps to cover up misconduct at Wells Fargo," acting U.S. Attorney Joseph McNally said in the press release. "Obstructing an investigation compromises the mission of those seeking the truth, and we will hold accountable any individual who attempts to conceal wrongdoing." Also on Wednesday, the OCC said that Tolstedt has agreed to pay a $17 million fine over her role in the fake-accounts scandal, and acceded to a ban from the banking industry in order to resolve certain civil charges she was facing. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission said that it has reached a tentative settlement with Tolstedt on other civil charges.

After win, consumer advocates target FinWise Bank over expensive loans -One month after regulators dinged a Utah bank that had ties to a high-cost lender, consumer advocacy groups have another bank from the Beehive State in their crosshairs.The bank now facing scrutiny is FinWise Bank in Murray, Utah, which partners with nonbanks to offer high-cost consumer loans.Various consumer advocacy groups, including the National Consumer Law Center and the Center for Responsible Lending, urged the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. this week to downgrade FinWise on its Community Reinvestment Act examination."The loans that FinWise facilitates are not only usurious; they also pose a host of other consumer protection problems and potential legal violations," the groups wrote in a letter to the FDIC.FinWise Bank, a subsidiary of the $402 million-asset FinWise Bancorp, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.Lauren Saunders, associate director at the National Consumer Law Center, said in an interview that FinWise enables its partners to evade state interest rate caps, from which banks are exempt. She also pointed to what she described as a high number of complaints that customers have filed in connection with loans facilitated by FinWise.A downgrade on a Community Reinvestment Act exam affects whether a bank can enter into mergers, Saunders noted. "And it's a stain on its reputation," she added.One of FinWise Bank's partners, the consumer lender OppFi, has been locked in a battle with California regulators over whether a state interest-rate cap applies to its business. OppFi sued the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation last year, arguing that its loans shouldn't be subject to the state's rate cap. The state agency countersued, and last month it asked a judge to issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent OppFi from making loans with interest rates above 36% to California consumers.

NCUA amends its rules to expand access to subordinated debt -The National Credit Union Administration is expanding term limits and simplifying language to enable low-income designated institutions to maintain access to subordinated debt.At the agency's monthly board meeting on Thursday, the officials present unanimously approved amendments to the NCUA's 2020 rule on subordinated debt that raise the maximum maturity ceiling on issued notes from 20 years to 30 years, and similarly extend the regulatory capital treatment of any secondary capital which was obtained before the final rule took effect to 30 years as well. Subordinated debt is categorized as higher-risk notes that are paid out last in the event that the organization issuing them declares bankruptcy.Work on the modifications began soon after Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in 2021, creating the Treasury Department's Emergency Capital Investment Program to help financial institutions reach underserved communities. While federally-insured credit unions certified as minority depository institutions or community development financial institutions could apply for funding in 15-year or 30-year maturity terms, the NCUA's existing cap meant credit unions could use only the shorter option until the agency granted permission for credit unions to employ both terms. The passing of the rule widened that pool of applicants to include some non-low-income credit unions, including those with more than $500 million of assets.

Banks tap Federal Home Loan Bank System for $90 billion in liquidity -Banks flooded the Federal Home Loan Bank System with requests for up to $90 billion in billions in low-cost funding to shore up liquidity and avert a crisis due to a runoff of deposits.Demand for liquidity from the Federal Home Loan Bank System skyrocketed on Monday, prompting the system's Office of Finance to raise a record $88.7 billion through the sale of short-term, floating rate notes — the system's largest debt issuance in a single day, reflecting the need for liquidity by community and regional bank members. The largest banks were not tapping the Home Loan banks, experts said, largely because they have been the beneficiaries of depositors that have moved their money to large banks after being spooked by bank failures.The two banks that failed in the past week — Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank — both borrowed heavily from the Home Loan banks in the third and fourth quarter. Both banks were particularly vulnerable due to a concentration of deposits, massive uninsured deposits and failures by top management to address interest rate risk in their securities portfolios. Higher interest rates have forced banks of all sizes to make mark-to-market adjustments on their investment portfolios resulting in unrealized losses. Fears that other regional banks are facing similar challenges, and a potential run on deposits have persisted despite efforts by federal regulators and President Biden to quell the panic. Banks with unrealized losses in their securities portfolios are tapping the Home Loan banks in the hopes of eventually recovering deposits as they increase deposit pricing. The banking industry as a whole is sitting on some $620 billion in unrealized losses on its securities portfolios as of the end of 2022, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp."Banks are just hoping they can ride out the liquidity and pay back the FHLB and not have to recognize the loss on the securities in their loan portfolio," said Peter Freilinger, founding partner at Paladin Advisors LLP, a bank advisory firm in Boerne, Texas. Regulators invoked a systemic risk exception to bail out depositors of Signature Bank, the $110.4 billion-aset bank in New York, and Silicon Valley Bank, the $202 billion-asset bank in Santa Clara, Calif. Both banks were insolvent because the market value of their assets was less than their deposits."There are no individual banks that have the same mix of massive uninsured concentration as Silicon Valley and Signature, also with the same insolvency position of mark-to-market of their securities book," Freilinger said. "But there are a lot of banks that are effectively insolvent if they were to mark-to-market their securities book."

Federal Home Loan bank borrowings jump this week by nearly $250 billion - The Federal Home Loan Bank System has issued nearly $250 billion of debt over three days this week to provide liquidity to regional and community banks, an indication of the level of stress on the banking system. The $1.25 trillion-asset system of 11 regional banks issued a combined $136.5 billion in discount notes and bonds on Tuesday and Wednesday, a tapering from Monday's $111.8 billion — the largest single day of issuance in the Home Loan banks' 90-year history. Most of it will be advanced to community and regional banks, where demand for liquidity is heaviest. In addition, the Home Loan Bank System is issuing debt to maintain or rebuild each individual banks' own liquidity. "The FHLB has been aggressively issuing discount notes and floating rate notes to satiate the banking system's demand for liquidity and the primary pool of capital the FHLB is targeting is the money market universe," said Ian Burdette, managing director and head of term rate securities at Academy Securities, a New York broker-dealer. "Simply put, this is exactly how the financial system is supposed to work. FHLB is an integral part of this funding process, just as it was during the financial crisis in 2008 to 2009." Regional and community banks have flooded the system with demands for short-term funding, known as advances, to avert further bank runs after the failure on Friday of Silicon Valley bank. The $209 billion-asset bank in Santa Clara, Calif., was put into receivership by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last Friday. The private cooperative of 11 regional banks, which is considered a "lender of next-to-last resort," issues bonds that are backed by an implied government guarantee. Created during the Depression to fund home loans, the system is owned by its 6,500 members including banks of all sizes, insurance companies and credit unions. The debt issuance is directly related to members' demands for advances as banks stock up on cash to avert a run on deposits. Silicon Valley Bank had borrowed $15 billion from the Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, while $110.4 billion-asset Signature Bank had quadrupled its borrowings from the Home Loan Bank of New York to $11.3 billion in the fourth quarter.Silvergate Bank loaded up on $4.3 billion from the San Francisco bank late last year and after repaying the system announced earlier this month that it was self-liquidating.

FHFA delays debt-to-income pricing change for mortgages - The Federal Housing Finance Agency has pushed back the implementation date of some ofthe adjusted fees set to apply to mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on May 1.Specifically, higher fees charged for mortgages with debt-to-income ratios above 40% will instead become effective Aug. 1, with no post-purchase adjustments applied through Dec. 31, 2023.Mortgage bankers have voiced concern about the DTI-based fees because the variable is particularly likely to change during the origination process.The DTI-based fees were part of a larger change to the two government-sponsored enterprises' pricing grids that raised lender fees for some mortgages with the intent of making other loans more accessible to a broader range of lower-income borrowers."FHFA has decided to delay the effective date of the DTI ratio-based fee by three months to August 1, 2023, to ensure a level playing field for all lenders to have sufficient time to deploy the fee," the agency said in a statement attributed to Director Sandra Thompson.The news was met with mixed reactions given that some lenders have already begun working to implement the new pricing ahead of the deadline. MBA President Robert Broeksmit said a delay alone would not be sufficient to address all concerns about the grids."While we appreciate the delay, we are disappointed that FHFA's statement did not recognize the need to consider alternatives to using a debt-to-income pricing adjustment," Broeksmit said. "From the beginning, MBA has emphasized to the FHFA that DTI-based loan level price adjustments simply are not workable for lenders and borrowers alike. DTI can fluctuate throughout the mortgage application and underwriting process, and FHFA's new fees will inevitably lead to borrowers' costs changing between application and closing, requiring multiple redisclosures that will increase compliance costs and confuse borrowers. "We will use the extra time offered by the change in the effective date to continue working with FHFA to explore alternatives that will not pose undue hardships on borrowers and lenders," he added.

Q4 Update: Delinquencies, Foreclosures and REO - In 2021, I pointed out that with the end of the foreclosure moratoriums, combined with the expiration of a large number of forbearance plans, we would see an increase in REOs in late 2022 and into 2023. However, this would NOT lead to a surge in foreclosures and significantly impact house prices (as happened following the housing bubble) since lending has been solid and most homeowners have substantial equity in their homes. Last week, CoreLogic reported on homeowner equity: US Annual Home Equity Gains Cool Again in Q4 2022, CoreLogic Reports The report shows that U.S. homeowners with mortgages (which account for roughly 63% of all properties) saw equity increase by 7.3% year over year, representing a collective gain of $1 trillion, for an average of $14,300 per borrower, since the fourth quarter of 2021.With substantial equity, and low mortgage rates (mostly at a fixed rates), few homeowners will have financial difficulties. REO (Real Estate Owned) is the amount of real estate owned by lenders. Here is some data on REOs through Q4 2022 … This graph shows the nominal dollar value of Residential REO for FDIC insured institutions. Note: The FDIC reports the dollar value and not the total number of REOs. The dollar value of 1-4 family residential Real Estate Owned (REOs, foreclosure houses) increased from $818 million in Q3 2022 to $829 million in Q4 2022. This is increasing, but still very low. Fannie Mae reported the number of REOs increased to 8,779 at the end of Q4 2022, up 23% from 7,166 at the end of Q4 2021. Here is a graph of Fannie Real Estate Owned (REO). This shows that REOs are increasing, however, this is still very low - and well below the pre-pandemic levels. It is important to note that loans in forbearance are counted as delinquent in the various surveys, but not reported to the credit agencies. Here is a graph from the MBA’s National Delinquency Survey through Q4 2022. Note The percent of loans in the foreclosure process increased in Q4 with the end of the foreclosure moratoriums. Loans in forbearance are mostly in the 90-day bucket at this point, and that has declined recently (although it increased in Q4). From the MBA: Compared to last quarter, the seasonally adjusted mortgage delinquency rate increased for all loans outstanding. By stage, the 30-day delinquency rate increased 26 basis points to 1.92 percent, the 60-day delinquency rate increased 13 basis points to 0.66 percent, and the 90-day delinquency bucket increased 11 basis points to 1.38 percent. ... The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans in the process of foreclosure. The percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of the fourth quarter was 0.57 percent, up 1 basis point from the third quarter of 2022 and 15 basis points higher than one year ago.

Housing March 13th Weekly Update: Inventory Decreased 1.5% Week-over-week - Altos reports that active single-family inventory was down 1.5% week-over-week. Usually inventory bottoms in early February, so the bottom this year will be late. Here are the same week inventory changes for the last five years: […] This inventory graph is courtesy of Altos Research. As of March 10th, inventory was at 413 thousand (7-day average), compared to 419 thousand the prior week. The second graph shows the seasonal pattern for active single-family inventory since 2015.The red line is for 2023. The black line is for 2019. Note that inventory is up from the previous two years (the record low was in 2022), but still well below normal levels.Inventory was up 66.8% compared to the same week in 2022 (last week it was up 74.3%), and down 49.5% compared to the same week in 2019 (last week down 48.8%). A key will be when inventory starts increasing in 2023 - so far inventory has declined about 16.0% over the first ten weeks of 2023. Mike Simonsen discusses this data regularly on Youtube.

The High and Getting Higher Cost of Renting in the US - Suppose you want to rent a place to live. What will you need to have put aside just to move in? This depends not only on the monthly rent, but on other fees and upfront payments in the place where you plan to live. And, of course, your credit score.

  • Application fee: One part of Congressman Frost’s story caught my attention: he had to forfeit his “application fee” for an apartment he didn’t get. If, like me, you haven’t rented a house or apartment in a while you might not even know about such fees. They’re meant to cover the cost of a background check on the applicant. You might expect them to be rolled into the rent, but in a seller’s (or renter’s) market, there’s no risk to landlords in making them extra.Frost’s fee was $50 for one application. (These fees tend to top out around $75.) Not so bad, right? Until you grasp that many potential renters find themselves filing multiple applications — 10 isn’t unheard of — simply to find one place to rent, so you’re potentially talking about hundreds of dollars in fees.
  • Move-in fees: If you haven’t rented in a while, this one may take you by surprise. Unlike a security deposit, move-in fees are nonrefundable. They’re supposed to cover the costs of preparing a place for a new tenant — everything from installing new locks to replacing appliances and painting. Once subsumed in the monthly rent, today these costs are often passed on directly to renters. Nationally, they average between 30% and 50% of a month’s rent.In June 2022, the median rent for an apartment in the United States crossed the $2,000 thresholdfor the first time, which means the median move-in fee now ranges from $600 to $1,000.
  • First and last months’ rent: This upfront cost should be familiar to anyone who’s ever rented. Landlords almost always require two months’ rent upfront and hold on to the last month’s rent to ensure that a tenant can’t skip out without paying. Because landlords can invest the money they’re holding (and tenants can’t invest what they’ve forked over to landlords), in recent years, most states have required landlords to pay interest on the tenant’s funds.
  • Security deposit: Unlike the move-in fee, a security deposit — often a month’s rent — is refundable if tenants leave a place in good condition. Its ostensible purpose: to reimburse the landlord for future cleaning and repair costs that exceed normal wear-and-tear. (But wait! Isn’t that what the non-refundable move-in fee should do?)
  • Other fees: If you’re renting a condo, you may have to cover the owner’s monthly Home Owner Association fees. In some cases, you’ll also pay for a utility’s hookup like gas or electricity.

So, how much will you have to pay to set foot in that apartment? Well, if you’re like Nuala Bishari, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who recently tried to rent a house in nearby Oakland, California, you’ll need to set aside almost $10,000. If you’re not sure how you could possibly put that kind of money together, the credit score company Experian has some advice for you: First, “calculate your odds.” Find out how many other people are applying for the unit you’re interested in and, if the competition is stiff, “consider looking elsewhere.” (As if you haven’t done that already!) Then tighten your belt. “Reducing extraneous expenses,” it observes, “is an easy way to save.” Stop going out to eat, for instance, and look for free family activities. If that’s not enough, it’s time to “get serious about cost cutting.” Their brilliant suggestions include:

  • “Cut back on utility use. [Wait! I thought I was supposed to cook more at home. Never mind. I’ll just sit here in the dark.]
  • Carpool to work instead of driving. [I take the bus, but maybe I should start walking.]
  • Switch to a budget grocery store and look for coupons and sales. [Right! No more Whole Paycheck for me!]
  • Join a buy-nothing group.”

Such “advice” to people desperate to find housing would be amusing if it weren’t so desperately insulting.

February Housing Starts: Average Length of Time from Start to Completion increased Sharply in 2022 * --From the Census Bureau: Permits, Starts and Completions Privately‐owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,450,000. This is 9.8 percent above the revised January estimate of 1,321,000, but is 18.4 percent below the February 2022 rate of 1,777,000. Single‐family housing starts in February were at a rate of 830,000; this is 1.1 percent above the revised January figure of 821,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 608,000. The first graph shows single and multi-family housing starts since 2000 (including housing bubble).The second graph shows single and multi-family starts since 1968. This shows the huge collapse following the housing bubble, and then the eventual recovery - and the recent collapse in single-family starts. The third graph shows the month-to-month comparison for total starts between 2022 (blue) and 2023 (red). Total starts were down 18.4% in February compared to February 2022. Starts have been down year-over-year for ten consecutive months, and that streak will continue in 2023 and I expect starts to be down significantly this year.The fourth graph shows housing starts under construction, Seasonally Adjusted (SA).Red is single family units. Currently there are 734 thousand single family units (red) under construction (SA). This was down in February compared to January, and 81 thousand below the recent peak in April and May 2022. Single family units under construction have peaked since single family starts are now declining. The reason there are still so many homes under construction is probably due to supply constraints.Blue is for 2+ units. Currently there are 957 thousand multi-family units under construction. This is the highest level since November 1973! For multi-family, construction delays are probably also a factor. The completion of these units should help with rent pressure.Combined, there are 1.691 million units under construction, just below the all-time record of 1.711 million set in October 2022. Census released the annual data on the length of time from start to completion, and this showed construction delays in 2022.In 2022, it took an average of 8.3 months from start to completion for single family homes, up from already elevated 7.2 months in 2021. For 2+ unit buildings, it took 17.0 months for buildings with 2 or more units in 2022, up from 15.4 months in 2021. This will be even longer for multi-family in 2023 as many of these units that have been under construction are completed this year.The delays following the housing bubble were due to many projects being mothballed for several years. The recent delays were due to pandemic related supply constraints.From Authorization to Start, it took 1.3 months in 2022 for single family homes, up from 1.3 months in 2021, and it took 2.8 months in 2021 for 2+ Unit buildings, up from 2.2 months. Below is a graph comparing multi-family starts and completions. Since it usually takes over a year on average to complete a multi-family project, there is a lag between multi-family starts and completions. Completions are important because that is new supply added to the market and starts are important because that is future new supply (units under construction is also important for employment).These graphs use a 12-month rolling total for NSA starts and completions.The last graph shows single family starts and completions. It usually only takes about 6 months between starting a single-family home and completion - so the lines are much closer than for multi-family.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Increased in March --The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported the housing market index (HMI) was at 44, up from 42 last month. Any number below 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as poor than good. From the NAHB: Builder Confidence Edges Higher in March but Future Outlook Uncertain Although high construction costs and elevated interest rates continue to hamper housing affordability, builders expressed cautious optimism in March as a lack of existing inventory is shifting demand to the new home market.Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes in March rose two points to 44, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This is the third straight monthly increase in builder sentiment levels.....The HMI index gauging current sales conditions in March rose two points to 49 and the gauge measuring traffic of prospective buyers increased three points to 31. This is the highest traffic reading since September of last year. The component charting sales expectations in the next six months fell one point to 47.Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast rose five points to 42, the Midwest edged one-point higher to 34, the South increased five points to 45 and the West moved four points higher to 34.This graph shows the NAHB index since Jan 1985.This was above the consensus forecast. The "traffic of prospective buyers" is still well below breakeven at 31 (below 50).

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Down 7.5% Compared to Same Week in 2019 - From CoStar: STR: Start of Spring Break Boosts Weekly US Hotel Performance - Helped by the onset of spring break travel, U.S. hotel performance increased from the previous week, according to STR‘s latest data through March 11. March 5-11, 2023 (percentage change from comparable weeks in 2022, 2019):
• Occupancy: 64.7% (+2.8%, -7.5%)
• Average daily rate (ADR): $158.20 (+8.1%, +16.6%)
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): $102.38 (+11.1%, +7.8%)
The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four-week average. NOTE: Last year, the occupancy rate was close to normal after the first quarter (depressed due to a surge in COVID), so STR will only be comparing to 2022 after Q1.The red line is for 2023, black is 2020, blue is the median, and dashed light blue is for 2022. Dashed purple is 2019 (STR is comparing to a strong year for hotels). The 4-week average of the occupancy rate is close to the median rate for the previous 20 years (Blue). The 4-week average of the occupancy rate will increase seasonally for a couple more weeks and then move more sideways until the Summer.

LA Port Inbound Traffic Down Sharply YoY in February --Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported - and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic. The following graphs are for inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container). To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12-month average. On a rolling 12-month basis, inbound traffic decreased 3.4% in February compared to the rolling 12 months ending in January. Outbound traffic decreased 0.8% compared to the rolling 12 months ending the previous month. The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports). Usually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in February or March depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year. Imports were down 38% YoY in February, and exports were down 9% YoY. The volume of containers unloaded last year was much stronger because of all the ships waiting to unload.It is possible that exports have bottomed after declining for several years (even prior to the pandemic).

Retail Sales Decreased 0.4% in February -- On a monthly basis, retail sales were down 0.4% from January to February (seasonally adjusted), and sales were up 5.4 percent from February 2022. From the Census Bureau report: Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February 2023, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $697.9 billion, down 0.4 percent from the previous month, but up 5.4 percent above February 2022. ... The December 2022 to January 2023 percent change was revised from up 3.0 percent to up 3.2 percent. This graph shows retail sales since 1992. This is monthly retail sales and food service, seasonally adjusted (total and ex-gasoline). Retail sales ex-gasoline were down 0.4% in February. The second graph shows the year-over-year change in retail sales and food service (ex-gasoline) since 1993. Retail and Food service sales, ex-gasoline, increased by 6.1% on a YoY basis. Sales in February were slightly below expectations, however, sales in December and January were revised up.

BLS: CPI increased 0.4% in February; Core CPI increased 0.5% - From the BLS: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.4 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, after increasing 0.5 percent in January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 6.0 percent before seasonal adjustment.The index for shelter was the largest contributor to the monthly all items increase, accounting for over 70 percent of the increase, with the indexes for food, recreation, and household furnishings and operations also contributing. The food index increased 0.4 percent over the month with the food at home index rising 0.3 percent. The energy index decreased 0.6 percent over the month as the natural gas and fuel oil indexes both declined.The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.5 percent in February, after rising 0.4 percent in January. Categories which increased in February include shelter, recreation, household furnishings and operations, and airline fares. The index for used cars and trucks and the index for medical care were among those that decreased over the month.The all items index increased 6.0 percent for the 12 months ending February; this was the smallest 12-month increase since the period ending September 2021. The all items less food and energy index rose 5.5 percent over the last 12 months, its smallest 12-month increase since December 2021. The energy index increased 5.2 percent for the 12 months ending February, and the food index increased 9.5 percent over the last year. Both CPI and core CPI were close to expectations. I'll post a graph later today after the Cleveland Fed releases the median and trimmed-mean CPI.

Cleveland Fed: Median CPI increased 0.6% and Trimmed-mean CPI increased 0.5% in February --The Cleveland Fed released the median CPI and the trimmed-mean CPI: According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the median Consumer Price Index rose 0.6% in February. The 16% trimmed-mean Consumer Price Index increased 0.5% in February. "The median CPI and 16% trimmed-mean CPI are measures of core inflation calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland based on data released in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) monthly CPI report". This graph shows the year-over-year change for these four key measures of inflation. On a year-over-year basis, the median CPI rose 7.2%, the trimmed-mean CPI rose 6.5%, and the CPI less food and energy rose 5.5%. Core PCE is for January and increased 4.7% year-over-year.Note: The Cleveland Fed released the median CPI details. "Fuel oil and other fuels" decreased at a 55% annualized rate in February, and "Used Cars" decreased at a 29% annualized rate. Note that Owners' Equivalent Rent and Rent of Primary Residence account for 1/3 of median CPI, and these measures were up 8.8% annualized (based on relative importance in the index). This data is lagged and asking rents have declined in recent months (due to the sharp slowdown in household formation). Ex-Shelter these indexes are decreasing sharply.

Services Inflation Rages at Four-Decade High: Fueled by Rents, Auto Insurance, Repairs, Airfares, Hotels, Pet Services, Food Services, Delivery - By Wolf Richter -The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February showed once again that inflation rages in services at the worst levels in four decades, while inflation in many goods categories continue to back off:

  • Services without energy services: annual inflation jumped by 7.3%, a four-decade high, driven by housing, food services (food away from home), auto insurance, repair services, airline fares, pet services, hotels, and delivery services.
  • Food at home: inflation rose at a slower pace in February from January (+0.3%). But year-over-year, still +10.2%.
  • Energy inflation overall fell month to month (-0.6%), which whittled down the year-over-year inflation rate to +5.2%. Gasoline prices -2% from a year ago.
  • Durable goods prices fell again month-to-month (-0.4%) and year-over-year (-1.8%), driven by price declines in used vehicles and consumer electronics.
  • Core CPI: accelerated to +0.5% month-to-month, third month in a row of acceleration. Year-over-year: +5.5% (from 5.6%).
  • Overall CPI (CPI-U): +0.4% month-to-month, +6.0% year-over-year.

The CPI for services inflation without energy services jumped by 7.3% in February year-over-year, the worst increase since 1982 and the third month in a row above 7%, according to the CPI data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.In services is where inflation is now raging and entrenched. Nearly two-thirds of consumer spending goes into services: Month-to-month, services inflation without energy services jumped by 0.6% in February from January. It has been in the 0.5% to 0.8% range for 12 months. In services is where inflation gets sticky. The green lines are food for thought:BLS undertakes annual adjustments in how it estimates the costs of health insurance and then spreads those adjustments over the following 12 months. The first mega-adjustment hit in October and every month since (more details here).In other words, for the 12 months through September 2022, CPI overestimated health insurance inflation (+28% yoy in September 2022), and it now corrects for this overestimation by spreading the a massive adjustment over 12 months through September 2023.Without that mega-downward adjustment, services CPI would have been even worse for the past four months.Due to this downward adjustment, the CPI for health insurance plunged by 4.1% in February from January. The five months of mega-adjustments reduced the year-over-year rate of the CPI for health insurance from the pre-adjustment +28% in September to -4.7% in February. But, but, but… the PCE price index, to be released later in March, which the Fed prefers, figures health insurance inflation differently and has had no adjustments. And in the PCE price index, services inflation has been aggressive.

Dollar Tree pauses egg sales as prices climb - Dollar Tree announced late Tuesday that it will stop selling eggs in its stores, according toReuters, as the price of everyday food continues to surge due to ongoing inflation hitting grocery shoppers. The discount retailer is a major destination for shoppers throughout the United States and Canada, many of whom often shop on a budget and rely on its cheap prices for everyday grocery products. According to Reuters, Dollar Tree anticipates restocking its egg inventory in all stores later this year. The retailer also announced back in 2021 that it would increase its prices from $1 to $1.25, as it planned to reintroduce some products in its stores that were discontinued due to the $1 restrictions. Amid already soaring prices, egg costs hit a record high in January due to an outbreak of bird flu, but fell 6.7 percent last month, according to Labor Department data. Now, with Easter around the corner, the price of eggs is 55.4 percent higher than a year ago. Still, rising inflation continues to hit consumers’ pockets in key categories, especially at the grocery store.

YoY Measures of Inflation: Services, Goods and Shelter - Here a few measures of inflation:
The first graph is the one Fed Chair Powell has been mentioning. This graph shows the YoY price change for Services and Services less rent of shelter through February 2023. Services were up 7.6% YoY as of February 2023, unchanged from 7.6% YoY in January. Services less rent of shelter was up 6.9% YoY in February, down from 7.2% YoY in January.Will services ex-shelter inflation be persistent, or will it follow a similar pattern as goods? This is a topic I discussed yesterday in Pandemic Economics, Housing and Monetary Policy: Part 2.The second graph shows that goods prices started to increase year-over-year (YoY) in 2020 and accelerated in 2021 due to both strong demand and supply chain disruptions. Durables were at -1.8% YoY as of February 2023, down from -1.3% YoY in January. Commodities less food and energy commodities were up 1.0% YoY in February, down from 1.3% YoY in January. Goods inflation was transitory.Here is a graph of the year-over-year change in shelter from the CPI report (through February) and housing from the PCE report (through January 2023)Shelter was up 8.1% year-over-year in February, up from 7.9% in January. Housing (PCE) was up 8.0% YoY in January. The BLS noted this morning: "The index for shelter was the largest contributor to the monthly all items increase, accounting for over 70 percent of the increase [in CPI]".

Industrial Production Unchanged in February -- From the Fed: Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization Industrial production was unchanged in February, and manufacturing output edged up 0.1 percent. The index for mining fell 0.6 percent, while the index for utilities rose 0.5 percent. At 102.6 percent of its 2017 average, total industrial production in February was 0.2 percent below its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization was unchanged in February at 78.0 percent, a rate that is 1.6 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2022) average.This graph shows Capacity Utilization. This series is up from the record low set in April 2020, and above the level in February 2020 (pre-pandemic).Capacity utilization at 78.0% is 1.6% below the average from 1972 to 2021. This was below consensus expectations.The second graph shows industrial production since 1967.Industrial production was unchanged in February at 102.6. This is above the pre-pandemic level.Industrial production was below consensus expectations and previous months were revised down.

February marks 23rd straight month of real wages decline for US workers - Annualized inflation for February was 6 percent in the United States, according to figures released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was a slight decline from January’s level of 6.4 percent, but inflation is still at the highest levels since the early 1980s. For workers, sustained high rates of inflation have already produced a social disaster. This has been caused by a combination of trillions of dollars pumped into the financial markets at the start of the pandemic and the economic dysfunction caused by the refusal of the US and other world governments to take public health measures to contain the spread of COVID. It has been worsened by the massive outlays for the US-NATO proxy war against Russia and military buildup against China. February was the 23rd consecutive month in which average wage growth was lower than inflation, a trend that began in April of 2021. Real average hourly earnings declined by 0.1 percent last month compared to January, and 1.3 percent over the previous 12 months. The past two years have also seen a significant growth of strikes, as workers are being thrust into struggle by intolerable conditions. At the same time, these struggles are developing into ever more open conflicts with the pro-corporate trade union bureaucracy. The weekend before the latest figures were released, the United Auto Workers rammed through a contract containing a measly 19 percent pay increase over six years at heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar. With inflation at 6 percent, workers could experience a cut in real pay of up to 20 percent by 2029.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims decrease to 192,000 - The DOL reported:In the week ending March 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 192,000, a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 211,000 to 212,000. The 4-week moving average was 196,500, a decrease of 750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 197,000 to 197,250.The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

Meta Cuts Another 10,000 Jobs As Tech Layoffs Accelerate - Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post on Tuesday that the company will "reduce our team size by around 10,000 people and to close around 5,000 additional open roles that we haven't yet hired.""Here's the timeline you should expect: over the next couple of months, org leaders will announce restructuring plans focused on flattening our orgs, canceling lower priority projects, and reducing our hiring rates," Zuckerberg said. "We will make our organization flatter by removing multiple layers of management," he said in the post, referring to his 'Year of Efficiency' to reduce expenses. Meta employees had been bracing for more layoffs in recent weeks. Last Tuesday, a Bloomberg report outlined the upcoming job cuts. The new round of layoffs adds to a previous round of cuts announced in November of about 13% of Meta's overall staff.

Criminals are stealing hundreds of thousands of Kias and Hyundais — and TikTok is to blame - Bria Jenkins was enjoying an evening at home last November, watching television with her kids and waiting for a Domino's delivery. But when she opened the door to grab the pizza from the delivery driver, she got a serious shock: There was broken glass strewn on the ground and her 2013 Kia Optima was gone — stolen from right in front of her house.Patti Lebeau-Chorn experienced a similar nightmare one morning last August. She had parked her 2015 Kia Sorrento, which her late parents had helped her buy, across the street at a golf-course parking lot while volunteering at her temple in Los Angeles. But when she went to drive home, she couldn't find it anywhere.Lebeau-Chorn and Jenkins are just two victims of an unprecedented surge in car thefts that has swept across US cities in the past two years. In Milwaukee, car theftshave doubled since 2020. In St. Louis, they spiked 157% from the second half of 2021 to the second half of 2022. Other major metro areas across the country —New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — have seen similar increases. The cause of this wild car-theft spree? A viral TikTok. The "Kia Challenge" video, which first appeared in 2021 and regained popularity in July 2022, showed how to easily hijack certain models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles using only a USB cord. While the video was quickly taken down by TikTok each time it resurfaced, the damage was done: 70% of the cars stolen in Milwaukee last year and 50% of the cars stolen in Chicago this year were from the two South Korean manufacturers. The situation has become so critical that two major auto-insurance companies, State Farm and Progressive, have stopped insuring vulnerable Kia and Hyundai models. And dozens of class-action lawsuits filed around the country are attempting to force the manufacturers to either issue a recall or fix the cars' vulnerability. The TikTok video that sparked the challenge — a how-to reportedly created by user @robbierayyy — exposed a security flaw in Kia models from 2011 to 2021 and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021. The cars from that time don't have electronic immobilizers, a safety device that uses a unique chip in the key fob. Cars with this tech won't start unless they recognize the correct key, making them far more difficult to hot-wire. Without that system, anyone could unscrew the steering column in the older Kias and Hyundais and insert a USB into the ignition before driving away.

'It's hard to focus': Schools say American kids are hungry (AP) — America’s schools say kids are hungry — just as pandemic-era benefit programs have lapsed. There is growing concern about the effects on kids’ ability to learn.Congress temporarily made school meals free to all American schoolkids, but since that ended last fall, the need has only seemed to grow.Soaring food prices are adding strains on families who are seeing reductions in multiple kinds of financial assistance. One federal program that ends this month had given nearly 30 million Americans extra food stamps during the pandemic.School cafeterias typically don’t turn away a hungry kid, but debts for unpaid school meals have been rising — showing the level of need, and raising questions about how schools will keep feeding everyone, without federal money to do it. The neediest kids are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, as before the pandemic, but qualifying for those benefits requires applications that haven’t been necessary for several years. “Programs that provide direct food assistance are hugely critical and we are going to see the effects of not having them over the next couple of months,” said Megan Curran, policy director for Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy.m In the last academic year, with nearly all schools back operating in person, the number of school meals served to students jumped dramatically, and was slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to a report Thursday from the Food Research & Action Center. Already, it said, states now are reporting drops in the number of meals served.More than 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the United States are food insecure, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for every person in their family to be healthy.Children in such households are more likely to struggle academically and repeat grade levels, among other challenges, according to researchers.

Fight in H.S. classroom leaves one dead, one injured - A fight between students in a classroom in California left one student dead and one injured, according to the Santa Rosa Police Department.Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that a 16-year old student died in a stabbing in a classroom inside Montgomery High School. He said that two students entered an art class at 11:11 a.m. and approached a freshman student, who then pulled out a folding knife with a blade of about four to five inches. He said that the two students who entered the classroom were stabbed. One was stabbed in the upper body three times, and the other was stabbed in the hand. Both students were transported to the hospital, but one of the students died, and the second one was left injured, Cregan said. There were about 30 other people in the class at the time, including 27 students, but no other reported injuries.Cregan said that a 15-year-old student is in custody after he fled the scene and was found in a creek near the school, but noted that the police have not recovered a weapon. He said that it remains an ongoing investigation.A school official noted that the school does not have metal detectors in the school now, and that they will “assess” how to support the students going forward, according to the press conference.The high school went under a lockdown and dismissed students early for the day at approximately 1 p.m., according to a school alert.

Safer Schools Means Better Mental Health Outcomes for LGBTQ+ Students - New evidence suggests schools in the United States are becoming less safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and other LGBTQ+ identified students. Over the last four years, many forms of structural and interpersonal discrimination have increased. As a result, LGBTQ+ students continue to have disproportionately more mental health challengesthan their cisgender and heterosexual peers. Federal legislation, coupled with state and local strategies, are needed to protect and improve health outcomes for these 5 million students nationwide.Harassment towards LGBTQ+ students has been pervasive in both the physical and virtual COVID-19 learning environment, withover 30% of students experiencing online bullying and 29% being forbidden by their teachers from using their chosen name or pronouns in the classroom.Consequently, LGBTQ+ students are twice as likely than their non-LGBTQ+ classmates to report that bullying, depression, stress, and/or anxiety impeded their learning. In fact, 68% of LGBTQ+ students reported feeling unsafe at school due to their identity, with 40% avoiding bathrooms, locker rooms, and gym classes. Thirty-one percent even missed at least one day of school to avoid harassment.Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ+ affirming schools produce better mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ students compared to non-affirming schools. In a 2022 national survey comparing both settings, significantly lower rates of attempted suicide were found in students attending inclusive schools. Typically, affirming schools will have at least a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) for peer support and programming, and/or an inclusive classroom curriculum that requires positive representation of LGBTQ+ people, history, and culture. Both have been proven effective, with GSAs improving student functioning and inclusive curriculums cutting victimization rates in half.Despite being beneficial, these strategies aren’t widespread. Only seven states require inclusive curriculum in their public schools, and six states explicitly prohibit these discussions from happening at all. GSAs are also substantially decreasing. Fewer than 40% of students reported having an active group in 2021.Some researchers suggest a mix of local interventions are sufficient to support the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ students. One studyargues that school psychologists have the ethical responsibility to promote suicide prevention by advocating for school-based anti-bullying and nondiscrimination policies, cultural competency trainings, GSAs, and inclusive curriculums. Other findings suggest that passing state-level anti-bullying and nondiscrimination laws is most effective, as school districts in states with established protections may be more motivated to develop inclusive local programming than those in states without protections. However, it’s worth noting that 24 states offer neither protection. And Missouri and South Dakota have laws that prevent school districts from adopting either. To supplement local and state-level interventions, federal policies are needed to improve school acceptance, safety, and mental health disparities, particularly in less tolerant school districts.

‘I am sorry’: Superintendent admits to pulling some LGBTQ books - (WOOD) — In an email to staff at Forest Hills Public Schools, superintendent Dan Behm apologized for pulling six controversial books from libraries, including some that cover LGBTQ issues.“Last June, I made a decision to have some books removed from our high school media centers. This was wrong. I take full responsibility for this mistake,” wrote Behm, who had previously stopped short of calling his actions a “mistake.”“I am sorry that I did not do better sooner in this issue. Although my remaining time serving alongside you as superintendent is not long, I remain fully committed to my own learning and supporting you and your selfless efforts to help all kids learn, grow, and thrive,” he wrote. The email went out to staff late Wednesday night.Thursday morning, Behm told Target 8 he has no plans to resign and has “the full support” of the school board.Behm, who’s led the Forest Hills district for 17 years, noted he’s mentioned for several years that he’s close to retirement. Parents on both sides of the cultural divide over books had called for Behm to come clean regarding his role in the removal of six titles from Forest Hills media centers. The National Coalition against Censorship called on the school board to investigate Behm’s actions.In a Feb. 8 news release, the coalition also shared an audio recording of a meeting in which a man identified as Behm acknowledged he’d ordered the removal of what he called “R-rated” books.In an interview with Target 8 Monday, Behm did not refute the voice in the recording was his. Target 8 has confirmed the meeting between Behm and at least two parents pushing to pull books took place July 25, 2022.In the recording, Behm told the parents he’d instructed the assistant superintendent for instruction to “get rid of … R-rated books.”

Florida textbook altered to remove references to Rosa Parks’s race: report -- A Florida textbook publisher removed all references of race from a lesson about civil rights icon Rosa Parks in order to get a Florida committee’s approval, according to The New York Times. Parks helped spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott after she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955. In the current lesson by Studies Weekly, which is used in 45,000 elementary schools, the event is described: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.” But in an early version created for Florida’s review by Studies Weekly, the lesson changed to: “She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin.” In the group’s second updated version, race is removed completely from the lesson: “She was told to move to a different seat.” Studies Weekly also made changes to their fourth-grade lesson about segregation laws. In the initial version, the text explained how Black Americans were affected by Jim Crow laws that arose after the Civil War, but like its updates to the Parks lesson, the second version eliminated almost every direct mention of race. Instead, the lessons were changed to say it was illegal for “men of certain groups” to be unemployed and that “certain groups of people” were not allowed to serve on a jury. Florida is currently reviewing social studies curriculum, which includes flagging any topics that could be deemed as critical race theory, a collegiate-level framework used to explain systemic racism in the United States that has become a political catch-all buzzword for any teaching on race. Though Florida’s Department of Education mandates the teaching of Black history, critical race theory is banned in Florida public schools — though most experts on the subject say it is not taught in elementary or even high schools. Still, the theory has become a major point of contention for Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed legislation last year that prohibits instruction that could make students feel responsibility, guilt or anguish for what other members of their race did in the past. DeSantis’s administration has taken this law and used it to reject more than 40 math textbooks for allegedly incorporating “prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies,” including critical race theory. This year, his administration banned an Advanced Placement African American studies course from running in schools, accusing the college board of “indoctrination not education.”

Texas officials target climate science in textbooks - The Texas State Board of Education altered its internal guidance to schools last month to emphasize the “positive” aspects of fossil fuels in science textbooks. The changes are raising concerns among scientists, education experts and other board members that the panel is establishing policies that could lead to the statewide purchase of textbooks that undermine basic tenets of climate change for years to come. The Republican-dominated board adopted a series of changes to its operating rules last month that could influence school decisions on book purchases. The board member who proposed the changes, Patricia Hardy, has rejected mainstream climate science and argued that current teachings about global warming are too “negative.” “If they’re going to tout how wonderful the alternative climate change stuff is, then they need to also say all the things that are not good about it and not just hit on the fossil fuel industry,” Hardy said in an interview Wednesday. “Our schools are paid for by the fossil fuel industry for the most part, so there’s a little bit of disingenuousness.” The new guidelines also portray the Earth’s warming temperatures as the result of natural fluctuations — flying in the face of the consensus among climate researchers that humans are causing it by burning fossil fuels. The impact of the board’s decision could ripple across the U.S. because the state is one of the nation’s largest markets for textbooks and publishers pay close attention to Texas standards, according to Texas State Board of Education member Rebecca Bell-Metereau, a Democrat who opposed the changes. She said her Republican colleagues on the board are “badly educated” about climate change. “They don’t really believe in the geological record; they don’t believe in science,” Bell-Metereau said. The state board’s operating rules do not carry legal weight, but they are an authoritative designation of the state’s educational priorities. That means they can influence how school districts approach classroom curriculum and textbook selection, said Carisa Lopez, political director for the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning watchdog group involved in school issues.

Los Angeles education unions prepare minimal strike actions as district pushes forward with austerity contracts - Last weekend, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 education unions announced plans to launch a three-day strike by 65,000 educators and support staff in the Los Angeles Unified School District within the coming weeks.Both unions have kept their members on the job long after the expiration of their contracts despite the crushing rise in living expenses. The contract for nearly 35,000 UTLA members expired in June 2022, while the deal covering 30,000 SEIU members expired in late 2020. Both unions regularly extended their contracts until last week when they rejected any further extensions to clear the way for a strike.In a strike authorization vote last month, SEIU Local 99 workers, who include cafeteria staff, janitors, instructional aides, bus drivers and other support staff, voted 96 percent in favor of strike action. Rather than announce a solidarity strike vote, UTLA officials have advised teachers to make individual decisions whether or not to cross the picket lines of their fellow workers.The SEIU only announced a possible strike because of the rising tide of anger amongst LAUSD workers. Support staff workers make abysmally low wages in the face of the extraordinarily high cost of living in the greater Los Angeles area. The average SEIU Local 99 worker makes only $27,531 per year. Teaching assistants make even less with an average salary of $22,657 and after school program workers make less still at $14,576. By contrast, SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias made $146,319 in 2022 while seven other local union executives made six-figure salaries, according to the latest data available.In contrast with the union leadership, the initial strike authorization vote in February was viewed by school workers, not as a publicity stunt, but as a mandate for action. After SEIU leaders spent days and weeks ignoring the membership vote, angry rank-and-file workers began pressing for action. One worker, for example, posted a comment on the SEIU Facebook page declaring, “All the union is doing right now by not setting a strike date is giving the district more time to hire replacements and temp workers. We voted to strike, THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH!!” Another wrote, “We need to take a stand and now! We gotta bring the heat now! Let’s stop talking and be about it!”Under these conditions, the union felt compelled to call a strike, albeit limited, lest they lose control of the situation with workers taking matters into their own hands.The date of the strike is expected to be announced on Wednesday during a planned joint rally of the two unions. The union is limiting the strike to three days and to a protest over unfair labor practices by district officials. In an email to members sent on Saturday, SEIU Local 99 stated, “This is a lawful strike to protest the district’s unfair practices, including threats, interrogation, and surveillance of members who participated in last month’s strike vote.”

Whistleblower: Kalamazoo school board spending ‘unethical’ — A Kalamazoo Public Schools employee who sued the school district, claiming she was penalized for raising concerns about how school board members were using money, says the former superintendent tried to stop it but was pushed out. “I could’ve ignored it and walked away like many others have, but I couldn’t live with myself if I did. I had to speak up,” Tabatha Coleman told News 8 Thursday. Coleman said she was demoted after she reported board members misused almost $250,000 in stipends over the last 16 years. She said members billed for any appearances in the community regardless of they were related to the board’s work. “Some board members would show up at a basketball game for five to 15 minutes and leave and bill for it,” Coleman said. “Some board members would show up at ‘welcome back to school’ events — these ice cream socials that the schools, the students would put on at elementary schools — and bill for each one that they went to during the day.” Coleman said board member Patti Sholler-Barber, who was formerly the board’s president, did it the most often. “Far and away, she was usually three times (other members) in reimbursement or in payment per quarter,” she said. Coleman took her concerns to then-Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri in September 2021. “When she found about it, she said, ‘I want to run a tight, ethical ship.’ So as she found out about these activities that were happening that were unethical and even illegal, she pushed for that to change,” Coleman said. There was pushback from Sholler-Barber and the board. A January 2022 email from Raichoudhairi to Coleman obtained by News 8 said that “(Sholler-Barber) won’t do anything about compensation” in an organizational meeting. “It was really just putting it off and delaying it to make sure that the public would never find out what they were doing and that that was happening,” Coleman said. In another email in August 2022, Raichoudhuri told Coleman to “just let it all go and pay” Sholler-Barber after she submitted hours for a board member certification class she did not attend. “Not worth the headache,” Raichoudhuri’s email said. “I knew what she was dealing with in that office. I knew how stressed she was in contending with them, pushing back on things, trying to do what was best for students, and not governing or managing the board,” Coleman told News 8. She said the board forced Raichoudhuri to step down or be fired publicly. She resigned in December.

Ohio teachers’ pension fund holds shares in failed bank – Financial documents show Ohio’s State Teachers Retirement System is among the investors in a California bank that collapsed on Friday.The failure of Silicon Valley Bank forced the federal government to take extraordinary steps to assure depositors that they would be able to access all of their money.According to disclosures obtained by NBC 4, as of December, STRS owned 171,000 shares of SVB with a value of more than $39 million.STRS has been under fire for months for what retirees said is a lack of investment transparency, as well as paying out $10 million in bonuses even as the retirement fund itself lost billions.

Florida English professor fired after parent complaint over racial justice lessons - An English professor in Florida was fired this week over what he said was his decision to teach racial justice lessons in his class. Samuel Joeckel, a professor of English at Palm Beach Atlantic University, said in an Instagram post on Thursday that his contract was not renewed for him to teach during the next academic year after his university was “influenced” by the “toxic political ideology” of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). “They did this for a clear reason: my decision to teach and speak about racial justice,” Joeckel said. “The timing of this is not a coincidence as we are dealing with an ‘anti-woke’ crusade from Governor DeSantis and other far-right politicians and activists.” Joeckel said he first became aware of the potential for his contract to not be renewed last month, when the dean and provost waited for him outside his classroom to tell him that it would not be renewed until the university reviewed his syllabus and PowerPoint presentations on racial justice to ensure that he is not “indoctrinating” students. Joeckel noted that he has been teaching a racial justice unit in a course at the university for more than a decade, and The Palm Beach Post reported that he said he had not heard any concerns from administrators about it before. The Post reported that the inquiry began after a parent complained about the lessons. Students in the class discuss racial justice, read and analyze passages about the topic and write essays about it, but Joeckel said he does not insert his personal views, nor does he require his students to have a certain opinion, according to the outlet. The university is a private, Christian school with a student population of about 3,700. Joeckel’s dismissal comes as DeSantis has widely pushed back against racial justice teaching in schools in Florida.

Why the Mental Health of Liberal Girls Sank First and Fastest -- Greg Lukianoff is the president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), and he has worked tirelessly since 2001 to defend the free speech rights of college students. But in late 2013, Greg began to encounter new cases in which students were pushing to ban speakers, punish people for ordinary speech, or implement policies that would chill free speech. These students arrived on campus in the fall of 2013 already accepting the idea that books, words, and ideas could hurt them. Why did so many students in 2013 believe this, when there was little sign of such beliefs in 2011? In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy you learn to recognize when your ruminations and automatic thinking patterns exemplify one or more of about a dozen “cognitive distortions,” such as catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, fortune telling, or emotional reasoning. Thinking in these ways causes depression, as well as being a symptom of depression. Breaking out of these painful distortions is a cure for depression. What Greg saw in 2013 were students justifying the suppression of speech and the punishment of dissent using the exact distortions that Greg had learned to free himself from. Students were saying that an unorthodox speaker on campus would cause severe harm to vulnerable students (catastrophizing); they were using their emotions as proof that a text should be removed from a syllabus (emotional reasoning). Greg hypothesized that if colleges supported the use of these cognitive distortions, rather than teaching students skills of critical thinking (which is basically what CBT is), then this could cause students to become depressed. Greg feared that colleges were performing reverse CBT. I thought the idea was brilliant because I had just begun to see these new ways of thinking among some students at NYU. I volunteered to help Greg write it up, and in August 2015 our essay appeared in The Atlantic with the title: The Coddling of the American Mind. Greg did not like that title; he wanted to put the reverse CBT hypothesis in the title. After our essay came out, things on campus got much worse. The fall of 2015 marked the beginning of a period of protests and high-profile conflicts on campus that led many or most universities to implement policies that embedded this new way of thinking into campus culture with administrative expansions such as “bias response teams” to investigate reports of “microaggressions.” Surveys began to show that most students and professors felt that they had to self-censor. The phrase “walking on eggshells” became common. Trust in higher ed plummeted, along with the joy of intellectual discovery and sense of goodwill that had marked university life throughout my career. Greg and I decided to expand our original essay into a book in which we delved into the many causes of the sudden change in campus culture. Our book focused on three “great untruths” that seemed to be widely believed by the students who were trying to shut down speech and prosecute dissent:

  • 1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker
  • 2. Always trust your feelings
  • 3. Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

We published our book in 2018 with the title, once again, of The Coddling of the American Mind. Once again, Greg did not like the title. He wanted to capture reverse CBT. In September 2020, Zach Goldberg, who was then a graduate student at Georgia State University, discovered something interesting in a dataset made public by Pew Research. Pew surveyed about 12,000 people in March 2020, during the first month of the Covid shutdowns. The survey included this item: “Has a doctor or other healthcare provider EVER told you that you have a mental health condition?” Goldberg graphed the percentage of respondents who said “yes” to that item as a function of their self-placement on the liberal-conservative 5-point scale and found that white liberals were much more likely to say yes than white moderates and conservatives. I wrote to Goldberg and asked him to redo it for men and women separately, and for young vs. old separately. He did, and he found that the relationship to politics was much stronger for young (white) women. You can see Goldberg’s graph here, but I find it hard to interpret a three-way interaction using bar charts, so I downloaded the Pew dataset and created line graphs, which make it easier to interpret. Here’s the same data, showing three main effects: gender (women higher), age (youngest groups higher), and politics (liberals higher). The graphs also show three two-way interactions (young women higher, liberal women higher, young liberals higher). And there’s an important three-way interaction: it is the young liberal womenwho are highest. They are so high that a majority of them said yes, they had been told that they have a mental health condition.

DeSantis’ anti-woke law remains blocked in Florida colleges – — Florida remains unable to enforce the “Stop-WOKE” law touted by Gov. Ron DeSantis in light of a federal appeals court ruling Thursday that keeps the policies on hold for colleges and universities.The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from the DeSantis administration and higher education officials to block an injunction that determined the law restricting how race can be taught in schools was unconstitutional, ensuring that state officials are barred from carrying out the measure for now. While the groups that challenged the state are claiming victory over the ruling, DeSantis officials say the state will ultimately prevail once the case is heard.“Professors must be able to discuss subjects like race and gender without hesitation or fear of state reprisal,” said the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, one group that sued over the legislation. “Any law that limits the free exchange of ideas in university classrooms should lose in both the court of law and the court of public opinion.” In a two-paragraph order, a three-judge panel of the appeals court denied the state’s request for a stay of the injunction from U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who determined the anti-woke law is “positively dystopian.”Florida’s Republican-led Legislature approved the legislation, FL HB 7 (22R), or the Individual Freedom Act, in 2022 to expand anti-discrimination laws to prohibit schools and companies from leveling guilt or blame to students and employees based on race or sex. Inspired by DeSantis, it takes aim at lessons over issues like “white privilege” by creating new protections for students and workers, including that a person should not be instructed to “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race, color, sex or national origin.The law was challenged in several lawsuits, including one by FIRE and another by the ACLU, ACLU of Florida and Legal Defense Fund, both of which sued the state on behalf of students and educators. Despite the legal challenges, the DeSantis administration expects the policies to be found lawful.

Striking Temple graduate workers offered another rotten contract - Temple University and the Temple University Graduate Students Association (TUGSA) announced another tentative agreement (TA) last Thursday in a bid to end the six-week-long strike by 750 graduate student workers. Voting has taken place over the weekend and results will be announced on Monday. This is the second contract up for a vote after members massively rejected the first in February. The deal is predicated on a modest increase in base salaries that currently stand at roughly $21,000. The wage increases even out to about 5 percent per year over the next four years, less than the current 6 percent rate of inflation—in other words, the wage increase is very likely to turn out to be a de facto pay cut. Both Temple administration and the TUGSA negotiating team (CNT), aligned with the parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), patted themselves on the back for brokering the deal. TUGSA initially refused to announce the agreement’s concrete details, handing the ball off to the Temple administration who released it to the Philadelphia Inquirer. For the union, this is a tacit admission of another pro-management contract. Ken Kaiser, Temple’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, immediately attempted to bully the student workers into voting yes. He stated that the return of graduate students to their original classrooms may not be possible, since strikebreaker replacements have already been hired by the school. Ruthless tactics have been the modus operandi of Temple management. In February, the university revoked health care benefits and demanded graduate students pay tuition by March 9 or face fines and separation from their educational programs. Yet in the same breath, Kaiser welcomed graduate students back to Temple, implying that the strike is over and ratification a forgone conclusion. “We appreciate how difficult a time this was for the entire university community, especially for our graduate students,” Kaiser said. “I think the deal agreed to is fair for everyone and we look forward to having our graduate students back in the classroom and labs to continue the excellent work they do for our students and faculty and the university.” The details leaked to the press do not come close to meeting any of the demands fought for by graduate students when they walked out to picket on January 31. The wage increase falls well short of the original $32,000 demand. In the first year of the contract, pay would increase to a paltry $24,000. Compared to the current salary of $20,700, the touted raise is less than $3,500 a year, or under $300 a month for the first year of the contract. In the academic year 2026, which runs through spring 2027, pay tops out at $27,000, less than $100 per month for the final three years of the contract. Inflation, hovering around 6 percent this year with no sign of declining, will devour pay increases by the end of the contract. The wage proposal would in fact confine the graduate students to the bottom rungs of the most oppressed sections of Philadelphia’s working class. For gas station attendants in the city, median pay is $25,300, while fast food workers earn about $30,000.Survey study ties COVID-related family financial problems to child stress, worry --COVID-19–related family financial difficulties—not schooling disruptions—were linked to large increases in stress, sadness, and worry and a decrease in positive affect among children aged 10 to 13 years, finds a USstudy published yesterday in JAMA Network Open.The study, led by researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of California at Berkeley, involved data from 6,030 children aged 10 to 13 years completing surveys as part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study from 2016 to 2018 and its COVID Rapid Response Research Releases, which involved five online surveys from May 2020 to May 2021. ABCD was a stratified probability sample of 11,878 children aged 9 or 10 years attending public and private schools in 21 US cities. The researchers linked the survey responses to state-level data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, county-level data on COVID-19 incidence from John Hopkins University, and county-level monthly unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Weighted median age was 13 years, 48.9% were girls, 62.7% were White, 19.4% were Hispanic, 7.6% were Black, 4.5% were Asian, and 5.7% were of mixed or other race. The goal was to determine whether financial difficulties (eg, job or income loss) and school closures related to COVID-19 public-health policies were separately associated with negative mental-health changes. "Pandemic-related containment policies, including school closures, social distancing, and restrictions of in-person activities, were essential to control infection before vaccination and antiviral medications became available," the researchers wrote. "However, such policies may have unintended consequences for child mental health." Pandemic-related family financial struggles were tied to increases of 205.2% [95% confidence interval [CI], 52.9% to 509.0%] in perceived stress and 112.1% [95% CI, 22.2% to 268.1%] in sadness, a 32.9% [95% CI, 3.5% to 53.4%] decrease in positive affect, and a 73.9 percentage-point [95% CI, 13.2 to 134.7] increase in moderate to extreme COVID-related worry—but not to sleep disruptions. School disruptions weren't linked to mental-health changes or sleep problems. "These findings suggest public policy should consider the economic impact on families due to pandemic containment measures, in part to protect child mental health until vaccines and antiviral drugs become available," the authors wrote.

Temple University strike ends with poverty contract - On March 13, the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) announced ratification of an agreement that codifies poverty-level wages for the 750 graduate and teaching assistants it represents. The agreement will increase the average salary from $19,500 to $24,000, with salaries rising to $27,000 by the fourth year of the contract, in 2026. With inflation currently running at 6 per cent annually (and over 9 per cent last year), the agreement amounts to a small real wage increase. By comparison, the median pay for a fast-food worker in Philadelphia is $30,000. Temple University will now pay 25 per cent of dependent health care coverage, which was previously unpaid for—though health care inflation will cut into this, as well. Parental leave is increased from five business days to 21 calendar days and bereavement leave expanded by five days in the event of international travel. The new agreement also includes a first step grievance meeting with the university and the establishment of a joint union-university committee to update workload guidelines. The agreement falls far short of TUGSA’s stated demands at the start of the strike, which included a starting wage of $32,800. The union called this salary demand a living wage “designed to bring graduate employee pay in line with living costs in Philadelphia based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, as of January 2021 when negotiations began.” What TUGSA now calls a “historic” “fair contract” is $8,800 less than what it deemed a “living wage” when the strike began. TUGSA reports that the agreement passed by a vote of 344-8. Given the fact that the contract is so far removed from original demands, this result—which represents less than half of the bargaining unit—can only be taken as a vote of no confidence in the union. Graduate workers were worn down on the picket line with no pay, with tuition payments--vindictively demanded by the university--having come due, and separation from their programs of study threatened this week. The graduate workers concluded that this miserable contract was the best that could be hoped for, given the union’s conduct of the struggle.

Senate GOP to target Biden student loan forgiveness -Republican senators announced on Friday they will be introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution in another attempt to foil President Biden’s student debt relief program, which is already facing potential termination at the Supreme Court. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to examine new regulations made by government agencies and overturn them with a majority vote. The effort to use the CRA to stop Biden’s plan is led by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.). “It’s a shame for working families across the country that Republican lawmakers continue to fight tooth and nail to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents impacted by the pandemic. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and [Education] Secretary [Miguel] Cardona recognize how essential this relief is for tens of millions of working families, and they will continue fighting to deliver much-needed support to borrowers trying to get back on their feet after the economic crisis caused by the pandemic,” a White House spokesperson said in response to their resolution. The senators introduced the resolution following a report from the Government Accountability Office that declared Biden’s student loan relief and payment pause are rules subject to the CRA. In response to the GAO’s decision, the White House said the student debt relief plan “is based on the Department of Education’s decades-old authority granted by Congress and is a result of the same procedures used by multiple administrations over the last two decades to protect borrowers from the effects of national emergencies.” “This longtime statutory authority has never been subject to the Congressional Review Act. GAO’s decision is at odds with clear longstanding practice, and the Department remains fully confident that its debt relief plan complies with the law,” the spokesperson added. If a Senate majority supported the resolution, Biden’s student loan forgiveness would be overturned and a federal agency would not be able to propose another plan similar to it unless it was put into law.

Feds Move to Rein In “Prior Authorization”, a System Private Health Insurance Use That Harms and Frustrates Patients - When Paula Chestnut needed hip replacement surgery last year, a pre-operative X-ray found irregularities in her chest. As a smoker for 40 years, Chestnut was at high risk for lung cancer. A specialist in Los Angeles recommended the 67-year-old undergo an MRI, a high-resolution image that could help spot the disease. But her MRI appointment kept getting canceled, Chestnut’s son, Jaron Roux, told KHN. First, it was scheduled at the wrong hospital. Next, the provider wasn’t available. The ultimate roadblock she faced, Roux said, arrived when Chestnut’s health insurer deemed the MRI medically unnecessary and would not authorize the visit. “On at least four or five occasions, she called me up, hysterical,” Roux said. Months later, Chestnut, struggling to breathe, was rushed to the emergency room. A tumor in her chest had become so large that it was pressing against her windpipe. Doctors started a regimen of chemotherapy, but it was too late. Despite treatment, she died in the hospital within six weeks of being admitted. Though Roux doesn’t fully blame the health insurer for his mother’s death, “it was a contributing factor,” he said. “It limited her options.” Few things about the American health care system infuriate patients and doctors more than prior authorization, a common tool whose use by insurers has exploded in recent years. Prior authorization, or pre-certification, was designed decades ago to prevent doctors from ordering expensive tests or procedures that are not indicated or needed, with the aim of delivering cost-effective care. Originally focused on the costliest types of care, such as cancer treatment, insurers now commonly require prior authorization for many mundane medical encounters, including basic imaging and prescription refills. In a 2021 survey conducted by the American Medical Association, 40% of physicians said they have staffers who work exclusively on prior authorization. So today, instead of providing a guardrail against useless, expensive treatment, pre-authorization prevents patients from getting the vital care they need, researchers and doctors say.“It’s really devastating, these unnecessary delays.” In December, the federal government proposed several changes that would force health plans, including Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and federal Affordable Care Act marketplace plans, to speed up prior authorization decisions and provide more information about the reasons for denials. Starting in 2026, it would require plans to respond to a standard prior authorization request within seven days, typically, instead of the current 14, and within 72 hours for urgent requests. The proposed rule was scheduled to be open for public comment through March 13.

Operators of upscale L.A. care facility charged in 14 COVID deaths - LATimes -- The operators of an upscale Los Angeles care facility for dementia patients were charged Tuesday with felony elder abuse and other criminal counts related to the deaths of an employee and 13 residents during the early days of the pandemic.Silverado Beverly Place Memory Care Community, near the Fairfax district, specializes in caring for elderly residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.The employee and residents died during the outbreak, in which 45 employees and 60 residents were infected, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The facility’s operators were sued in civil court by the families of multiple residents and the employee who died. The facility was the subject of a 2020 Times investigation.The facility was meant to be closed to visitors, prosecutors said, when it admitted a patient from a New York psychiatric unit. Silverado Beverly Place’s own protocols required it to not admit anyone from a high-risk area like New York City, whichwas considered an epicenter of COVID-19 at the time.Prosecutors say the patient was not tested for the coronavirus when they were admitted and showed symptoms the next morning. But after they tested positive, they were not quarantined, according to the criminal charges.Management at the facility did not block visitors who traveled domestically or internationally within 14 days to areas where COVID-19 cases were confirmed, prosecutors allege.“These careless decisions created conditions that needlessly exposed Silverado staff and its residents to serious injury and — tragically — death,” Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement.Three managers were charged with 13 felony counts of elder endangerment and five felony counts of violation causing death. The latter charges were filed in connection with the facility’s management of its employee’s health and safety. Loren Bernard Shook, Jason Michael Russo and Kimberly Cheryl Butrum were charged along with the Irvine company Silverado Senior Living Management Inc.Prosecutors say the patient from New York was admitted to Silverado Beverly Place because of financial considerations.

US maternal death rates jumped for second year in a row amid pandemic | CIDRAP The US pregnancy-related death rate shot up faster in 2021 than in 2020, nearly doubling from prepandemic rates in 2019 and disproportionately affecting women of minority races, concludes a study published yesterday in Obstetrics & Gynecology.Researchers from the University of Maryland and Boston University analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate death rates during pregnancy and 1 year postpartum from pregnancy-related causes from January 2019 to March 2020 and April to December 2020 and 2021. The highly transmissible Delta and Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants emerged in 2021. Maternal death rates were significantly higher in 2021 (45.5 per 100,000 live births, spiking to 56.9/100,000 in the third quarter) than in 2020 (36.7/100,000) and before the pandemic (29.0/100,000).While pregnancy-related mortality rates rose among all races and rural-urban residence categories in 2021, the biggest hike occurred among American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) women (160.8 vs 79.0/100,000 live births; relative increase, 104%) in 2021 relative to April to December 2020. Black women saw the largest absolute increase in 2021 (16.5/100,000), and Hispanic women had the greatest relative increase (34%).Medium to small metropolitan (52.4 vs 37.7/100,000 live births; relative change, 39.0%) and rural (56.2 vs 46.5/100,000; relative change, 21.0%) areas saw a larger increase in 2021 than in April to December 2020 compared with large urban areas (39.1 vs 33.7/100,000; relative change, 15.9%)."Pregnancy-related mortality ratios increased more rapidly in 2021 than in 2020, consistent with rising rates of COVID-19–associated mortality among women of reproductive age," amid COVID-19 and the pandemic-related shuttering of many obstetric facilities and services, the authors wrote.In a Boston University press release, senior author Eugene Declercq, PhD, said the dramatic rise in AIAN maternal deaths deserves more attention. "The pandemic exacerbated what were already poor maternal outcomes in the US by deepening disparities by race/ethnicity and place of residence resulting in maternal death rates not seen since 1964," he said.

Disabled were 13 times as likely to die from Covid-19 – report -People who received disability support services in 2022 were 13 times as likely to die from Covid-19 than the general population, new data shows.Manatū Ora – Ministry of Health has released a report about the burden of Covid-19 in the disabled population who receive Disability Support Services (DSS). It analysed data from 43,000 people who received DSS between January 1 to November 16, 2022.The data showed that while those on disability support were around 9% less likely to contract Covid-19, they were 4.2 times more likely to be hospitalised because of Covid and 13 times as likely to die from the virus, compared to the general population.New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive officer Peter Reynolds said the report highlighted disabled people’s heightened vulnerability to Covid-19, and the need for better data on their health.“While the data is limited to only a subsection of disabled people, it shows the importance of the steps taken by disability providers, in conjunction with government agencies, to protect disabled people from exposure to Covid-19,” he said."Disabled people frequently have medical conditions that make them more at risk from Covid-19, but this can be mitigated against by vaccinations, PPE, and other protective measures."

Florida surgeon general’s Covid vaccine claims harm public, health agencies say - US health agencies have sent a letter to the surgeon general of Florida, warning that his claims about Covid-19 vaccine risks are harmful to the public. The letter was sent to Joseph Ladapo on Friday by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was a response to a letter Ladapo wrote to the agencies last month, expressing concerns about what he described as adverse effects from Covid vaccines. “It is the job of public health officials around the country to protect the lives of the populations they serve, particularly the vulnerable,” said the federal letter, which was signed by the FDA commissioner, Robert Califf, and CDC director, Rochelle Walensky. Ladapo was appointed by the Republican governor of Florida, the prospective Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, in 2021. Ladapo has attracted national scrutiny over his close alignment with the governor in opposing Covid vaccine mandates and other health policies embraced by the federal government. Last year, Ladapo released guidance recommending against Covid vaccinations for healthy children, contradicting federal public health leaders whose advice says all kids should get the shots. He has recommended against men aged 18 to 39 getting Covid vaccines, claiming an analysis by the Florida health department showed an 84% increase in cardiac-related deaths. In their letter, the federal agencies debunked that conclusion, saying cardiovascular experts who studied the concern had concluded the risk of strokes and heart attacks was lower in people who had been vaccinated, not higher.

4 COVID vaccine doses best prevent critical Omicron BA.5, even after BA.1/BA.2 infection --South Korean researchers used the Korea COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness data set to estimate the protection conferred by vaccination and previous Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 infection against BA.5 infection and critical illness among 3,415,980 who tested positive for the virus and an equal number of matched controls from Aug 1 to 31, 2022. The average age was 40.2 years, and 53.9% were female.Vaccine effectiveness (VE) of four doses of COVID-19 vaccine against BA.5 infection among COVID-naïve participants was 16.1%, while it was 89.5% and 94.3% among those previously infected with BA.1 and BA.2, respectively.VE of two doses against critical BA.5 was low in all groups, including COVID-naïve participants (41.5%) and those previously infected with BA.1 (53.1%) and BA.2 (50.0%). But four-dose VE against critical BA.5 was 90.9% among COVID-naïve participants and 93.9% and 92.9% among those with previous BA.1 and BA.2 cases, respectively.The observation that the protection against critical BA.5 infection depends more on 4-dose booster, rather than previous BA.1 or BA.2 infection, highlights the importance of booster vaccination.The authors cautioned that some infections may have been missed, and protection from previous infection could have been overestimated if exposed participants sought testing more often than their unexposed peers."Importantly, the observation that the protection against critical BA.5 infection depends more on 4-dose booster, rather than previous BA.1 or BA.2 infection, highlights the importance of booster vaccination," they concluded.

Why no one is telling you when to get the next COVID booster shot - People who received the bivalent COVID-19 booster when it first became available more than six months ago may wonder whether it’s time to roll up their sleeves again. The mantra of public health officials throughout the pandemic has been for individuals to maintain their immunity levels by staying up to date on vaccinations. But no one seems to know what happens next.The bivalent boosters were engineered to guard against the original coronavirus strain and recent BA.4/5 omicron subvariants. Even with a batch of recent studies showing that the protection they afford wanes after a few months, there is no apparent timeline for the next round of shots in the U.S. To the contrary, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is so far standing firm on its recommendation for only one bivalent booster shot for all Americans. Unlike health authorities in some other countries, the agency has offered only vague clues about what’s ahead in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Advisers to the CDC suggested last month that based on available evidence, older people and those with weakened immune systems will likely require a single COVID-19 shot once a year, probably in the fall. They made no new recommendations for most adults and children, nor have they said anything about shots between now and then. Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research called the ambiguity a “problem.”It’s “troubling for people who never had COVID and are at an advanced age, that there’s no plan until next fall to do something about it,” Topol told Dr. Bob Wachter, UCSF's chief of medicine, in a webinar last week. So far the coronavirus has shown no distinctive seasonal pattern, although that may be changing with more recent subvariants and as immunity levels have risen in society as a whole. Unlike flu, which circulates in the U.S. during late fall and winter, COVID-19 waves have occurred year-round until now.Last March, before the rollout of the bivalent boosters, the CDC recommended that those who were immunocompromised or over age 50 receive an updated shot four months after their previous dose. While more than 81% of the U.S. population has had at least one vaccine dose, only 16.2% of hose eligible — roughly 53.6 million people — have received the latest boosters authorized in August. In California, about 25% of residents have received the bivalent dose. Millions more around the country haven’t had a booster for a year or more.

FDA authorizes Pfizer bivalent COVID booster for kids 6 months through age 4 - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that it authorized the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech's bivalent (two-strain) booster in children ages 6 months through 4 years who have had their primary Pfizer vaccine series, which is three doses.In amending the emergency use authorization (EUA), the FDA said the booster can be given at least 2 months after children have completed the three-dose series of the single-strain vaccine.In a press release, Peter Marks, MD, PhD, who directs the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said, "Currently available data show that vaccination remains the best defense against severe disease, hospitalization, and death caused by COVID-19 across all age groups, and we encourage all eligible individuals to make sure that their vaccinations are up to date with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine."

Do SARS-CoV-2 Variants Differ in Their Neuropathogenicity? ABSTRACT: - Neurological complications associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections are a huge societal problem. Although the neuropathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 is not yet fully understood, there is evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can invade and infect cells of the central nervous system. Kong et al. (https://doi.org/10.1128/mbio.02308-22) shows that the mechanism of virus entry into astrocytes in brain organoids and primary astrocytes differs from entry into respiratory epithelial cells. However, how SARS-CoV-2 enters susceptible CNS cells and whether there are differences among SARS-CoV-2 variants is still unclear. In vivo and in vitromodels are useful to study these important questions and may reveal important differences among SARS-CoV-2 variants in their neuroinvasive, neurotropic, and neurovirulent potential. In this commentary we address how this study contributes to the understanding of the neuropathology of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.

Judge Rejects Request From Moderna, Moving Key COVID-19 Vaccine Case To Discovery -A key COVID-19 vaccine case is moving to the discovery phase after a U.S. judge rejected a bid by Moderna to dismiss some of the patent infringement claims against it. Moderna and the U.S. government, which backed the company, failed to prove that claims involving the company’s COVID-19 vaccine contract with the government should be dismissed, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg ruled on March 10.Goldberg in late 2022 rejected a similar effort but Moderna revived its bid after the government filed a statement asserting it, not the company, should face the claims relating to the contract.The parties, though, have failed to prove that the government’s interpretation “trumps a court’s analysis of this issue,” Goldberg said.Moderna and the government had argued that under 28 U.S.C. 1498, the claims should be dismissed and moved to the Court of Federal Claims. That would mean the government was inserted as the defendant, replacing Moderna, and leave the government responsible for paying any damages awarded.The law in question states that any infringement claims relating to inventions being used “by or for the government” and with “the authorization and consent of the government” must be handled in the Court of Federal Claims.

Europe’s coronavirus vaccine glut leads to call for contract transparency – Poland's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski called on the European Commission on Tuesday to explain why it entered into a large COVID-19 vaccine contract at the height of the pandemic that has left the bloc on the hook for millions of unused doses. Niedzielski was answering a request for comment by POLITICO on Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's personal involvement in securing Europe's biggest vaccine contract, for up to 1.8 billion doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. The top EU official's exact role in the negotiations has been an open question since the New York Times reported that she personally exchanged messages with Pfizer's Chief Executive Albert Bourla in the run-up to the deal. The minister called the issue of how the negotiations were conducted "the next question mark.""People are also asking questions in Poland. How it is possible that the number of doses is so high? ... We want a straight explanation," said Niedzielski, speaking to journalists after a meeting of the bloc's health ministers in Brussels. Bulgaria's minister for health, Assen Medjidiev, also called for more transparency, and referenced attempts by EU institutions including the European Parliament, the European Court of Auditors, the European Public Prosecutor's Office as well as the European Ombudsman to shine a light on the negotiations in his statement. Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows that vaccinations have pretty much come to a standstill in Europe as the threat of the coronavirus has receded. Only 1.7 percent of the EU/EEA's adult population has been administered a third booster, with that number barely budging since the start of the year.But, because of binding contracts signed at the height of the pandemic — which all EU member countries signed off on — governments are stuck regularly buying shots. By far the largest source of vaccines is the European Commission's huge third deal with BioNTech/Pfizer. A Pfizer spokesperson said that 450 million doses are scheduled for delivery this year, worth around €8.8 billion based on a price of €19.50 per dose reported by the Financial Times. The prickly topic of vaccine oversupply first became an issue almost a year ago, when Poland said it would unilaterally stop accepting doses. Niedzielski has since confirmed that Poland has stopped paying for deliveries. Since then, a coalition of Eastern and Central European countries formed to push for a new deal, arguing that the pandemic has entered a new stage where less vaccine is required, and the Ukraine war is already straining public finances.

Do a Quarter of Kids Really Get Long Covid? It’s Complicated. - HOW OFTEN DO kids develop long Covid after a Covid-19 infection? Last June, as Omicron swept the United States, researchers published an alarming estimate: around 25 percent. Long Covid can be debilitating, and such figures have fueled warnings about the risks of Covid-19 for kids. “More than a quarter of kids who get Covid-19 may develop long-term symptoms,” CNN reported earlier this year, citing the June study. The same figure comes up in interim guidance on post-Covid symptoms from the American Academy of Pediatrics, alongside other estimates. “About 20-30% of children who get COVID-19 will have long COVID,” warns UC Davis Health, a major academic hospital system in California, on its website.If those estimates are accurate, roughly 16 million children in the U.S. alone may have suffered from long Covid.Other experts, often reviewing similar data, have reached sharply different conclusions. “Anybody with any experience with children and SARS-CoV-2 knows very clearly that it’s not one in four children,” said Shamez Ladhani, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at St. George’s Hospital in London and a collaborator on a major British government-funded study of long Covid in children. Ladhani and other researchers agree it’s clear that some children struggle with long-lasting symptoms after having Covid-19. But the question is: How many? Three years into the pandemic, the discrepancies in experts’ answers reflect the ongoing challenge of defining and tracking a little-understood condition.Patient advocates have sometimes bristled at questions about the frequency of long Covid, suggesting that such a narrow view can miss the suffering behind the numbers. Still, the topic has been a focus of ongoing study in both adults and children, and the outcome can produce wide-ranging views of the pandemic’s effects on kids: Is long Covid in children a silent epidemic? A challenging but very rare condition? Or something in between?The answer could affect how parents judge the risks of Covid-19. Some researchers and public health experts have suggested it may also have implications for public policy. The issue could have clinical implications, too: Some pediatricians worry that providers will turn too quickly to long Covid as a diagnosis — and, in the process, overlook other conditions that are the actual cause of some kids’ symptoms.Amid that uncertainty, some researchers suggest their colleagues have produced estimates that overstate the risks. “We’re measuring Covid and transmission in schools,” said Ladhani. “And we do not see the long Covid that is being portrayed from the media and the social media.”

Long-COVID in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analyses | Scientific Reports - www.nature.com - Abstract: The objective of this systematic review and meta-analyses is to estimate the prevalence of long-COVID in children and adolescents and to present the full spectrum of symptoms present after acute COVID-19. We have used PubMed and Embase to identify observational studies published before February 10th, 2022 that included a minimum of 30 patients with ages ranging from 0 to 18 years that met the National Institute for Healthcare Excellence (NICE) definition of long-COVID, which consists of both ongoing (4 to 12 weeks) and post-COVID-19 (≥ 12 weeks) symptoms. Random-effects meta-analyses were performed using the MetaXL software to estimate the pooled prevalence with a 95% confidence interval (CI). Heterogeneity was assessed using I2 statistics. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviewers and Meta-analysis (PRISMA) reporting guideline was followed (registration PROSPERO CRD42021275408). The literature search yielded 8373 publications, of which 21 studies met the inclusion criteria, and a total of 80,071 children and adolescents were included. The prevalence of long-COVID was 25.24%, and the most prevalent clinical manifestations were mood symptoms (16.50%), fatigue (9.66%), and sleep disorders (8.42%). Children infected by SARS-CoV-2 had a higher risk of persistent dyspnea, anosmia/ageusia, and/or fever compared to controls. Limitations of the studies analyzed include lack of standardized definitions, recall, selection, misclassification, nonresponse and/or loss of follow-up, and a high level of heterogeneity.

New study finds link between inflammation and long covid symptoms - Three years after long COVID was first documented, the mysteries behind what causes it are starting to be unraveled.Some of the mental symptoms of long COVID like brain fog and memory issues are likely sparked by inflammation, according to a new study published this month by researchers with the University of Washington School of Medicine, the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, and Oregon Health & Science University.While the relationship between long COVID and inflammatory diseases is still being studied, there is a growing body of worksuggesting a link between the virus and inflammatory diseases that affect the brain. "(COVID) may make it worse, bring it on sooner, or it may cause its own version of cognitive impairment," said researcher William Banks, a professor with the UW Division of Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine and associate chief of staff for research and development at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Researchers administered SARS-CoV-2 to mice.The study showed that the S1 protein, the virus' characteristic spike protein, readily passes through the blood-brain barrier. Once there, the protein generates inflammation that can spur problems with learning and memory and accelerate the effects of Alzheimer's and other cognitive impairments, Banks said.It's still not clear why some people get long COVID and others do not, according to the CDC, but among those at higher risk include those who either got severely sick from COVID or had underlying conditions prior to infection.People who experienced multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or after COVID are also at higher risk.Banks said the next steps for study include examining animals to see the long-term effects of inflammation on a brain that's been infected with COVID-19 and testing drugs that might block or prevent certain kinds of neuroinflammation.

Senator Tim Kaine Shares Experiences with Long COVID | C-SPAN.org (12 minutes) To mark International Long COVID Awareness Day, Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine shares his own experiences with prolonged symptoms with the respiratory virus, including his ongoing difficulty sleeping and tingled nerve endings. "I'm on my own long COVID journey. My symptoms are mild, but they have been continuous for three years...The good news it's probably not going to get worse, the bad news is it may not get better," Kaine says. The Virginia Democrat says millions of Americans and people across the world are dealing with mild to debilitating symptoms that impacts their lives and ability to work. He introduces the Care for Long COVID Act that would expand research to increase understanding of treatment efficacy and disparities, educate long COVID patients and health providers, facilitate inter-agency cooperation, and develop partnerships between community-based organizations like social services.

Long-covid symptoms are less common now than earlier in the pandemic - Americans infected with the coronavirus’s omicron variant are less likely to develop symptoms typical of long covid than those who had covid-19 earlier in the pandemic, according to the largest-ever study of who is most vulnerable to being sickened — or debilitated — by the virus’s lingering effects.The analysis of nearly 5 million U.S. patients who had covid, a study based on a collaboration between The Washington Post and research partners, shows that 1 in 16 people with omicron received medical care for symptoms associated with long covid within several months of being infected. Patients exposed to the coronavirus during the first wave of pandemic illness — from early 2020 to late spring 2021 — were most prone to develop long covid, with 1 in 12 suffering persistent symptoms. This pattern mirrors what leading doctors who treat long covid — and some scientists who study it — have noticed as the coronavirus pandemic evolves. But the reasons they offer for the shifting rates are closer to conjecture than to proof.“Long covid is a complicated beast,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a major researcher into the phenomenon. A study of 4.9 million people in the United States who had covid-19 between early 2020 and January 2022 shows a total of 7.2 percent sought care for symptoms typical of long covid. The rate declined with successive waves. The study found the symptoms can be common but are more frequent after the covid infection. The findings also show that patients with certain underlying medical conditions are twice as likely as previously healthy people to seek care for symptoms associated with long covid: About 9 percent of patients with any of those preexisting conditions received treatment for long-covid symptoms in the six months after they came down with covid, compared with 4.6 percent who did not have those prior health problems, the analysis shows.Obese patients were about three times as likely to report long-covid symptoms as those without any previous medical conditions, and people with lung diseases or kidney disorders were close behind.

SARS-CoV-2 Infection in a Hippopotamus, Hanoi, Vietnam - CDC - On December 4, 2021, a 20-year-old female hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) at a zoo in Hanoi, Vietnam, was treated for lethargy, depression, and reduced appetite. Veterinary staff initiated antimicrobial drug treatment on the basis of the clinical signs. Six days after onset of clinical signs, the hippopotamus was anorexic; she died 17 days after onset. Zoo staff conducted necropsy; the main finding was severe pneumonia. Tissue samples from the liver, spleen, lung, intestine, and blood were collected and sent to the National Institute of Veterinary Research in Hanoi for further diagnosis of viral and bacterial diseases. We screened the samples by real-time PCR to detect SARS-CoV-2, in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) PCR protocol (1). The lung, spleen, liver, and intestine samples tested positive; cycle threshold (Ct) values for tissue types were 26.67 for lung, 33.53 for spleen, 31.8 for liver, and 36.96 for intestine. No other viral testing was pursued, and tissues were not examined histologically (data not shown).To obtain the viral isolate, we inoculated the samples into Vero cells according to a method described previously (2). After 3 days, we successfully recovered the virus from the lung, spleen, and liver samples (Table). We confirmed that the recovered viruses from Vero cells were SARS-CoV-2 by real-time PCR. We gave the virus the temporary designation SARS-CoV-2/hippo/zoo/Vietnam/2021.[…] Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the sequences obtained from the dead hippopotamus and 3 human COVID-19 patients were SARS-CoV-2 (Figure; Appendix). The source of the hippopotamus’ infection was difficult to pinpoint because the zoo had been open to the public; a visitor or staff member could have been transmitted the virus. As a precaution, all zoo staff were required to wear uniforms, facemasks, and gloves and to disinfect their boots when servicing the animal areas. However, those biosecurity measures were not sufficient to prevent the airborne transmission of the virus from humans to animals. To prevent anthroponotic disease, zoos must closely monitor the health status of zoo staff to eliminate virus transmission from humans to animals. Active surveillance using nasal or oral swab specimens, or fecal samples from animals, is needed for early detection of viral infection. In addition, stricter biosecurity measures are required in zoo exhibit areas to reduce the potential transmission of viruses by visitors to animals. For example, zoos should install glass barriers to separate exhibit areas from pathways for visitors.This study highlights an urgent need to establish comprehensive monitoring systems for SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Our findings underscore hippopotamuses’ susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 and further contribute to the knowledge of the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2, especially regarding the virus’s host range. Whole-genome sequencing will provide information about SARS-CoV-2 lineage to help track transmission pathways.

Japanese remain largely masked up on 1st day of eased COVID rules - Japan's easing of coronavirus guidelines on mask-wearing had little apparent effect on Monday, with many people keeping their faces covered despite government efforts to normalize aspects of daily life that were subject to public health restrictions during the pandemic. Even though the government no longer recommends mask-wearing in most cases under the relaxed rules, morning commuters in Tokyo and people at stations and other gathering places were appearing to take a wait-and-see approach. Among them was 29-year-old Shiori Ogino, who said on the way to her office she would be staying masked because the "risk of coronavirus infection and the rules on distancing are unchanged." She said she wants to wait until the government downgrades the legal status of the coronavirus as an infectious disease in May as planned. The mask-wearing guidelines were eased ahead of the downgrading of the legal status of COVID-19 to the same category as common infectious diseases on May 8. COVID-19 is currently designated as a special category equivalent to or stricter than Class 2, which covers infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS. On a shinkansen bullet train platform at Tokyo Station on Monday morning, however, most businesspeople and travelers remained masked. Kiyoshi Watanabe, a 76-year-old headed on a trip to Kyoto Prefecture, said he was "still keeping an eye on how it goes." Although mask-wearing has never been legally mandated in Japan, the government had recommended wearing masks indoors while not suggesting doing so outdoors. But most of the Japanese public wore them regardless of whether they were indoors or outdoors.

China set to resume issuing visas as it emerges from zero-Covid -- China announced it will resume issuing nearly all types of visas for foreigners starting on March 15, another step in the country’s emergence from strict zero-Covid controls. The country will also resume visa-free entry for several places, including Hainan Island and for cruise ships that stop in Shanghai, and into Guangdong, for people from Hong Kong and Macau, China’s embassy in the US said in a statement. The move is the latest in a series of steps in a broader push by Communist Party leaders to shed the strict controls they implemented following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which have weighed on the country’s economic growth. At a meeting of the national legislature this week, China’s new Premier Li Qiang called for more effort to meet a 5 per cent growth target for the year. China had already done away with quarantine rules for inbound travellers on January 8, a major step toward reopening its once-busy borders after nearly three years of closures. The world’s second-largest economy abruptly pivoted from its zero-Covid policy in December amid unprecedented protests about the severity of the restrictions. Only 115.7 million inbound and outbound trips were made in 2022 – less than a fifth of those flown in 2019 before the pandemic took hold, according to data from the Ministry of Public Security. Mainland residents made 64.6 million trips last year, also about a fifth of pre-Covid levels.

Understanding the future economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic (PDF) The Economist - The covid-19 pandemic cannot be seen solely as a global health crisis; the impact on the health, livelihoods and functioning of individuals and global economies deems it a humanitarian and economic crisis. It is estimated that an additional half a billion people have fallen into poverty due to the pandemic1 . In addition to the significant loss of life—the number of deaths has reached over 6.7m—the destruction of industries and broadscale impacts on healthcare systems globally demonstrates the extensive impact of the pandemic at all levels of society2 . Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes covid-19) across communities persists despite significant efforts and investment to stop the virus in its tracks. By the end of November 2022, over US$ 4trn had been invested in response and recovery packages in the US alone, through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, supplemental legislation and the American Rescue Plan Act3 . Alongside direct medical costs, indirect costs attributed to the spread of the virus include disruption to millions of children’s education, unemployment, lost earnings and lost economic output4 . The pandemic has resulted in global economic shifts, responsible for one of the largest global recessions since the second world war. In addition to the 2020 stock market crash (the largest stock market decline since the financial crisis of 2007-08), economies faced a global supply-chain crisis, global panic buying and price gouging5 . While many reports have highlighted the current and historic economic consequences of the pandemic to date, fewer studies have explored potential future impacts of covid-19 from a global perspective. Estimating the potential future impact of persistent covid-19 in a global context will enable governments, multilateral organisations, individuals and civil society to better prepare and take action to minimise the consequences of ongoing covid-19 challenges and other future health emergencies. The aim of this study is to quantify the future economic implications of ongoing covid-19 transmission by considering the following research questions:

  • • What is the future economic impact of persistent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 as a result of mortality and morbidity within the working-age population?
  • • How does sustained covid-19 infection impact different labour markets?
  • • How do labour market disruptions as a result of covid-19 feed into broader economic impacts (for example, economic output and gross domestic product—GDP)?
  • • What factors influence the magnitude of covid-19 at a country level?

WHO Chief Says Quest For COVID Origins Remains "Morally Imperative" -The chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “morally imperative” to find the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused millions of deaths worldwide as Beijing continues to obfuscate sharing crucial data with the world. Marking three years into the pandemic, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday that “all hypotheses” around COVID-19 must be explored in order to prevent future outbreaks.“Understanding #COVID19’s origins and exploring all hypotheses remains: a scientific imperative, to help us prevent future outbreaks [and] a moral imperative, for the sake of the millions of people who died and those who live with #LongCOVID,” he said on Twitter.Tedros said the WHO would continue to push for equitable access to life-saving tools for all countries.The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of over 100 organizations, issued a joint letter on Saturday calling on world leaders to reflect on mistakes made in responding to the pandemic and take immediate corrective actions.The coalition said that instead of rolling out vaccines based on need, pharmaceutical companies maximized their profits by selling doses to the richest countries first, leaving billions of people in low and middle-income countries behind.“Had the governments listened to the science and shared vaccines equitably with the world, it is estimated that at least 1.3 million lives could have been saved in the first year of the vaccine rollout alone, or one preventable death every 24 seconds,” the statement reads.“We have been here before. At the height of the HIVAIDS pandemic, millions died as expensive, patented treatments were unaffordable for much of the world,” they added.

New study cites Wuhan raccoon dogs as possible origin of COVID-19 - A new analysis of genetic information conducted by an international group of researchers has found evidence to suggest that COVID-19 originated from infected animals sold at a market in Wuhan, China. As first reported by The Atlantic, French evolutionary biologist Florence Débarre recently uncovered genetic data from the global virology database GISAID. The data had been submitted by Chinese researchers who collected the genetic sequences from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been scrutinized as being the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the name, thousands mammals were found to have been sold at the market, where they were kept in cramped and unhygienic spaces.The genetic data suggested that raccoon dogs being sold at the market could have been carrying and shedding the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the time. The analysis, which is not conclusive, is being led by researchers Kristian Andersen, Edward Holmes and Michael Worobey.In communications with Atlantic writer Katherine J. Wu, Andersen said they did not know if raccoon dogs were the immediate hosts of the virus to infect humans but said they were “high” on his list of potential hosts, among others.These findings, which have not been published, were presented to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens on Tuesday. The journal Science noted that the research submitted to GISAID has since been removed at the request of the original submitters. This new evidence adds further fuel to the ongoing lab-leak versus natural origins debate, which has recently gained new momentum with the conclusion from the U.S. Department of Energy that COVID-19 originated from a Chinese research lab.Proponents of the lab-leak theory have fervently argued that it cannot be a coincidence that COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, near the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where research on coronaviruses was being conducted.

Quick takes: Resistant E coli in Germany, multidrug-resistant gonorrhea, bloodstream infections in Sweden --The latest issue of Eurosurveillance included three reports on antibiotic-resistant infections in Europe:

  • German researchers reported on the rapid and ongoing spread of carbapenemase-producing Escherichia coli in Germany. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of 222 E coli isolates producing the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 5 (NDM-5) gene revealed that incidence rose in Germany from 2013 to 2019 largely because of the increased prevalence of isolates belonging to multiple sequence types (STs), mainly the international high-risk clones ST167, ST410, ST405, and ST361. The researchers say available evidence suggests the increased number of cases is being driven by local clusters and that NDM-5–producing E coliappear to be spreading in the community through multiple sources and transmission routes.
  • Researchers with the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Gonorrhoea and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) reported on a multidrug-resistant gonorrhea infection identified in a female sex worker in September 2022. The woman was treated with ceftriaxone, which is the last-remaining recommended treatment for Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections, but did not return for test of cure. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing revealed the isolate was resistant to ceftriaxone, cefixime, cefotaxime, ciprofloxacin, tetracycline, and benzylpenicillin, and WGS identified a mutation to the penA-60.001 allele that confers ceftriaxone resistance. The analysis also found that the isolate belongs to a genomic lineage that to date has been antibiotic susceptible, "showing that strains across the gynecoccal phylogeny can develop ceftriaxone-resistance," the researchers wrote.
  • Also in Sweden, a retrospective study on bloodstream infection (BSI) incidence in southern Sweden found an average annual increase of 3.0% from 2006 to 2019. The most frequent bacteria isolated were E coli (27% of isolates) and Staphylococcus aureus (13%). Of the 17,734 isolates with resistance data, 14.8% were resistant to at least one of the three antibiotics tested: ciprofloxacin (11%), cefotaxime (6.5%), and gentamicin (4.7%). Over time, the proportion of resistant BSI isolates rose from 12.1% to 17.4% for any antibiotic. Patients aged 80 and older had the highest BSI incidence and a disproportionate increase. "Any preventive measures should prioritise the oldest patients," the study authors wrote.

Hepatitis A outbreak in major brands' strawberries – Strawberries sold at many major stores are being recalled over a Hepatitis A outbreak. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said two recalls were announced Thursday connected to the recall. The recalled strawberries were sold at Costco, Aldi, KeHE, Vital Choise Seafood, PCC Community Markets and Trader Joe’s. The locations vary by brand, but overall impact the entirety of the United States.

Trader Joe’s fruit product recalled, potentially contaminated with Hepatitis A | The Hill– A Trader Joe’s fruit product has been recalled over hepatitis concerns, the company said in an email to its customers. Trader Joe’s Organic Tropical Fruit Blend with a “best by” date of 4/25/24, 5/12/24, 5/23/24, 5/30/24 and 6/7/24 could potentially be contaminated with Hepatitis A. Trader Joe’s said all of that product and those potentially affected have been removed from the shelves and “destroyed.” As of Thursday, no illnesses have been reported, the company said. Those who have purchased any Trader Joe’s Organic Tropical Fruit Blend products are advised not to eat them. Customers are urged to throw the product away or return it to a Trader Joe’s location for a full refund, according to the email. The product has a SKU# of 51191. Hepatitis A, which typically occurs within 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or beverage, is a contagious virus that can lead to liver disease. Mild cases can last a few weeks while severe cases can last several months, according to the FDA. In individuals with pre-existing health conditions or weakened immune systems, hepatitis A can progress to liver failure and death. In most cases, though, the FDA says individuals typically recover completely within one to two weeks.

Report describes locally acquired dengue cases in Arizona -Local scientists and their colleagues from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detail two cases of locally acquired dengue virus (DENV) infection in November 2022 in Maricopa County, Arizona, according to a report today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).A county resident tested positive for DENV on November 7, 2022, by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing after being hospitalized on October 19 for a dengue-like illness, 7 days after traveling to Mexicali, Mexico. The person stayed in Mexicali for less than 4 hours. The patient stayed in the hospital for 3 days and has recovered.Maricopa County Environmental Services Department officials then conducted retrospective testing for DENV in samples collected from 21 mosquito pools located within 5 miles of the patient's home from October 1 to November 3. A sample from one mosquito pool tested positive, and whole-genome sequencing by the CDC revealed that it was closely related to the DENV-3 strain that infected the patient. Since neither strain is known to be circulating in places the patient had traveled in Mexico, the findings suggest locally acquired dengue.The scientists then interviewed 73 people on November 17 through 19 and found that 12 had dengue-like symptoms in the previous 2 weeks and were tested. All tested negative on RT-PCR. The investigators, however, conducted serum enzyme immunoassay for DENV immunoglobulin M testing on blood specimens from 53 interviewees, and 1 result was positive. The CDC confirmed DENV-3 by plaque reduction neutralization testing. This second person had not traveled in the 2 weeks before symptom onset.

Echoes of Ebola in N.J. patient's death from Lassa fever | Fierce Healthcare -An unidentified 55-year-old man who lived in Essex County, New Jersey, died of the virus on Monday, a week after he first showed up at a hospital in the state complaining of tiredness and a fever, the New York Times reports. He was released by the hospital the same day, and while he was asked about his travel history, he did not indicate he had traveled to West Africa. Three days later, he returned to the hospital with worsening symptoms--during which time doctors learned of his recent travel--and he died not long after. The case bears many of the same hallmarks of that of Thomas Eric Duncan, who became the only person to die of Ebola in the United States after he, too, was sent home from the hospital after emergency room doctors misdiagnosed his illness because they were unaware of his recent trip to Liberia. Duncan succumbed to the virus after his symptoms worsened, and he infected two nurses during his second hospital stay, setting off panic in the country and sending federal officials and healthcare providers scrambling to amp up preparedness measures. An additional dozen people were hospitalized for possible exposure to Ebola during the Dallas outbreak that until recently the public never knew about, according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. All tested negative for the virus, but were among 179 people who were monitored for 21 days due to possible contact with the virus. U.S. health officials had taken note of the New Jersey man's arrival May 17 at Kennedy International Airport, where he had landed after traveling from Liberia by way of Morocco, according to the Times. However, it is unclear whether the hospital and local health authorities knew about one another's dealings with the patient. The man frequently traveled to Liberia because of his work in the mining industry, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden told NPR. Lassa fever, like Ebola, has strong ties to West Africa, where it is a common affliction, according to NPR. The viral disease also has similar symptoms to Ebola, but, as the Times notes, Lassa fever is less infectious and less likely to be fatal than Ebola, and patients who have it can have symptoms that appear and reappear, whereas Ebola patients' symptoms are nearly constant after they first appear.Though the CDC said the man posed an "extremely low" risk to the public, it is working with state and local officials to track down people who may have come in contact with the man, according to The Hill. The CDC also has said the New Jersey case is just the sixth identified case of Lassa fever in the U.S. since 1969, the Times reports.

Lassa fever deaths rise to 109 in 22 states - Lassa fever has continued to spread in Nigeria with 676 confirmed cases recorded across 89 local government areas in 22 states in the country. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention made this known in its Lassa fever situation report for week nine spanning from January to March 5, 2023. The report showed that the death toll has risen to 109, up from the previous 104. With the current death toll, the public health institution noted that the case-fatality ratio of the outbreak stood at 16.1 per cent. NCDC noted that 72 per cent of all confirmed Lassa fever cases were reported from Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi while 28 per cent were reported from two states with confirmed Lassa fever cases. Of the 72 per cent confirmed cases, Ondo reported 33 per cent, Edo 29 per cent, and Bauchi 10 per cent. According to the World Health Organisation, Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. Humans usually become infected with the Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with the urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa.

Polio cases in DRC, Burundi linked to new oral vaccine | CIDRAP --The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) said yesterday that newly detected cases of vaccine-derived polio in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi appear to be linked to the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2).GPEI said isolates of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) were detected in stool samples of six children with acute flaccid paralysis in DRC and one in Burundi. The virus was also isolated from five environmental samples in Burundi. All the reported isolates stem from two separate and new emergences of cVDPV2 linked with nOPV2 that originated in Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces in DRC.Close to 600 million doses of nOPV2 have been administered in 28 countries since rollout of the vaccine began in March 2021. GPEI said these are the first two instances of cVDPV2 linked to the vaccine."While detection of these outbreaks is a tragedy for the families and communities affected, it is not unexpected with wider use of the vaccine," the organization said in astatement. "All available clinical and field evidence continues to demonstrate that nOPV2 is safe and effective and has a significantly lower risk of reverting to a form that cause paralysis in low immunity settings when compared to monovalent oral polio vaccine type 2."In a news release today, the World Health Organization (WHO) said cVDPV2 has been confirmed in two additional children in Burundi, leading the government to declare an outbreak.Authorities in both countries, with assistance from the WHO and GPEI, are investigating the cases, have stepped up polio surveillance in the areas of detection, and will launch initial vaccination campaigns in April. Subsequent campaigns may be expanded to include parts of neighboring countries.The polio cases in DRC and Burundi were among those reported by GPEI in its most recent polio update. Detection of cVDPV2 was also reported in Chad (two cases), Niger (one), and Benin (one). Wild poliovirus type 1 was detected in an environmental sample in Pakistan.

WHO reports mpox decline in most regions, but more deaths -In an update covering the past 2 weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that it has received reports of 323 new mpox cases and 11 more deaths.Cases are slowly declining in most regions but with no clear downward trend in Africa, where the virus spreads with a mixed pattern of both human-to-human and zoonotic spillovers. Outside of Africa, countries continue to report sporadic cases and small clusters.The Americas region reported the vast majority of the new cases over the past 3 weeks—408 of 442—with the Western Pacific reporting a rise over the same period with the addition of more cases from Japan and Taiwan. The WHO said epidemic curves show that Europe is headed toward the end of its outbreak, with levels declining more slowly in the Americas.Of the 11 more deaths, 10 were in the Americas, including 5 in Peru, 4 in the United States, and 1 in Costa Rica. The only death reported outside of the Americas was from Belgium.The new cases and deaths push the global totals to 86,496 and 111, respectively, from 110 countries.The WHO declared a public health emergency for mpox in July 2022 following a surge in human-to-human cases, mainly in men who have sex with men, outside of areas in Africa where the virus has persistently infected humans due to ongoing zoonotic events. In February 2023, the WHO announced it was keeping the public health emergency of international concern in place for mpox due to sustained activity in some countries, along with gaps in detection and delayed reporting.

European scientists highlight worrisome H5N1 avian flu mutations -In an updated assessment on H5N1 avian influenza, European health groups said though the risk to humans is still low, worrisome signs include the appearance of certain mutations in circulating strains and mass animal mortality events that hint at a greater risk of spread among mammals.The assessment comes from the European Food Safety Agency, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the European Union reference lab and was posted today on the ECDC's website. It covers data collected from December 2022 to March 1.Officials said poultry outbreaks have declined in the region since a peak in November, but, given mass die-offs in gulls in multiple countries due to the virus, poultry outbreaks involving the 2.3.4.4b H5N1 clade could increase in the months ahead.Gulls will be moving inland to breeding colonies that overlap poultry-production areas, the report notes. The 2.3.4.4b H5N1 clade is now circulating on multiple continents.In the full 43-page report, the groups said that, from September to March, virus detections in seabirds were unexpectedly high, especially in gulls, with large morality events seen in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. Genetic analysis of viruses from black-headed gulls points to a southward spread of the virus and that it persisted after the summer in resident wild birds.Genetic analysis of the viruses from infected European birds over the winter suggests that H5N1 still binds preferentially to avian receptors.The experts note, however, that some of the viruses from mammals have markers in the PB2 protein associated with increased virulence and replication in mammals—very rarely seen before 2020. They said the changes probably emerged following transmission to animals and possibly have public health implications.The groups said most recent H5N1 detections in mammals involve species such as red fox that hunt or scavenge infected birds or dead animals. However, they pointed to three mass mortality events: one involving harbor seals in Maine, an outbreak at a Spanish mink farm, and a die-off in Peruvian sea lions.Transmission events to and between mammals, serologic evidence of infection in wild boar and pigs, and mutations that would make the virus better adapted to mammals are concerning and need to be closely followed, they said.

H5N1 avian flu found in skunk deaths from Vancouver area --Animal health officials in British Columbia, Canada, yesterday reported that an investigation into skunks found dead in residential areas of two cities at the end of February have revealed H5N1 avian influenza.In a statement, the British Columbia provincial government said that eight skunks were found dead in Vancouver and Richmond, about 9 miles to the south, and that they were taken to the BC Animal Health Centre due to concerns that they may have been deliberately poisoned.Tests on samples from the dead skunks found that they were infected with the same H5N1 avian flu virus that has been killing wild birds and poultry in BC since April 2022. Officials said the skunks were probably scavenging infected wild birds. Global health officials are tracking more frequent reports of H5N1 detections in mammals. Though the risk to humans is considered low, scientists are seeing more mutations that could influence virulence and replication in mammals. A study of 67 wild animals in the United States that tested positive for clade 2.3.4.4b H5N1 in 2022 found that many primarily showed neurologic signs. The group described their findings in a preprint study that appeared on Mar 12 on bioRxiv.Species included red foxes, skunks, racoons, bobcats, possums, a coyote, a fisher, and a gray fox. Ten animals were found dead, and 56 were found alive, including 13 that were euthanized in the field. For one raccoon, the mechanism of death—natural or euthanasia—wasn't recorded. Of those collected alive, 12 later died.The most common observed symptoms were neurologic, including seizures, ataxia, tremors, and lack of fear of people.The most common lesions were necrotizing meningoencephalitis, interstitial pneumonia, and myocardial necrosis. However, the team saw species variation in lesion distribution. They concluded that multiple wild species in North America are susceptible to the circulating H5N1 virus, likely due to ingestion of infected wild birds, and that veterinarians should consider H5N1 infection in the differential diagnosis of wild animals with neurologic disease.

Study of H5N1 avian flu seal deaths reveals multiple lineages -Deaths of seals from H5N1 avian influenza in seals stranded on New England beaches last summer stoked growing concerns about the susceptibility of mammals, including humans, to the virus, and now researchers have shared detailed genetic findings from both the seals and birds from the environment, noting a range of virus lineages in the animals and a low species barrier.The event marked the first known H5N1 detection in marine mammals. Similar events were reported in Canada, Peru, and—according to media reports—Russia. Researchers based at Tufts University published their findings today in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The investigation included key contributions from wildlife clinics and rehabilitation groups in the region, including an extensive regional mammal stranding network run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).New England had two waves of H5N1 activity in wild birds in 2022, one that peaked in March and the other that began in June. The H5N1 detections in seals were reported in the second wave, prompting NOAA to declare an unusual mortality event, with more than 330 stranded animals, many found dead.In a Tufts University news release, the first two authors of the paper said the collaboration with the groups provided unique and robust data. Wendy Puryear, PhD, a virologist and senior scientist at Tufts, said, "We have a better resolution and greater depth of detail on this virus than before because we were able to sequence it and detect changes almost in real time." She added that the group had pairs of samples, sometimes from a bird and seal at the same beach.They found a wide range of flu viruses, including at least three strains that crossed the Atlantic, and tracked consistent infection waves in birds. Scientists also screened seals that were and weren't sick.Kaitlin Sawatzki, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher with Tufts, said, "Because of the genetic data that we gathered, we were the first to see a strain of the virus that's unique to New England. The data set will allow us to more meaningfully address questions of which animals are passing the virus to which animals and how the virus is changing."During the seal morality event, gulls were hit hard by the virus. Researchers said the gulls can transmit the virus through different routes, including contact with sick birds or exposure to contaminated environments. In the paper, the group wrote that, unlike other mammals known to contract H5N1, seals don't typically feed on birds.They said data suggest transmission to seals occurred frequently and that there was a low species barrier in seals. In the seal samples, they saw novel amino acid changes, including some linked to mammal adaptation. And when they looked at morality patterns, they found that nearly all the seals that tested positive for H5N1 were dead or died shortly after, reflecting a high mortality pattern seen in wild birds that aren't waterfowl and in poultry. They note, however, that asymptomatic or recovered seals might not have been stranded with the sick ones.

Confirmed findings of influenza of avian origin in captive mammals - gov.uk - Ten South American bush dogs (Speothos venaticus venaticus) have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in March 2023.These animals were part of a captive breeding programme at a zoological premises in England. They were tested as part of a routine investigation into an unusual mammal die-off in November 2022. Ten animals died or were euthanised in a group of 15 bush dogs, over a 9 day period. The bush dogs had minimal clinical signs before death, and APHA cannot definitively state whether or not H5N1 caused the clinical signs. Influenza of avian origin was not suspected at the time; the virus has since been detected in postmortem samples. There is no clear evidence suggesting mammal to mammal transmission. It is very likely all animals were exposed to the same source of infected wild birds.

H5N1 avian flu found in UK dolphins, Swedish porpoise - Two European countries reported more H5N1 avian flu detections in sea mammals, including two dolphins found dead in the United Kingdom and a stranded porpoise showing symptoms in Sweden. The detections follow outbreaks in seals in North America and sea lions in Peru. The UK's Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) reported the dolphin detections on its updated list of nonavian wildlife avian flu detections. The dolphins were found dead on beaches in the middle of February, one in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and the other in Devon, Britain.Also, Swedish scientists writing in Emerging Infectious Diseases this week reported the H5N1 clade 2.3.4.4b in a harbor porpoise found stranded in shallow water off the country's western coast in late June of 2022. The animal swam in circles and drowned shortly after it was found.The carcass was frozen and sent to the National Veterinary Institute in Uppsala for necropsy and testing, which revealed the virus in lung and bronchial swab specimens. High viral loads were found in the brain, followed by the lungs, kidneys, liver, and spleen. The virus was circulating in wild birds at the same time and area, suggesting a likely spillover from birds.They found no signs of mammalian adaptation other than what had already been found for the clade. "The clinical manifestations and presence of virus in diverse organs, including the brain, indicate the potential risk of HPAI viruses to mammalian hosts even without adaptation. This risk is a consideration for persons in close contact with infected animals," they wrote.Researchers said avian flu infection in the harbor porpoise expands the viral host range and should be considered when the animals show neurological symptoms.

New study shows all fish tested from Huron and Rouge Rivers have PFAS — A study conducted by the Ecology Center, Friends of the Rouge, Huron River Watershed and six local anglers recently found PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in every fish caught and tested. PFAS are a cancer-causing class of toxic chemicals. They are used to make water- and stain-resistant products and are found in things like cleaning products, fabric and fire-fighting foam. PFAS are dangerous for watersheds and wildlife because they are non-biodegradable.Erica Bloom is the Toxic Campaign Director of the Ecology Center. She says that while PFAS are a global problem, the study wanted to focus on Southeast Michigan.“We collected about 100 fish from 15 sites along the Huron and Rouge, and we tested about 60 of those. We found PFAS in every fish,” says Bloom.While all 60 of the fish had PFAS, the state health department has not issued a “do not eat” order. The chemical amount does not exceed the limit of 300 parts per billion. However, the state has advised limiting fish consumption to two meals a month. But for some, this isn’t the case. Tenitia Purple Rudolph is a local angler who eats what she catches. Despite the chemicals found in the fish, she says her habits haven’t changed in any way. “Well, it’s not going to stop me from fishing because I fish in all waters. You’re going to either continue to get it or continue to buy it. Me, I prefer to get it myself. That way, I know it’s properly done right,” says Rudolph.People who still plan to consume fish from the Rouge and Huron River should follow state health guidelines from their Eat Safe Fish Guide. These tips include catching smaller fish, avoiding large predator fish, removing fat and eating fish that have been broiled or grilled. Bloom says the study was made possible by partnering with local anglers like Rudolph.“These folks that we partnered with really helped us design the study. They helped us decide where we wanted to collect and which species would make sense for what people eat,” says Bloom. “I think it’s so important when you’re doing community-based science that you’re working with people most impacted by the contamination.”The community-based study recommends Michigan lawmakers establish a science-based PFAS maximum contamination levels for fish and wildlife, hold polluters financially responsible and prohibit the sale of all PFAS-containing products unless no safer alternative exists.

Fish in two southeast Michigan rivers are loaded with PFAS -- In Ford Lake, concentrations of toxic PFAS chemicals in the 15-inch smallmouth bass caught by local anglers totaled 125 parts-per-billion (ppb). In Kent Lake, PFAS in the six-inch bluegill was 113-ppb.Both lakes are impoundments of the Huron River, a 130-mile-long waterway in southeast Michigan where a “Do Not Eat” advisory for all fish species was issued by the state in 2018 due to the health threat posed by toxic “forever chemicals.”New testing by the Ecology Center found that high pollutant concentrations remain in Huron River fish — particularly in the organs like the liver, eggs and guts, where the chemicals were found at higher levels than in the muscle tissue.That doesn’t bode well for the broader food web, say study authors. While most people do not, generally, eat a whole fish, other animals do.“We wanted to see the broader ecological impact,” said Erica Bloom, toxics campaign director at the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center. “It does accumulate in different parts, and we need to have a better understanding of how PFAS are affecting the whole body of a fish.” The Ecology Center tested 100 fish caught at 15 spots along the Huron River and Rouge River, a 127-mile waterway that flows through metro Detroit, which also features a “Do Not Eat” advisory specific to PFAS in its lower and main branches.Out of 12 different species, each tested fish from both river systems contained detectible levels of at least one of 14 different PFAS compounds. Tested species included popular game fish like walleye and largemouth bass. Others which showed high contaminant levels are popular panfish like bluegill, black crappie, perch and sunfish. Catfish, rock bass and creek chubs were also tested.The fish were not only caught in main river branches and impoundments, but up certain creeks to see how they accumulated chemicals in different parts of the watershed. The fish were caught by local anglers who eat their catch. In both rivers, the individual compound PFOS was the primary contaminant. Although it’s been phase out of domestic manufacturing for years, the chemical does not readily break down in the environment and remains the primary driver for PFAS-related advisories in fish.The highest concentration in fish tissue (the fillet) was 47-ppb for the Huron River and 12-pbb for Rouge River fish. The results feature more current data, but are otherwise similar to a recent nationwide study by the Environmental Working Group and Duke University which showed that PFAS chemicals are widely detectible in freshwater fish from across the U.S. and Great Lakes. In Michigan, fish consumption advisories for PFOS generally start when tissue samples exceed 9-ppb. A blanket “Do Not Eat” advisory happens when tissue samples hit 300-ppb.The Ecology Center believes that safety threshold is too high. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) bases its fish advisories on toxicological screening calculations that were last updated about 10 years ago.Since then, studies of people exposed to PFAS in drinking water have significantly driven down what are considered safe levels of long-term exposure. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shocked the environmental community when it updated draft advisory levels to allow for virtually zero exposure in drinking water.

Lakes Michigan and Huron join list of lakes with PFAS-tainted smelt -More than a decade after state regulators issued their first “do not eat” advisory for PFAS-tainted fish, the list of affected Michigan waterways keeps growing.Michigan health officials this week urged people to limit meals of rainbow smelt caught in lakes Michigan, Huron, and three inland waterways because the fish are tainted with PFAS. They also warned against eating carp from two Livingston County lakes due to PCB contamination.The warning in Michigan comes as scientists with the Environmental Working Group warn that fish across the country are tainted with high levels of PFAS. A study released Tuesday analyzed 500 fish tissue samples collected from 2013 to 2015, finding average PFAS levels so high that eating a single serving was like drinking a month’s worth of PFAS-laced water.The announcement from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) follows ramped-up state testing for PFAS in the Great Lakes, after Wisconsin regulators in 2020 discovered high levels of the “forever chemical” in Lake Superior smelt. That prompted follow-up testing in Michigan two years ago, and an advisory for people to eat no more than one meal per month of the sardine-sized fish. A serving is about 8 ounces for an 180-pound adult, and 2 or 4 ounces for children.Subsequent testing in Lake Huron resulted in a consumption advisory there that’s even more strict than the one in Lake Superior. Health officials warn against eating more than six servings of rainbow smelt yearly from Lake Huron. The advisory is not enforceable, but those who ignore it face greater health risks from a class of chemicals that are linked to thyroid problems, developmental issues, hormone and immunity challenges, fertility issues and cancer.In other waterways, the following limitations apply:

  • Lake Michigan: 1 serving per month of smelt
  • Portage Lake (Houghton County): 1 serving per month of smelt
  • Gull Lake (Kalamazoo County): 2 servings per month of smelt
  • Higgins Lake (Roscommon County): 4 servings per month of smelt

The culprit in each case is PFOS, or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, a PFAS compound that was once a key component in Scotchgard and other stain and water repellents. The chemicals don’t break down readily in the environment, and are now so pervasive, they show up in the rainwater in Antarctica and in virtually everyone’s blood. Fish that spend their lives in PFAS contaminated waterways also absorb the compounds, though scientists are still working to understand how PFAS moves through the food chain.

Widespread PFAS contamination detected in Rockford area’s drinking water — Multiple wells with PFAS levels above the statewide health advisory for those substances have been found in southeast Rockford. The Winnebago County Health Department, in coordination with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, detected the so-called “forever chemicals” in the wells’ water. According to Dr. Sandra Martell, the director of the Winnebago County Health Department, beginning in February of 2021, state agencies detected high levels of PFAS at the Family Manufactured Home Community in southeast Rockford. “One of our family community mobile home parks popped positive and at very high levels,” she said. “And even though there's no national standards still established yet for drinking water levels, the state of Illinois has issued what they call guidance levels for health. “ Since then, the county health department has attempted to contact private well owners about PFAS testing in the area through direct mail and door-to-door canvassing. To date, less than 15% of private wells identified by officials have been tested. PFAS or per- and poly-flourinated substances are a family of over 5,000 engineered compounds used in a variety of commercial products to impart heat, water and oil resistance. PFAS are found in all kinds of everyday products like carpeting, floss, toilet paper, and non-stick cookware. PFAS are resistant to breaking down in the environment, and exposure to PFAS has been linked to increased risk of some cancers, fertility issues, increased risk of hypertension in pregnant women, and low birth weights. In May of last year, the Illinois Environmental Protection Environment Agency conducted further testing to identify potential sources. According to Martell, no single identifiable source was found due in part to the widespread nature of the contamination and low participation in testing of private wells. “We got very low participation,” she said, “about 17% of the, you know, less than 17% of the wells, you know, actually got tested.” Martell adds that more thorough testing is key as there are no changes to the taste, smell or look of PFAS-contaminated water. The county health department is still encouraging residents of the affected area of Rockford to participate in the free testing. The county health department will host two Open Houses — on Tuesday, March 28, from 5-7:30 p.m. and on Wednesday, March 29, from 9-11:30 a.m. —where government officials will be directly answering PFAS-related questions. Location details will be provided at a later date on the Winnebago County Health Department website.

EPA proposes rules to limit ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water -- The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the nation’s first drinking-water standards for a group of human-made chemicals — commonplace in consumer items — that pose a greater danger to human health than scientists once thought. The proposal could force water utilities to spend billions of dollars to comply with the EPA’s planned limits on polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, even though those limits are less stringent than advisory levels for safe consumption the agency set last year. Officials say that small and rural utilities will have access to federal subsidies and assistance, blunting the financial impact of the rule, if enacted.The proposal would require water utilities to detect and reduce PFAS contamination at 4 parts per trillion. The agency had warned in June that the compounds pose a greater danger to human health than regulators previously thought, compromising people’s immune and cardiovascular systems at a lifetime exposure of between just 0.004 to 0.02 parts per trillion, depending on the type of compound. Agency leaders say, however, that 4 parts per trillion is the lowest level at which they can be accurately measured and detected, making it the most stringent rule the agency could enforce. Its proposed limits would be as strong or stronger than limits from any of about a dozen states that have set their own standards in recent years, agency officials said.“The experts here felt this was the level of stringency required to protect public health, and that the law would allow for us,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. “This is a transformative action that we’re taking.”PFAS are human-made chemicals found in common consumer products such as cosmetics and food packaging that are used by millions of Americans. Linked to infertility, thyroid problems and several types of cancer, these “forever chemicals” can persist in the environment for years without breaking down.The threat of long-term PFAS exposure is not fully known, but animal studies show that these chemicals can damage the liver and the immune system, according to the federal Agency for Toxics Substances and Disease Registry. The agency also says PFAS have “caused low birth weight, birth defects, delayed development, and newborn deaths in lab animals.” Its presence in water is now so ubiquitous that it will take billions of dollars to remove, said Robert F. Powelson, president of the National Association of Water Companies, a trade group representing investor-owned utilities. In a statement, he said small and poor communities are likely to be disproportionately affected and that he is asking Congress to step in to require chemical manufacturers and PFAS consumers to pay for cleanup and water treatment.

PFAS rule sets up sprawling legal war -- EPA’s historic move to regulate “forever chemicals” in drinking water has set the stage for a multi-pronged courtroom slugfest among the agency, water utilities that must comply with the rule and multinational conglomerates that have flooded the environment with the toxicants linked to a long list of health problems, including cancer. .Although lawsuits cannot be filed until EPA finalizes its PFAS proposal, interested parties will spend the coming months filling the regulatory docket with comments that will eventually inform the final rule or shape opponents’ future legal challenges against the agency — and one another.Case law on the topic is limited: EPA’s proposal marks the agency’s first enforceable standard of its kind for PFAS and its first effort to regulate a drinking water contaminant in over 25 years.“We are in uncharted territory,” said Emily Lamond, a member of the environmental department at the law firm Cole Schotz PC. “This is an exceptional situation.”EPA’s ambitious proposal released Tuesday would set drinking water limits for two of the most notorious types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — PFOA and PFOS — at 4 parts per trillion, the lowest level that labs can reliably measure. The agency also moved to include four other chemicals — PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and HFPO-DA (better known as GenX) — that had not been originally slated for the drinking water proposal.PFAS are a class of more than 10,000 chemicals that are valued for their moisture-resistant properties. They can be found in products including dental floss, nonstick cookware and firefighting foam.Radhika Fox, EPA’s top water official, estimates that the rule would cost about $772 million annually to implement and would carry about $1.2 billion per year in human health benefits, including reduced incidence of cancer, heart attacks, strokes and birth complications (Greenwire, March 14).Legal observers say the rule’s price tag — which encompasses costs associated with communication and technology installation — is likely to spur lawsuits from municipal water utilities and states that have already set less stringent standards than the ones EPA is proposing.Water industry members have so far remained vague about how they will respond to the limits, but multiple trade organizations have already expressed concerns.In one of the most assertive responses, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies said it had major concerns regarding the proposal. While the association indicated support for regulations, CEO Tom Dobbins said that the group would be closely analyzing EPA’s cost-benefit analysis “to ensure the accuracy of this estimate and explore additional estimates of social benefits.”One major source of eyebrow-raising is EPA’s stated cost estimate. PFAS treatment has historically cost individual water utilities more than $40 million, a number that would easily exceed the agency’s estimate when applied on a wide scale. The association said it would request that EPA extend its comment period to 90 days to allow for additional industry feedback.And while no water groups have yet indicated they will sue, such concerns around costs could unleash legal action, with those industry members arguing that the money will wind up hitting ratepayers if EPA does not shift responsibility over to PFAS manufacturers.

Minnesota Legislation Proposes Sweeping PFAS Ban that Holds Serious Consequences for Residents in the State and Across the Country — by American Chemistry Council --The debate and confusion around per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often referred to as PFAS or Fluorotechnology, is growing in 2023, as policymakers in some states have begun to consider overly broad, unscientific bans and restrictions on this important family of chemistries. We see this scenario occurring in Minnesota. New legislation, SF 834/HF 1000, would ban the sale of products containing PFAS in a variety of categories, establish a future regulatory scheme to ban additional product categories containing these chemistries, and impose onerous reporting requirements on manufacturers of all products containing PFAS. Policymakers considering this legislation must not ignore the wide body of science and data around the varying and unique properties that exist among these chemistries. It is critical to understand that PFAS are a diverse universe of chemistries with different physical, chemical, and toxicological properties that can come in solid, liquid, or gaseous forms. With these vastly different physical properties, it should be easy to see why there is a scientific consensus emerging that A) it’s inaccurate, or even impossible, to group all PFAS together for regulatory purposes, and B) that there are valid approaches for sub-grouping and regulating these different chemistries according to their actual specific properties or potential risk as opposed to a simplistic ‘ban them all’ proposal. If enacted, SF 834/HF 1000 could cost Minnesota countless jobs, harm economic growth in the state, and hamper the ability of businesses and consumers to access products like life-saving medications, rechargeable batteries, catheters and pacemakers, cell phones, automobiles, and many more. It would also contribute to a scenario where U.S. manufacturers face varying restrictions and rules from state to state that could overlap, conflict with each other, or run afoul of federal efforts on PFAS. In a recently published peer reviewed paper, most members of an international panel of experts agreed that all PFAS should not be grouped together for risk assessment purposes. Most of the experts also agreed that it is inappropriate to assume equal toxicity/potency across the diversity of PFAS chemistries. The fact is that PFAS are vital to enabling our lives in the 21st century and are absolutely critical to our nation’s economy and supply chain resiliency. Essential U.S. industries such as transportation, healthcare technology, telecommunications, semiconductors, aerospace, construction, renewable energy, and many more rely on PFAS to create, innovate, and lead globally in their respective fields.

Toilet paper is an unexpected source of PFAS in wastewater — Wastewater can provide clues about a community's infectious disease status, and even its prescription and illicit drug use. But looking at sewage also provides information on persistent and potentially harmful compounds, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), that get released into the environment. Now, researchers in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology Letters report an unexpected source of these substances in wastewater systems -- toilet paper.PFAS have been detected in many personal care products, such as cosmetics and cleansers, that people use every day and then wash down the drain. But not many researchers have considered whether toilet paper, which also ends up in wastewater, could be a source of the chemicals. Some paper manufacturers add PFAS when converting wood into pulp, which can get left behind and contaminate the final paper product. In addition, recycled toilet paper could be made with fibers that come from materials containing PFAS. So, Timothy Townsend and colleagues wanted to assess this potential input to wastewater systems, and test toilet paper and sewage for these compounds.The researchers gathered toilet paper rolls sold in North, South and Central America; Africa; and Western Europe and collected sewage sludge samples from U.S. wastewater treatment plants. Then they extracted PFAS from the paper and sludge solids and analyzed them for 34 compounds. The primary PFAS detected were disubstituted polyfluoroalkyl phosphates (diPAPs) -- compounds that can convert to more stable PFAS such as perfluorooctanoic acid, which is potentially carcinogenic. Specifically, 6:2 diPAP was the most abundant in both types of samples but was present at low levels, in the parts-per-billion range.Then, the team combined their results with data from other studies that included measurements of PFAS levels in sewage and per capita toilet paper use in various countries. They calculated that toilet paper contributed about 4% of the 6:2 diPAP in sewage in the U.S. and Canada, 35% in Sweden and up to 89% in France. Despite the fact that North Americans use more toilet paper than people living in many other countries, the calculated percentages suggest that most PFAS enter the U.S. wastewater systems from cosmetics, textiles, food packaging or other sources, the researchers say. They add that this study identifies toilet paper as a source of PFAS to wastewater treatment systems, and in some places, it can be a major source.

Study: Enough PFAS in toilet paper to consider it a ‘potentially major source’ of pollution — WOODTV — There is more evidence that shows just how pervasive PFAS compounds — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are around the world. A new study published this month in the academic journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters shows that many types of toilet paper contain traces of the forever chemicals — enough to be considered a “potentially major source of PFAS” pollution. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, analyzed different types of toilet paper sold around the world, including Africa, Europe and North and South America. They tested the toilet paper and then sewage sludge for 34 different types of PFAS compounds. Based on toilet paper usage, the researchers estimate each person adds between 6.4 and 80 micrograms of PFAS to our wastewater systems each year. Micrograms are an extremely small unit of measurement — one-millionth of a gram. However, the safety limits for PFAS pollution are also exceedingly small, typically measured in parts per trillion.“Given the known health risks linked to PFAS exposure, it is concerning that these chemicals are present in such a common household item,” Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, said in a release. “This study further demonstrates the ubiquity of these toxic chemicals in our daily lives. We need to reduce PFAS contamination, phase out nonessential uses and protect public health.”PFAS — referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally — have become one of the most toxic compounds in the world. PFAS compounds were first developed by DuPont in the 1940s and incorporated into thousands of products.Documents released by EWG show that DuPont and fellow chemical manufacturer 3M knew that PFAS built up in a person’s bloodstream and could potentially be a health hazard as early as the 1950s. But that information was mostly kept private, and it was decades before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued any hazard warnings or pollution investigations.After decades of use, the chemicals are so widespread that people are being exposed even before they are born. A Canadian study took samples of cord blood from nearly 2,000 pregnant women and found that PFAS was detectable in more than 90% of the fetuses.The chemical compounds are still found in everyday products are baked into our food and our land.An EWG report from 2022 estimated between 2 million and 20 million acres of farmland across the United States are polluted by PFAS simply because farmers unknowingly used tainted sewage sludge as a fertilizer. The chemicals can be found in most of our food, parts collect in our bodies and some pass through in human waste, creating a cycle that helps the compounds spread.At least some of the PFAS found in toilet paper likely come from paper mills. According to EWG, paper mills, which were also a major factor in widespread PCB pollution, typically use forms of PFAS in the process of converting wood into pulp. However, the researchers found PFAS in both “non-organic” toilet paper and rolls made from recycled goods.

Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ found in toilet paper around the world - All toilet paper from across the globe checked for toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” contained the compounds, and the waste flushed down toilets and sent to sewage treatment plants probably creates a significant source of water pollution, new research has found.Once in the wastewater plant, the chemicals can be packed in sewage sludge that is eventually spread on cropland as fertilizer, or spilt into waterways.“Toilet paper should be considered as a potentially major source of PFAS entering wastewater treatment systems,” the study’s authors wrote. PFAS are a class of about 14,000 chemicals typically used to make thousands of consumer products resist water, stains and heat. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, and they are linked to cancer, fetal complications, liver disease, kidney disease, autoimmune disorders and other serious health issues.The study checked 21 major toilet paper brands in North America, western Europe, Africa, Central America and South America, but it did not name the brands.The peer-reviewed University of Florida report did not consider the health implications of people wiping with contaminated toilet paper. PFAS can be dermally absorbed, but no research on how it may enter the body during the wiping process exists. However, that exposure is “definitely worth investigating, said David Andrews, senior scientist with the Environmental Working group, a public health non-profit that tracks PFAS pollution.Brands that used recycled paper had just as much PFAS as those that did not, and it may be that there is no avoiding PFAS in toilet paper, said Jake Thompson, the study’s lead author and a University of Florida grad student“I’m not rushing to change my toilet paper and I’m not saying that people should stop using or reduce the amount of toilet paper they use,” he added. “The issue is that we’re identifying another source of PFAS, and it highlights that the chemicals are ubiquitous.”

EPA rule slashes industrial smog-forming emissions - EPA is significantly bolstering regulation of smog-forming emissions from power plants and more than a half-dozen other industries in the latest milestone of the Biden administration’s quest to prod the United States away from coal.With release of a final “good neighbor” rule Wednesday covering almost half the country, the agency seeks to halve power-sector releases of nitrogen oxides (NOx) within four years, according to an agency summary. Starting in 2026, the rule also sets new NOx emissions limits for steel mills, cement manufacturers and other enterprises expected to cut their overall releases by about 15 percent in comparison with a 2019 threshold. The rule is intended to complement EPA’s latest ground-level ozone standard by enforcing a Clean Air Act ban on pollution that crosses state lines and contributes to downwind compliance problems. NOx is a key ingredient in lung-damaging ozone, which in turn is the main component in smog. In comments on a draft form of the rule, industry trade groups had warned of grid reliability problems and other potentially severe economic consequences. While the final version incorporates added compliance flexibility features and other tweaks, EPA is defending its broader approach as reflecting “proven, cost-effective pollution reduction measures” that sources around the country have long implemented, according to the summary.The new rule differs in some particulars from the draft issued last year. To varying degrees, it would apply to industries in 23 states instead of 26, but would also cover emissions from solid waste incinerators, which were not included in the original proposal. It comes only a week after EPA proposed new limits on coal-fired power plant discharges of toxic wastewater.

Nearly 200,000 People In Thailand Hospitalized Because Of Air Pollution -- Nearly 200,000 people in Thailand have been admitted to hospitals with pollution-related respiratory illness in the past week as heavy smog covered vast areas of the country, the Health Ministry said on Friday. The ministry revealed that more than 1.3 million people in Thailand have fallen sick since January due to the country’s dangerously high levels of air pollution, Radio Free Asia reported. “The PM2.5 level has been over 51 micrograms per cubic meter of air for more than three consecutive days in 15 provinces, which has begun to affect the people’s health,” public health secretary Opart Karnkawinpong said. Karnkawinpong said that Thailand’s air pollution levels are higher this year due to increased traffic. PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, which can get into the lungs and pose significant health risks, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Greenpeace Thailand campaigner Alliya Moun-Ob said the number of people who fell ill because of air pollution could be “the worst we have seen so far,” with several Thai cities being engulfed in thick smog. “We could see mountains in Chiang Mai but can’t see them anymore. In Bangkok, tall buildings are lost in the smog,” Moun-Ob told Radio Free Asia. “It’s the post-COVID back-to-normal situation. That is why it is particularly bad this year for Thailand. Also, there is less rain this year compared to last,” she added. The government has urged residents to stay indoors and wear face masks when leaving their houses. The country’s pollution control department advised people to use personal protective equipment when necessary. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha last month imposed a three-month no-burning rule from Feb. 1 to April 30 to curb wildfires and haze. He has now urged farmers to refrain from burning agricultural waste. “Please, I don’t want to use the laws. If it’s used, you all will be breaking it. I don’t want anyone to be in trouble, but you must think about the quality of life of others and their health too,” Prayut said. The pollution control department has previously said that “stagnant weather conditions” were exacerbating vehicle emissions and seasonal fires on agricultural lands. It urged people to reduce outdoor activities.

A Norfolk Southern Contractor Is Testing East Palestine Homes The Company Testing Air in East Palestine Homes Was Hired by Norfolk Southern. Experts Say That Testing Isn’t Enough.— ProPublica - Last month, Brenda Foster stood on the railroad tracks at the edge of her yard in East Palestine, Ohio, and watched a smoky inferno billow from the wreckage of a derailed train. The chemicals it was carrying — and the fire that consumed them — were so toxic that the entire area had to evacuate. Foster packed up her 87-year-old mother, and they fled to stay with relatives.With a headache, sore throat, burning eyes and a cough, Foster returned home five days later — as soon as authorities allowed. So when she saw on TV that there was a hotline for residents with health concerns, she dialed as soon as the number popped up on the screen.The people who arrived offered to test the air inside her home for free. She was so eager to learn the results, she didn’t look closely at the paper they asked her to sign. Within minutes of taking measurements with a hand-held machine, one of them told her they hadn’t detected any harmful chemicals. Foster moved her mother back the same day.What she didn’t realize is that the page of test results that put her mind at ease didn’t come from the government or an independent watchdog. CTEH, the contractor that provided them, was hired by Norfolk Southern, the operator of the freight train that derailed.And, according to several independent experts consulted by ProPublica in collaboration with the Guardian, the air testing results did not prove their homes were truly safe. Erin Haynes, a professor of environmental health at the University of Kentucky, said the air tests were inadequate in two ways: They were not designed to detect the full range of dangerous chemicals the derailment may have unleashed, and they did not sample the air long enough to accurately capture the levels of chemicals they were testing for.“It’s almost like if you want to find nothing, you run in and run out,” Haynes said.About a quarter century ago, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health was founded by four scientists who all had done consulting work for tobacco companies or lawyers defending them. Now known by its acronym, CTEH quickly became a go-to contractor for corporations responsible for industrial disasters. Its bread and butter is train crashes and derailments. The company has been accused repeatedly of downplaying health risks.In since-deleted marketing on its website, CTEH once explained how the data it gathers about toxic chemicals can be used later to shield its clients from liability in cases brought by people who say they were harmed: “A carrier of chemicals may be subjected to legal claims as a result of a real or imagined release. Should this happen, appropriate meteorological and chemical data, recorded and saved ... may be presented as powerful evidence to assist in the litigation or potentially preclude litigation.”

Vinyl chloride, dioxin and the poisoning of East Palestine, Ohio - More and more scientific evidence is accumulating to demonstrate the dangers facing the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, from the willful negligence and cover-up on the part of Norfolk Southern (NS) railroad, the state of Ohio and the federal government. All three are responsible in various ways for the derailment and the spilling of highly volatile and toxic chemicals into the air, streams and soil surrounding the town.Of the 50 cars that were affected during the February 3, 2023 derailment, 11 were carrying toxic chemicals which have leaked into the small streams and storm drains in the area. Countless animals have been found dead in the vicinity of the spill. Although railroad officials had disclosed that the train had been carrying only vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate, in a letter designated as a general notice of potential liability to NS, sent by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they included three other chemicals: ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether. To make matters worse, on February 6, after ordering an immediate evacuation surrounding the town, the contents of not just the one affected car but all five cars carrying vinyl chloride were released and lit, creating a massive thick black plume of smoke that could be seen from miles away. It has been estimated upwards of 1.1 million pounds of the highly toxic chemical was released, which have since settled over and seeped into possibly thousands of square miles that may include the densely populated metropolitan area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which sits 50 miles due southeast. The heavy cloud of chemicals has already settled into the soil and its components are finding their way into the groundwater and streams used by farmers for their crops and livestock, both for sale and personal consumption. The chemicals then become part of the food chain. As to the plight of East Palestine, Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials expert, stated succinctly what many were voicing, “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open. There’s a lot of what-ifs, and we’re going to be looking at this thing five, ten, 15 and 20 years down the line and wondering, ‘Gee, cancer clusters could pop up, you know; well water could go bad.’”Toxicologist Stephen Lester, science director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), has worked with communities affected by dioxin contamination for more than four decades. In a recent opinion piece for the Guardian, Lester adamantly insisted that testing for dioxin should be mandatory. Exposure to these substances can lead to an assortment of serious medical conditions and chronic health problems that include cancer.The burning of vinyl chloride is known to generate cancer-causing compounds called dioxins. The most toxic form, – 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), is the contaminant found in the herbicide used during the Vietnam War—Agent Orange—and at Love Canal, New York, and Times Beach, Missouri (December 1982). TCDD is not manufactured but is a direct byproduct of processes that use or burn substances, such as vinyl chloride.

Dioxins have forced entire towns to relocate. Testing could reveal if they threaten East Palestine. --When the Environmental Protection Agency last week ordered testing for dioxins after the recent train derailment and fire in East Palestine, Ohio, it acknowledged that residents could be facing a familiar and infamous foe from its past. Contamination by dioxins — toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, disrupt the immune system and cause reproductive harms — have been at the center of notorious environmental cleanups from Times Beach, Missouri to Love Canal, New York to “Mount Dioxin” in Pensacola, Florida.Dioxins don’t break down easily. Once in the food chain, the compounds tend to accumulate in people and animals. In key ways, the smoke-belching fire in East Palestine offered the right recipe to create these compounds, experts say. “I saw that cloud up above East Palestine, and I was immediately concerned about dioxins,” said Dr. Ted Schettler, a retired physician who is the science director for the Science and Environmental Health Network, a nonprofit group. “This is exactly the circumstance where you expect dioxins to form.” It’s not yet clear if dioxins were created in the derailment or what level of contamination existed in East Palestine before the disaster. Sampling and testing are expensive and can take a long time, experts said. It may take weeks or months before the risk is clear. During Congressional testimony Thursday, Debra Shore, an EPA regional administrator for midwestern states including Ohio, said testing of materials sent to a contaminated waste facility in Indiana showed “very low levels” of dioxins.The EPA said that it would require Norfolk Southern to “test directly” for dioxins and to perform a cleanup anywhere levels are found that are unacceptable for human health. The EPA has said it believes the risk that dioxins were produced during the fire is low. Norfolk Southern will also complete a background study to assess the level of dioxins that were already in the environment before the derailment.In a statement to NBC News on Tuesday, EPA deputy press secretary Khanya Brann said the agency would review every aspect of a sampling plan to ensure it was as “protective as possible” and would modify it if it doesn’t meet the agency’s standards. In a news release Wednesday, the EPA announced that it had approved a Norfolk Southern plan for soil sampling. The plan requires contractors to inspect at least 277 sites within 2 miles of the derailment to look for visible ash. Sites with visible ash will be sampled; at least 20% of sites without ash will also be sampled. Testing will take at least a week to return results.

Exclusive News | Dioxin testing plan for Ohio crash site raises concerns - EPA has approved rail company Norfolk Southern Corp.’s testing plan for highly toxic chemical compounds — dioxins — near the site of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, but some experts have raised eyebrows over excluded details.The plan comes a week after EPA mandated that the rail company conduct dioxins testing, following weeks of pressure from lawmakers and the community (Greenwire, March 3).“Rather than a comprehensive assessment or full characterization of specific parcels, this Plan is intended as an initial tool to gather information on property types and land uses, collect initial data for a select group of constituents of concern in both background and potentially impacted areas, and support the planning of future work,” the plan says. “Additional soil sampling may be proposed in consultation with the USEPA, as necessary, based on the results of the sampling proposed in this Plan.”Norfolk Southern commissioned the plan, which was prepared by design and engineering consulting company Arcadis U.S. Inc. Norfolk Southern contractors began collecting soil samples from residential, commercial and agricultural properties Thursday, a Norfolk Southern spokesperson said in an email.Murray McBride, a Cornell University emeritus professor with expertise in environmental toxicology, said the plan is “a good start,” adding, “I think it’s enough samples to get a real assessment, and the specific chemicals seem appropriate.”But McBride and other experts voiced concerns over the plan.More than a month has passed since a massive plume of dark smoke — possibly carrying dioxins — traveled over East Palestine and into neighboring Pennsylvania communities. That plume was the result of a “controlled burn” of five of the derailed train cars, which were carrying the carcinogenic chemical compound vinyl chloride. Dioxins can be produced as a byproduct of combustion.“I want to see testing wherever the plume went,” said toxicologist Linda Birnbaum, a leading dioxins researcher and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “The dioxins are going to be generated largely by that combustion, by that black plume. And the dioxins are going to be on the air particulates that traveled with the plume.”Exactly where that plume traveled is unknown.The plan includes a map plotting 277 inspection and potential soil sampling spots — spanning up to 2 miles southeast of the derailment site “to account for how ash may have traveled based on wind modeling and observation,” an EPA notice says.Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator during the Obama administration, said she doesn’t think 2 miles is far enough.“The plume traveled further than 2 miles, and they need to test along the plume,” Enck said.At those indicated inspection spots, crews are looking for signs of ash, according to the plan. If crews find traces of ash, they’ll send them to a laboratory for testing. Only 20 percent of soil samples from inspection sites where no ash is detected will be sent for testing, the plan says.Looking for ash may pose difficulties, Enck and McBride said, because rain may wash away some of the visible signs of ash even though dioxins remain.If ash is observed, the plan directs contractors to collect 6 inches of soil. And that sample may also dilute contamination levels, McBride said.“All of the dioxins and the PAHs [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons], generally, would be right there at the surface. Literally, a quarter-inch of soil,” McBride said. “If you go deeper … and take the top 6 inches of soil, most of which will have no contamination at all, because most of these chemicals we’re worried about aren’t very mobile. So it’s really just that very top surface you’re concerned about, because that’s where the chemicals will be, and that’s what people and animals are exposed to.”For the most comprehensive sampling, sediment, water and air testing should also be completed, Enck, McBride and Birnbaum said.“This effort is the initial step in EPA-approved soil sampling program and will inform future work, including additional inspections or testing as directed by EPA,” a Norfolk Southern spokesperson said in an email.“The soil testing is maybe the first priority, in my view, because if there are dioxins there, this is a long-term problem,” McBride said.EPA has taken a different approach for dioxins testing compared with other environmental chemical tests.For most of the water, soil and air quality monitoring, a government agency leads testing, and Norfolk Southern must reimburse the costs. Instead, the rail company is responsible for dioxin reporting and testing, and EPA will oversee that.“There is no logical reason why EPA is not doing the testing and sending the bill to Norfolk Southern,” Enck said. “Based on my experience when I was at EPA, it is common … that EPA will often have the consultants for the polluters do the testing and the sampling, and usually there’s a very long back-and-forth where you negotiate the sampling plan … but this is a very unique situation. This is a situation where EPA needs to regain the trust of the community and where Norfolk Southern has a financial interest in not finding a problem. EPA is perfectly capable of doing the dioxin testing themselves, or hiring their own contractors.”

More than 100 groups demand EPA conduct dioxin testing in areas impacted by the East Palestine train derailment - EIN Presswire -- Today, River Valley Organizing and more than 100 groups from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and across the country sent a joint letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Administrator Michael Regan and other EPA leadership with expert recommendations on how to test for dioxins in East Palestine, Ohio and other communities impacted by the Norfolk Southern train derailment disaster. Although the EPA recently ordered environmental testing for dioxins in the aftermath of the Norfolk Southern train derailment, the EPA has not shared the testing plan with the impacted communities for their review and input.Dioxins are persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) chemicals that break down very slowly, build up in the food chain and in our bodies, and can cause cancer and other serious health problems. Dioxins are created when chlorinated chemicals and materials like vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic are burned—exactly what occurred following the East Palestine derailment. On March 2nd, the EPA finally ordered environmental testing for dioxins in the aftermath of the Norfolk Southern train derailment after pressure from River Valley Organizing, community members, advocates, and elected officials including Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and J. D. Vance (R-OH).The letter to EPA was developed in collaboration with key groups in Ohio and Pennsylvania such as River Valley Organizing (RVO), along with Toxic-Free Future, and other allies from across the country. In the letter, the groups make recommendations on how this testing should be conducted to improve transparency, rebuild public trust, and comprehensively address possible releases of dioxins from the disaster. The letter states, in part: “Communities surrounding and downwind of the derailment have a right to know whether the fire resulted in elevated concentrations of dioxins. The testing must be transparent and comprehensive. This would help demonstrate EPA’s commitment to comprehensively responding to this disaster, rebuilding trust with East Palestine and other impacted communities, and advancing environmental justice.” River Valley Organizing has released a list of five community demands based on a community meeting attended by more than 200 residents in East Palestine, including independent testing and testing for dioxins. Those demands are outlined here. “The people of East Palestine and surrounding communities have been clear: they want comprehensive, independent environmental testing - including for dioxins,” said River Valley Organizing Co-Executive Director Amanda Kiger. “This is a key demand that is necessary to build public trust. This community deserves to know what potential toxic chemicals they will have to live with for years to come due to Norfolk Southern’s greed.” “The people of East Palestine and surrounding impacted communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania have a right to know if they’ve been exposed to these very dangerous chemicals,” said Mike Schade, Director of Mind the Store, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “It is critical that the EPA ensures that the testing process for dioxins is both transparent and comprehensive. Just like PFAS, dioxins are toxic even at very low levels of exposure. And, immediate action must be taken to protect these communities.” "Expanding the range of testing to include dioxin makes sense,” said Matthew Mehalik, Executive Director of the Breathe Project. “As more testing data continues to come in, it is clear that there is more to be concerned about than was initially communicated. Innocent people who have been engulfed by this disaster need to know the extent to which this and other residual chemicals were and are present so that key questions at the foundations of their lives and livelihoods can be addressed and any chance of healing can begin.” “Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals ever tested,” said Stephen Lester, Science Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice. “Exposure to dioxins can cause cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, immune effects, skin lesions, and other adverse effects. It’s important for the residents of East Palestine that accurate and transparent testing for dioxin be done at the lowest levels possible, so that the residents can begin to understand the risks they face and can make informed decisions to protect their health.”

100+ Groups Detail Demands for Dioxin Testing After Toxic Train Derailment -- While welcoming a federal order that Norfolk Southern test for dioxins near a derailed train that was carrying hazardous materials through East Palestine, Ohio, over 100 groups on Monday shared "recommendations on how this testing should be conducted to improve transparency, rebuild public trust, and comprehensively address possible releases."The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the rail company to develop a plan to test for dioxins—carcinogenic chemical compounds that persist in the environment and human body and are tied to developmental, reproductive, and immune system problems—only after nearly a month of pressure from residents across Ohio and Pennsylvania.River Valley Organizing (RVO), Toxic-Free Future, and other organizations signed the letter sent on Monday to agency leaders including EPA Administrator Michael Regan—which states that "to date, Norfolk Southern has done an extremely poor job of building trust with the community of East Palestine and other communities impacted by the disaster.""We strongly recommend the U.S. EPA itself conduct the dioxin sampling or hire its own consultants to conduct the testing.""To ensure this testing is adequately conducted, and to rebuild public trust, we strongly recommend the U.S. EPA itself conduct the dioxin sampling or hire its own consultants to conduct the testing," the letter continues. "Norfolk Southern should not be in charge of the dioxin sampling. This testing must be paid for by the responsible parties, not taxpayers."Along with laying out what the groups believe should be detailed in the dioxin sampling plan—including goals, locations, detection limits, procedures, and laboratories used—the letter calls for allowing residents to weigh in before testing begins."All sampling data and test results should be made available to the public for review in a transparent and easily accessible format," the organizations argued. "This information must be accessible for review, given the need for results to be meaningful to impacted communities as well as to build trust through transparent action."While the EPA has said that its own "monitoring for indicator chemicals has suggested a low probability" that dioxins were released as a result of the February 3 derailment and subsequent "controlled burn" of vinyl chloride, as the letter says:Responders reportedly punctured and burned more than 115,000 gallons of vinyl chloride in uncontrolled conditions for numerous days, making it likely that dioxins and related chlorinated substances were formed and released into the communities surrounding the disaster site. Four train cars of polyvinyl chloride plastic also burned, also likely forming dioxins. There have been elevated levels of dioxins released in other major accidents involving chlorinated chemicals—from the 2004 explosion at the PVC plant in Illiopolis, Illinois, to the 1997 Plastimet PVC recycling fire in Ontario, to the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.The organizations also recommended that "the EPA work with other agencies to provide medical monitoring for impactedcommunities, especially East Palestine and those in the combustion plume, that desire it.""Communities surrounding and downwind of the derailment have a right to know whether the fire resulted in elevated concentrations of dioxins. The testing must be transparent and comprehensive," the letter asserts. "This would help demonstrate EPA's commitment to comprehensively responding to this disaster, rebuilding trust with East Palestine and other impacted communities, and advancing environmental justice." Leaders and experts at groups that signed the letter echoed its key messages in a statement Monday—including RVO co-executive director Amanda Kiger, who declared that "this community deserves to know what potential toxic chemicals they will have to live with for years to come due to Norfolk Southern's greed."

Waste sampling shows soil from East Palestine contains safe levels of dioxins | news - Indiana Public Media --Test results ordered by Governor Eric Holcomb show that waste imported from the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment does not contain harmful levels of dioxins: highly carcinogenic chemicals that the EPA has been ordered to test for at the site.A third part lab conducted the tests. The results show dioxin levels withing what the EPA considers an acceptable range.According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the contaminated soil appeared “suitable for disposal” at the Heritage Landfill in Roachdale, Indiana, which has operated since 1981.The governor’s office said all loads coming to Roachdale will continue to be tested.Despite objections from some Hoosiers, including residents of Roachdale, IDEM stated that it doesn’t have the authority to prevent facilities from accepting materials they’re permitted to dispose.The full sampling results can be viewed here.

Norfolk Southern CEO Makes Obligatory Congressional Appearance But Doesn’t Commit to Rail Safety Changes - On March 9, the Senate held the first congressional hearing on rail safety following the February 3 Norfolk Southern rail disaster in which a nearly two-mile-long train carrying hazardous materials derailed and caught fire in East Palestine, Ohio. If the people of East Palestine were hoping to see the wheels of justice start to turn in their favor with this hearing, they may be sorely disappointed. The hearing began with some troubling revelations from a first responder, before senators went on to grill Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw, who dodged questions and refused to commit to any meaningful changes to his company’s safety strategy. It likely wasn’t a pleasant experience for Shaw, especially when Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) informed him mid-hearing that another of Norfolk Southern’s trains had just derailed. However, even this painful irony could not nudge Shaw toward specific commitments to financially support East Palestine residents or to back new rail safety regulations. Some of the worst fears over public and environmental health in the East Palestine disaster, which is unfolding in a region long-plagued by industrial pollution, centers on vinyl chloride, a colorless gas associated with various cancers and used to make plastics. The derailed Norfolk Southern train was carrying five rail tank cars of this chemical, and worried about a potential explosion, the emergency response performed a controlled burn of those five rail cars. This controlled burn created a massive cloud of toxic smoke that hung over the region for hours due to a weather phenomenon that held it low in the atmosphere. On February 6, Norfolk Southern said this controlled burn was necessary because the temperature in one of the tanks was rising and there was risk of an explosion that likely would have sent shrapnel flying in a mile radius and exposed the town to the vinyl chloride. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine corroborated this report, saying he was given “two bad options” for the outcome in East Palestine. However, shortly after the accident, Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist and former Battalion Chief with the Youngstown, Ohio fire department, told WKBN that, “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.”Eric J. Brewer, Director of Emergency Services for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was one of the first responders on the scene in East Palestine and testified at the Congressional hearing. During questioning, he described learning of the decision to switch from a controlled burn of the one vinyl chloride car that was heating up to all five cars as “jaw-dropping.” He was not involved in this decision, according to his testimony.Brewer also noted how the emergency response changed once Norfolk Southern management showed up. “The boots-on-the-ground crews were great to work with,” Brewer said. “It seems as bosses or management get there, that’s where the communication failures start.” In Brewer’s opening statement, he explained that Norfolk Southern pushed the decision to burn all five tanks holding vinyl chloride and made this change in strategy outside of the coordination process involving first responders:“We learned that Norfolk Southern wanted to do a controlled detonation of the tank car in question. We were assured this was the safest way to take care of the railcar that was causing the problem. This was to occur around the noon time frame on Monday. When we were in one of the planning meetings we learned from Norfolk Southern officials that they now wanted to do the controlled detonation on five of the tank cars rather than just the one that everyone was thinking. This changed the entire plan because it was going to be a bigger impact to the area. This confusion was because Norfolk Southern officials did not communicate and were not in the room when the planning process was happening.”If only one tank car was heating up, why were all five intentionally burned? This decision potentially released up to five times more toxic contamination into the surrounding air. On March 2, Shaw explained to the Associated Press why responders ultimately burned all five rail cars. “The factors on the ground at that time were that the safety valves on the rail cars had failed and the temperatures inside the railcars were heating up,” Shaw told the AP. However, the Norfolk Southern CEO’s explanation stands in contrast to the claim that only one car was experiencing a temperature rise, which is what Brewer explained under oath at the March 9 Senate hearing and what the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) initially concluded in a preliminary report published on February 23. According to that NTSB report, “five derailed DOT-105 specification tank cars (railcars 28–31 and 55) carrying 115,580 gallons of vinyl chloride continued to concern authorities because the temperature inside one tank car was still rising.”

Giant seaweed blob twice the width of the US takes aim at Florida — Marine scientists are tracking a 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom that is so large, it can be seen from space.These sargassum blooms are nothing new, but scientists say this one could be the largest in history. At last check, it was heading toward Florida’s Gulf coast.The thick mat of algae drifts between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, providing habitat for marine life and absorbing carbon dioxide, but it can also wreak havoc when when it gets closer to shore. It blocks light from reaching coral and negatively impacts air and water quality as it decomposes.Florida’s Gulf coast is already grappling with an algae bloom amid the busy spring break tourism season. Red tide has caused dead fish to wash ashore in droves, while the risk of respiratory irritation for humans has canceled events and driven beachgoers away.With a blanket of sargassum approaching, spanning twice the width of the continental U.S., scientists warn that Florida beaches could soon be inundated with seaweed.“It’s incredible,” Brian LaPointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute told NBC News. “What we’re seeing in the satellite imagery does not bode well for a clean beach year.”LaPointe, who has studied the blooms for decades, said beaches in the Florida Keys are already being affected. Earlier this week, parts of Mexico were told to prepare for up to three feet of sargassum to build up on shore.Chunks of brown plant matter may be unappealing to look at, but the impact on humans does not end there. Large pieces of sargassum can ensnare boats and other machinery in the water.“Even if it’s just out in coastal waters, it can block intake valves for things like power plants or desalination plants, marinas can get completely inundated and boats can’t navigate through,” Brian Barnes, an assistant research professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science told NBC News. “It can really threaten critical infrastructure.”Rotting sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide, which can cause respiratory problems for tourists, residents and anyone who works on the water, LaPointe told NBC News.“Following the big 2018 blooms, doctors in Martinique and Guadeloupe reported thousands of people going to clinics with breathing complications from the air that was coming off these rotting piles of sargassum,” LaPointe said.Barnes and his colleagues at USF’s Optical Oceanography Laboratory track sargassum blooms. The blanket of seaweed appears to be growing each year, but 2018 and 2022 had the largest blooms, he said. This year could top last year’s record.“Historically, as far back as we have records, sargassum has been a part of the ecosystem, but the scale now is just so much bigger,” Barnes told NBC News. “What we would have thought was a major bloom five years ago is no longer even a blip.”Scientists have found that climate change is causing ocean temperatures to rise, creating a more ideal environment for the algae to thrive. Meanwhile, urban and agriculture runoff is sending nitrates from fertilizers and other nutrients flowing into the ocean, feeding the bloom.Typically, rafts of sargassum gather in the Sargassum Sea region in the northern Atlantic Ocean. From there, the Gulf Stream pushes the algae around the Atlantic basin, which allows it to spread and grow in different areas.

How an algae bloom could put Florida’s spring break at risk - Before spring break season is over, beaches across the Gulf Coast will begin to stink. By mid-April, as businesses in South Florida and across the Gulf Coast juggle an influx of vacationers, the region’s beaches will likely face another unwelcome visitor: enormous mats of rotting sargassum seaweed. The leading edge of several thousand mile long train of floating sargassum is already beginning to pile up on the beaches of resorts in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, along Caribbean islands and in Key West, Fla. But with an estimated 13 million tons of seaweed out there, those early arrivals are just “the tip of the iceberg,” said marine biologist Brian LaPointe. LaPointe runs one of the nation’s leading seaweed labs, at Florida American University. He said the bloom wasn’t isn’t a cause for “panic” — but added that for a bloom to be “that big, that early, just doesn’t bode well.” But much about the blob, from its origins to its ultimate destination, remains under active scientific debate. Here is a list of things we know about the threats posed by the seaweed bloom — and what we still don’t.

Farm Bureau Finds 2022 Weather Disasters Amounted to $21 Billion in Crop Losses - The 2022 crop year saw many extreme weather events, including hail, drought and derechos.Farm Bureau estimates, based on USDA analysis, these events add up to 18 weather and climate disasters, each with damages exceeding $1 billion. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 2022 surpassed 2021 as the third-costliest disaster year event in history, with an estimated $165 billion in total economic losses behind only 2017’s $346 billion and 2005’s $244 billion. “With over 470 lives lost, these disasters will haunt impacted communities for years to come,” the Farm Bureau report said.The major disasters in 2022 accumulated to $21.4 billion in crop and rangeland losses, with $11 billion covered by preexisting risk management programs.Of the $21.4 billion, $20.4 billion was lost to drought and wildfire. The remaining $1.08 billion in lost crops was due to hurricanes, hail, flooding and severe weather.According to Farm Bureau’s findings, Texas suffered the most loss in 2022. The 28th state took a $6.4 billion hit in 2022. The losses include:

• $2.9 billion in cotton damages
• $1.7 billion in forage and rangeland damages
• $1 billion in wheat damages

Severe weather in April and May caused part of Texas’ depleted number, but drought was ultimately the main driver.Drought also heavily impacted Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.Corn in Kansas took a $1.2 billion hit, while Nebraska suffered $200 million and South Dakota lost $800 million. Soybeans also saw $700 million in losses in Kansas but fared better in Nebraska at $400 million in losses.

Trees Across the U.S. Are Sprouting Leaves Earlier Than Usual This Year -- Wall Street Journal -- Signs of spring are here early. Trees from Texas to New York have begun sprouting leaves earlier than in any year on record, according to data from the USA National Phenology Network, a group of scientists and educators that monitors the effects of weather on plants and animals.

Storm breaches California river's levee, thousands evacuate (AP) — A Northern California agricultural community famous for its strawberry crop was forced to evacuate early Saturday after the Pajaro River’s levee was breached by flooding from a new atmospheric river that pummeled the state. Across the Central Coast’s Monterey County, more than 8,500 people were under evacuation orders and warnings Saturday, including roughly 1,700 residents — many of them Latino farmworkers — from the unincorporated community of Pajaro. Officials said the Pajaro River’s levee breach is about 100 feet (30.48 meters) wide. Crews had gone door to door Friday afternoon to urge residents to leave before the rains came but some stayed and had to be pulled from floodwaters early Saturday. First responders and the California National Guard rescued more than 50 people overnight. One video showed a member of the Guard helping a driver out of a car trapped by water up to their waists. “We were hoping to avoid and prevent this situation, but the worst case scenario has arrived with the Pajaro River overtopping and levee breaching at about midnight,” wrote Luis Alejo, chair of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, on Twitter. Alejo called the flooding “massive,” saying the damage will take months to repair. The Pajaro River separates the counties of Santa Cruz and Monterey in the area that flooded Saturday. Floodwaters that got into the region’s wells might be contaminated with chemicals, officials said, and residents were told not to drink or cook with tap water for fear of illness. Officials had been working along the levee in the hopes of shoring it up when it was breached around midnight Friday into Saturday. Crews began working to fix the levee around daybreak Saturday as residents slept in evacuation centers. Weather-related power outages affected more than 17,000 customers in Monterey County late Saturday, according to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The Pajaro Valley is a coastal agricultural area known for growing strawberries, apples, cauliflower, broccoli and artichokes. National brands like Driscoll’s Strawberries and Martinelli’s are headquartered in the region.

As atmospheric river exits, a new storm threatens California - (AP) — Wet, miserable weather continued across huge swaths of California on Sunday as an atmospheric river that caused major flooding flowed eastward, while a new storm threatened another onslaught of rain, snow and gusting winds as soon as Monday. The National Weather Service said the next system could exacerbate severe flooding that overwhelmed the area in recent days, prompting a levee failure and widespread evacuations Saturday in farming communities near the state’s central coast. The new storm is not expected to bring as much rain, but forecasters warned that “considerable flooding” could occur at lower elevations from additional rain and creeks and streams swollen with snowmelt. “Definitely prepare for some more flooding impacts. The ground is very saturated. We’re already seeing some impacts from some light amounts,” National Weather Service forecaster Eleanor Dhuyvetter said. A tornado briefly touched down in Tuolumne County during severe thunderstorms Saturday that also dumped an inch (2.5 centimeters) of hail, the weather service office in Sacramento said. Tornadoes were possible again Sunday afternoon, forecasters warned. Monday’s incoming rain and snow is expected to extend from central California to Oregon and northern Nevada. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) are expected in some places and could damage power lines and snap tree branches. Over the past two days, more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow fell at a measuring station in the Sierra Nevada, and more is expected. The snowpack is now nearly twice the average, and the highest in about four decades, according to UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab. The snowpack stores much-needed water for a state seeking to emerge from a three-year drought. As much as a foot (30 centimeters) of rain fell in the Big Sur area of the state over a two-day period, weather data. Authorities suggest that residents have a plan in case further evacuations orders are issued. Across Monterey County, more than 8,500 people were evacuated Saturday, including roughly 1,700 residents — many of them Latino farmworkers — from the unincorporated community of Pajaro. “We are still in disaster response mode,” said Monterey County spokesman Nicholas Pasculli on Sunday. He said the county is staging high water rescue teams around the county and opening more shelters in anticipation of more flooding. Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, is closed at several points along Big Sur as well as near Pajaro due to flooding.

Another atmospheric river pounds California, 27K to evacuate - The latest powerful atmospheric river to drench California put nearly 27,000 people under evacuation orders Tuesday due to flooding and landslide risks. On the central coast, workers hauled truckloads of rocks to plug a broken river levee amid steady rain and wind. Along the Southern California coast, evacuation orders began at 8 a.m. in Santa Barbara County for several areas burned by wildfires in recent years, creating increased risk of flash floods and debris flows. In addition to evacuation orders, more than 71,600 people were under evacuation warnings and 546 people were in shelters by Tuesday morning, said Brian Ferguson, spokesperson for the California Office of Emergency Services. Updated figures were not immediately available. Damaging winds with gusts topping 70 mph blew out windows, and there were numerous reports of falling trees. Power outages hit more than 330,000 utility customers in northern and central areas, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide. Crews raced to stabilize the Pajaro River's ruptured levee Tuesday, placing rocks and boulders to finish filling the gap that opened late Friday, about 70 miles south of San Francisco. Workers will then raise that portion's elevation to match the rest of the levee over the next few weeks to make it impermeable, officials said. Tuesday's storm initially spread light to moderate rain over the state's north and center. But the National Weather Service said the storm was moving faster than expected and that most of the precipitation would shift southward. "Even a small amount of rain could potentially have larger impacts," Shaunna Murray of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency said Tuesday during a news conference. Powerful winds damaged windows in a San Francisco high-rise, causing glass to rain down and forcing evacuations from the building in the financial district. No injuries were immediately reported. A gust of 74 mph was recorded at the city's airport, the weather service said. So far this winter, California has been battered by 10 previous atmospheric rivers - long plumes of moisture from the Pacific Ocean - as well as powerful storms fueled by arctic air that produced blizzard conditions. On the East Coast, the start of a winter storm with heavy, wet snow caused a plane to slide off a runway and led to hundreds of school closings, canceled flights and thousands of power outages Tuesday. The storm caused emergency declarations for 40 counties.

Almost 1 million Californians without power amid second atmospheric river impact in a week - - California is grappling with the effects of a second atmospheric river in just one week, as heavy rainfall and high-elevation snow continue to pummel the state on March 14, 2023. The National Weather Service (NWS) has warned of a high risk for excessive rainfall today, with the storm expected to persist into Wednesday, further exacerbating the potential for widespread flooding. The powerful atmospheric river is forecast to produce multiple rounds of heavy rain and mountain snow across central and southern regions of California until tonight (LT). In combination with snowmelt below 1 524 m (5 000 feet), the heavy precipitation is likely to cause widespread flooding, particularly in areas that remain vulnerable due to recent rainfall. The situation could result in significant flooding impacts. As a response, numerous Flood Watches, Warnings, and Advisories have been issued, along with a High Risk (level 4/4) of Excessive Rainfall for parts of the southern Sierra Nevada foothills and central and southern California coast. The storm system is predicted to move further inland, affecting the Intermountain West by tonight, while the accompanying cold front completes its journey through southern California early on Wednesday, bringing an end to the excessive rainfall threat. In addition to the heavy rainfall, the potent storm is anticipated to generate heavy mountain snow from the Sierra to the central and northern Rockies through Wednesday and trigger gusty winds. As the cold front enters the Southwest on Wednesday, locally heavy rain may also lead to isolated flooding in parts of central Arizona. By 21:00 UTC on March 14, around 380 000 customers — or about 950 000 people — in California are without power. This is the second atmospheric river event to impact the state in a week. The previous storm resulted in two fatalities and forced thousands to evacuate their homes.

Major Nor’easter triggers snow, wind, and disruptions in northeastern U.S. - (4 videos) A powerful Nor’easter is wreaking havoc across parts of the northeastern United States, with heavy snowfall, strong winds, and coastal flooding leading to travel disruptions and widespread power outages. The storm is expected to impact the region from northeast Pennsylvania to southern Maine through tonight. As of 22:00 UTC, approximately 590 000 people have been left without power. Snowfall in some areas of the Northeast has exceeded 60 cm (23 inches), with Windsor, Massachusetts reporting 71 cm (28 inches) of snow by Tuesday afternoon (LT). In Vermont, Readsboro recorded 62 cm (24.5 inches) of snow, while Palenville, New York saw at least 46 cm (18 inches) of snow. Over 800 flights have been canceled and more than 650 delayed across the region, according to FlightAware. Boston Logan International Airport alone saw nearly 300 cancellations, with 25% of all flights being affected due to the worsening weather conditions. Thundersnow was reported in several locations in western Massachusetts on Tuesday morning, with lightning illuminating the sky in Westfield and Agawam. The storm has also forced over 70 towns in New Hampshire to postpone scheduled elections, with many communities rescheduling them for March 28. The Nor’easter is expected to continue producing gusty winds and periods of heavy snow throughout New England until Wednesday, March 15. Additional snowfall of 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) is possible in parts of Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and northern Maine. The storm has already caused power outages and tree damage due to the weight of the snow, and gusty winds reaching up to 60 mph (97 km/h) along the coast and 40 mph (64 km/h) inland could exacerbate these issues. The low-pressure system is forecast to peak in intensity near Cape Cod this evening (LT) before gradually moving eastward into the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday. Cold temperatures have spread into the Mid-South and Southeast, with low temperatures expected to dip near or below freezing on Wednesday morning, potentially causing damage to vegetation and unprotected plumbing. Meanwhile, California is grappling with the effects of a second atmospheric river in just one week, as heavy rainfall and high-elevation snow continue to pummel the state. The National Weather Service (NWS) has warned of a high risk for excessive rainfall today, with the storm expected to persist into Wednesday, further exacerbating the potential for widespread flooding. At 21:00 UTC on March 14, around 380 000 customers — or about 950 000 people — in California are without power.

La Niña is officially over, NOAA announces: What does that mean? – The long season of La Niña has finally ended, meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have confirmed.The La Niña climate pattern, which has been present practically uninterrupted since the summer of 2020, started weakening in recent months. Now, La Niña has officially been replaced by “ENSO-neutral conditions,” the Climate Prediction Center (a division of NOAA’s National Weather Service) said in its “Final La Niña Advisory” Thursday morning,“ENSO neutral” means neither La Niña nor El Niño is present. Forecasters expect these conditions to last through early summer.We may switch from ENSO-neutral conditions to El Niño at some point this summer or fall, but it’s too early to predict the timing or strength of an El Niño season, meteorologists said.Both La Niña and El Niño usually grow strongest in the winter.A strong El Niño for fall and winter, if it were to develop, would be the inverse of what we’ve seen the last three years. It would likely mean a cold, wet winter for California and the Southern U.S. El Niño usually means a warm, dry winter for the Pacific Northwest and Midwest.The absence of La Niña and El Niño, as we have now, can make spring weather more unpredictable. “The crystal ball is even blurrier than usual,” Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center, told Nexstar last month. “ENSO neutral effectively means that conditions across Tropical Pacific are closer to average, so there isn’t a big disruption in the atmospheric circulation that is offered by El Niño La Niña.” The latest outlook for spring indicates warmer-than-average weather for southern states. It also predicts dry conditions for the Four Corners states, as well as Florida. The Great Lakes region, on the other hand, is most likely to see above-average precipitation through May.

Over 190 fatalities and 33 000 displaced by Tropical Cyclone “Freddy” in Malawi and Mozambique - (videos) Tropical Cyclone “Freddy” has caused over 190 fatalities and displaced more than 11 000 people in southern Malawi and Mozambique. The cyclone made its second landfall in central Mozambique on March 11 and weakened as it moved northward inland over Zambezia and Tete provinces in Mozambique and southern Malawi. As of March 14, there have been at least 190 fatalities and over 16 600 affected by the cyclone in southern Malawi, which borders Mozambique. More than 11 100 people have been displaced and 16 are reported missing. 584 people have been injured and 37 are still missing, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs said in a statement released Tuesday, March 14. The hillside settlement of Chilobwe, located near Malawi’s second-largest city, Blantyre, has been hit hard by the aftermath of Freddy. Unfortunately, many of the fatalities in the area have occurred due to the vulnerable nature of the houses built with mud bricks, which were unable to withstand the harsh weather conditions. The tragedy in Chilobwe is exemplified by the account of Donald Banda, a 16-year-old student, who was a witness to the disaster. Banda shared that there was a massive mudslide that struck overnight, destroying everything in its path. The incident dragged down several houses, leaving several residents missing or dead. Banda is among the residents of Chilobwe who are actively searching for their neighbors, dead or alive. The scale of the disaster is overwhelming, and about 100 residents have come together to help each other. The mudslide was severe, and several houses and their occupants disappeared almost instantly. 5 fatalities have also been reported across Mozambique due to the second landfall of Freddy. More than 22 000 people were evacuated. The Mozambique National Institute for Disaster Management said the fallout from the storm’s second landfall in the country was worse than expected. Freddy’s center was located in the southern Tete Province, very close to the border with southern Malawi on March 13 at 12:00 UTC, with maximum sustained winds of 51 km/h (tropical depression). The cyclone is forecast to continue inland over southern Malawi and the Zambezia Province and re-enter the Mozambique Channel, further weakening and dissipating on March 14 – 16. The next 48 hours are crucial, as very heavy rainfall is still forecast over southern Malawi and over Zambezia, Sofala, Manica, Tete, and Niassa Provinces in Mozambique.

Cyclone Yaku hits Peru, leaving 6 people dead, 5 missing, and over 2 000 homes severely damaged - (videos) Peru has been hit hard by Cyclone Yaku over the past few days, with the country’s northern regions experiencing severe flooding and significant damage. The cyclone, which has caused at least six deaths, has been described by the director of civil defense, César Sierra, as an unusual phenomenon causing intensifying rains in the north. According to the National Institute of Civil Defense (INDECI), as of March 10, 2023, the flooding caused by the cyclone has left at least 6 people dead and 5 missing.1 Yaku severely damaged 2 077 homes, 13 educational centers, 35 health establishments, 2 700 means of transportation, and 4 730 irrigation canals. To assist those affected by Cyclone Yaku, the government has declared a state of emergency in the regions of Tumbes, Piura, Cajamarca, Lambayeque, La Libertad and Ancas. The cyclone has also affected neighboring Ecuador, causing the deaths of at least three people. The worst-affected region was Chone Canton in Manabí Province.2 On March 7, El Comercio reported that 90% of downtown Chone was flooded due to the heavy rain caused by Cyclone Yaku. Moreover, damaged homes and crops were reported in nearby rural areas, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Heavy rains and deadly landslides hit Manaus, Brazil - (videos) On March 12, 2023, torrential downpours wreaked havoc in the state capital of Manaus, located in northwestern Brazil’s Amazonas region. The heavy rains triggered devastating landslides, particularly in the Jorge Teixeira neighborhood, where at least 11 houses were destroyed. The rainfall on March 12 was particularly intense, with almost 100 mm (3.9 inches) of precipitation in a brief period. Consequently, over 120 incidents were reported across Manaus. In light of the severe situation, Mayor David Almeida announced his intention to declare a state of calamity to expedite aid and resources to the affected communities. Tragically, eight people lost their lives as they were buried under the rubble and debris. Local authorities, however, managed to rescue three individuals alive.

Flash floods claim 16 lives in earthquake-stricken Turkish provinces - The death toll from the devastating flash floods in the Turkish provinces of Şanlıurfa and Adıyaman has risen to 16. These provinces were severely affected by last month’s powerful earthquakes. Heavy rainfall since March 14, 2023, has disrupted normal life, with streets and hospitals being inundated and highways collapsing. Severe flash floods turned streets into raging rivers, sweeping away vehicles, and flooding homes and campsites housing earthquake survivors. Most fatalities occurred in Şanlıurfa, where rescue teams discovered two bodies among the mud and debris on March 16. One person is still missing in the area. Adıyaman also faced tragic losses, as two individuals drowned when a container home, sheltering an earthquake-affected family, was washed away by the floodwaters. A nurse and her two-year-old child are currently missing in the region. On February 6, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck 11 Turkish provinces, including Adıyaman and Şanlıurfa. The disaster resulted in more than 48 000 deaths in Turkey and approximately 6 000 fatalities in northern Syria. The recent flash floods have further compounded the hardships faced by the residents of these earthquake-stricken provinces, as they continue to cope with the aftermath of the natural disasters.

Climate change is supercharging floods and droughts, new research shows Droughts and floods are already intensifying as the world warms, putting solid observational data behind a trend scientists have long predicted and one that’s becoming increasingly visible to ordinary people. Over the past 20 years, there’s been a sharp increase in both the wettest and driest weather events on the planet, according to astudy published Monday in the journal Nature Water. The research relies on satellite data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, used to measure subtle changes in Earth’s stores of water, including groundwater, surface water, snow, ice, and soil moisture. It’s a sign of more extremes ahead, said Matthew Rodell, a co-author of the study and a hydrologist at NASA, with the data providing “strong evidence” that climate change is amplifying droughts and floods. “This has been something that’s very difficult to prove,” Rodell said.Last year alone was marked by devastating floods that left one-third of Pakistan underwater and the ongoing megadrought in the American Southwest. This year is proving to be another exceptional one for flooding, with California submerged by a series of atmospheric rivers and Mozambique receiving a year’s worth of rainfall in just the last month from Tropical Cyclone Freddy.The most intense floods and droughts on Earth began occurring more frequently in 2015, at a rate of about four per year instead of three, the study found. The ensuing years have been the eight hottest on record. Climate change was the largest driver of this shift in dry and wet events, outweighing the effects of the planet’s natural swings between hotter and cooler years caused by the El Niño and La Niña climate patterns.Looking at more than 1,000 drought and flood events around the globe from 2002 to 2021, researchers analyzed their size, duration, and severity. Previous research tended to focus on averages, which are easier to measure than extremes, Rodell said. The new satellite data was able to capture slower-moving disasters that could last months or years.According to the study, the most severe event of the last two decades was the extreme rain that hit sub-Saharan Africa beginning in 2020. Months of precipitation caused water levels at Lake Victoria to rise by about three feet and flood into the surrounding area. In terms of intensity, it was three times as large as the next biggest rain event: the floods that covered much of the Midwestern and Eastern United States starting in 2018. The most severe drought took place in northeastern South America from 2015 to 2016, followed by the ongoing drought in the Cerrado region of Brazil.So how is climate change making the world both drier and wetter at the same time? It comes down to the way that hotter air affects the weather. Warmer air can suck moisture out of the soil, amplifying droughts. On the flipside, warm air can also hold more moisture, meaning that it can transport more water into an already wet region.

Eruption at Nyamulagira volcano - 4.5 km (15 000 feet) a.s.l. plume, Aviation Color Code Red, DR Congo - The Goma Volcanic Observatory (OVG) has reported an eruption of the Nyamulagira volcano, also known as Nyamuragira, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A plume was observed rising 1 500 m (4 900 feet) above the summit, reaching an altitude of about 4.5 km (15 000 feet) above sea level. Nyamulagira is located near the Nyiragongo volcano, which erupted in 2021, resulting in 32 deaths and the destruction of 1 000 homes. While Nyiragongo’s eruption directly threatened the city of Goma, past eruptions of Nyamulagira have been primarily directed towards the Virunga Park or nearby roads. The Toulouse VAAC Volcanic Ash Advisory, released at 13:45 UTC on March 14, 2023, confirmed the plume’s height but noted that volcanic ash clouds were not visible on satellite imagery due to cloud cover. As a precaution, the Aviation Color Code has been raised to Red.1 On March 13, a strong glow was observed at the volcano around 16:00 UTC (18:00 local time), accompanied by seismic activity indicating magma movement at shallow depths toward Nyamulagira’s central crater. The OVG has reassured Goma residents, stating that if a flank eruption occurs, lava would flow into Virunga National Park and urged them to remain calm.2 Authorities have advised the public to follow instructions for washing vegetables, as volcanic products like ash and slag could fall into inhabited areas. Aviators have been asked to take wind direction into account when flying over the Virunga region. In February 2023, the OVG reported that Nyamuragira’s lava lake remained active from February 13 to 19, with low seismicity and a few long-period earthquakes detected up to 15 km (9 miles) deep along the large fracture connecting Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo. High concentrations of carbon dioxide were measured in the Mazuku and Lac Vert district areas, prompting the OVG to warn residents to avoid those locations.3

Asteroid 2023 EN flew past Earth at 0.3 LD - (animation) A newly-discovered asteroid designated 2023 EN flew past Earth at a distance of 0.3 LD / 0.00091 (136 134 km / 84 589 miles) from the center of our planet at 11:25 UTC on March 9, 2023. This is the 13th known asteroid to fly past Earth within 1 lunar distance since the start of the year. Asteroid 2023 EN belongs to the Aten group of asteroids. It was first observed at Catalina Sky Survey on March 10, one day after it made its close approach to our planet. Its estimated diameter is between 6.7 and 15 m (22 – 49 feet).

Asteroid 2023 EY to fly past Earth at 0.6 LD - (animation) A newly-discovered asteroid designated 2023 EY will fly past Earth at a distance of 0.6 LD / 0.0016 AU (239 356 km / 148 729 miles) at 11:39 UTC on March 17, 2023. This is the second known asteroid to fly past Earth within 1 lunar distance this month and the 14th since the start of the year. Asteroid 2023 EY belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids. It was first observed at ATLAS South Africa, Southerland on March 13, 4 days before its close approach to our planet. Its estimated diameter is between 14 and 30 m (46 – 98 feet), making it the second largest <1LD asteroid so far this year.

Despoiling the final frontier: Satellite mega-constellations threaten ozone layer -- Here we go again. Satellite companies that plan to put tens of thousands of satellites into orbit to create space-based internet and cellphone networks are about to reach the final frontier for human degradation of the environment, outer space. And, they are doing it in ways that threaten the radiation protection of the ozone layer. The so-called low Earth orbit satellites the companies are launching are designed to last for around five years and then fall back to Earth, disintegrating in the atmosphere as they fall. What they leave behind are materials that are likely to lead to the destruction of the ozone layer. With thousands of satellites potentially falling to Earth each year, the extent of the damage could be major. We've seen this movie before. Without the curiosity of a lone scientist and his assistant in the early 1970s who asked what happens to highly persist chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) once they are released into the air from refrigerator coils and spray cans, we humans might have lived (and died) through the destruction of the ozone layer without having the knowledge to stop it. That layer high up in the stratosphere protects all living things from the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. The work of F. Sherwood Rowland and his assistant, Mario Molina, was central in bringing about the Montreal Protocol in 1987 which led to a worldwide phaseout of the production of ozone depleting substances. Without the protocol, an ozone hole—then limited to the Antarctic—may have spread across the planet threatening all of humanity and all living thing—life which, as it turns out, evolved adapted to the ozone layer's protection from ultraviolet radiation. It's worth understanding the reasons these satellites are going up. Why, after all, do we need a new space-based network for internet and cellphone communications when we already have a terrestrial one? The companies launching the satellites will tell you that they want to reach underserved people in rural areas who can't access high-speed telecommunications services. A more plausible explanation is that it costs a lot of money to build a terrestrial network, and it's risky to do so alongside other competing networks that already exist. In some cases it would not be permitted because the government owns and runs the internet and wireless telecommunications network. In addition, for terrestrial networks a company must deal with national, state and local governments around the world and with their rules, permit applications, laws and fees. The cheap, easy way to build a network then is to go to the FCC—which acts as if it has jurisdiction over all of outer space—and get mass approvals to launch thousands of inexpensive satellites. As a bonus, the FCC won't bother you with burdensome environmental reviews.

G2 - Moderate geomagnetic storming due to CH HSS effects combined with CME - Our planet is under the influence of a positive polarity coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS) today, March 15, 2023, combined with an impact from the coronal mass ejection (CME) produced on March 10. G2 – Moderate geomagnetic storm threshold was reached at 05:59 UTC and the geomagnetic field is likely to reach G1 – Minor geomagnetic storming levels, with a chance for isolated G2 – Moderate periods on March 15 and 16 due to any flanking effects from CMEs produced on March 11 to 13. The solar wind environment in 24 hours to 00:30 UTC on March 16 reflected positive polarity CH HSS onset and what is likely transient influence from CME produced on March 10. The total field peaked at 16 nT near 04:31 UTC on March 14. The Bz component was primarily +/- 11 nT with a few sustained southward deflections of -6 to -8 nT. Phi was positive but became somewhat variable between approximately 07:00 on March 14. Positive polarity CH HSS influences are expected to continue mostly through March 17. A CME, likely produced on March 11, impacted Earth at 04:28 UTC on March 15. Geomagnetic K-index of 6 threshold — G2 – Moderate geomagnetic storm, was reached about an hour and a half later, at 05:59 UTC. G2 – Moderate geomagnetic storm potential impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 55 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude. Induced Currents – Power grid fluctuations can occur. High-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms. Spacecraft – Satellite orientation irregularities may occur; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites is possible. Radio – HF (high frequency) radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes. Aurora may be seen as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state. The greater than 10 MeV proton flux remained elevated due to the back-sided full halo CME event from early on March 13 and the likely arrival of one of the flanking CMEs from March 10. The 10 MeV proton flux reached a peak of 17.8 pfu at 22:15 UTC on March 14. The greater than 10 MeV proton flux is expected to remain at S1 – Minor radiation levels today, and at a chance for an event on March 16. The 10 MeV proton flux is expected to be at background levels on March 17.

10,000 Dutch Farmers Protest Govt's Crippling Nitrogen Emissions Target In The Hague Protesters claim the Dutch government is lying about the extent of the emissions problem in order to grab privately owned land... Thousands of Dutch farmers protested on Saturday against the government’s policies to reduce nitrogen emissions, warning they will put farms out of business and affect food production. Hundreds of tractors from across the Netherlands could be seen driving to the event in The Hague ahead of regional elections this week, and more than 10,000 farmers were in attendance, according to the Reuters news agency.Protesters accused the Dutch government of forcing farmers off of privately owned land in order to appease Brussels, and carried banners reading “No farmers, no food” and “There is no nitrogen ‘problem.'”“We are fighting against a corrupt and unjust government,” Eva Vlaardingerbroek, a prominent campaigner in defense of the farmers, told attendees. She spoke of a government that “drives our farmers from their land” and which has “turned on its own population.”“For centuries, our farmers have produced food for millions of people worldwide. And instead of what those liars in The Hague claim, they have done so in a responsible and sustainable way.”“But our cabinet doesn’t care about nature. They have simply created a lie to steal our farmers’ land,” she added.Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s administration has vowed to take radical action to meet its ambitious target of halving the country’s nitrogen emissions by 2030, and has identified the country’s large agriculture sector as being the main culprit due to its large livestock count and use of fertilizers.

New autopsy reveals 26-year old environmental activist was sitting cross-legged with hands raised when killed by Georgia state troopers - According to a second autopsy performed on the body of the 26-year-old environmental activist who was shot dead in a hail of bullets unleashed by a large contingent of Georgia state troopers and police in January, Manuel Esteban Paez “Tortuguita” Terán was sitting cross-legged with hands raised while being killed. Terán was killed a little after 9 a.m. on January 18 while encamped in the South River Forest, just outside the southeast city limits of Atlanta, Georgia. Terán, along with other environmental activists, was camped out in the forest to protest against the massive militarized police training center the Atlanta city government wants to build to train its police in urban warfare. This forested area has been recognized by the city as crucial to the environmental well-being of the region, and its destruction will have a long-term negative impact upon Atlanta’s air quality. The police training facility, dubbed “Cop City” by activists opposed to this 85-acre project, has attracted international attention because of the brutal violence unleashed by both the Georgia state and Atlanta city governments against activists who have mounted a continuous series of protests since it was first approved by the city in September 2021. Terán was hit by around 13 bullets from both shotguns and handguns used by a heavily armed contingent of Atlanta police and Georgia state troopers during a “clearing operation” involving “multiple-agencies,” according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), to forcibly evict the group of peaceful protesters encamped in the forest. The new second autopsy confirms that the activist was indeed killed brutally, with the fatal bullet entering Terán’s brain through the right eye. It was performed by retired GBI medical examiner and forensic pathologist Kris Sperry at the request of the Belkis Terán and Joel Terán, Manuel’s mother and father.Jeff Filipovits, one of two attorneys of the law firm Spears and Filipovits representing the Terán family, explained the context within which Terán was killed. He said that the police had mounted an unprecedented crackdown upon peaceful protesters on January 18. The “police went into the forest that morning planning for violence which you can see in the city of Atlanta videos” said Filopovits. He further noted that no one had until then attacked any police officer during the months-long protests.He asked why 22 of the 23 protesters arrested in a subsequent raid on March 5 are languishing in jail on trumped-up “domestic terrorism”charges despite the fact that the police have not alleged any wrongdoing by any of these individuals. He said that local, city, county, state and even the federal government are in lockstep to use the massive power at their disposal to squash any and all opposition to the militarized police training center.

Bill Gates: Yes we will overshoot 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming - The world will not be able to avoid overshooting the goal established in the2015 Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-Industrial levels, according to Bill Gates. The billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder answered questions from Reddit users on Wednesday and a handful of the questions revolved around climate change. Gates made his fortune launching the software company Microsoft, but he has since launched the nuclear innovation company TerraPower and an investment firm, Breakthrough Energy, to back various climate change innovations, and has written a book about climate change, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster."The pace of innovation is really picking up even though we won't make the current timelines or avoid going over 1.5," Gates wrote in response to a question about how well the world is responding to climate change.Gates is hardly alone in his view. A report out at the end of October from the United Nations Environment Program found "no credible pathway to 1.5° Celsius in place."Gates also said bedraggled climate mitigation efforts will "slow down the progress we make on improving the human condition." He pointed out that in some parts of the world more than 10% of kids die before the age of five and more than 30% don't have enough to eat.Despite Gates' dour outlook, he also maintains some amount of optimism: "I still believe we can avoid a terrible outcome," he said. VIDEO10:37 Watch CNBC's full interview with Breakthrough Energy Founder Bill Gates. The advanced nuclear reactors TerraPower are building use liquid sodium as the coolant and uranium as a fuel source."We are making excellent progress," Gates said, while also acknowledging that the Ukraine war has thrown a wrench in TerraPower's plans because the reactors planned to operate with fuel coming from Russia and that relationship is no longer viable. TerraPower's first plant is slated for Wyoming and due to be online by 2030, Gates said. "This can make a huge contribution to climate challenges since it will be low cost and super safe," Gates wrote.

Renewables industry could address commodities squeeze with vertical integration: McKinsey -- The rapid growth of the renewable energy industry during a period of global supply chain disruptions is leading to shortages and price hikes of raw materials such as neodymium, used in wind turbines, and polysilicon, used in solar modules, says a February report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co.The industry can ease the impact of future price and material availability volatility with proactive moves like establishing vertical integration and partnering with suppliers, according to the report.Shortages of labor and machinery also need to be addressed, the report says – in particular, the lack of vessels equipped to install offshore wind turbines. That scarcity poses a “real threat” to the construction of the 20 offshore wind farms that have passed the final investment decision stage, the report says.McKinsey predicts that the commodity squeeze the wind and solar industries face will get tighter as a result of global decarbonization efforts, projecting a 50-60% shortage in 2030 of the rare earth metals neodymium and praseodymium — both used in wind turbines. The firm also points to Chinese production in 2020 of more than 79% of the global supply of polysilicon, and says factors like COVID caused the price of polysilicon to increase 350% between 2020 and June 2022.Jordy Lee, program manager of the Supply Chain Transparency Initiative at the Colorado School of Mines’ Payne Institute for Public Policy, said in a 2021 interview that the mismatch in minerals processing and refining between China and the U.S. is not as much due to a disparity in natural resources as it is due to differences in labor and environmental regulations, and China’s much larger number of trained metallurgists.“The U.S. has plenty of quartz, which is the initial material that is then made into polysilicon, and then into silicon solar cells,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, in a December interview. “The challenge in growing U.S. manufacturing has been much more an economic one.”

A government program hopes to find critical minerals right beneath our feet | Grist - In a remote and heavily forested region of northern Maine, a critical resource in the fight against climate change has been hiding beneath the trees. In November, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, announced the discovery of rocks that are rich in rare earth elements near Pennington Mountain. A category of metals that play an essential role in technologies ranging from smartphones to wind turbines to electric vehicle motors, rare earths are currently mined only at a single site in the United States. Now, researchers say a place that’s been geologically overlooked for decades could be sitting on the next big deposit of them — although a more thorough survey would be needed to confirm that.While the U.S. government frets over shortages of the metals and minerals needed to transition off fossil fuels, it also lacks the basic geological knowledge needed to say where many of those resources are. Less than 40 percent of the nation has been mapped in enough detail to support the discovery of new mineral deposits, hampering the Biden administration’s plan to boost domestic mining of energy transition metals like rare earths and lithium, an essential ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. But the administration and Congress are now attempting to fill the maps in, by ramping up funding for the USGS’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, or Earth MRI.A partnership between the federal government and state geological surveys, Earth MRI was established in 2019 with thegoal of improving America’s knowledge of its “critical mineral” resources, a list of dozens of minerals considered vital for energy, defense, and other sectors. The initiative was quietly humming along to the tune of about $11 million per year in funding until 2022, when Earth MRI received an additional influx of $320 million, spread out over five years, through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Since then, Earth MRI has kicked into overdrive, with the USGS launching dozens of new critical mineral-mapping efforts from Alaska to the Great Plains.The USGS will be hunting for minerals both in the ground and at abandoned mines, where there may be valuable metals sitting in piles of toxic waste. The deposits they identify could eventually be extracted by mining companies, though experts say lawmakers and regulators will need to carefully weigh the benefits of mining against its social and environmental costs.For now, says Earth MRI science coordinator Warren Day, the goal is to accomplish something that’s never been done before. “Nobody’s ever mapped all the critical minerals for the nation,” Day told Grist. “This is a huge undertaking.”

Company gets a bit closer to raising $1.1B it needs for mine - — A mining company that wants to extract a collection of rare elements from beneath southeast Nebraska raised funds Wednesday toward its goal of finding the $1.1 billion it needs to build the mine that has been in the works for decades.Shareholders of a special purpose acquisition company called GX Acquisition Corp. II overwhelmingly approved merging with NioCorp, a Centennial, Colorado-based mining company, according to a regulatory filing. About $15 million from the deal will go to NioCorp, the company said.The GXII deal involves one of the risky shell companies once popular on Wall Street beforemany fell out of favor and had to be liquidated before they ever completed a deal. The SPACs, as they are known, are essentially companies created solely to merge with another business to invest in it.NioCorp shareholders also approved an $81 million financing deal with Yorkville Advisors Global last week.But the mine the company hopes to build about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Omaha near the town of Elk Creek could get an even bigger boost later this year. The Export-Import Bank of the United States recently issued a formal "letter of interest" saying that NioCorp may qualify for up to $800 million in financing. If that comes through after the bank conducts a detailed review of the project, NioCorp would have enough cash to build the mine.First the project will have to undergo at least six to nine months of review by the bank. The letter from the Export-Import Bank is just a preliminary step, but it has NioCorp officials extremely optimistic.“It’s unbelievably exciting. Sleep is a little hard to come by for our team right now,” NioCorp CEO Mark Smith said. “We see what’s happening and this project is actually going to happen.” NioCorp has raised more than $80 million since 2013 to explore the site, but development of the project dates back to the 1970s when a different company first started drilling samples. The proposed mine is expected to create over 400 jobs if it is built.

US banks are sacrificing poor communities to the climate crisis | Ben Jealous and Bill McKibben -- The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank will bring many forms of fallout. One of the most obvious consequences is that the biggest banks – Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America – will probably get even bigger. That is why we’re joining protests across the United States outside hundreds of those banks’ branches on Tuesday, 21 March: if they’re going to hold that much power over the planet’s economy, we need them to recognize and help with our great crises. We need them not to do what they did last century, which is to ignore or exacerbate our deepest troubles. Beginning in the 1930s, the federal government mapped America, grading neighborhoods to decide which ones were worthy of investment, literally drawing red lines on maps to make it crystal clear. Many mainly Black and brown neighborhoods ended up with low grades, and most US banks made sure money didn’t flow in their direction. Nearly a century later, these neighborhoods still suffer. Lacking trees and parks, they are degrees warmer than nearby leafy communities. Their residents are condemned to a myriad of health issues, from asthma to kidney stones. Beginning in the 1970s, US banks pledged to do better, though several have been forced to pay fines in recent years for continued discriminatory lending practices. Those practices persist today – they’re just less obvious. The four biggest banks in America are the four biggest financiers of fossil fuel expansion in the world. These banks didn’t need Donald Trump’s help to sabotage the Paris climate accord: since 2015, they have provided well over $1tn in lending and underwriting to the companies building new coal plants, pipelines, fracking wells, gas export terminals and more. This polluting infrastructure is designed to last decades – long past the point at which science tells us we need to wean off fossil fuels. We can’t shut off all oil and gas overnight, but we can, and must, call on these banks to keep it from expanding, to move money out of dirty energy projects and finance more clean energy instead. It’s entirely clear who is hit the hardest by the impacts of the climate crisis. Both in the US and around the world, the poorest and most vulnerable people disproportionately suffer the effects of a warming planet, despite having done the least to cause it. The carbon pollution these four US banks pour into the air via their fossil fuel financing is, in effect, redlining US cities and the world. The pollution affects low-lying Asian deltas in Bangladesh and Vietnam, and drought-afflicted African nations like Sudan. It ensures high asthma rates around Gulf coast refineries and unprecedented floods in places like Pakistan. Global temperature rise is systematically reducing the number of places where humans can thrive. For US banks, the people in these places apparently aren’t worth worrying about, just as their predecessor banks didn’t care about inner-city communities. Make no mistake, banks play a huge role in this process. New data published last year shows that for many companies and individuals, cash stored in banks is their single biggest source of carbon emissions. That’s because banks use people’s money to provide loans to fossil fuel companies to expand. For companies like Google, Apple or Netflix, their cash can produce more carbon pollution than any of their own business activities.

Corporations are using Trade Treaties to handcuff Efforts to save the Planet from Climate Emergency– The global economy hit a new milestone in 2022 bysurpassing $100 trillion. This expansion, which has experienced only the occasional setback such as the 2020 COVID shutdowns, has been accelerated by trade. The world trade volume experienced 4,300 percent growth from 1950 to 2021, an average 4 percent increase every year. This linked growth of the global economy and international trade took off in the 1980s as governments embraced the project of globalization, which prioritized the reduction of barriers to trade such as tariffs. The mechanism by which globalization spread throughout the world, the key strand of its DNA, has been the “free trade” treaty.“We’ve had 30 years of free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties,” points out Luciana Ghiotto, a researcher at CONICET-Argentina and associate researcher with the Transnational Institute. “They’ve created this enormous legal architecture, what one friend of ours calls the ‘corporate architecture of impunity,’ which has spread like grass and gives legal security and certainty to capital. It has nothing to do with the protection of human rights or environmental rights.”Indeed, among the many problems associated with the expansion of world trade has been environmental degradation in the form of land, air, and water pollution. More recently, however, attention has turned to the more specific problem of carbon emissions, which are largely responsible for climate change. According to the World Trade Organization, the production and transport of goods for export and import account for 20-30 percent of global carbon emissions.Embedded in many of the treaties governing trade and investment are clauses that give corporations the right to sue governments over regulations, particularly those addressing the environment and climate change, that adversely affect the expected profit margins of those businesses. These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions have a “chilling effect on the regulatory system because governments, worried that they will be sued, decide to delay reforms related to climate change,” points out Manuel Perez Rocha, an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. “There have been several cases around the world where companies were able to defeat regulatory changes that favor the climate.”Trade rules that privilege corporations over the environment are particularly influential in the realm of agriculture, which is an extractive industry no less powerful than mining. “The global system of trade and investment contributes to the monopoly control by just a few transnational corporations over fossil-fuel-guzzling agrobusiness, whose products are often transported thousands of miles before they reach a dinner table,” relates Jen Moore, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. “At the same time. the system has been decisive in making the lives of millions of small-scale farmers more precarious, undermining their role as a better alternative to mass monoculture operations.” Carbon emissions are not the only byproduct of the agrobusiness that global trade sustains. “There’s also methane emissions,” adds Karen Hansen-Kuhn, program director at the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy. “A lot of methane comes from meat production. Nitrous oxide, which is 265 times more potent than carbon and stays in the atmosphere over 100 years, results from chemical fertilizers.”

Feds pass climate ball to locals, find pass interference - Over the last two years, President Joe Biden and Congress have made it official: America’s weapons against climate change will be carrots rather than sticks. It has been more than 30 years, six presidents and 17 sessions of Congress since the United States signed the first international climate agreement, but the federal government hasn’t been able to keep the commitments in that or the 2015 Paris climate accord. So, Biden and narrow majorities in Congress have passed the buck — trillions of bucks, in fact — to state and local governments, businesses and households. Significant portions of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, the $2.4 trillion inflation Reduction Act of 2022, as well as the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief package of 2020 provide incentives for the American people to drive the nation’s transition to clean energy.Unfortunately, an organized movement is reportedly spreading disinformation to keep that from happening. From 2015 to 2021, nearly 300 local governments reportedly banned or limited wind and solar development in their jurisdictions. Unfortunately, they based many of their decisions on half-truths fed to them by unreliable sources. An enterprising independent journalist, Michael Thomas, took a deep dive into this. Thomas identified and followed about 40 groups.Writer and podcaster David Roberts summed up what Thomas found, that“across the country and the internet, there are hundreds of conservative think tanks, groups and individuals working to stir up community opposition to renewable energy with misinformation and lies. With virtually no public scrutiny, they have secured state-level policies restricting renewable energy siting in dozens of states.” Among the most common half-truths and fabrications are that wind and solar technologies cause cancer (they don’t), significantly lower nearby property values (not true), take land out of food production (not necessarily), waste good pasture (check out this map and these sheep), and kill birds (a half-truth. Collisions with wind turbines account for only 0.01 percent of bird fatalities due to human causes. Domestic cats kill 72 percent). The real problem with energy production today is the “forever legacy” of fossil fuels. In addition to climate change, it includes:

  • Lung diseases: 40 percent of Americans — more than 137 million Americans — live in places where power plants and vehicle pollution creates unhealthy levels of pollution — and this pollution causes cancer and other lung diseases. More than 17 million Americans live within a half-mile “threat radius” of carcinogenic emissions from oil and gas facilities. There were nearly 2,600 incidents of significant gas leaks in the U.S. between 2010 and 2021.
  • Water contamination: 90 percent of the 240 active coal-fired power plants in the U.S. store ash wastes in landfills that can contaminate groundwater with arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other metals. Runoff containing oil from streets and vehicles is the principal source of oil pollution in North American ocean waters. The problem is up to 20 times greater than 20 years ago.
  • Threats to public safety: Gas pipelines exploded 680 times from 2010 to 2021. They killed 260 people, hospitalized 1,100 and caused more than $11 billion in damages. Gas explosions in populated areas have wiped entire neighborhoods off the map.
  • Price volatility: The average gas price in the U.S. broke the $5 barrier last June because of the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 epidemic, proving how vulnerable our oil-based economy is to events we don’t control.
  • Above the law: The oil industry has not only avoided punishment; the government rewards it every year with more than $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies. With cover-ups and disinformation, the industry has kept enriching itself with products that cause irreversible worldwide damage to the climate, human health and civilization’s future. Now, it seems the industry is employing the same tactics at the local level. Among its many other benefits, renewable energy will liberate us from doing business with the carbon cartel.

Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Threatens Climate Start-Ups - The New York Times - As the fallout of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank continued to spread over the weekend, it became clear that some of the worst casualties were companies developing solutions for the climate crisis. The bank, the largest to fail since 2008, worked with more than 1,550 technology firms that are creating solar, hydrogen and battery storage projects. According to its website, the bank issued them billions in loans. “Silicon Valley Bank was in many ways a climate bank,” said Kiran Bhatraju, chief executive of Arcadia, the largest community solar manager in the country. “When you have the majority of the market banking through one institution, there’s going to be a lot of collateral damage.” Community solar projects appear to be especially hard hit. Silicon Valley Bank said that it led or participated in 62 percent of financing deals for community solar projects, which are smaller-scale solar projects that often serve lower-income residential areas. The devastation comes at a critical moment for a nascent industry that is central to the effort to cut the greenhouse gases dangerously heating the planet. The federal government depends on climate tech companies to develop the innovations needed, and has promised billions in tax breaks to help them grow and mature. “If the flywheel of financing for early-stage climate innovation stops during these critical years, that’s going to be a big problem,” said Daniel Firger, founder of Great Circle Capital Advisors, which consults on sustainable finance issues. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank threatens to derail what was a fast and growing part of the venture capital sector. More than $28 billion was invested in climate technology start-ups last year, up sharply from the year before, according to HolonIQ, a data provider.

Solar companies offer reassurance after renewables financier Silicon Valley Bank collapses -The shutdown of Silicon Valley Bank by California regulators over the weekend has led to logistical questions about the fate of the renewables startups and projects it financed – particularly residential and community solar. The federal government acted to fully protect the bank’s depositors and provide access to their funds by Monday, but SVB’s collapse means that companies that used the bank to finance projects will have to secure funding elsewhere. Several solar companies said that they either had little exposure to SVB or were satisfied by the government’s promises to make them whole, but CEO Kiran Bhatraju of Arcadia – the largest domestic manager of community solar – said the bank’s collapse will “have an impact on the broader industry.” Bhatraju said in a comment that SVB was a “trusted partner” for climate tech companies and provided construction, long-term and short-term debt to nearly 60% of the community solar industry. “Of course other financiers will fill the gap because these are some of the best infrastructure projects in America, but pipelines will be in flux for some time as those new relationships get sorted out and due diligence processes get underway,” he said. Arcadia “moved quickly” and removed most of its funds from SVB, Bhatraju said. Solar power system provider Sunrun’s CEO Mary Powell said in a comment that the company had less than $80 million in deposits at SVB and was “pleased” that the government had acted to ensure its access to them. “Sunrun has long-standing banking relationships with a large number of financial institutions, and we remain confident in our ability to replace SVB's undrawn commitments,” she said. SVB is also a lender in Sunrun’s “parent $600 million recourse credit facility,” the company said in a statement to investors, and represents less than 15% of the company’s interest rate hedging facilities. Still, Sunrun doesn’t expect “material exposure” as a result. Community solar company Nautilus Solar Energy said in a comment that it is not affected by the bank’s collapse, but extended support to “those in our industry negatively impacted.” Residential solar company Sunnova said its exposure was immaterial and limited to the bank being a lender to one of its warehouse facilities. Pavel Molchanov, a renewable energy research analyst at Raymond James, said in an email he believes the banking industry’s “strong appetite” for solar and other renewable energy projects because of the “low risk involved” will ensure that other lenders step in to fill SVB’s role in the market. “The more substantive issue for project developers in recent months has been the cost of capital, which of course has risen along with higher benchmark interest rates,” Molchanov said. “Plenty of cash is available, just at a higher cost.”

Congress braces for flare-up over Biden's solar panel move --Senate Democrats are preparing to rehash a fight over solar panel tariffs they thought they had won last summer, when President Biden used his executive power to suspend tariffs on solar parts from Southeast Asia. Last summer's showdown between solar panel importers and domestic producers pitted Democrats against each other and nearly froze solar panel projects across the country.A bipartisan push in the House to use the Congressional Review Act to undo Biden's solar decision is threatening to reopen the wound. A veto-proof CRA vote in both chambers would overrule Biden's decision and potentially prevent the president from achieving some of the climate goals he envisioned in his Inflation Reduction Act. : Republicans have successfully used the Congressional Review Act to drive a wedge among Democrats and notch symbolic wins on so-called ESG investing and crime.During last Tuesday's closed-door caucus meeting, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) implored her colleagues to oppose a Senate CRA resolution, which has eight Republican co-sponsors.She followed up with a memo to Senate Democratic offices, warning that the "misguided resolution could have a devastating impact on American solar jobs and hamper efforts to transition to renewable energy under the Inflation Reduction Act." "Biden’s two-year pause was a prudent compromise to allow a transition period to ramp up U.S. manufacturing," the memo argued. “We believe most lawmakers want to protect American jobs, reduce air pollution and fuel the U.S. economy,” said Abby Hopper, president and CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association. "Passing the CRA will severely limit opportunities for those positive outcomes." Companies are facing the possibility of some $1 billion in retroactive fines if Biden's order is nullified, SEIA has estimated.

Do Solar Farms Lower Property Values? A New Study Has Some Answers - A new study finds that houses within a half-mile of a utility-scale solar farm have resale prices that are, on average, 1.5 percent less than houses that are just a little farther away. The research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory helps to refute some of the assertions of solar opponents who stoke resistance to projects with talk of huge drops in property values. But it also drives a hole through the argument made by people in the solar industry who say there is no clear connection between solar and a drop in values. The authors analyzed 1.8 million home sales near solar farms in six states and found diminished property values in Minnesota (4 percent), North Carolina (5.8 percent) and New Jersey (5.6 percent). The three other states—California, Connecticut and Massachusetts—had price changes that were within their margins of error, which means the price effects were too close to zero to be meaningful. The paper was published in the journal Energy Policy.The authors accounted for differences in property features, inflation and other factors in order to isolate the effect of proximity to solar.Ben Hoen, a co-author and research scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley lab, said the numbers are clear but additional research is needed to understand what’s happening on the local level to lead to these price effects. “We have a sense of the ‘what,’ but we don’t know the ‘why,’” he said. For example, he doesn’t have a thorough explanation for why the price differences are higher in some states than others.The researchers chose this group of states because they were, except for Connecticut, the top five in the country for the number of solar installations of at least 1 megawatt as of 2019. They included Connecticut because it is an example of a state with a high population density near solar projects. Hoen emphasized that the results show a period in time, with transactions that occurred from 2003 to 2020, and may not reflect prices right now. Also, he noted that the paper’s analysis doesn’t take into account any of the financial benefits of solar for landowners and communities, which may include payments from the developer and a decrease in local taxes. The study is being released at a time of rapid expansion in the number and size of solar projects, which is a key part of the country’s push to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. The scale of growth in solar development has been met with an intensifying resistance in local communities where some people argue that the projects are ugly and pose a threat to property values and human health. Solar opponents amplify these concerns on social media. Of all the arguments against solar, the idea that it will hurt property values has been among the most potent, based on prior reporting by Inside Climate News about the local debates. At public hearings and in comments filed with regulators, some residents talk about how they fear reductions of 40 percent or more.

Apple is quietly changing we charge iPhones. Other devices may be next - Apple is getting a lot of flak for setting up iPhones to charge when the sun shines or the wind blows. The feature, called “Clean Energy Charging,” incited a tiny but vehement Twitter rebellion as critics, many of them right-wing personalities, slammed it as yet another “woke” front in the culture war. Others worried they would wake up to a depleted battery if their iPhones charged mostly when the grid is cleanest. All of this misses the quiet revolution this feature represents for you and the electricity grid. When it rolled out its new operating system in October, Apple proved overnight that millions of ordinary people will use their devices to help manage the electricity grid, even if the vast majority of Apple’s 118 million iPhone users in the United States never realized it.And that’s precisely the point. As America tries to electrify everything while adding gigawatts of new renewables, we need a way to dial down demand at critical times and soak up excess renewable energy at others. And we need to do this automatically.Apple’s clean energy feature is a preview of how we’ll do it. Eventually, this flexibility means the U.S. grid can lower emissions and energy prices — while rewarding people to enlist their devices in the intelligent grid.Should you keep the iPhone feature on? Your call. But here’s what it means for you — and a clean energy future.

Farmers, gas stations sue Gov. Tim Walz over Minnesota 'clean car' rule - Though they have yet to take effect, Minnesota's "clean cars" standards to limit climate pollution from tailpipes are under legal assault. A coalition of soybean farmers, gas stations, convenience stores and ethanol industry players has sued Gov. Tim Walz and state pollution regulators in federal court saying the requirements violate federal law and will damage their business. Minnesota can't regulate vehicle fuel economy beyond federal standards, even if California was granted a federal waiver to do so, the plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota. They claim Minnesota's more stringent emissions standards will significantly cut demand for liquid fuel and hurt gas stations, along with the state's significant ethanol and biodiesel industries. Plaintiffs include the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, an ethanol advocacy group in Maryland; the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association; the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association; the National Association of Convenience Stores; and Kansas-based ICM Inc., which has designed, built or maintains many of Minnesota's ethanol plants. Defendants include Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and the agency's top officials. In an interview, Bob Worth, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, said he's concerned the state standards will lead to other actions that shrink biodiesel demand. While most ethanol is corn-based, soybean oil goes into biodiesel fuel. Minnesota mandates blending diesel fuel with biodiesel, a requirement that increases the price of a bushel of Minnesota soybeans by $1.50, he said. Any drop in demand could be devastating, he said. "We're really concerned about this whole situation," Worth said. "It's about profitability." Asked about the dire need to cut climate pollution, Worth said biodiesel is a clean fuel that addresses that. "We started biodiesel 20 years ago for this reason, to stop the emissions," Worth said. According to Worth, Minnesota's biodiesel mandate cuts tailpipe emissions equivalent to the output of 245,000 cars per year.

Biden admin unleashes $2.5B for EV charger network - The Biden administration on Tuesday announced $2.5 billion in funding to extend the coast-to-coast network of electric vehicle chargers from highways to cities, towns and rural areas.The Charging and Fueling Infrastructure discretionary grant program will complement the $5 billion in funding announced last year to put EV chargers every 50 miles along interstate highways by filling in gaps and putting charging ports in the places where Americans live and work.It’s the second tranche of money from the bipartisan infrastructure law dedicated to achieving President Joe Biden’s goal of building an American-made network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030. The network is the centerpiece of the administration’s effort to stimulate EV adoption as it looks to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and slash greenhouse gas emissions.“By helping bring EV charging to communities across the country, this administration is modernizing our infrastructure and creating good jobs in the process,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “With today’s announcement, we are taking another big step forward in creating an EV future that is convenient, affordable, reliable and accessible to all Americans.”Grants will be distributed over the next five years to state transportation agencies, local governments, Native American tribes and U.S. territories, with a focus on helping underserved and disadvantaged communities.The administration will release $700 million in the first round.Half of the funds will go toward putting infrastructure for electric, hydrogen, propane and natural gas fueling in places such as parking lots, shopping hubs, schools and parks. The other half will put fueling stations along designated “alternative fuel corridors,” helping to bridge gaps on highly traveled routes.“Extending EV charging infrastructure into traditionally underserved areas will ensure that equitable and widespread EV adoption takes hold,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “Ensuring that charging stations are more visible and accessible in our communities addresses the concerns many American drivers have when considering making the switch to electric.”

N.H. welcomes ‘advanced recycling’ of plastics --It looked like a potential boon for New Hampshire’s North Country: a start-up company, Prima America Corp., that aimed to convert plastics into diesel fuel. In 2020, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., talked up the Groveton plant’s potential on a tour of the facility with a television news team. A company representative said the plan was to bring in enough plastic from throughout the region to produce thousands of gallons of sulfur-free diesel fuel a week. But three years later, Prima America is still in what Richard Perry, a company manager, calls “the test phase.” While they can make fuel, he said, “we’re still trying to refine it for diesel engines and to make it a lot cheaper. It’s so expensive right now it wouldn’t be economical.” At the same time, the company has a history of non-compliance with state environmental regulatory rules. For example, an inspection of above-ground petroleum storage tanks at the facility found numerous deficiencies, and in at least one year, the company failed to file the required emissions report on time, according to state Department of Environmental Services records. Skeptics of the chemical conversion of plastic waste point to Prima America’s rocky start as an example of why New Hampshire ought to be more cautious about welcoming so-called “advanced recycling” facilities into the state. The relatively new practice generates hazardous waste and air pollutants, and remains unproven at scale, critics say. Last year, at the behest of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association, New Hampshire became the only state in New England to classify so-called “advanced recycling” facilities for plastics as manufacturing operations, rather than as more tightly regulated solid waste management operations. Connecticut and Rhode Island rejected similar proposals.

Extreme weather events are expanding — the US power grid is not --A Michigan utility recently pledged to strengthen its grid after an ice storm shut off the lights for hundreds of thousands in a days-long outage. In late 2022, grid operators in the Mid-Atlantic and South asked residents to conserve power, and some even conducted rolling blackouts because of the harsh weather. And, perhaps most egregious of all, a deadly winter storm wreaked absolute havoc on the Texas power grid in February 2021.It’s undeniable: extreme weather is increasing in frequency and intensity, and the U.S. power grid remains ill-equipped to handle it.Extreme weather — hot and cold — has tested every source of electricity generation the last several years, leading to unexpected plant outages. But there was a lesson to learn during Winter Storm Uri: grid operators with strong connections to neighboring regions were able to keep their lights on, and Texas, with its isolated grid, could not provide heat or electricity for millions over a days-long outage.Why? States in the Great Plains and Midwest imported power from unaffected regions through interregional transmission lines, while the Texas grid operator was forced to institute rolling blackouts across its system. During the storm, the grid operators in those regions were able to import more than 15 times as much electricity as the Texas grid operator.This helped keep the lights on for thousands of homes and delivered significant cost savings for electricity customers in those states. The Lone Star State could have saved nearly $1 billion and powered 200,000 homes with just one additional gigawatt of transmission capacity between Texas and the Southeast, according to an analysis we produced with Grid Strategies. Moreover, consumers in the Great Plains and Gulf Coast each could have saved roughly $100 million for each additional GW of transmission ties.Additional transmission capacity would have also protected consumers from rolling blackouts and surging power prices during the recent Winter Storm Elliott, allowing regions to import and export more power as the storm traveled across the country. Recent research found expanding interregional transmission capacity by a GW between various pairs of systems could have delivered anywhere from $6 million to $95 million in benefits.

rPlus Hydro’s 1,000-Megawatt White Pine Pumped Storage Project Files its Final License Application with FERC - For the second time since the beginning of 2023, rPlus Hydro, LLLP (rPlus Hydro), a national leader in the development of large-scale pumped hydroelectric energy storage projects, has announced the submission of a Final License Application (also referred to as a License for Major Unconstructed Project) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)—this time for its 1,000-megawatt (MW) White Pine Pumped Storage project located in White Pine County, Nevada. White Pine Pumped Storage is expected to be Nevada’s first pumped storage project, providing 8 hours of energy storage at its full output of 1,000 MW, which is equivalent to about an eighth of Nevada’s peak power demand on a hot summer day. “White Pine is located at an important crossroads of existing, planned, and proposed electric transmission in Nevada,” states Matthew Shapiro, rPlus Hydro CEO. “From this location, the project would help the state meet peak power needs in its northern and southern load areas, and help stabilize the grid, while making the most effective use of renewable energy sources. With planned third-party transmission build-outs, the White Pine project will sit at the intersection of regional energy markets. It’s hard to imagine a more strategic location for this project.” White Pine Pumped Storage expects to bring substantial economic benefits to the local community and will serve as an essential component of the region’s modernized and reliable energy infrastructure. The project represents more than a $2.5 billion investment in Nevada’s energy infrastructure and will support Nevada’s move towards the clean energy goals adopted by its legislators and approved by its voters.

To protect downwind states from smog, EPA cracks down on coal power pollution --On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA,finalized a regulation that will cut smog-causing air pollution from coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities. The new “Good Neighbor” rule requires 23 states to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions blowing across state boundaries. The air pollutants — which form ozone, the main ingredient in smog — can travel downwind into neighboring states, harming the health of communities miles away. The EPA estimates the rule will halve nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants by 2027, compared to peak 2021 levels. And that cleaner air will lead to major public health improvements. According to the EPA, the new rule will prevent approximately 1,300 premature deaths, 2,300 hospital and emergency room visits, and 1.3 million cases of asthma in 2026 alone. Ozone is one of the most widespread air pollutants in the U.S. Research has found that ozone raises the risk of premature deathand can be particularly dangerous to children, older adults, and people with asthma and other chronic conditions. Asthma attacks and other health effects from ozone can drive people to the emergency room and take them away from schools and jobs. Paul Billings, national senior vice president of public policy for the American Lung Association, describes ozone’s health effectsas “a sunburn of the lungs.” Ozone can cause even healthy adults working or moving outdoors to wheeze, cough, and experience shortness of breath. During peak ozone season, from March to November, people across the country experience its harms. Ozone pollution particularly impacts those who live close to a major polluting source, disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color.“We know this harmful pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Wednesday. “Today’s action will help our state partners meet stronger air quality health standards beyond borders, saving lives and improving public health in impacted communities across the United States.”

Fed EPA Issues Onerous New Rule/Tax on PA/OH/WV Power Plants | Marcellus Drilling News --Once again, the Biden administration is attacking the fossil fuel industry. This time it is via one of its favorite blunt force instruments: the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Yesterday the EPA released what it calls its final “Good Neighbor Plan” that forces gas- (and coal-) fired power plants to further reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. It’s either reduce NOx by installing really expensive new equipment, shut the plant down, or option #3…pay an indulgence (tax) to keep sinning (polluting) by purchasing an “offset.” Liberals are so predictable.

Xcel: Radioactive water leaked in November at Monticello nuclear plant | MPR News - Water containing tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, leaked out of Xcel Energy's nuclear power plant in Monticello, Minn. in November, state officials said Thursday. Xcel reported that about 400,000 gallons of the tritiated water leaked from a water pipe between two buildings. State officials said the tritium was found during routine checks of ground water. “The leak has been stopped and has not reached the Mississippi River or contaminated drinking water sources. There is no evidence at this time to indicate a risk to any drinking water wells in the vicinity of the plant,” the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said in a statement. Xcel reported the leak to government regulators on Nov. 22, the day it was confirmed, but Xcel Energy Regional President Chris Clark said it's unclear when the problem began. "As we do a full root cause analysis, we'll have a better understanding of whether that was a few days, a few weeks, a month. But we just don't know that at this point," Clark said. Clark said workers have pumped about 25 percent of the tritiated water out of the ground and are treating it on site. He said it’ll take about a year to remove the rest. The steel pipe that leaked is about four inches in diameter and carries condensate water away from the steam turbine that drives the plant’s generators. Pat Flowers, Xcel’s manager of environmental services said the damaged pipe was in an inaccessible spot. “The leak took place in that tiny little space and it wasn’t really visible until you drilled a hole through two feet of concrete to get to it to physically see what was leaking,” Flowers said. Xcel will analyze the pipe to try to find out what caused it to break, Flowers said. "In order to really understand what happened to this pipe, we're going to have to take out several feet of concrete around the pipe so that we can get access to it,” Flowers said. “That's not going to happen until our [routine refueling] outage that starts here in mid-April, and we've got plans in April to remove that pipe so we can do the metallurgy, we can repair it, and we can also understand what took place, what caused the failure."

Regulators: Nuclear plant leak didn't require public notice - Minnesota regulators knew four months ago that radioactive waste had leaked from a nuclear power plant in Monticello — but they didn’t announce anything about the leak until this week.The delay in notifying the public about the November leak raised questions about public safety and transparency, but industry experts said Friday there was never a public health threat. They said Xcel Energy voluntarily notified state agencies and reported the leak of tritium to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission soon after it was confirmed and that the leak of 400,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of radioactive water never reached a threshold that would have required public notification.“This is something that we struggle with because there is such concern with anything that is nuclear,” said Victoria Mitlyng, a spokesperson with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The concern is very, very understandable. That is why I want to make extra clear the fact that the public in Minnesota, the people, the community near the plant, was not and is not in danger.”State officials said that while they knew of the leak in November, they waited to get more information before making a public announcement.“We knew there was a presence of tritium in one monitoring well, however Xcel had not yet identified the source of the leak and its location,” Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesperson Michael Rafferty said Thursday. “Now that we have all the information about where the leak occurred, how much was released into groundwater and that contaminated groundwater had moved beyond the original location, we are sharing this information."Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that occurs naturally in the environment and is a common by-product of nuclear plant operations. It emits a weak form of beta radiation that does not travel very far and cannot penetrate human skin, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said a health risk would only occur if people consumed fairly high amounts of tritium. That risk is contained if the plume stays on the company’s site, which Xcel Energy and Minnesota officials said is the case.

Media can hear secret recordings in ComEd trial for alleged bribery of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan: judge - -- In a state already infamous for its high-profile corruption trials, this may be, according to some analysts, the "trial to beat all trials," which could disclose exactly how Illinois' political system operated under the once all-powerful former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. Day one of what has become known as the "ComEd Four" corruption trial began Tuesday with jury selection and U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruling that he will allow undercover federal recordings to be released to the public. The recordings allegedly implicate the defendants with scheming to bribe Madigan. "It will reveal how Mike Madigan operated, how Illinois politics operated, and answer the big question on as to whether or not what he did and how he operated was corrupt and illegal," said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington. Mike Madigan charged with crimes usually associated with Chicago mob The ComEd Four are former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd Lobbyist and longtime Madigan friend Mike McClain, former ComEd executive John Hooker and former ComEd consultant and City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty. In a deferred prosecution agreement signed two and a half years ago, ComEd accepted responsibility for the charges against it and its former officers and agreed to pay a $200 million fine. "This could be the trial to beat all trials. This could be a trial and we'll look back and see it's one of the trials of the decade," Washington said. The trial began two years after the four were indicted on charges that accuse them of trying to bribe Madigan, from 2011 to 2019, in order to further legislation that was favorable to the utility company, which allegedly arranged no-show jobs, contracts and monetary payments to the former House speaker's associates. Madigan, whose own racketeering trial is set to begin next year, was repeatedly referenced throughout the indictment as "Public Official A." Former IL House speaker Michael Madigan indicted on racketeering, bribery, more

Lorain County Auditor continues to fight Nexus Pipeline settlement - In a controversial move, Lorain County Auditor Craig Snodgrass is appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court to challenge its most recent and final decision against the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals regarding the valuation of the Nexus Pipeline system.“After lengthy consideration and input from multiple stakeholders in Lorain County and throughout the state of Ohio, I have decided to file an appeal,” Snodgrass wrote in a news release issued March 13.Nexus Gas Transmission (NEXUS) is an approximately 256-mile, 36-inch pipeline through 12 Ohio counties and into a portion of Michigan, the company’s website stated Lorain County Commissioner Michelle Hung stated in a news release March 13 that she supports the legal move. “I don’t see a downside to taking it to the Supreme Court to let them make the rule on this matter,” Hung stated. “The value was $1.6 billion and the tax commissioner has settled on a value of $950 million what leaves a shortfall to Lorain County of approximately $4 million per year, every year.“It’s not a one-time loss. It will be our schools and our children (who) suffer the effects of a shortfall. The residents don’t have high priced lobbyists working for them, and they look to their elected officials to make sure this is a good deal for the schools and our children’s future.“I am not ok with the schools losing money, and the possibility of the residents, being asked yet again for a levy to support the schools because corporate business isn’t paying their fair share.”The higher the value of the gas line, the more money schools and other government agencies receive in funding from tax money collected in those areas where the gas line operates.The two sides worked out a settlement agreement valuing the pipeline at $950 million for tax year 2019, $946 million in tax year 2020; $934 million in tax year 2021 and the estimated value of $901 million for 2022.

Auditor takes Nexus tax appeal to Ohio Supreme Court - orain County Auditor Craig Snodgrass is taking his legal dispute with the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals, Ohio Tax Commissioner and owners of the Nexus pipeline to the next level: The Ohio Supreme Court. The fight is over whether Nexus should pay the share of property taxes it promised to Lorain County entities when its backers first proposed building the natural gas pipeline. Snodgrass estimates the pipeline will underpay the Ohio counties along its route $600 million over the next 30 years. Lorain County was promised $7.3 million in taxes the first year Nexus was in operation, but received less than half that in back taxes under a settlement between state tax officials and Nexus owners. Under the deal, the multimillion-dollar corporations would pay taxes on only 58 percent of the Nexus property tax valuation. "After lengthy consideration and input from multiple stakeholders in Lorain County and throughout the state of Ohio, I have decided to file an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court to challenge the final decision and order of the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals relating to the valuation and assessment of the Nexus pipeline system for tax years 2019, 2020, and 2021," Snodgrass announced in a news release Monday. "I have made this important decision because I believe that an appeal would be in the best interests of Lorain County and the political subdivisions in Lorain County, and would be in the best interests of county auditors throughout the State of Ohio," he wrote. Snodgrass has said Nexus is not paying enough and has shorted the Lorain County JVS, Firelands, Keystone, Midview and Oberlin school districts; Lorain County Public Health; the Wellington Fire District; the Central Lorain County Ambulance District; Kipton and several Lorain County townships of promised tax revenue. The disputed tax value also will affect Columbiana, Erie, Fulton, Henry, Huron, Lucas, Medina, Sandusky, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties. In his statement, Snodgrass wrote that Ohio legislators "expressly provided county auditors with the statutory right to appeal any final determination made by the Tax Commissioner relating to the 'true value' of public utility personal property. This statutory right was granted because county auditors are in a position to provide an important check on the Tax Commissioner's rulings." A BTA decision, a 2-0 vote made Feb. 9, strips Snodgrass of his legal right to appeal and challenge the value of the pipeline from 2019-2021 "and every year thereafter," he said. That will cost Lorain County and political subdivisions within $15.7 million for the last four tax years, 2019-2022 "and significantly more in personal property tax revenue thereafter," Snodgrass said Monday. An appeal also saves his office and other county auditors the "time and expense of intervening in all future personal property tax proceedings filed with the Board of Tax Appeals in order to protect their statutory rights, even if they agree with the Tax Commissioner's determination," he said.

Officials plead with Lorain County Commission to stop Auditor's appeal of Nexus funding - Multiple elected officials are urging Lorain County commissioners to stop the county auditor’s appeal of the Nexus Gas Pipeline funding to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals. “Please consider accepting the decision of the Tax Commissioner of Ohio to deny the appeal filed by the Lorain County Auditor of the Nexus Gas Pipeline Tax Valuation Settlement and urge your auditor to not pursue a further appeal,” wrote Ted Kastor who serves as both the vice president of Perkins Schools Board of Education as well as sits on the sits on the Erie County Economic Development Corp., in a letter March. 4. Lorain County Commissioner Jeff Riddell released multiple letters and issued his statement March 14 against Auditor Craig Snodgrass filing an appeal March 13 to the Ohio Supreme Court which holds the settlement money in an escrow account that can’t be spent by the school districts. “The uncertainty of a further appeal will continue to have a negative financial impact on the schools,” Kastor wrote. “In Erie County, three school districts have new facility projects totaling over $200 million that will be impacted by a further appeal.” Kastor addressed Midview Schools’ leadership team in an email which also was sent to the commissioners. Also two weeks before Snodgrass’ deadline of March 13 to file the appeal, Rick Jeffrey, the Erie County Auditor also penned a letter opposing the appeal. Jeffrey wrote on his behalf as well as that of auditors in Stark and Wayne counties, according to the document. The auditors asked the commissioners to “reach out to your counterparts in the Lorain County schools listed at the bottom of this email string, using the talking points we have put together to attempt to convince them to reach out to Auditor Craig Snodgrass and encourage him to walk away from this issue,” according to the document. “There is a tremendous risk in the time element,” according to a letter from Stark County Auditor Alan Harold. “Every year that goes by, has the potential to increase the refund by the school district to Nexus.“For many districts, including those in Lorain County, this could be millions of dollars that need to be repaid. Districts need certainty.” Harold urged Lorain County commissioners to reach out to each of the school districts he listed to fully understand the impact of the decision to appeal the Nexus agreement, the document stated. Mike O-Keefe, president of the Firelands Local Schools district, who is listed on Harold’s letter, said Snodgrass is simply “doing his due diligence.”

Scientists Sound Alarm on Fracking Near Muskingum OH Watershed - The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District is drawing ire for its continued leasing of land for fracking. Last year, the district, which stewards more than 56,000 acres of land, completed negotiations for an oil and gas leasefor nearly 7,300 acres, the largest land lease to date on conservancy property. The five-year contract includes the drilling of at least fifteen wells.Randi Pokladnik, an environmental scientist and member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, explains fracking comes with a host of air and water pollution risks, including the release of thousands of chemicals, which can end up in groundwater."You've got an industry that is basically, because of the Halliburton loophole, unregulated," Pokladnik pointed out. "So they don't have to disclose certain chemicals that they put in the frack fluid, because it's quote, unquote, private, and it's patented. So people don't even know for sure what's in that fluid."The conservancy district argued revenues from leasing allow it to upgrade watershed facilities and campgrounds. Since 2011 Ohio has allowed companies to lease state land for oil and gas drilling. Earlier this year, Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 507 into law, which makes it easier to approve licenses for companies seeking to extract natural resources from state lands.James O'Reilly, volunteer professor in the department of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said conservancy districts were originally created to protect natural resources and the residents who depend on them. "But in this case the Conservancy District is being used to remove a valuable resource without giving due consideration to the health of the public that is impacted," O'Reilly asserted. According to the National Resources Defense Council, documented health issues associated with living near fracking sites include severe headaches, asthma, childhood leukemia, heart problems and birth defects.

Ohio's Fourth Quarter Report Shows Oil Production on the Upswing - (includes table of wells) The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) recently published 2022 fourth quarter production totals that showed oil production reached nearly 5.9 million barrels this past quarter and is up 33 percent over the fourth quarter of 2021 and 16 percent over the third quarter of 2022. The state currently ranks 12th in the nation for oil production and is the top oil producer in the Appalachian Basin.In total, Ohio produced 900,000 more barrels of oil compared to the third quarter of 2022, started approximately 23 new wells, and produced nearly two million barrels more than in the fourth quarter of 2021.As Chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management for ODNR Eric Vendel said when discussing the industry’s outlook at the recent Ohio Oil and Gas Association’s Annual Meeting:“Permitting is up, drilling is up, and oil production is up. We’re on the upswing, which is a healthy sign for the industry.”Natural gas production in the fourth quarter saw a slight decrease in production at 539 billion cubic feet compared to 576 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021. Despite this decline, Ohio remains one of the top producers of natural gas in the country, ranking sixth on the Energy Information Administration’s state rankings for 2021 and likely to hold a similar position when 2022 data become available.This past quarter saw 3,033 producing wells out of a total of 3,116 horizontal shale wells that on average produced: Guernsey and Carroll counties were responsible for the top ten oil producing wells in the fourth quarter of 2022, with Ascent Resources and Encino Acquisition Partners (EAP Ohio) each having five of the top ten highest producing wells.In total, Carroll County produced 2.4 million barrels, while Guernsey County produced almost two million barrels this quarter. Together, they produced more than 89 percent of all oil this past quarter, highlighting how important these two counties are to Ohio’s oil production.Similarly, Jefferson and Harrison counties continue to have the highest producing natural gas wells in the fourth quarter of 2022, with Ascent Resources Utica having four of Ohio’s top ten highest natural gas producing wells – EAP Ohio and Gulfport Appalachia each had three of the top ten producing wells.

Ohio Utica Shale Production 2022 – Top 25 Gas & Oil Wells | Marcellus Drilling News -The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) issues an update on Utica (and Marcellus) oil and natural gas production each quarter. ODNR no longer issues a press release to summarize the results as they once did, which means the quarterly updates fell off our radar. Now and again something jogs our memory to revisit and share with you the production reports from the ODNR, to bring you the top 25 wells by production for both natural gas and oil production. Today we look back at all of 2022. ODNR publishes a detailed spreadsheet of all active wells showing oil and gas production by well. We make a copy of that spreadsheet, enhance it to make it more usable, and link to it. Below are the results.

Ascent Resources Outlines Steady Utica Drilling Plan as Natural Gas Prices Seen Weakening Privately-held Ascent Resources Utica Holdings LLC, Ohio’s largest natural gas producer, is joining its publicly-traded peers in keeping production and activity flat this year as the commodity outlook has softened.Ascent, also one of the nation’s largest private natural gas producers, is guiding for 2-2.1 Bcfe/d of production in 2023, in line with the 2.1 Bcfe/d it produced last year. Like its peers grappling with inflationary pressures, the company has budgeted more to reach the same level of output. Ascent expects capital expenditures to come in between $920-955 million, up from the $710-770 million it budgeted at this time last year. The company also plans to spud 70-75 wells with up to four rigs across its 350,000 net acres in Southern Ohio. The company drilled 75 wells in 2022 with lateral lengths of 13,400 feet. It plans to push horizontals further to an average of 14,500 feet this year. CEO Jeff Fisher said the company managed to produce 2.2 Bcfe/d in the fourth quarter despite subfreezing temperatures that impacted production across much of the Appalachian Basin at the end of December. Full-year production was up from 2 Bcfe/d in 2021, and fourth quarter production was up from the 1.94 Bcfe/d the company reported in the year-ago period. Fisher said the company notched its third consecutive year of positive free cash flow in 2022. Average realized prices, including the impact of settled commodity derivatives, increased from $2.99/Mcfe in 2021 to $3.75/Mcfe last year. As a result, revenue increased from $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion over the same time. Ascent reported fourth quarter net income of $1.6 billion, compared to net income of $1.1 billion in the year-ago period. For the full year, net income was $361 million, up from a net loss of $806 million in 2021 that resulted from a loss on derivatives.

30 New Shale Well Permits Issued for PA-OH-WV Mar 6-12 | Marcellus Drilling News - New shale permits issued for Mar. 6-12 in the Marcellus/Utica increased by one from the prior week. There were 30 new permits issued in total last week, including 21 new permits for Pennsylvania, 5 new permits for Ohio, and 4 new permits issued in West Virginia. Last week the top receiver of new permits was EQT with 7 new permits–all of them (interestingly) issued in Lycoming County, PA. The second highest number of permits went to Repsol, with 6 permits in (also interestingly) Columbia County, PA. Chesapeake Energy came in third with 5 permits for Bradford County, PA. Antero Resources, Ascent Resources, Belmont County, Bradford County, Carroll County, Chesapeake Energy, Columbia County, EQT Corp, Harrison County,INR, Lycoming County, Repsol, Southwestern Energy, Susquehanna County, Wetzel County

Opinion: Now is good time for regulations on fracking - The Norfolk Southern train derailment and detonation of five railcars filled with toxic chemicals killed an estimated 43,000 fish and animals. The incident traumatized Ohio and Pennsylvania communities rightly concerned about immediate and long-term health effects − especially for children and the elderly − and effects on their land, air, water and animals. Imagine the health impact and outrage if that toxic plume appeared over a large Ohio city.Now imagine the outrage and health impact when fracking occurs in Ohio state parks − and a large chemical spill, methane leak or groundwater poisoning incident occurs.There are 4,000 active oil wells and 900 abandoned oil and natural gas wells right now in Ohio. The oil and gas industry needs more strict state and federal oversight and regulation, not less. H.B. 507, the new law going into effect April 7, requires fracking in state parks and on public lands. It’s a horrible law.There have been low-level earthquakes in eastern Ohio and other states in the wake of fracking activities since the early 2000s. While oil and gas industry geologists claim toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid are injected deep into the earth, beneath our groundwater − perfectly safe − the more we frack and swiss-cheese the earth beneath us, the more we risk creating tectonic shifts that could release these toxins and allow them to percolate into our groundwater, making parts of Ohio uninhabitable Superfund sites.Remember that in 2018, one Belmont County, Ohio fracked gas well leaked 120 million metric tons of methane over 20 days − more than countries like Norway and France annually.Methane leaks and flares occur as a part of oil and gas production. Methane accounts for more than 25% of global carbon emissions, too. Methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.News reports say a small number of oil and gas sites with high emissions are responsible for the majority of methane releases. Is Ohio one of those culprits?We don’t need more natural gas production in Ohio; we need the expansion of affordable, green, sustainable energy. In fact, wind and solar capacity is already slated to overtake natural gas and coal by 2024 due to falling costs and energy security concerns.Why risk Ohio’s clean air, land and precious drinking water now for more dirty-fuel profits?Big Oil companies undermine our national interests regarding the war in Ukraine, too. They export oil at a time when domestic demand is down. Additionally, they price-gouged Americans at the gas pump last year and still do today. Big Oil reported record profits of $200 billion in 2022.The public needs to know the ingredients and percentage of toxic chemicals in fracking fluid, especially since the average fracked well uses about four million gallons of water. This is similar to the amount of water New York City uses in about six minutes. Question for state and federal legislators: Were vinyl chloride, benzene and 2-butoxyethanol on the Norfolk Southern train slated to become fracking fluid ingredients? Right now, by law − or the absence of law − the Ohio oil and gas industry doesn’t have to tell us.

Pa. Panel Says PUC Wrong To Skip LNG Enviro Impact – Law360 - A Pennsylvania appellate panel has found that the state's Public Utility Commission erred in its approval of the construction of a liquefied natural gas pumping station in Delaware County's Marple Township for failing to conduct sufficient environmental review. .

Pa. annual natural gas production falls for first time in 10 years | StateImpact Pennsylvania Pennsylvania’s natural gas production fell for the first time in a decade last year. An analysis from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office shows drillers produced 1.6% less gas in 2022 than the year before, the first annual drop since data became available in 2012. According to data from the Department of Environmental Protection, production in the final quarter of 2022 was down 5.1% from the same time a year earlier. That’s the largest year over year decline recorded since 2015. The IFO says lower average productivity per well suggests that the share of older, less productive wells has grown and new drilling hasn’t been enough to offset losses. Annual growth in producing wells has been declining since 2019, according to DEP data. Federal data shows other major gas-producing states did not see a decline. Texas drillers pulled nearly 6% more gas from the ground last year and Louisiana production grew by 17%. Though they pulled less gas from the ground, Pennsylvania companies drilled 10% more wells in 2022 than the year before. However, drilling slowed in the last three months of the year, and preliminary data shows new wells are down so far in 2023. The average price of natural gas in Pennsylvania was $4.45 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) at the end of last year. That’s 12% higher than the same time the year before, but down from a high of $6.89 per MMBtu earlier last year. The IFO says the price drop was mainly because mild winter weather kept demand down.

Pennsylvania's natural gas production had historic year in 2022, and probably not in the way you're thinking - Pittsburgh Business Times - Pennsylvania's natural gas production dropped 1.6% in 2022, the first time in the decade since Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale production began to be measured.There were 7,439 billion cubic feet of natural gas produced in the commonwealth through horizontal drilling, which is the type of natural gas production in the Marcellus and Utica shales, according to data released by the Independent Fiscal Office and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Data began to be collected in 2012.Pennsylvania remained the second-largest natural gas producing state in the country, with Texas in first place but Louisiana far behind Pennsylvania. It also was the only state among the top five that had a drop in production between 2021 and 2022. West Virginia, No. 5 on the list, saw its production up 5.8% year over year, and Louisiana saw its production jump 17.3%.About 99% of all natural gas production in Pennsylvania is from the Marcellus and Utica unconventional wells.The natural gas industry had a miserable 2020 with the pandemic and other reasons, but came roaring back in 2021 with increases of about 7% in the last two quarters of 2021. But 2022 saw a slight decline (just under 1%) in the first quarter, flat in the second quarter, another drop of just under 1% in the third quarter and then a drop of 5.1% year-over-year in the fourth quarter."It also represents the strongest year-over-year decline in quarterly production since monthly production data have been published," IFO said.That's not due to pricing, which in December was still pretty strong. But several of the major shale players saw midstream and weather issues complicate production, issues that sometimes continued into early January.Also down in the fourth quarter was the beginning of new wells. There were 136 wells spud in the fourth quarter in Pennsylvania, a drop of 11.7%. It was the biggest drop in wells spud since the second quarter of 2020, in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and also the second-lowest number of wells since the third-quarter of 2021. Data for January and February 2023 show another year-over-year decline, IFO said.The top five producing counties in Pennsylvania also saw declines in production volume:

  • Susquehanna, -3.9%
  • Washington, -5.1%
  • Bradford, -3.2%
  • Greene, -0.3%
  • Lycoming, -12.4%

Pennsylvania Posts Largest Annual Decline in Natural Gas Production - Pennsylvania’s natural gas production declined by 5.1% in the final quarter of 2022, the largest year/year decline since monthly production data began, according to the state’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). This was the fourth consecutive quarter in which production did not increase on a yearly basis, according to the IFO’s Natural Gas Production Report compiled by Jesse Bushman and Rachel Flaugh. In the Keystone State, unconventional drilling yielded 1.856 Tcf in 4Q2022, down from 1.956 Tcf the year prior. In 2022, Pennsylvania’s oil and gas operators produced 7.439 Tcf, a 1.6% decrease from 2021. The decline continues the trend of drooping production that began in 1Q2022, when output fell 0.6% year/year. Production then remained flat on an annual basis in 2Q2022. It declined again by 0.7% year/year in 3Q2022. NGI market analyst Josiah Clinedinst noted that many major oil and gas producers in the region posted decreases in production at the end of the year, including EQT Corp., Chesapeake Energy Inc., Coterra Energy Inc. and Southwestern Energy Inc.“The four largest publicly traded U.S. producers saw a discernible decrease in fourth quarter production,” Clinedinst said.Combined production from the four reached “15.2 Bcf/d in the fourth quarter, down nearly 4% quarter-over-quarter. That’s a material response from the industry’s largest players, and the Appalachia is a big driver behind that,” Clinedinst said. “All four cited takeaway capacity constraints as the main reason for reducing production overall in Appalachia,” he noted. Years after major pipeline projects like PennEast Pipeline, Constitution Pipeline and Atlantic Coast were scrapped, Appalachia-focused producers have had to operate mostly in maintenance mode. By and large, flat production profiles have been adopted by most major producers in the basin.“Until pipeline takeaway capacity is increased in Appalachia we will likely see the maintenance mode, free cash flow generating production of 2022 in 2023,” Clinedinst added. He also noted that Appalachia saw a “very cold December,” impacting production levels.Wells spud in the fourth quarter also decreased to 136 from 158 in 3Q2022. “The quarter-to-quarter decline in new wells from the third to fourth quarter was the largest such decline since the second quarter of 2020,” IFO said. Preliminary data for January and February 2023 are pointing to a 10.8% decline from the same period a year ago. However, 574 new wells were added in 2022, representing a 10.8% increase from 2021. This was the second consecutive year the state increased drilling activity after the slowdown from Covid-19 in 2020. Horizontal producing wells, which account for 99% of the production, picked up throughout 2022. They rose by 4.6% in the first quarter, followed by 4.8% in 2Q2022, 4.4% in 3Q2022 and 5.5% in the final quarterGrowth in producing wells from the third to the fourth quarter marked a “notable uptick” from previous quarters. IFO reported it was the largest increase in producing wells since mid-2018. “The uptick in producing wells was likely the result of increased drilling in 2022, which should lead to further increases in producing well growth,” IFO said.

Action needed to combat plastic life cycle - The lifecycle of plastic, from extraction to disposal, is linked to significant harms: climate change, poor quality air, water, and soil, decreased biodiversity, social and environmental injustice, and numerous, sometimes fatal health problems for all forms of life. The lifecycle of plastic begins with fracking. Ethane gas, collected during the fracking process, is used to make nurdles. Nurdles are the feedstock for creating all plastic materials. According to FracTracker, “As of Jan. 11, 2023, there are records of 218,260 drilled and proposed wells in Pennsylvania, which have been assessed 64,880 violations since 2008.” Fracking impacts our aquifers, rivers, and lakes. Roughly 4-12 million gallons of water are taken from our watersheds to frack a single well, according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. Each well can be fracked 20 times and can contain more than 20,000 proprietary chemicals, including hazardous benzene, radium, & Per, and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS is a class of up to 12,000 manmade chemicals used for thousands of everyday products. Called “forever” chemicals because they don’t break down naturally, they bioaccumulate in the environment for centuries. PFAS are linked to reduced fetal/infant growth, cancers, thyroid, reproductive problems, and lowered vaccine efficacy. PFAS contamination has numerous sources and can be found in drinking water, soil, food, and dust. Researchers estimate that contaminants can be detected in 97% of Americans. It takes less than six parts per trillion (ppt) or a fraction of a grain of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool to cause health and environmental harm. For over a decade, hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas wells across the U.S. have used PFAS. Fracking waste means nearly 100 potential PFAS-polluted sites exist in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. FracTracker identified 97 additional new possible contamination locations on a map for Environmental Health News (EHN). These poisonous chemicals leak into groundwater and nearby land water bodies. Flowback fluid containing these chemicals are used to deice our roads, and then run off into farm fields. In 2020, DEP recorded 244,000 tons of drill cuttings taken to landfills. The plastic lifecycle contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Pennsylvania’s Beaver County Ethylene Cracker plant CO2 emissions equal half the amount produced by the city of Pittsburgh. Annually, 1,000 new wells will be needed to maintain production. This will take us further from solving our climate crisis. Nurdles often spill into waterways and absorb mercury, pesticides, and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl). To fish, they resemble eggs, so the chemicals bioaccumulate in the food chain. Half of all plastic produced is single-use plastic. The waste resulting from disposal, minimal recycling, and incineration makes up 20% of human-caused methane emissions contributing to climate change. January 18, 2022, the journal Environmental Science and Technology, reported 14 scientists determined we have surpassed the safe planetary boundary for pollutants and plastic exposure known as novel entities. The number and amount of chemicals produced have increased 50-fold since 1950 and will triple again by 2050. The Earth can’t absorb, dilute or break down these newly synthesized chemicals. Plastic production is driving chemical production. The microplastics in our soil are changing soil structure and ecology. This is impacting the very fabric of living and non-living interconnected systems. Microplastics and their chemicals have been found in all 53 Pennsylvania waterways. We want our regulating and governing bodies to address these vast concerns. We need leadership to bring us a regenerative economy that supports the health and well-being of all citizens and the systems we depend on. Our constitution guarantees us the right to clean air, pure water, and preservation of the environment’s natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values. Tackling the single-use plastics problem is key to addressing climate change, air and water pollution, and deleterious environmental and human health impacts in Pennsylvania.

Study links fracking to heart disease in nearby communities | University of Chicago News - A new University of Chicago study examining Medicare claims found older adults living near fracking sites in Pennsylvania were more likely to be hospitalized for cardiovascular diseases than those who lived in nearby New York state, where fracking is banned. The research was published March 6 in The Lancet Planetary Health. Prachi Sanghavi, Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences at UChicago and senior author on the paper, said she first became interested in studying the potential health impacts of fracking in the early 2010s. This was during the peak of the unconventional natural gas development boom, colloquially known as “fracking.”“There was a lot of buzz about the environmental effects of unconventional natural gas development, and several documentaries were produced on the subject,” she said. “I do a lot of work with Medicare claims data, and I realized that we could use that approach to determine if there was a measurable effect on population health based on what the stories were suggesting.” Her team collected Medicare claims data for tens of thousands of patients generated between 2002 and 2015 in both northern Pennsylvania, which experienced a fracking boom, and next-door New York state, where the practice was banned.The team found an association between the development of new fracking sites and increased rates of hospitalization for health conditions such as acute myocardial infarction, heart failure and ischemic heart disease.“Although we can’t point to one specific part of fracking operations as the culprit, folks living near fracking sites could be affected by exposure to things like air or water pollution that often come with fracking activity,” said Kevin Trickey, first author on the study and a former research analyst in the Sanghavi lab.“Our study connects nearby fracking activity to real, serious human health outcomes, suggesting it’s not just a matter of economics or environmental sustainability — but that policymakers and residents alike should start prioritizing the health of citizens, whether drilling new wells or plugging old ones,” he said. “There is a measurable association with people’s health.”Researchers have previously found elevated levels of airborne hydrocarbons and other pollutants near fracking sites, but a clear relationship between those pollutants and negative health outcomes has not yet been established.While prior studies have indicated a likelihood of this connection, this study applies statistical analysis to economics data for causal inference analysis to more directly connect fracking to specific negative health outcomes in older adults.In the current study, the team determined there were an additional 11.8, 21.6 and 20.4 hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure and ischemic heart disease, respectively, per 1,000 Medicare users than would be expected if there were no fracking in the area.The effects were not just limited to the initial phases of unconventional natural gas development. The study found that the risk continued even after drilling ended, indicating that the health impacts could be connected to the byproducts of the regular functioning and production of the well.

EIA: US natural gas consumption set nine monthly records and an annual record in 2022 - In 2022, US natural gas consumption averaged a record 88.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d)—the highest annual natural gas consumption, according to records beginning in 1949, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). US natural gas consumption last year increased 5% (4.5 Bcf/d) from 2021, the second-fastest year-over-year growth since 2013. Natural gas consumption in the United States set monthly records in 9 of 12 months in 2022. Natural gas consumption peaks twice a year in the United States, driven by the residential and commercial sectors during the winter and electric power sector during the summer. Newly retired coal-fired generating plants, relatively high coal prices, and lower-than-average coal stocks limited the electric power sector’s coal consumption last year, which led to increased natural gas consumption for electricity generation. Compared with 2021, natural gas consumption increased in all sectors, but the electric power sector consumed more natural gas than any other US end-use sector, accounting for 38% of US natural gas consumption. Natural gas consumption peaked in January and in July in 2022. In January 2022, the residential and commercial sectors, combined, consumed 9% more natural gas than in January 2021, and the electric power sector consumed 10% more year over year. Natural gas consumed for electric power reached a new record in January 2022, pushing overall natural gas consumption to a monthly record high. Summer 2022 was the third-warmest on record in the US Lower 48 states, leading to strong demand for air conditioning and resulting in new daily records for electricity generation in July. As a result, more natural gas was consumed in the electric power sector, pushing consumption in July to be the highest for the summer. The year ended with another monthly record for natural gas consumption. In December, in much of the Lower 48 states, below-normal temperatures in the mid to late part of the month led to increased natural gas demand, both directly and indirectly, from natural gas-fired plants to generate electricity for space heating.

High Consumer Prices, Energy Rationing Loom Absent More Natural Gas Pipelines - Absent a surge in natural gas pipelines and related infrastructure, companies may struggle to get ample supplies to utilities, leaving consumers grappling with either lofty prices or the difficult decision to substantially scale back their energy consumption.Such was the warning from executives and regulators alike during CERAWeek by S&P Global. But they also emphasized at the event in Houston last week that rapidly evolving technology, coupled with price incentives, could simplify matters.Incentives crafted by regulators and implemented by utilities could empower consumers to adjust the daily rhythms of their lives to avoid activities that require energy during peak demand periods. In turn, they would be rewarded with lower bills and help conserve natural gas for when it is needed most at the height of summer or depth of winter. “We have to empower consumers with choice,” NRG Energy CEO Mauricio Gutierrez said. This will require more price transparency from utilities – including how to secure price breaks – and this likely means regulators would need to implement and enforce new rules on this front.Michael Caron, a commissioner with the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, said state and federal authorities are taking seriously the possibility of a years-long stretch in which natural gas supplies to several areas of the country are insufficient. The West in the summer and Northeast in the winter are prime examples of regions hindered by inadequate pipeline capacity, he said. This may eventually get offset by fuels such as wind and solar, but the transition is likely to prove bumpy, given that renewables are intermittent energy sources and further advances are needed. As such, Caron agreed consumer energy rationing may become necessary. “Regulators are going to have a very keen eye” on ensuring consumers are treated fairly, he said.He said consumers would need to be involved in plans for change – to have a stake in the process – and regulators from the state level up to the nation’s capital must make sure that price incentives are easy to understand. If the process becomes complicated, too many people will throw up their arms in frustration.Still, he added, consumers would ultimately prefer a different option: More natural gas pipelines to deliver supplies to the regions most in need. This would ensure plenty of gas at reasonable rates to meet energy needs.Executives across the industry sounded alarms about the need for more infrastructure and a more efficient approval process throughout CERAWeek. They said demand across the Lower 48 is steady and global calls for U.S. LNG are rising as populations grow throughout Asia and as Europe works tooffset lost Russian gas because of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.However, executives said, new pipeline projects are mired in regulatory red tape and legal challenges. Several called on Congress to pass permitting reform legislation that would set firm time limits on infrastructure project reviews. They also want lawmakers to require legal challenges to demonstrate they have evidence of potential problems in order to proceed in the courts. “No question it needs to get done,” EQT Corp. CEO Toby Rice said. “Clearly, more natural gas is key.”

US natgas futures jump 7% on rising flows to LNG export plants (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures jumped about 7% on Monday on forecasts for demand to rise next week with the amount of gas flowing to U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants on track to hit a record high for the month. Prices jumped despite a 5% drop in crude futures earlier in the day and forecasts for less cold weather over the next two weeks than previously expected. Front-month gas futures for April delivery rose 17.6 cents, or 7.2%, to settle at $2.606 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). On Friday, the contract closed at its lowest since Feb. 23. Oil prices fell on Monday along with equities as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank raised fears of a fresh financial crisis. The gas market has been extremely volatile in recent weeks as traders bet on the latest weather forecasts. The front-month fell to a 28-month low below $2 per mmBtu in intraday trade on Feb. 22 on forecasts for warmer weather before jumping 9% to settle at a five-week high above $3 just over a week later on March 3 on forecasts for colder weather. It plunged 15% on March 6 on an outlook for warmer temperatures. Freeport LNG's export plant in Texas was on track to pull in 1.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas on Monday, up from 0.7 bcfd on Sunday, according to data provider Refinitiv. The plant exited an eight-month outage in February caused by a fire in June 2022. When operating at full power, Freeport LNG, the second-biggest U.S. LNG export plant, can turn about 2.1 bcfd of gas into LNG for export. Federal regulators approved the restart of two of Freeport LNG's three liquefaction trains (Trains 2 and 3) in February and the third train (Train 1) on March 8. Liquefaction trains turn gas into LNG. Total gas flows to all seven of the big U.S. LNG export plants rose to an average of 13.1 bcfd so far in March from 12.8 bcfd in February. That would top the monthly record of 12.9 bcfd in March 2022, before the Freeport LNG facility shut.

US natgas drops over 5% on banking rout-led risk sell-off (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures dropped more than 5% on Wednesday, pressured by a broader sell-off across financial markets as concern over Credit Suisse reignited banking worries and stifled appetite for risky assets, while expectations for lower heating demand also weighed on prices. Front-month gas futures for April delivery slipped 13.4 cents, or 5.2%, to settle at $2.439 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). "Concerns about the banking sector and Credit Suisse has led to a lot of liquidation in a lot of markets and the natural gas market is getting caught up in that selling that's pressuring things around the globe," "Obviously, weather and concerns about what the injection number are all going to be playing into this but I think predominantly the reason we're down as much as we are is because of the risk-off situation," he added, referring to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data due out on Thursday. In broader financial markets, equities, oil and bonds tumbled while the dollar rallied as Credit Suisse shares plunged to record lows following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last week, deepening the banking sector crisis. Further weighing on natgas prices were forecasts for milder weather. Data provider Refinitiv estimated 300 heating degree days (HDDs) over the next two weeks, down from 318 HDDs estimated on Tuesday. HDDs estimate demand to heat homes and businesses by measuring the number of degrees a day's average temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). Refinitiv forecast U.S. gas demand, including exports, would slide from 120.8 bcfd this week to 120.0 bcfd next week. Milder winter weather so far this year has also prompted utilities to leave more gas in storage than usual. Meanwhile, gas flows to LNG export plants have been on track to hit record highs since Freeport LNG's export plant in Texas exited an eight-month outage in February. When operating at full power, Freeport LNG, the second-biggest U.S. LNG export plant, can turn about 2.1 bcfd of gas into LNG for export.

US natgas firms, but lower heating demand checks gains (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures firmed on Thursday, tracking gains in broader financial markets, but gains were limited as data showed utilities drew less fuel from storage for heating after forecasts for less cold weather. Front-month gas futures for April delivery rose 7.5 cents, or 3.1%, to settle at $2.514 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said utilities pulled 58 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended March 10. That was lower than 62-bcf withdrawal analysts forecast in a Reuters poll and compares with a decrease of 86 bcf in the same week last year and a five-year (2018-2022) average decline of 77 bcf. That decrease cut stockpiles to 1.972 trillion cubic feet (tcf), or 36% above the five-year average. "I don't see demand rising. If anything, we're probably moving towards the spring season here. There's a little bit of cold in the forecast, but this kind of feels like the last leg of any kind of winter demand," said Robert DiDona of Energy Ventures Analysis. Data provider Refinitiv estimated 281 heating degree days (HDDs) over the next two weeks, down from 300 HDDs estimated on Wednesday. Refinitiv forecast U.S. gas demand, including exports, would slide from 120.5 bcfd this week to 117.8 bcfd next week. "The only major thing that we're watching out for now is any negative or potentially positive response from the financial situation with banks," DiDona said. Natgas futures settled over 5% lower on Wednesday, weighed down by a broader risk-off sentiment as the Credit Suisse crisis deepened the banking sector turmoil. Prices stabilized on Thursday as Swiss regulators offered assistance to Credit Suisse, providing some respite to financial markets.

Natural gas down 7% as intimidating storage brings market back below mid-$2 - In the dying days of winter, forecasts are still coming in for some cold here and there. But against the intimidating storage level for the fuel, the market is barely giving gas bears the chill. The front-month April gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub settled at $2.338 per mmBtu, or metric million British thermal units — down 17.6 cents, or 7%. A mostly warm 2022/23 winter has led to considerably less heating demand in the United States versus the norm, leaving more gas in storage than initially thought. Responding to the warmth and lackluster storage draws, gas prices plunged from a 14-year high of $10 per mmBtu in August, reaching $7 in December before trading mostly at mid-$2 levels over the past month. Gas in storage stood at a total 1.972 tcf, or trillion cubic feet, as of March 10 — up 36% from the year-ago level of 1.451 tcf and 24% higher than the five-year average of 1.594 tcf, the EIA, or Energy Information Administration, reported. That balance was after another unimpressive weekly drawdown of just 58 bcf, or billion cubic feet, from storage versus forecasts for a 62 bcf deficit and the previous week’s drop of 84 bcf. Analysts doubted that weekly draws of gas in the near term will make a measurable dent in storage to push prices up. “With around 3 weeks left in the withdrawal season and current inventories of 1.97 tcf, the remaining withdrawals will have to average around 60 bcf, much higher than expectations,” analysts at Houston-based energy markets consultancy Gelber&Associates said in a note. Weather forecasts as of Friday morning were calling for heavy snow across portions of the central plains and upper US Midwest, Gelber said, adding that a winter storm was likely to linger through Friday and Saturday but not expected to cause disruptions to natural gas production. “Currently, it seems that the market may have a hard time getting down to 1.8 Tcf carry out, even with some cold,” the Gelber note added.

U.S. Drilling Makes Gains As Gas Rig Count Jumps -- The total number of total active drilling rigs in the United States rose by 8 this week, with gas-directed rigs making all the gains, according to new data from Baker Hughes published on Friday.The total rig count rose to 754 this week—91 rigs higher than the rig count this time in 2022 and 321 rigs lower than the rig count at the beginning of 2019, prior to the pandemic.Oil rigs in the United States decreased by 1 this week, to 589 on top of the 2 rigs lost in the week prior. Gas rigs was a different story, gaining 9 in the week to 162. Miscellaneous rigs stayed the same.The rig count in the Permian Basin rose by 7, more than offsetting last week’s 6-rig decline. Rigs in the Eagle Ford decreased by 2.Primary Vision’s Frac Spread Count, an estimate of the number of crews completing unfinished wells—a more frugal use of finances than drilling new wells—stayed the same for the week ending March 10. The frac spread count held steady at 276. This is 4 more than a month ago, and 4 more than a year ago.Crude oil production in the United States stayed at 12.2 million bpd for the week ending March 10, according to the latest weekly EIA estimates. U.S. production levels are up 600,000 bpd versus a year ago.At 12:49 p.m. ET, the WTI benchmark was trading down $1.76 (-2.57%) on the day at $66.59 down nearly $10 per barrel from this time last week, as the rosy Chinese oil demand outlook gave way to market panic over a possible bank collapse contagion. The Brent benchmark was trading down $1.91 (-2.56%) at $72.79 per barrel on the day, also down nearly $10 per barrel from this time last Friday.WTI was trading at $66.72 minutes after the data release, down 2.38% on the day.

DOE Invests $47 Million to Reduce Methane Emissions From Oil and Gas Sector | Department of EnergyThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced nearly $47 million in funding for 22 research projects to advance the development of new and innovative measurement, monitoring, and mitigation technologies to help detect, quantify, and reduce methane emissions across oil and natural gas producing regions of the United States. Methane emissions are the second largest contributor to climate change—only carbon dioxide ranks ahead of methane as a greenhouse gas source. The selected projects will help to ensure an efficient, resilient, and leak-tight U.S. natural gas infrastructure and support President Biden’sU.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan and the Biden-Harris Administration climate goal of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. “Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, making methane reduction a critical part of our nation’s long-term climate solution,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The projects announced today will help DOE accelerate the deployment of technology that detects and reduces methane emissions across the oil and gas sector—our largest source of industrial methane—leading to long-lasting health and environmental benefits for communities across the country.” DOE’s methane mitigation program addresses critical environmental issues associated with the production, transmission, and storage of domestic oil and natural gas. Projects will focus on technical challenges of quantifying and mitigating methane emissions along the U.S. oil and natural gas supply chain, including the development and demonstration of an efficient integrated methane monitoring platform to enable early detection of methane emissions.

The Government Is This Close to Reining in Some of the Worst Air Pollution - The New York Times op-ed— For one 73-year-old patient in our hospital system, the simple act of breathing has become so difficult that a short walk during a medical appointment caused his blood oxygen levels to dangerously plummet. A retired Marine, he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and uses supplemental oxygen but can no longer walk to his pickup truck without a struggle.I can’t say with complete certainty why this patient’s breathing has deteriorated so much in recent years, especially since he stopped smoking about 15 years ago.But I have seen too many patients getting sicker and sicker in the same ways. I see them in areas where the oil and gas industry exposes people to constant air pollution, from the San Juan Basin in the north to the Permian Basin in the south.The science is clear that when oil and gas are extracted and transported from wells, methane and other pollutants, including volatile organic compounds, leak out. V.O.C.s are known to form ozone and may cause cancer and birth defects, and affect the nervous system. Emissions from oil and gas production alsoproduce nitrogen oxides, which can exacerbate lung disease.Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas, over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its warming power, though its life span in the atmosphere is much shorter. One of the fastest and cheapest ways to reduce these emissions and improve health is to prevent methane leaks, venting and flares, which would also go a long way in reducing ozone pollution. But many oil well operators just vent it into the air, or burn it off as a flare, which adds to the air pollution burden in communities near the wells.This year, the federal government has a huge opportunity to reduce methane emissions, improve health and slow climate change. The first and most important way is through a rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency to cut pollution, including methane, from new and existing oil and gas operations nationwide. The prospective rule strengthens a 2021 E.P.A. proposal and would benefit communities like the one where the retired Marine lives. While New Mexico has already moved toward stricter methane regulations, the supplemental E.P.A. rule now under review would reinforce them and help reduce emissions that blow downwind from other states like Texas.While the E.P.A.’s proposal is strong, the agency should make it even more forceful by banning flaring in all but a few limited cases. Just last month, more than 75 lawmakers submitted commentsagreeing that the E.P.A. must enforce stricter limits.The rule is not yet final, and some powerful voices, including the Railroad Commission of Texas, are calling on the E.P.A. to water down its key provisions. The oil and gas industry is also speaking up; it spent $124.4 million in 2022 on federal lobbying, including pressuring federal agencies on methane rules. The E.P.A. must not yield, and instead should strengthen the proposal so that communities can start seeing the benefits right away.

Texas Natural Gas, Oil Employment Continues Rally as ‘Strong Demand for Talent’ Still Seen - Upstream oil and natural gas employment in Texas rose by 13.7% year/year in January to a total of 198,100 jobs, according to the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO). The figure was up by 1,700 jobs versus December 2022, the group said, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).The Houston metropolitan area saw a year/year increase of 6,200 jobs to a total of 66,400 direct positions, TIPRO researchers said. The increase included 400 jobs in oil and natural gas extraction, and 5,800 jobs in the services sector.Demand for workers remains strong, the group said. It cited 12,478 active unique job postings in the Texas oil and gas industry in January. These included 5,313 new job postings added during the month by companies.“There continues to be a strong demand for talent in the Texas oil and natural gas industry in line with growing exploration and production activity in the state and rising demand for our product,” said TIPRO’s Ed Longanecker, president. “Our industry is one of the only remaining sectors in the country that provides a pathway for the middle-class to support their families, something we must preserve.“Policy decisions being made at the state and federal level should not hinder an industry that is critical to our state, country and allies abroad from an economic and energy security perspective.”The top three cities for total unique oil and natural gas job postings were Houston (4,149), Midland (905) and Odessa (472), the trade group said.The most sought-after industry jobs in January included heavy tractor-trailer truck drivers with 373 postings, maintenance and repair workers (361) and managers (310), TIPRO said. The group also highlighted that the oil and gas industry generated nearly $800 million in tax revenue for Texas in February. Oil producers paid $492 million in production taxes, while natural gas producers paid $305 million, TIPRO said, citing data from the state comptroller’s office. The Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA), for its part, highlighted that since the pandemic-induced low point of September 2020, months of increase in Texas upstream oil and gas employment have outnumbered months of decline by 25 to three.“Industry has added 41,100 Texas upstream jobs, averaging growth of 1,468 jobs a month,” TXOGA researchers said. “These jobs pay among the highest wages in Texas, with employers in oil and natural gas paying an average salary of approximately $115,000 in 2022.”

As Enforcement Falls Short, Many Worry That Companies Are Flouting New Mexico’s Landmark Gas Flaring Rules - Kayley Shoup drove southeast out of Carlsbad through an area that was once ranchland. Today it’s a patchwork of compressor stations, tank batteries and drilling pads, testimony to the Permian Basin’s booming oil and gas industry. Cold wind whipped through creosote bushes lining the road. Transmission lines and flare stacks dotted the horizon. In the distance, Shoup spotted the flames of a flare from gas being burned off an oil well. And then another. And another. One flare sent off dark smoke, a sign that it wasn’t burning efficiently. Flares are designed to eliminate methane from natural gas. But unlit flares and inefficient combustion mean that flaring still emits large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The Environmental Defense Fund’s Permian MAP project found that the Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico was the highest methane-emitting oil and gas basin in the nation. Shoup is an organizer with Citizens Caring for the Future, the only grassroots environmental organization in New Mexico’s stretch of the Permian Basin. She first started worrying about the environmental and health impacts of the region’s oil and gas boom in 2018, when Carlsbad’s streets were clogged with trucks and the population swelled. Since then, a climate-conscious governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has taken office and the state has adopted landmark regulations to limit flaring and venting. But Shoup is skeptical that the industry is changing its habits. In May 2021, New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, or EMNRD, adopted new rules that prohibit routine flaring and venting and require operators to achieve a 98 percent gas capture rate by 2026. February 28 was the deadline for operators to certify that they were on track to comply. But environmental advocates and lawyers say that in the absence of rigorous state field enforcement, oil and gas companies are continuing wasteful methane flaring and venting. Recent flyovers by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, independent monitoring by environmental advocates and NASA satellite imagery have documented significant methane releases. To date, only two companies have been fined for unauthorized flaring since the rules went into effect. While operators still have time to achieve full compliance with the new rule, industry watchdogs warn that counting on operators to self-report flaring and venting is a failing strategy. Meanwhile, regulators say they are hamstrung by budget limitations. “What we’re seeing, unfortunately, is there’s a lot of talk about protecting clean air and the climate in New Mexico, but not much follow-through.” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at the Santa Fe-based nonprofit WildEarth Guardians. “It’s not enough to say there are good rules on the books.”

Regulators cut pressure on pipeline after Kansas oil spill (AP) – U.S. government regulators have stopped allowing a large part of the Keystone oil pipeline to operate at higher-than-normal pressures following a massive oil spill in northeastern Kansas in December. The order from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s pipeline safety arm covers 1,220 miles of the Keystone pipeline in seven U.S. states. The Keystone system plays a key role in delivering Canadian and U.S. crude oil supplies to markets around North America. It stretches 2,687 miles from Alberta to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and the U.S. Gulf Coast. Regulators already had ordered the system’s operator, Canada-based TC Energy, to reduce the pressure on a 96-mile segment of the pipeline from southern Nebraska near the Kansas border into central Kansas, where the spill occurred. The regulators’ action came ahead of the first hearings in the Kansas Legislature on the spill. A TC Energy official is set to face questions from lawmakers Tuesday during a joint meeting of two House committees. TC Energy said in a statement Friday that it already was operating within the pressure limits set by last week’s order and that it would continue to comply. “Our commitment to the safe operations of our system is unwavering,” the company said. But Zack Pistora, a lobbyist in Kansas for the Sierra Club, said Friday that perhaps regulators should reconsider the Keystone pipeline’s operation “in its entirety.” The system has had more than 20 spills since it began operations in 2010, and the one in Kansas was the system’s largest and the largest U.S. onshore spill in nine years, according to the regulators. “There’s no confidence that this pipeline won’t be breaking again in the near future, even with less pressure,” Pistora said. The latest order from regulators directed TC Energy to lower the maximum pressure by 10% on the pipeline from North Dakota’s border with Canada to northern Oklahoma, as well as the system’s spur from southern Nebraska through Missouri into central Illinois. That would bring the maximum pressure into line with what’s normally allowed after TC Energy had received a special permit to exceed it six years ago. A pipeline rupture Dec. 7 dumped nearly 13,000 barrels into a creek through rural pasture land in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City. No one was evacuated following the spill, and officials said it did not affect the two larger rivers and reservoir downstream from the affected creek. With regulators’ permission, the company reopened the affected segment a little more than three weeks after the spill. However, in a separate Jan. 6 cleanup order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the amount of oil spilled was “a harmful quantity” violating the nation’s clean water laws. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the EPA order through a Freedom of Information Act request. TC Energy must notify the state and the EPA’s on-site coordinator before shipping out any hazardous materials. Also, the company will pay the U.S. government’s costs from the cleanup and faces a fine of nearly $52,000 a day if it violates the EPA order.

Kansas lawmakers briefed on Keystone pipeline oil spill in Washington County (AP) — State lawmakers worried Tuesday that southern Kansas is vulnerable to oil spills from the Keystone pipeline system because earthquakes have become more frequent there, as they questioned an executive for the pipeline’s operator about a massive spill in northeastern Kansas in December.Gary Salsman, a vice president for field operations for Canada-based TC Energy, was briefing three Kansas legislative committees about the Dec. 7 rupture on the Keystone pipeline in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City. It was the largest U.S. onshore spill in nearly nine years, and the company expects to spend $480 million cleaning it up, with those efforts lasting at least into the summer.Salsman told a joint meeting of the Kansas House energy committee and its water committee that safety is TC Energy’s top priority and that the company will stay in Washington County until the cleanup is complete. He later gave a similar briefing to the Senate Utilities Committee.But several lawmakers said they are nervous about the pipeline in the Wichita area, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of the Washington County spill site. The area began experiencing an increase in earthquakes in 2013, after Keystone opened its Kansas pipeline segment, tied to activities associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in oil and natural gas production. “My concern is not this spill so much as what’s lurking, moving forward, especially as you get down south,” said Republican state Rep. Leo Delperdang, of Wichita, the House energy committee chair. “We get earthquakes. What happens with the ground movement?”During the House committees’ hearing, Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Kansas City-area Democrat, asked whether the Keystone pipeline needed “exceptional engineering” in southern Kansas.The company said later in an email to The Associated Press that seismic activity is considered in pipelines’ design and routes, and U.S. government regulators require it to be factored into maintenance plans.“Our pipeline corridors are patrolled several times per year,” the company said, adding that seismic activity is assessed so the company can respond.TC Energy reported last month that a faulty weld at a bend in the pipeline under the Washington County creek caused a crack that then grew over time because of the stress on the bend. The rupture dumped nearly 13,000 barrels of crude oil, each enough to fill a standard household bathtub, into the creek and on the surrounding pastureland.Salsman told legislators that 95% of the crude has now been recovered. The company said later that it is transported elsewhere “for treatment and disposal.”

Lawmakers worried that oil spills will become more common in southern Kansas due to earthquakes (AP) — State lawmakers worried Tuesday that southern Kansas is vulnerable to oil spills from the Keystone pipeline system because earthquakes have become more frequent there, as they questioned an executive for the pipeline’s operator about a massive spill in northeastern Kansas in December. Gary Salsman, a vice president for field operations for Canada-based TC Energy, was briefing three Kansas legislative committees about the Dec. 7 rupture on the Keystone pipeline in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Kansas City. It was the largest U.S. onshore spill in nearly nine years, and the company expects to spend $480 million cleaning it up, with those efforts lasting at least into the summer. Salsman told a joint meeting of the Kansas House energy committee and its water committee that safety is TC Energy’s top priority and that the company will stay in Washington County until the cleanup is complete. He was also expected to testify before the Senate Utilities Committee. But several lawmakers said they are nervous about the pipeline in the Wichita area, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of the Washington County spill site. The area began experiencing an increase in earthquakes in 2013, after Keystone opened its Kansas pipeline segment, tied to activities associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in oil and natural gas production. “My concern is not this spill so much as what’s lurking, moving forward, especially as you get down south,” said Republican state Rep. Leo Delperdang, of Wichita, the House energy committee chair. “We get earthquakes. What happens with the ground movement?” During the House committees’ hearing, Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Kansas City-area Democrat, asked Salsman whether the Keystone pipeline needed “exceptional engineering” in southern Kansas. Salsman acknowledged that he’s not an expert on the topic, but added: “When we design pipeline, we take all of those factors into consideration and I would think that, that was part of our design criteria.” TC Energy reported last month that a faulty weld at a bend in the pipeline under the Washington County creek caused a crack that then grew over time because of the stress on the bend. The rupture dumped nearly 13,000 barrels of crude oil, each enough to fill a standard household bathtub, into the creek and on the surrounding pastureland.

Colorado takes aim at oil and fracking water use in new bill - Denver Business Journal -Newly proposed legislation in Colorado would require oil and gas companies to start using mostly recycled water for fracking and drilling wells and nearly phase out using fresh water by the end of the decade — a proposal that has the industry nervous.A bill chiefly sponsored by Democrats Rep. Andrew Boeseneker, a Fort Collins; and Rep. Junie Joseph, of Boulder; and Lisa Cutter, of Littleton, would require 75% of drilling and fracking use recycled water by 2027 and increases that to 90% by 2030.The bill contrasts the millions of gallons currently used to drill and hydraulically fracture, or “frack,” each well in Colorado with the growing scarcity of fresh water in the region.“We are in the middle of a megadrought, and we need to do whatever we can to protect our communities and water resources,” Boeseneker said, in a statement. “This bill will provide much-needed transparency and water recycling requirements for oil and gas operations in Colorado.” Joseph said she wants the legislation to preserve more of the state’s increasingly precious water resources for human consumption.The question of oil's water use comes after years of unprecedented drought in the Western U.S. has forced a reconsideration of how water is allocated on the Colorado River and prompted demand for water conservation by communities across the region.Oil and gas operators use an average of 17.8 million gallons of water when they drill and frack each well in Colorado, according to data submitted by companies to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.Much of that water, and often some groundwater, flow back out of wells over time, mixed with the oil and natural gas liquids. That water is contaminated with chemicals, salts and often radioactive elements.Companies separate the water, treat it to remove many contaminants, and usually take it to specialized injection wells designed for water disposal, where the water is pumped back underground.The bill proposes to require that water from oil and gas wells, known as “produced water,” be treated and then reused in drilling and fracking. If the bill becomes law, that water, along with the occasional municipally recycled sources of water, would replace most of the use of fresh water in oil and gas.Doing so would require setting up water treatment near wells — powered only by renewable energy, according to bill requirements — and water storage be established for millions of gallons used in drilling and fracking phases.Colorado oil and gas industry groups worry the requirements make current levels of oil and gas development in the Denver-Julesburg Basin unrealistic, all in pursuit of cutting water use by an industry that’s a relatively insignificant user compared to agriculture and other industries.“As currently drafted, House Bill 1242 is a prescriptive and unworkable solution in search of a problem,” said Lynn Granger, the Denver-based director of the American Petroleum Institute’s chapter in the Midwest and Mountain region.She noted that past studies have shown the oil industry uses under 1% of the water demand along the South Platte River, and even less statewide, and she raised concerns about the physical demands of the bill’s water reuse requirements.“This bill supposes a scale of recycled or reused water that far exceeds any real or imagined storage capacity in the Denver-Julesburg Basin and imposes a regulatory burden far exceeding the current capacities of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission,” she said.

U.S. Crude Production Steady But Off 2023 Peak; Russia Pulls Back - American exploration and production firms’ (E&P) continued to drive oil output at strong levels over the last two weeks, though activity slipped from the highs of the year. E&Ps generated 12.2 million b/d for the week ended March 10, even with the prior week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA)Weekly Petroleum Status Report on Wednesday. The last two EIA prints, however, fell 100,000 b/d shy of the February average. The production level last month also matched the high point of both 2023 and the pandemic era that began in March 2020.The latest EIA result topped the year-earlier level of 11.6 million b/d and kept crude stocks at a strong surplus relative to historic averages. Inventories for the March 10 period, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, totaled 480.1 million bbl – 7% above the five-year average.U.S. E&Ps have maintained solid levels as OPEC and Russia – the world’s other top producers – scale back.The Saudi Arabia-led OPEC-plus launched an effort in late 2022 to cut production by up to 2.0 million b/d from the highs of last year. It has since confirmed intentions to stick with lighter output levels.Russia in February threatened to trim its 10 million b/d oil production by 5% to retaliate against European Union sanctions imposed to protest the Kremlin’s war. Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov on Wednesday told lawmakers in Moscow that he intended to follow through on the threat.“For 2023, we expect oil production levels to be slightly lower…because of the voluntary reduction in output,” Shulginov said, according to Russian news agency Interfax.The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast in its February Oil Market Report global oil demand would rise about 2 million b/d this year to nearly 102 million b/d. That would set a record. Researchers said the Chinese government’s decision early this year to substantially ease pandemic-related economic restrictions would drive increased activity and oil consumption.Still, IEA estimates show supply and demand roughly balanced through this year, thanks to U.S. production. But researchers emphasized that the supply side is vulnerable to geopolitical challenges, particularly Russia’s war in Ukraine.Total U.S. petroleum demand for the March 10 period ticked up slightly from the prior week – by less than 1%. Total products supplied over the last four-week period, however, averaged 19.7 million b/d, down by 6% from a year earlier.

Explaining the EIA's Huge Unaccounted Crude Oil Imbalances - The numbers don’t add up. Literally. The most closely watched energy statistics in the world have a problem, and it’s been getting worse over the past two years. We’re talking about EIA’s U.S. crude oil supply, demand and inventory balances, which are published each week and then trued up about 60 days later in monthly data. The problem is that the balances don’t balance. EIA uses a plug number alternatively called “adjustment” or “unaccounted for” to force supply and demand to equate. That would not be an issue if the plug number was small and flipped frequently from positive to negative, likely due to timing inconsistencies with the input data. But that’s not the case. The number is mostly positive, meaning more demand than supply. And the difference can be mammoth: last week it was 2.3 MMb/d, or 18.4% of U.S. crude production. It seems like barrels are somehow materializing out of nowhere. But now we know where, because EIA just finished a 90-day study of the crude imbalance that reveals the sources of the problem and what it is going to take to fix it. In today’s RBN blog, we will delve into what has been causing the problem, what it means for interpreting EIA statistics, and what EIA is doing to address the issues. Before we get to the problem, let’s go through a quick primer on this piece of EIA’s responsibility: U.S. crude oil supply/demand statistics. When they hit the street, these numbers move markets, not just here in the U.S. but around the world. The weekly inventory numbers take center stage, but changes in stocks are meaningless unless you know why the inventory level changed. Is production up? Exports down? Imports increasing? Refinery runs decreasing? It’s the “why” that market analysts need to assess to make sense out of market developments, and of course, what those developments are likely to mean for the price of crude oil — literally the most important commodity price in the world. In theory, it’s a pretty simple equation. Production + Imports +/- Stock Change = Demand + Exports In other words, if you take into consideration the change in inventory, then by definition, supply equals demand. All crude that comes into the market must go somewhere. It can’t disappear. Nor can it appear from nothingness. The equation must balance. But what if it doesn’t? Well, it means something is wrong with the data. Because the equation must balance in “real life.” It is only in the accounting for what happens in real life that we have a problem. To see what the problem looks like, let’s consider Figure 1, which shows weekly EIA stats for the week ended February 24 and was published by EIA on March 1 in its comprehensive Weekly Petroleum Status Report (WPSR). Production and imports total 18.5 MMb/d. Adjusting for 0.2 MMb/d that went into inventory (the weekly stock change divided by 7 to make it a daily number), total supply available to meet demand was 18.3 MMb/d. On the demand side, refiners took 15 MMb/d and 5.6 MMb/d went to exports, for a total demand of 20.6 MMb/d. So where did the difference between 20.6 and 18.3 come from. Answer? We don’t know. All we do know is that 2.3 MMb/d came from somewhere. Or more accurately, either demand is overstated, supply is understated, or some combination of the above. Note that this discrepancy does not mean that we can’t get a lot from the stats. Inventories come from operators of tankage, so they are good numbers. Refiner inputs come directly from the refineries. Imports are from EIA data forms (EIA-814 survey for monthly numbers, EIA-804 for weeklies), but exports come from customs filings with Customs and Border Protection, with the monthly CBP scrubbed by (believe it or not) the Census Bureau. But when you add it all up, something does not balance. So EIA just plugs in the number in a column called “Weekly U.S. Unaccounted for Crude Oil” in the WPSR.

Did The EIA Finally Get Realistic About U.S. Shale Output? - Readers will recall that, for the last several months, I have noted that US oil production per the EIA's weekly Petroleum Status Report was inconsistent with the data from the EIA's monthly Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) The graph below shows the state of play as of last week. The two red arrows at right show the contradictory trends, with total oil production essentially flat while shale oil production is shown rising at a healthy clip. I have noted that this contradiction would have to be resolved by either increasing the weekly numbers or reducing shale oil output. We now have the answer.The graph below shows the state of play as of March 14th, when the EIA issued the March DPR. It shows simply massive downward reductions in US shale oil output. In the March report, shale oil output from the key plays is reduced by 443,000 bpd for January and 250,000 bpd for February. If we go back one more month to the January DPR, shale oil production has been reduced by 542,000 bpd for December 2022. This is a huge revision, more than 4% of total US crude and condensate production over a two month period. With this revision, as the current graph (below) shows, US shale oil production is largely flat over the last four months, and trends in shale oil supply are consistent with the overall US crude oil supply (including conventional onshore wells, Gulf of Mexico offshore, and Alaska). I need hardly point out that this is not good news, as the visible peak of horizontal oil rigs is now beginning to pair up with plateauing oil production, just as we would expect.The most plausible interpretation is that US crude and condensate production will stagnate for the balance of the year. As I wrote in The Oil Supply Outlook(Feb. 2), the plateau has been expected since at least 2017 (see Fig. 6), so it should come as no surprise. I think the surprise, however, will be in production trends going forward. The EIA sees a long plateau in US oil production. I think it is more likely that we'll see the beginning of an erosion in supply from 2024.In light of this, President Biden's approval of drilling in Alaska is not hard to understand, but don't expect it to have a material impact on supply anytime soon.

Bakken Shale Natural Gas Prices ‘In the Tank’ as Production Rebounds From Winter Storm Shut-ins - Bakken Shale natural gas prices remain at pandemic-era lows amid an overall softening of the North American market, according to North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). - The price of natural gas delivered to TC Energy Corp. and Oneok Inc.’s Northern Border pipeline system at Watford City, ND, stood at $2.08/Mcf as of Wednesday (March 15). “Natural gas prices are really in the tank,” DMR’s Lynn Helms, Oil and Gas Division director, said during a press briefing.He cited that U.S. natural gas storage inventories currently sit comfortably above the five-year average for this time of year, a bearish indicator. Due to regulatory and investor pressure to stamp out routine gas flaring, low prices put “a lot of stress on the system,” Helms said. “It’s very difficult to make progress on gas capture.”North Dakota producers nonetheless managed to capture and market 95% of gas production during January, meaning just 5% was flared, vented or leaked. “We’re working on some proposals within the legislature to try to incentivize increased gas capture,” Helms said. Low prices notwithstanding, production showed a strong recovery in January versus December, due to milder weather.North Dakota’s natural gas production averaged 2.8 Bcf/d in January, up 7.23% from December, according to DMR.Helms said DMR expects “another major increase” in February production, although March could be “a bit of a struggle” due to weather impacts this month.Helms was joined by the North Dakota Pipeline Authority’s Justin Kringstad, director. He cited recent comments from Oneok management that the firm saw increased volumes on Northern Border during the fourth quarter. Oneok COO Kevin Burdick said there is still potential for Bakken volumes to displace about 300-400 MMcf/d of Canadian volumes on the system. Burdick also said that projects are advancing to expand gas egress capacity from the Bakken into the Cheyenne natural gas hub, which straddles the Powder River and Denver-Julesburg basins. North Dakota’s oil production, meanwhile, rose 11% month/month in January to 1.06 million b/d.The number of wells permitted in February totaled 70, down from 79 in January and 94 in December, DMR data show. The state’s drilling rig count was holding steady at 45 as of Wednesday (March 15), following monthly averages of 44, 46 and 46 in December, January and February, respectively. North Dakota’s drilled but uncompleted well count stood at 469 as of January, up from 450 in December. Well completions totaled 96 in February, according to preliminary estimates. This compares to 67 in January and 104 in December. There were 18 active completion crews as of Wednesday, Helms said.

Biden blocks some Arctic oil drilling as Willow decision looms The Biden administration on Sunday announced actions aimed at limiting oil and gas drilling in Alaska as it is also expected to soon approve a controversial 30-year oil project. The Biden administration is blocking 2.8 million acres in the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas drilling and will also propose additional protections for 13 million acres of federally owned land in Alaska that have significant natural and historic value, according to an Interior Department Press release. There has not been a federal lease sale in the Arctic Ocean since 2007, according to the department. Leasing is an early step in extracting oil and gas from federal lands and waters. The protections from oil that Biden will announce on Monday come as the administration has also indicated that it is likely to approve a controversial oil development project. That project, known as the Willow Project, would allow ConocoPhillips to extract as many as 629 million barrels of oil from an area known as the National Petroleum Reserve — Alaska over a 30-year period. The Willow Project is highly controversial among environmentalists, who point to the oil’s anticipated contribution to climate change, as it is estimated to contribute 278,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the project’s 30-year lifespan. Although the administration proposed approving the project last month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that a final decision had not been made amid reports that the administration was moving ahead with the project. An administration official said Sunday that the administration will issue its decision on Willow “soon” and said that it has had limited options since ConocoPhillips has held some of its drilling leases for decades. The Sierra Club in a new statement on Sunday praised the reported protections, but also said the administration should not approve the Willow Project. “However, the benefits of these protections can be undone just as quickly by approval of oil and gas projects on public lands, and right now, no proposal poses a bigger threat to lands, wildlife, communities, and our climate than ConocoPhillips’ Willow project,” Supporters of the Willow Project have said that it will bring economic benefits to Alaska and contribute to the global oil supply.

Biden Interior approves controversial Alaska oil drilling project -The Biden administration approved a major and controversial oil drilling plan in Alaska, known as Willow, just one day after unveiling protections for more than 16 million acres of land and water in the region.The $8 billion plan, led by Alaska's largest crude oil producer, would produce about 600 million barrels of oil over 30 years and generate around 278 million metric tons of carbon emissions, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of the Interior.Under the plan, ConocoPhillips will be allowed to develop three well pads within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a 23 million-acre area that is the largest expanse of public land in the U.S.The approval of Willow is one of the president's most consequential climate decisions. Environmental groups have long condemned the plan, arguing it undermines the administration's pledge to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project's emissions would be about equivalent to what 66 new coal-fired power plants produce in a year. Proponents of Willow, including the state's congressional delegation and some Alaska Native tribal governments and residents of Alaska's North Slope, have said the plan would create about 2,500 jobs, deliver up to $17 billion in revenue for the federal government and boost U.S. domestic energy security.Prior to the president's decision, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management released an environmental analysis last month that proposed lowering the number of drilling sites from five to three under the project. The Interior said it had "substantial concerns" about Willow, including its direct and indirect emissions and its impact on local wildlife.In addition to lowering the number of drill sites, the Interior said Monday that ConocoPhillips would relinquish rights to about 68,000 acres of existing leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to the government, a decision it said would create a buffer from exploration and development in the region outside the project.Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement, said the approval "was the right decision for Alaska and our nation.""Willow fits within the Biden administration's priorities on environmental and social justice, facilitating the energy transition and enhancing our energy security, all while creating good union jobs and providing benefits to Alaska Native communities," Lance said.In an apparent effort to offset criticism about the project's climate impact, the administration on Sunday declared the Arctic Ocean off limits to oil and gas leasing and said it will also impose regulations to protect nearly 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Biden just betrayed the planet – and his own campaign vows | Rebecca Solnit --The Willow project is an act of terrorism against the climate, and theBiden administration has just approved it. This massive oil-drilling project in the wilderness of northern Alaska goes against science and the administration’s many assurances that it cares about climate and agrees that we must make a swift transition away from fossil fuel. Like the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, Joe Biden seems to think that if we do some good things for the climate we can also do some very bad things and somehow it will all even out.To make that magical thinking more obvious and to try to smooth over broad opposition, the US federal government also just coughed up some protections against drilling in the Arctic Ocean and elsewhere in the National Petroleum Reserve (and only approved three of the five drilling sites for ConocoPhillips’ invasion of this wilderness). Of course, this is like saying, “We’re going to kill your mother but we’re sending guards to protect your grandmother.” It doesn’t make your mom less dead. With climate you’re dealing with physics and math before you’re dealing with morality. All the carbon and methane emissions count, and they need to decrease rapidly in this decade. As Bill McKibben likes to say, you can’t bargain with physics.You can try to bargain with the public, but the motivation behind this decision is hard to figure out. The deal was inherited from the Trump administration, and rejecting it would have been a break with convention, but convention dooms us, and we need the break.Biden was elected in no small part by the participation of young voters who supported his strong climate platform. As a candidate he promised: “And by the way, no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period.” Six million letters and 2.3m comments opposed to the project were sent to the White House, many from young people galvanized by social media. The American public, Republican minority aside, is strongly engaged with the reality of climate crisis now and the urgency of doing something about it.I call it an act of terrorism, because this drilling project in Alaska produces petroleum, which will be burned, which will send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it will contribute to climate chaos that will affect people in the South Pacific, the tropics, the circumpolar Arctic, will affect the melting of the Greenland ice shield (this month reaching a shocking 50F warmer than normal). It doesn’t just produce petroleum; it produces huge quantities of it, resulting in an estimated 278m metric tons of carbon emissions.This makes it, like the Permian Basin oil extraction in the US south-west and the tar sands in Alberta, a carbon bomb. Former vice-president Al Gore recentlyput it this way: “The proposed expansion of oil and gas drilling in Alaska is recklessly irresponsible … The pollution it would generate will not only put Alaska Native and other local communities at risk, it is incompatible with the ambition we need to achieve a net zero future.”

ConocoPhillips ramped up lobbying spending during fight over an $8 billion Alaskan oil project • ConocoPhillips spent $4.6 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2022 as it sought final approval for a delayed $8 billion oil project in Alaska’s federally-administered National Petroleum Reserve. The multimillion dollar lobbying blitz is the most the oil company has spent lobbying in a single quarter since 2011 and more than its total lobbying budget in most prior years. The so-called Willow project was greenlit in the final months of former President Donald Trump’s administration, but a federal judge halted development last August pending additional review. Climate advocates, who argue Willow undercuts President Joe Biden’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, want his administration to end it for good. Oil and gas companies are expanding efforts to shape federal legislation as the industry emerges from the pandemic. An OpenSecrets analysis of disclosures filed last month found that the industry spent more than $34.8 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 17% compared to the same period in 2021. Texas-based ConocoPhillips is driving much of that increase by lobbying on a range of issues, including Willow and federal leasing. The company’s first-quarter spending in 2022 increased threefold from less than $1.4 million during the same period in 2021, surpassing the company’s annual lobbying spending in nine of the last 10 years. ConocoPhillips was the industry’s top spender in the first three months of the year.

Biden closes Arctic to oil — after Willow -As the Biden administration signaled it could soon approve a massive oil project on public lands in Alaska, President Joe Biden on Sunday declared the entire Arctic Ocean off-limits to oil and gas leasing. As part of a “fire wall” against future drilling in the far north, the White House announced it is also preparing to overhaul management of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), expanding protections in a large portion of the 24-million-acre swath of public lands in the Arctic. Biden’s sudden conservation announcements arrive as the Interior Department is poised to greenlight ConocoPhillips’ contentious Willow project in the NPR-A, bucking a concerted effort over recent weeks from environmental groups, climate activists and some Alaska Native leaders to block the project. Since Friday, several news organizations have reported that the White House is expected to approve the project in Alaska’s North Slope. In approving the $8 billion development in some form, the White House would be siding with oil advocates in the fierce political divide over whether climate change should dramatically reshape how the nation manages its vast oil and natural gas wealth. Biden has made international commitments to draw down methane and carbon pollution in the United States, support the build-out of clean energy like offshore wind, and supercharge the growth of electric vehicles in the country. But the president has proved more ambivalent about decreasing oil production on public lands, even as his administration has taken hits from Republican lawmakers for not doing enough to boost domestic oil and gas. An administration official implied Sunday night that the president faced limited choices when it came to Willow. The official emphasized discussions about the project have focused on the Biden administration’s “legal constraints to stop or substantially limit Willow, given ConocoPhillips has held some leases for decades.” This limited the administration’s options, the official said. But the potential trade-off was immediately greeted with skepticism from environmental groups that have lobbied tirelessly to get Biden to reject Willow. “The benefits of these protections can be undone just as quickly by approval of oil and gas projects on public lands, and right now, no proposal poses a bigger threat to lands, wildlife, communities, and our climate than ConocoPhillips’ Willow project,” said Athan Manuel, the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program director, in a statement. “Oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters must end — full stop. The eyes of the world are watching.”

The dubious economic calculus behind the Willow project --President Joe Biden’s decision to approve the massive Willow oil project earlier this week infuriated climate advocates and environmentalists while drawing praise from Alaska politicians and oil industry figures. As the Biden administration weighed the benefits and drawbacks of the project over the past year, the latter camp argued that the project would help replace Russian oil supplies as well as deliver an economic boon for Alaskans.The Willow project’s champions have stressed the need for the U.S. to achieve energy independence in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said last month that Willow could help “reduce our energy imports from some of the worst regimes in the world.” Mary Peltola, a Democratic representative and Alaska Native who was elected to Congress last year, said just last week that the project could “make us all safer in a world that has grown more unpredictable after Russia invaded Ukraine.”There’s no doubt that the Willow project, led by ConocoPhillips, represents the largest new Alaskan oil project in decades. At full capacity, it could increase total oil production in the state by more than a third. But experts told Grist that the energy and economic benefits of the project are smaller and less certain than its boosters have suggested. Not only will the Willow project provide an insufficient substitute for Russian oil, but it will also deliver an ambiguous mix of costs and benefits to Alaska state coffers, which have long relied on fossil fuel revenue that is increasingly hard to come by — even with new drilling in the Arctic.It’s not clear how much the Willow project would help replace Russian oil supplies. First there’s the matter of timing: The project will not deliver its first barrels until 2028 or 2029, and it will take even longer for all three well pads that the Biden administration approved to start producing at full capacity. It’s possible the global oil supply picture will look very different by then: Western countries may have access to new sources of oil, like recent offshore projects in places like Guyana, and where crude prices will be is anyone’s guess.Second, the particular kind of oil that Willow will produce isn’t a perfect substitute for the oil that the U.S. once bought from Russia. The chemistry of petroleum beneath Alaska’s North Slope is different from both light shale oil and the heavier oil that tends to come from places like Russia and Venezuela, so it will need to be blended with other oil in order to enter domestic refineries, which are mostly designed to refine specific types of crude. That’s why the United States kept importing oil even after the fracking boom began, and it’s why much of Willow’s oil wouldn’t replace imports from other countries.

Where Biden's Arctic oil strategy may succeed — or fail - The Biden administration promised this week to ink new protections against oil drilling in the Arctic in an apparent counter to approval of ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil project. But will the administration’s plan help curb the industry’s future expansion in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska as the White House claims? And is it a winning political strategy for President Joe Biden? Many observers are skeptical, and industry sees an oil revival for public lands in the far north. “The decision is a milestone for Alaska’s upstream sector,” explained Mark Oberstoetter, upstream oil and gas analyst for Wood Mackenzie, pointing to several adjoining projects on nearby state and Alaska Native lands that together constitute enough oil to push Alaska back from the brink of significant decline. “A revival of North Slope production is now on.” The administration may need to harness a 1976 law granting the Interior Department authority to protect the Arctic ecosystem and wildlife if it wants to counter that narrative, although it’s unclear how the law’s language might be interpreted to change the status quo, experts say. The administration may expand wetlands and river corridors that are already largely cut off from drilling, while also making the oil industry’s attempts to build out infrastructure more difficult by delaying approvals. It also has the option of refusing to hold lease auctions that would give companies further drilling rights. Others argue the administration should limit new oil and gas activity from now on in the reserve on the grounds that Willow would release large amounts of greenhouse gases, exceeding the remaining carbon budget on federal lands in the Arctic. But even a smorgasbord of new rules or administrative delays are not expected to keep the NPR-A from becoming a hot spot for oil and gas drilling on Alaska’s North Slope, representing a severe blow to conservation groups and some Alaska Native organizations that tried to block Willow on climate grounds. “You can’t move forward with significant oil and gas development on the one hand and have protections that are meaningful on the other hand,”

Biden's green allies promise lawsuit over Alaska oil project - The approval Monday of ConocoPhillips’ massive Willow project in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve is teeing up a new high-profile legal brawl that will likely align the Biden administration and Republican lawmakers against environmentalists who have largely backed the president’s climate agenda. The pared-down project opens up three new oil and gas drilling areas of the western North Slope — two fewer than originally proposed by the oil company — but green groups say the approval still undermines the Biden administration’s commitment to halve nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The brewing legal battle highlights a sharp divide between a Democratic administration and environmental groups over the extent to which public lands and federal waters should be available for oil and gas development. “We are going to work with our clients to move forward with litigation,” said Bridget Psarianos, senior staff attorney at Trustees for Alaska, which previously led a successful lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s approval of the Willow project. “We’ll be moving quickly on that.” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) — a staunch Willow supporter — said he was already preparing to help defend the Biden administration from “frivolous legal challenges” against the $8 billion project. “We are coordinated and ready to defend this decision,” he told reporters Monday. Biden officials have sought to balance interest in continued leasing in oil- and gas-producing states like Alaska with the president’s clean energy priorities. Environmentalists who have generally backed the president’s climate initiatives have also repeatedly pushed the federal government to go even further by eliminating new oil and gas leasing on federally controlled lands. Cancellation of the Willow project would have been a key win to block future fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Now environmentalists’ pressure campaign against the project is transitioning to legal action against the approval process by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management.

Greens sue Biden over Willow oil project approval – A coalition of environmental groups on Tuesday filed a quick legal challenge against the the Biden administration’s decision to approve the controversial Willow oil project in Alaska. Biden’s decision to allow ConocoPhillips to build its massive project on federal land in the Alaska wilderness has caused an uproar among environmentalists. They argued in their lawsuit that the approval violated four environmental laws despite the fact that the Bureau of Land Management greenlit a smaller version of the project than ConocoPhillips had sought. “Willow would result in the construction and operation of extensive oil and gas and other infrastructure in sensitive arctic habitats and will significantly impact the region’s wildlife, air, water, lands, and people,” the groups wrote in their lawsuit, which asks the Alaskan court to vacate the Biden administration’s approval of the project. BLM failed to follow requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act to consider alternatives that would lessen the project’s impact on the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, or NPR-A, or to take a required “hard look” at the project’s cumulative impacts, including on climate change, the suit alleges. The groups also charge BLM with failing to consider the project’s impacts on lands used for subsistence by Alaska Natives. And the suit argues the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly consider Willow’s potential impacts on endangered species such as polar bears. “Interior attempted to put a shiny gloss over a structurally unsound decision that will, without question, result in a massive fossil fuel project that will reduce access to food and cultural practices for local communities,” Bridget Psarianos, lead attorney for Trustees for Alaska, which represents the environmental groups, said in a statement. “This new decision allows ConocoPhillips to pump out massive amounts of greenhouse gases that drive continued climate devastation in the Arctic and world. The laws broken on the way to these permits demonstrate the government’s disregard for those who would be most directly harmed by industrial pollution and ignores Alaska’s and the world’s climate reality.” Willow is estimated to produce about 600 million barrels of oil, with production projected to be over 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak. The project is also expected to generate around 280 million tons a year of greenhouse gases over its expected 30-year lifetime — the equivalent of two coal-burning power plants every year, according to government estimates.

Lawsuit: Biden Willow approval violates NEPA - Environmentalists filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Biden administration’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ Willow project, marking a new stage in the fight over drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.The hotly contested $8 billion project opens three new drilling areas in the remote wilderness of Alaska’s western North Slope and is estimated to be capable of producing about 600 million barrels of oil over its three-decade lifespan.The lawsuit, filed by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of a coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups, called on the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska to scrap the approval because the federal government failed to consider the project’s indirect and direct climate risks, as well as harm to wildlife such as denning polar bears and subsistence hunting.“The Biden administration’s approval of the ConocoPhillips Willow project makes no sense for the health of the Arctic or the planet and comes after numerous calls by local communities for tribal consultation and real recognition of the impacts to land, water, animals, and people,” said Siqiñiq Maupin, executive director of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic (SILA), in a statement.SILA, along with the Alaska Wilderness League, Environment America, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, are all parties to the lawsuit.The groups claimed that the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of Willow did not take the required “hard look” under the National Environmental Policy Act, and violated provisions of the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, procedural law and other federal statutes.“These laws require consideration of alternatives and thorough, transparent, and careful analysis of the impacts of ConocoPhillips’ proposal by BLM. BLM violated these laws by failing to consider reasonable alternatives that would lessen the impacts to the Reserve,” Trustees for Alaska told the court. The lawsuit also alleges the Fish and Wildlife Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously by finding the project did not adequately consider the risk to polar bears from the oil and gas development.The challengers further alleged that the Biden administration’s environmental review did not respond to all the concerns raised by Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in an 2021 order blocking the project. The Trump administration had originally given ConocoPhillips the green light for five drilling areas in 2020, as part of a push to expand domestic fossil fuel production under its energy independence agenda.

White House: Biden's hands were tied on Willow - The White House on Thursday defended the administration’s decision to approve a massive oil and gas drilling project in Alaska after widespread criticisms that the move undercuts President Joe Biden’s promises on climate change and the environment. The Interior Department announced earlier this week that it had approved a scaled-back version of ConocoPhillips’ plans to drill in the northeast portion of the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope. The announcement came after decades of industry effort to advance the project since the oil and gas giant first acquired leases during the Clinton administration. Critics of the drilling plan, known as the Willow Project, assailed it as a “carbon bomb” after Biden pledged on the campaign trail that there would be no new drilling on federal lands. Environmentalists are suing the administration over the plan. “The president kept his word when he can where he can by law,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday. “As the Interior Department said, some of the company’s leases are decades old, granted by prior administrations,” she added. “The company has a legal right to those leases. The department’s options are limited when there are legal contracts in place.” Biden, she said, “is delivering the most aggressive climate agenda in the U.S. history, and that is going to be his continued commitment to the American people.” She declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Historic Deal Reopens B.C. Indigenous Land to Fracking, Promises Surface Restoration - A landmark agreement seeks to rectify decades of environmental destruction sanctioned by British Columbia policy-makers on Indigenous land, but also reopens one of Canada’s most prolific shale formations to the fossil industry, inviting them back to resume drilling a land once left “decimated” by extraction. Years in the making, the Blueberry River First Nations Implementation Agreement comes 18 months after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the cumulative impacts of the province’s long and “aggressive” support for resource extraction on Blueberry River First Nations (BRFN) lands breached their right under Treaty 8 to use their territories for hunting, fishing, and cultural activities. The agreement assures a C$200-million restoration fund by June 2025 to support the healing of the land. An additional $87.5 million will be paid “as a financial package over three years, with an opportunity for increased benefits based on petroleum and natural gas (PNG) revenue-sharing and provincial royalty revenues in the next two fiscal years.”It also guarantees limits on new development, protecting more than 650,000 hectares of land from PNG and forestry activities.And it fills the negotiation void that existed before, which served to turn the territory into what The Narwhal describes as “industrial wasteland.”“The agreement charts a path forward from a past where the province excluded the community from resource decisions and infringed on the nation’s constitutionally protected rights,” The Narwhal writes. Two days after signing its agreement with BRFN in mid-January, B.C. inked similar deals with the four other Treaty 8 nations in the region: Doig River, Halfway River, Saulteau, and Fort Nelson. “Collectively, the agreements represent a way out of conflict and a shared goal to heal the land.”But the Blueberry River agreement “is not a cap on production, it’s a cap on land disturbance,” B.C. Premier David Eby told media following the announcement. The oil and gas industry will need to be “innovative” in its search to “find ways to work with less land disturbance.”The agreement has left stakeholders from extraction industries celebrating in step with the BRFN. Fossil gas projects stalled by the courts can now proceed, they say, with regulatory certainty sweetening the pot for prospective investors.

Canada is sitting on 12 'carbon bombs.' Here's where they are | CBC News - Just under the surface of B.C. and Alberta, in a rock formation known as the Montney Play, lies enough potential greenhouse gases to blow past Canada's 2030 emissions targets 30 times over.It's one of 12 fossil fuel reserves researchers in the journal Energy Policy have identified in Canada — called "carbon bombs" — that would each release a billion tonnes or more of carbon into the atmosphere if their resources were extracted and burned. This would be catastrophic for the world's efforts to slow rising global temperatures, the authors argue.But development in the Montney is set to ramp up in the next few years, and government subsidies for the natural gas industry mean many of these projects have been earmarked to make important contributions to the economy. Kjell Kühne, the lead researcher on the paper and a director of Leave it in the Ground, an initiative aimed at stopping the extraction of fossil fuels, says Canada needs to find a way to stop these projects, or risk increasing our contribution to climate-related disasters."You are basically betting on humanity continuing to burn down the house at the same rate in order for you to make money, and that is a very risky bet," he said.Kühne and others identified 425 "carbon bombs" around the world, and collectively, they would blow the carbon budget needed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 C twice over. Researchers measured the carbon dioxide emissions that would result if each country extracted and burned its largest fossil fuel reserves. Thinking about these projects as "carbon bombs" includes the downstream emissions of actually burning the fuel, which is a better way of measuring climate impact than how the Canadian government tallies emissions, said Julia Levin, associate director of Environmental Defence, who was not involved in the research.The Canadian government reports only carbon dioxide emitted in Canada. It does not count the greenhouse gas emissions produced when those fossil fuels are exported and burned somewhere else. "It allows countries — big producers of oil and gas, like Canada — to completely abdicate climate responsibility for the oil and gas that we pull out of the ground," said Levin.

West Indies Petroleum steps in to assist with oil spill - West Indies Petroleum stepped in on Tuesday to assist crew members of a Canadian ship recover roughly 3,000 litres of diesel oil from Jamaican waters.The Jamaica Observer understands that an oil spill occurred at approximately 4:00 am on Tuesday at Reynold's Pier in Ocho Rios, St Ann, as the ship's crew carried out internal operations.Major Luis Cheverria, West Indies Petroleum's group manger of health, safety, security and environment, told the Observer that the oil spill did not impact their operations but a team had to step in and assist as they, too, are stakeholders in the industry and it was in their best interest to ensure it was cleaned and that there was no environmental damage."About 3,000 litres was released accidentally. They responded to it but did not have sufficient response material. We learned of it about 7:00 am on Tuesday and we deployed our oil spill response team. The team did the assessment and found that the spill was contained to a large extent but they needed additional absorbent material to recover the oil properly from the sea. They needed around four bails of absorbent material which we assisted them with. We provided all our resources on stand by until the spill was totally cleaned up by midday and recovered. They kept it on their vessel," said Cheverria."Representatives from National Environment and Planning Agency attended the scene. The harbour master from Port Authority of Jamaica was also there and an inspector from MAJ (Maritime Authority of Jamaica) was also on the scene. We coordinated with them," he said.

Balcombe anti-fracking group launches crowd-funding campaign against hydrocarbon exploration at Sussex oil well | SussexWorld -- The Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) has nearly reached its initial £5,000 target to cover pre-action legal costs and now aims to raise £35,000 to cover the cost of the action.The campaign comes after an independent Planning Inspector permitted an appeal from Angus Energy to undertake 30 months of hydrocarbon exploration at the existing oil well at the Lower Stumble Exploration site, off London Road. The decision, which was made on February 13 and was welcomed by Angus Energy, was met with dismay from FFBRA members and some Mid SussexDistrict councillors. The Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) has launched a crowd funding campaign to challenge the government’s decision to allow Angus Energy to test for hydrocarbons near their village. FFBRA chair Sue Taylor said: “It is extraordinary that a small village has to take the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove to the High Court to stop oil exploration in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”Mid Sussex District councillor Jenny Edwards (Green Party, Ardingly and Balcombe) said: “This decision threatens not just the environment but the proper functioning of the democratic process in this country. The application was unanimously rejected by WSCC and yet it is still going ahead. We need to fight this tooth and nail.”

Putin rejects theory about Ukrainian role in pipeline blasts - (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday dismissed as "sheer nonsense" allegations that Ukrainians could be behind the blasts that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year, and again pointed the finger at the U.S. Putin spoke after The New York Times, The Washington Post and German media published stories last week citing unidentified U.S. and other officials as saying there was evidence Ukraine, or at least Ukrainians, may have been responsible. The Ukrainian government has denied involvement. Germany's Die Zeit newspaper and German public broadcasters ARD and SWR reported that investigators believed five men and a woman used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland to carry out the attack. German federal prosecutors confirmed that a boat was searched in January but have not confirmed the reported findings. Putin rejected the notion as “sheer nonsense.” "Such an explosion, so powerful and at such depth, could only be conducted by experts backed by the entire potential of a state that has relevant technologies,” he said in televised remarks. The Russian leader insisted that the U.S. had a motive to stage the explosion, saying it wanted to halt supplies of cheap Russian natural gas to Germany and to provide it with more expensive liquefied natural gas. The Kremlin last week described the claims about Ukrainian involvement in the explosions as part of a cover-up by the West. Putin on Tuesday poured scorn on European leaders for keeping quiet about the incident, charging that their attitude reflected what he described as Europe's subservient position in relation to the U.S. “The Europeans have lost a gene of independence, sovereignty and national interest,” Putin said with a smirk. “The more they hit them on their noses or the top of their heads the lower they bend and the broader they smile.” September's explosions that hit the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines rendered them inoperable and caused significant leaks of gas that was idle in the pipelines. No one claimed responsibility.

Europe turns to gas storage to offset French LNG halt --European countries are increasing withdrawals from underground sites to offset a halt to regasification from France's four LNG terminals. European regasification fell to its lowest since 23 October 2022 on 11 March as industrial action halted output from French terminals (see sendout graph). The Elengy-operated 8mn t/yr Montoir, 6.6mn t/yr Fos Cavaou and 2.2mn t/yr Fos Tonkin facilities halted operations at 13:00 CET (12:00 GMT) on 6 March, followed by the 12.4mn t/yr Dunkirk terminal at the start of the 7 March gas day. French sendout collapsed to just 90 GWh/d on 6-12 March from 1.2 TWh/d earlier in the month. And the shortfall in supply is having ripple effects throughout the continent. France has increased its withdrawals from underground storage as a share of consumption since the beginning of the strikes. Withdrawals accounted for 60pc of total supply on 6-11 March — according to the latest data — up from 48pc earlier in the month and 46pc in January-February (see French stockdraw graph). And the uptick in withdrawals relative to consumption has also been felt by neighbouring countries, previously reliant on regasified supply from France, although the effect has been muted by mild weather, which has led to a fall in heating demand. France has reversed its pipeline flows and imported supply from Spain in recent days to make up for the shortfall in LNG. Exports towards Belgium have also fallen, reversing to net imports on 7-8 March. And flows towards Germany have halted while exports to Switzerland — most of which then transits to Italy — have also slowed (see supply graph). The halt in exports towards Belgium has led onward eastward flows from the country towards Germany and the Netherlands to fall sharply. Belgian exports towards Germany fell to their lowest since March 2022 on 11 March. And Belgium imported from the Netherlands on 6-8 March for the first time since late January. And with less pipeline supply reaching Germany from Belgium, France and the Netherlands, the country's withdrawals have risen. The German stockdraw rose to 1.2 TWh/d on 6-11 March — according to the latest available data from GIE — from 1 TWh/d earlier in the month. And withdrawals as a share of German consumption rose to 36pc over the period, from 28pc earlier in the month and in January-February (see German stockdraw graph). Italian withdrawals also slightly increased their share of the country's consumption as imports at Tarvisio — where Italy imports from France via Switzerland — halted completely on 9-12 March. The Italian stockdraw accounted for 24pc of Italian consumption on 6-10 March up from 22pc earlier in the month. But Italian consumption fell to 2.1 TWh/d on 6-12 March from 2.7 TWh/d earlier in the month, which may have limited the draw on underground stocks.

Four Reasons For Europe's Record-Breaking Drop In Natural Gas Demand -- Natural gas consumption in OECD Europe fell by an estimated 13% in 2022, its steepest decline in absolute terms in history, IEA said in its quarterly gas report at the end of February. Demand in Europe fell amid mild winter weather and demand reduction in industry due to high prices. Significant changes in the energy mix, economic activity, weather, and consumer behavior were responsible for the dramatic shift in natural gas consumption in Europe last year, IEA’s analysts Peter Zeniewski, Gergely Molnar, and Paul Hugues wrote in the commentary.Record additions of solar and wind power helped lower gas demand, but record-high gas prices in the summer of 2022 also led to a lot of industry curtailments and lower consumption by industries and businesses, according to the IEA.Yet, the extent to which the high prices will lead to permanent reductions in demand in gas-intensive industrial sectors remains unclear, the IEA’s analysts say. In Europe’s industry, gas use fell by 25 bcm, or around 25%, in 2022, due to production curtailment and fuel switching, as the energy-intensive industries were the first to respond to the gas price shocks last year, the IEA said.In household consumption, “Policy measures – such as renewable support schemes, grants and preferential loans for housing retrofits and heat pump installations, alongside campaigns to encourage behavioural change – all played a part in moderating gas demand,” according to the analysts.The European Union managed to beat its target for cutting gas demand this winter, Eurostat data showed last month.According to the data, the EU’s winter demand has so far dropped by 19.3% compared to the five-year average, beating the 15% goal it set for itself to help it survive the winter without gas shortages.

Russia was producing 9.8 mln barrels of oil daily in January, February —-TASS - Oil production without gas condensate in Russia was at the level of 9.8 mln barrels daily in each of January and February 2023, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said in its March report. Russia boosted liquid hydrocarbons production by 36,000 barrels daily to 11.2 mln barrels per day in January, OPEC said. In 2023, the indicator is expected to drop by 0.7 mln barrels daily to 10.1 mln barrels a day. The forecast for oil production in Russia is characterized by a high degree of uncertainty, the Organization said. The discount for the Russian Urals oil blend in Northwestern European ports in February increased by $1.31 against January and stood at $35.72 per barrel, OPEC estimated.

Russia Says Bombs Found At A Druzhba Pipeline Station In Latest Sabotage Attempt -- Officials with the Russian oil company Transneft say they've uncovered a failed bomb plot to sabotage the Druzhba oil pipeline and maim civilians in the western Bryansk region of Russia. Transneft spokesman Igor Demin told TASS on Wednesday that two explosive devices were found at a pumping station. The devices, while they didn't detonate, had some degree of damage due to the likelihood they were dropped from drones, he explained. "The character of the explosive parts — metal balls — indicates that the organizers of this sabotage did not intend to damage equipment, but rather to kill people, namely civilian workers at a pumping station on the Druzhba [pipeline]. Investigations are underway," Demin said. The station in question, identified in Bloomberg as the Novozybkov station, "hasn’t been used for oil pumping so far this year; its reservoirs are empty," according to reports. Demin noted that no part of the station was damaged. The Russian Defense Ministry didn't immediately comment on Transneft's statements, but the Kremlin has of late ratcheted its accusations that Ukrainian saboteurs are engaging in cross-border attacks. President Putin has recently ordered his federal security services (FSB) to tighten border security after a string of brazen cross-border incidents. This year has also seen an unprecedented number of drone incursions over Russian territory, and Moscow has gone so far as to allege Western state backing of such operations.

Russian oil flows rebound as India snaps up more pacific cargoes --Russia’s seaborne crude flows rebounded last week, with Indianow making inroads into the country’s Pacific exports having taken the bulk of cargoes shipped from western ports after a European embargo.
In the seven days to March 10, Russia’s shipments recovered 40 per cent of the previous weeks’ loss, rising to 3.33 million barrels a day. The less-volatile four-week average also rose.
There has been no obvious decline in Russia's seaborne exports since its troops invaded Ukraine more than a year ago, though there may have been an overall drop in flows because tankers have taken on some crude previously sent to Europe through the Druzhba pipeline. As yet, there’s no sign of flows being impacted by the 500,000-barrels-a-day output cut that Russia said it would impose in March. India overtook China as the biggest buyer of Russian seaborne crude in early November and has continued to buy more than its neighbor ever since. Increasing quantities of the Pacific ESPO crude grade are heading to India’s ports, after months in which Chinese refiners had snapped up almost every available shipment. India will not breach Western sanctions on Russia — including the price cap of $60 a barrel imposed on purchases of oil from Moscow — according to people familiar with the matter, who said the authorities have asked banks and traders to adhere to the rules. The combined volume of crude on vessels heading to China and India plus smaller flows to Turkey and quantities on ships that haven’t yet shown a final destination rebounded in the latest four-week period, to an average 3.28 million barrels a day, setting a new high.As the ultimate destinations of cargoes loading in late January and early February become apparent, flows to China rose to new post-invasion highs. Historical patterns suggest that most of the cargoes currently identified as “Unknown Asia” and heading for the Suez Canal will end up in India.Ship-to-ship transfers of cargoes in the Mediterranean continue apace. This has been most visible off the Spanish north African city of Ceuta and off the Greek coast near Kalamata. At least 46 cargoes have been transferred between ships in those two locations since the start of the year. The volume transferred off the coast of Greece, mostly in the Bay of Lakonikos, soared in February, rising to more than 10 million barrels, equivalent to 360,000 barrels a day. That compares with 4.4 million barrels, equivalent to 156,000 barrels a day transferred off Ceuta.

Russia's oil revenues fall sharply as the West's price cap starts to bite, IEA says -The International Energy Agency on Wednesday said Russia's oil export revenues fell sharply in February, prompted by bans and price caps designed to curtail President Vladimir Putin's ability to finance the war in Ukraine. The IEA said Russia's estimated oil export revenues fell to $11.6 billion last month, down $2.7 billion from January when volumes were significantly higher. "It remains to be seen if there will be sufficient appetite for Russian oil products now that the price cap is in place or if its production will start to fall under the weight of sanctions. Revenues are already dwindling," the group said in its latest oil market report. The energy agency said, citing the Russian finance ministry, that Moscow's fiscal receipts from oil sales were just 45% of the level from a year earlier. The latest figures come shortly after the IEA said in mid-February that the West's oil war against Russia appeared to be having the "intended effect" despite surprisingly resilient production and exports in recent months. Ukrainian officials and campaigners have previously called for Western policymakers to ramp up the financial pressure on Russia by targeting its oil revenues in order to help Kyiv prevail. The European Union's embargo on Russian oil products came into effect on Feb. 5, building on the $60 oil price cap implemented by the Group of Seven major economies on Dec. 5. The latter measure also coincided with a move by the EU and U.K. to impose a ban on the seaborne import of Russian crude oil. Asked on Tuesday whether he was concerned last year that the Russian economy might have collapsed due to international sanctions, Putin said he had been worried but that Russia's "economic sovereignty" now was a major result. The foundations of Russia's economic stability were "stronger than anyone thought," he added. Putin said Russia's financial system had got stronger and that Western companies that left Russia last year thought the economy would collapse "but it didn't."

India Takes A Leading Role In De-Dollarization -- Reuters reported on Wednesday that “India’s Oil Deals With Russia Dent Decades-Old Dollar Dominance”, which informed their audience that the growing trend of those two using national or third-party currencies like the UAE’s is something significant for everyone to pay attention to. To that outlet’s credit, it also reminded readers that IMF Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath foresaw in the month after Russia’s special operation began that the West’s sanctions “could erode the dollar’s dominance”. Lo and behold, that’s precisely what happened, with India of all countries accelerating de-dollarization through its non-dollar-denominated energy deals with Russia. About them, Russia has since become India’s largest supplier over the past year and now provides a whopping 35% of that country’s needs, which is also the world’s third-largest oil importer and fifth-largest economy. Their new energy ties, and particularly the growing de-dollarization dimension of their deals, are thus globally important. None of what was just described is driven by any anti-American animus on India’s part since everything is purely motivated by the pursuit of that country’s objective national interests. Delhi had no choice but to gradually diversify away from dollar-denominated energy deals with Moscow due to Washington’s illegal sanctions. Its multipolar leadership wasn’t going to let the world’s most populous country slip into an economic crisis just to please the US by eschewing the import of discounted oil from Russia. By defying American pressure upon it to unilaterally concede on those aforementioned objective national interests, India’s economy ended up growing at twice the pace of China’s, which contributed to catapulting that country to the forefront of the global systemic transition to multipolarity. Amidst the impending trifurcation of International Relations, India is now poised to de facto lead the Global South in helping fellow developing countries balance between the Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente. Had India complied with the US’ illegal sanctions, then the New York Times wouldn’t have recently admitted that those restrictions failed just like the West’s efforts to “isolate” Russia did as well. It was largely due to that South Asian Great Power’s truly independent grand strategy that this latest phase of the New Cold War didn’t decisively end in the Golden Billion’s victory over Russia and the restoration of unipolarity, which would have been detrimental to India and every other developing country’s interests. India therefore changed the course of history by remaining committed to the pursuit of its objective national interests, which to remind everyone, aren’t driven by any desire to harm the interests of third parties like the US. Its leading role in de-dollarization via its increasing number of non-dollar-denominated energy deals with Russia is also reshaping the global financial system by reducing that currency’s prior dominance and thus leading to a more multipolar state of affairs for everyone. Even the US itself seems to have finally accepted that it can’t reverse this trend, which is evidenced by former Indian Ambassador to Russia Kanwal Sibal recently telling TASS that “Lately, the discourse from Washington has changed and India is no longer being asked to stop buying oil from Russia. In a recent visit to India, the US Treasury Secretary actually said that India can buy discounted oil from Russia as much as it wants so long as western tankers and insurance companies are not used.”

Emirates News Agency - India to account for 25% growth in global energy demand: Minister - India will account for approximately 25 percent of the growth in global energy demand in the two-decade period up to 2040, according to India’s Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Hardeep Singh Puri. Quoting both industry and research estimates, Puri said India’s energy strategy is based on such an expectation and has been acknowledged as being pragmatic and balanced. “Ensuring energy access, availability and affordability for our large population is imperative,” he noted. Puri said India plans to double its geographic area under oil and gas exploration from 0.25 million sq km to 0.5 million sq km. “Prohibited or no-go areas in the country’s exclusive economic zones have been reduced by 99 percent, releasing nearly one million sq km for exploration,” he added. “We are also rapidly expanding our petrochemical production. India is now a global exporter of petroleum products and its refining capacity is the fourth largest globally. Efforts are underway to further enhance this capacity to 450 million metric tons by 2040,” according to the Minister.

Oil spill: Shell incidents rise 100% to 12 in 1 month — Report --Oil spills recorded by Shell Petroleum, the largest petroleum producer in Nigeria, increased month-on-month, MoM, by 100 per cent to 12 in February 2023, from six recorded in the preceding month of January 2023. Also, on year-on-year, YoY, the incidents rose by 33.3 per cent to 12 in February 2023, from nine recorded in the corresponding period of 2022. The development, mainly attributed to sabotage, culminated in the loss of commercial quantity of crude oil, thus impacting revenue and the environment. In its latest Oil Spill Data, obtained by Vanguard, weekend, Shell Petroleum disclosed that the incidents occurred at different locations, including Yokri well flowline at Yokri, Ogale-Bomu pipeline at Kpite, Rumuekpe Nkpoku pipeline at Ibaa, Kolocreek-Rumuekpe pipeline at Odau and Gbaran flowline at Opolo during the period. In its Briefing Notes, the company, stated: “Shell Companies in Nigeria have a track record of strong production but in 2021, the combined production from the SPDC Joint Venture, JV, and SNEPCo (Bonga) fell to 493,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day from 614,000 in 2020. “The SPDC JV produced 383,000 barrels of oil equivalent in 2021, compared with 497,000 barrels of oil equivalent in 2020. The fall in output was largely a result of curtailed oil production because of heightened security issues, such as crude oil theft and illegal oil refining. ”Production numbers were also down as a result of divestment action, including the sale of SPDC’s 30% interest in OML 17 for $533 million. “In the last quarter of 2021, crude oil theft from pipelines across the region increased ostensibly as a result of rising oil prices, which made the activity more profitable. Security risks have heightened and production in some areas has been put on hold. ”The situation is impacting operators across the Niger Delta. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has reported that crude thefts in 2021 reached 200,000 barrels per day – a quarter of onshore production.

100K people affected, 122 sickened in Philippine oil spill - -The oil spill from a sunken oil tanker off the coast of the Philippines’ Oriental Mindoro province has affected nearly 100,000 people and sickened 122, provincial governor Humerlito Dolor said. Authorities are still scrambling to contain the spread of the oil leaking from the tanker carrying 800,000 litre of industrial fuel oil that sank on February 28. Dolor told a local radio on Monday that 122 residents in the province, southwest of the national capital Manila, reported respiratory-related symptoms, vomiting, and diarrhoea. “Pola town is heavily damaged, with the shoreline of all its coastal villages covered with oil,” Dolor said, adding that the town experienced fish kills, and some seagrasses, corals, and mangroves were damaged. The coastal Pola town is heavily affected by the spill. Town mayor Jennifer Cruz said many residents have fallen ill, suffering from headaches, stomach pain, dizziness, chest pain, eye irritation, cough and cold, Xinhua news agency reported. Authorities asked fisherfolks to refrain from fishing hours after news broke out about the sea accident due to water pollution and the smell of the oil that coats the shoreline. The Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines has warned that the spill threatens to reach other areas of the country which has a high concentration of coastal fishes, corals, crustaceans, mollusks, sea grasses, and mangroves. Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos has ordered government agencies to work for a speedy oil spill clean-up in about four months. The oil tanker was travelling from Bataan province in Luzon island to the central Philippines to deliver 800,000 litre of industrial oil when it sank off the coast of the Oriental Mindoro province.

PCG says a month not enough for oil spill cleanup - — Cleaning up the oil spill from the motor tanker that sank in the waters off Oriental Mindoro would likely take more than a month, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Tuesday. PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu cited the lack of manpower and equipment as the main challenges in cleanup operations. “Let us be honest and candid about it. One month time? Hindi ganun kadali ‘yan [It’s not that easy],” Abu told reporters. “This is the reason why we are promoting everybody’s involvement…most especially the LGUs (local government units) and the community. We are not sure or certain yet when oil from the vessel will be completely released," he added. The PCG official said the embassies of Japan and the United States in Manila expressed their intent to assist the country in responding to the oil spill. Asked how other nations could help, Abu said they can send people to help in the cleanup. Authorities are rushing to contain the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress, as they warn of its impact on the environment and on the health of residents in Oriental Mindoro and nearby areas. The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said toxic chemicals from the spill can cause skin and lung complications, aside from nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach. In a briefing also on Tuesday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency received reports of some residents along the shoreline experiencing headache and nausea. She noted these are short-term symptoms, which disappear a few hours after the patients receive medical help. MT Princess Empress was transporting 800,000 liters of industrial oil when it capsized and sank last Feb. 28 near Naujan town. On Monday, authorities said they detected the possible site of the vessel northeast of Pola town. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the tanker is believed to have moved southeast from its last known position where it completely submerged. The DENR said officials will still have to verify the exact location of the vessel through the deployment of a remotely operated vehicle.

Tanker owner liable for over ₱330M in damages for Mindoro oil spill – lawmaker — The owner of MT Princess Empress, the tanker that caused the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, is liable for over ₱330 million for the damages it caused under international conventions, a lawmaker said on Monday. According to Aklan Second District Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., tanker owner RDC Reield Marine Services is liable under several international conventions, including the 1992 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (1992 CLC). Under the 1992 CLC, the firm is liable for up to ₱331.3 million and additional liabilities under the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund should they fail to comply. “Beyond cleanups, we must make an effort to make MT Princess Empress and its owners RDC Reield Marine Services accountable to the government for damaging our tourism industries and marine resources and to the affected communities whose health and livelihood are heavily compromised,” Haresco said in a statement. The lawmaker added the tanker owner is also liable under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, and the International Safety Management Code. He also recommended that the insurance company of MT Princess Empress be pursued by the Insurance Commission. Concerned that Aklan might also be affected, Haresco filed House Resolution No. 842 that seeks to conduct an inquiry into the extent of the oil spill’s damage. RDC Reield Marine Services has apologized for the oil spill and assured all those affected that it is taking steps to address the problem and minimize its impact. The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) assessed that over 24,000 hectares of coral reef in Oriental Mindoro may be at risk due to the oil spill in waters off the province. The UPMSI also said some of the slick off Oriental Mindoro could reach the Verde Island Passage by March 16, putting marine biodiversity and other endangered and threatened species at risk. “We must employ a whole-of-government approach in seeking for justice, mitigating the devastating effects of the oil spill, and dealing with the recovery and rehabilitation of the affected communities and environmental resources,” Haresco said.

Sunken tanker in oil spill lacked permits — The MT Princess Empress oil tanker – which sank in the waters off the coast of Oriental Mindoro carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil – sailed without an updated certificate of public convenience (CPC), lawmakers uncovered yesterday during a hearing of the Senate committee on the environment. “The ship has no authority to operate in the form of an amendment to its certificate of public convenience issued to RDC Reield Marine Services,” Sen. Cynthia Villar said, reading a report from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), which is in charge of issuing CPCs. At the hearing, senators asked the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) whether it made all the necessary inspections before the tanker was allowed to sail. Asked by Sen. Raffy Tulfo asked why the vessel was allowed to sail, PCG Vice Adm. Joseph Coyme replied that in the checklist, the inspectors did not tick the box on CPC. Tulfo said PCG officials responsible for allowing the tanker to sail should be jailed. “If you did your jobs, we would not be all here,” he said. Fritzie Tee, vice president of RDC, said the tanker was new and the company had applied for an amended CPC in November. The company has a CPC but the new vessel necessitates an amendment that is to be approved by the MARINA. MARINA administrator Hernani Fabia said the CPC application was still being processed. He agreed with Sen. Risa Hontiveros that the tanker should not have sailed. Upon questioning by Sen. Francis Escudero, Tee said MT Princess Empress had sailed at least nine times before the incident. Escudero said it was possible the owners were thinking the CPC would be released anyway so they allowed the tanker to be deployed. Villar and Tulfo warned that claimants – individuals and local government units – may not be able to receive insurance compensation from RDC Reield Maritime Services, since it was not supposed to deploy the tanker without an updated CPC. Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor told the inquiry that RDC lawyers earlier gave assurances that the company will immediately put up claims offices. Reports said RDC told the PCG that it was insured for $1 billion. “I don’t want the people to rely on the $1-billion insurance… we should plan accordingly that we would not get that… the insurance company will find a basis to not pay them,” Villar said.

Revenue from oil taxes should fund Mindoro oil spill cleanup —Recto -- Government revenues from taxes imposed on petroleum products should be used to aid residents affected by the Mindoro oil spill and finance subsequent cleanup, House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said Wednesday.Recto said a mere one day’s worth of oil tax collections is already worth P1 billion, an amount that would be enough to jumpstart “abatement and alleviation” measures in areas hit by the ecological disaster.Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor earlier said the oil spill from sunken MT Princess Empress carrying 800,000 liters already affected the livelihood “Ang katas ng buwis ng langis dapat gamitin panglinis ng tagas sa lumubog na barko,” Recto said.(The taxes collected from oil products should be used to clean up the oil spill.)

Thailand rushes to avert spill after accident on oil storage ship – (Reuters) – Authorities in Thailand on Thursday were working to avert a leak from a storage vessel carrying 400,000 barrels of crude oil.One crew member was killed after seawater entered the hull of The Benchamas 2 when a seal malfunctioned during maintenance earlier this week.

Authorities rush to contain oil spill moving toward eastern Thailand resort island Authorities are rushing to prevent an oil spill in eastern Thailand from damaging fragile corals, after officials said on January 30 that the leak that began last week was drifting towards more coastal areas. Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Varawut Silpa-archa said it was crucial to try to prevent the main mass of oil from reaching the shore at Ao Prao, a small bay on Koh Samet, which is a popular resort island. “If the oil reached inside this area it could impact the beach and cause heavy damage to the shallow water corals,” Varawut said. The oil began leaking from a pipeline owned by Star Petroleum Refining Public Company Limited (SPRC) late on Tuesday. Before it was brought under control, an estimated 50,000 liters (13,209 gallons) of oil escaped into the ocean 20 km (12 miles) from the coastline of eastern Thailand. Mae Ramphueng Beach in Rayong province was declared a disaster area after some oil came ashore there late on Friday. The latest satellite image from the government’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) showed the oil spill has spread to cover 67 sq km (25.87 sq miles) area of the sea. Most of the oil had formed a thin film rather than a thick oil slick, navy spokesman Vice Admiral Pokkrong Monthatphalin told reporters, citing aerial photographs.

Decaying oil tanker off Yemen could be offloaded by September if remaining $34m is raised: UN – The UN said Wednesday that it could finish offloading oil from a decaying tanker off Yemen if donors quickly provide the remaining $34 million that is needed, Anadolu News Agency reports.The UN recently purchased a ship that it hopes will avert a catastrophic spill from the decaying vessel. "There has also been progress on the Safer tanker. Last week, UNDP announced the purchase of a replacement vessel that should arrive in Hudaydah in May," Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Joyce Msuya, told the 15-member Security Council."This means the offloading operation could finish by September – if donors quickly provide the remaining $34 million needed."The FSO Safer oil tanker is a floating storage and offloading unit located off the western coast of Yemen, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of the port of Al-Hudaydah. It is used for storing and exporting oil coming from oilfields in the oil-rich central province of Marib.Now under the control of Houthi rebels, the tanker has not undergone maintenance since 2015 and more than 1 million barrels of crude oil have been sitting on a decaying vessel in the Red Sea.A statement released last week by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said a major spill would devastate fishing communities on Yemen's Red Sea coast, likely instantly wiping out 200,000 livelihoods."Whole communities would be exposed to life-threatening toxins. Highly polluted air would affect millions," it said. The cost of cleanup of a potential oil spill alone is estimated at $20 billion, according to the UNDP.

Saudi oil giant Aramco posts record $161.1 billion profit for 2022 --Saudi Arabia's state-controlled oil giant Aramco on Sunday reported a record net income of $161.1 billion for 2022 — the largest annual profit ever achieved by an oil and gas company.Aramco said net income increased 46.5 percent over the year, from $110 billion in 2021. Free cash flow also reached a record $148.5 billion in 2022, compared with $107.5 billion in 2021. "This is probably the highest net income ever recorded in the corporate world," Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on a Sunday earnings call. The results are nearly triple the profit that oil major ExxonMobil posted for 2022, bolstered by soaring oil and gas prices through last year, along with higher sale volumes and improved margins for refined products. Oil and gas prices surged at the start of 2022, with western sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine steadily tightening access to Moscow's supplies, particularly seaborne crude and oil products.Oil prices have since pulled back more than 25% year-on-year, with hot inflation and rising interest rates overshadowing a more bullish demand outlook from China. Brent and WTI prices fell 6% last week alone. Brent last traded at around $80 dollars per barrel. "We are cautiously optimistic," Nasser said. "If you consider China opening up, the pickup in jet fuels and the very limited spare capacity, we are cautiously optimistic in the short to mid-term [that] markets will remain tightly balanced."Aramco raised its fourth-quarter dividend by 4% to $19.5 billion, to be paid in the first quarter of 2023. Aramco also said it would issue bonus shares to eligible shareholders as a result. "We're aiming to sustain [the dividend] at this level," Aramco Chief Financial Officer Ziad Al-Murshed told the earnings call. "We have the financial strength to go through the ups and downs of the cycle."Nasser also used the results release to repeat his warning about "persistent underinvestment" in the hydrocarbons sector. "Given that we anticipate oil and gas will remain essential for the foreseeable future, the risks of underinvestment in our industry are real, including contributing to higher energy prices," Nasser said on Sunday, echoing comments made during a recent interview with CNBC.At both a ministerial and Aramco level, Saudi Arabia has been a proponent of avoiding short-term fuel shortages through the dual funding of fossil fuel supplies and the green transition."We don't see enough investment getting into the markets right now," he reiterated on the Sunday call. "We encourage the industry, policymakers, investors… to avail additional investment to really increase the amount in the sector, so that we can meet future demand."Aramco said average hydrocarbon production last year was 13.6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, including 11.5 million barrels per day of total liquids. Saudi Arabia most recently produced 10.39 million barrels per day of crude oil in January, the International Energy Agency found in the February issue of its Oil Market Report.As chair of the influential OPEC+ producers' alliance, Saudi Arabia has been leading by example the group's efforts to collectively reduce their output targets by 2 million barrels per day, agreed in October and reaffirmed at technical and ministerial meetings since. The group's move towards limiting supply availabilities has put OPEC+ at odds with some international consumers, sparking a war of words with Washington towards the end of the last year, as U.S. President Joe Biden's administration stressed the need to easing the burden on households.Long-time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran on Friday struck a China-brokered deal to resume diplomatic relations. Iran has previously been blamed for amajor attack on Aramco's facilities in 2019 that caused a dramatic spike in prices and undermined the stability of global supplies. Tehran has denied involvement."The deal will hopefully result in less geopolitical tension and enhance regional stability, which will definitely have a positive impact on the global market," Nasser said in response to a question about the Saudi-Iran development.

OPEC raises Chinese oil demand growth view, flags econ risks (Reuters) - OPEC on Tuesday further raised its forecast for Chinese oil demand growth in 2023 due to the relaxation of the country’s COVID-19 curbs, although it left the global total steady citing potential downside risks for world growth. World oil demand in 2023 will rise by 2.32 million barrels per day (bpd), or 2.3%, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a monthly report. This was unchanged from last month’s forecast. While faster Chinese demand could support the oil market, crude prices have fallen this week as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has sparked fears about a fresh financial crisis. OPEC flagged potential downside risks for the world economy from rising interest rates. “China’s reopening, following the lifting of the strict zero-COVID-19 policy, will add considerable momentum to global economic growth,” OPEC said in the report. “The rapid rises in interest rates and global debt levels could cause significant negative spill-over effects, and may negatively impact the global growth dynamic,” OPEC added. OPEC expects Chinese oil demand to grow by 710,000 bpd in 2023, up from last month’s forecast of 590,000 bpd and a contraction in 2022. Last month’s report had also raised the Chinese forecast. The global total was steady due to downward revisions elsewhere, including the United States and Europe. OPEC was cautious on economic prospects, leaving its 2023 global growth forecast at 2.6%. The report cited the U.S. Federal Reserve successfully managing an inflation slowdown as among potential upside factors. Oil weakened after the report was released, extending an earlier decline. Brent crude was down over $1 to below $80 a barrel. The report also showed OPEC’s oil production rose in February despite output cuts by the wider OPEC+ group. OPEC+ includes the 13 OPEC members, plus Russia and other outside producers. For November last year, with prices weakening, OPEC+ agreed to a 2 million bpd reduction in its output target - the largest since the early days of the pandemic in 2020. OPEC’s share of the cut is 1.27 million bpd. OPEC said its crude oil output in February rose by 117,000 bpd to 28.92 million bpd, helped by a further recovery in Nigeria which has boosted supply due to improved security in its oil-producing Delta region. Despite the rise, OPEC is still pumping much less than called for by the OPEC+ agreement, as Nigeria, Angola and other members struggle to reach their targets. The report also trimmed its estimate of the amount of crude OPEC needs to pump in 2023 to balance the market by 200,000 bpd to 29.3 million bpd, suggesting a less tight market outlook than previously thought.

Chinese oil demand growth outweighs OECD weakness: Opec - Opec has increased its 2023 oil demand growth forecast for China, outweighing a far weaker growth outlook in the OECD. In its latest Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR), Opec says its 2023 world oil demand growth forecast remains unchanged at 2.3mn b/d, with OECD Americas and OECD Europe both revised slightly lower, but Chinese growth revised higher, with jet/kerosene and gasoline leading demand growth. OECD demand is expected to grow by 0.2mn b/d on the year to 46.23mn b/d, after a 0.35mn b/d forecast made in the previous MOMR. Demand in the non-OECD world is forecast to increase by 2.1mn b/d to 55.67mn b/d. China leads the way, jumping by 0.71mn b/d to 15.56mn b/d. The rise was forecast at 0.59mn b/d in the previous MOMR, and the higher revision comes after a rebound of 0.8mn b/d in January — from 0.2mn b/d in December — as the country abandoned its zero-Covid strategy and transport, economic and social activities could return to normal. Oil demand dropped by 0.5mn b/d on the year in December in OECD Europe, a fourth consecutive monthly annual fall, Opec said, weakened by macroeconomic effects and "geopolitical developments", meaning the war in Ukraine and resultant sanctions. Diesel demand has been weak for seven months in Europe because of the faltering economic situation, and Opec expects European oil demand to show no growth this year, a revision down from its expected growth of a modest 40,000 b/d made a month ago. US oil demand growth is also expected to be modest this year, at 90,000 b/d. Demand there fell by an unexpected 1.2mn b/d on the year in December, affected by bad weather. Non-Opec liquids supply growth is forecast at 1.4mn b/d this year, to 67.2mn b/d, unchanged from last month's MOMR, with growth driven by the US, Brazil, Norway, Canada, Kazakhstan and Canada and declines primarily in sanctioned Russia. Opec expects Russian output to drop by 750,000 b/d this year to 10.3mn b/d, sharply lower than the 900,000 b/d drop forecast last month after higher than expected output in the first quarter this year. Opec said there are large uncertainties over non-Opec output growth because of the impact of "ongoing geopolitical developments", and the potential for US shale. Opec puts the call on its members crude at 29.3mn b/d this year, up by around 800,000 b/d from 2022 and down by 100,000 b/d from last month's update. Argus estimates Opec crude output was 28.88mn b/d in February.

OPEC sees improved Chinese oil demand more than offset by resilient Russian output - With Russian oil output proving resilient to sanctions, OPEC downgraded its estimate of how much crude it will need to pump to balance the market, despite increasing its forecast for Chinese demand. At its current production rate, more OPEC crude will not be required until the second half of the year, the secretariat said in an oil market outlook published March 14, with volumes from outside the bloc expected to rise more than previously thought. OPEC said it now saw Russian liquids production falling 750,000 b/d year on year, less than the 900,000 b/d drop anticipated in its February report, largely on the back of higher than expected Q1 volumes. That mostly accounted for OPEC's upward revision to its 2023 non-OPEC supply forecast to 67.20 million b/d. But even with China's oil demand now expected to rise 710,000 b/d for 2023, up from the 590,000 b/d forecast in February, OPEC kept its estimate of overall global consumption essentially unchanged at 101.90 million b/d, due to weaknesses emerging in some western economies. The group said the rapidly changing economic conditions continued to warrant a cautious approach to managing oil production volumes. OPEC pumped 28.91 million b/d in February, according to secondary sources used by the secretariat to monitor output, almost 300,000 b/d above the so-called "call on OPEC" in the second quarter. The call then rises significantly in the second half of the year to average 29.26 million b/d for the full year, which is still a downward revision of 160,000 b/d from the February estimate. OPEC has allied with Russia and several other key oil producers on a series of output cuts, the latest of which are scheduled to last through the end of 2023. The OPEC+ coalition's nine-country ministerial monitoring committee, co-chaired by Saudi Arabia and Russia, next convenes April 3. "Given the ongoing high level of uncertainty with regard to the timing and extent of a full global economic recovery to pre-pandemic levels in all sectors, the OPEC and non-OPEC countries participating in the [Declaration of Cooperation] continue to carefully monitor market developments and address challenges in order to ensure sustainable market stability for the benefit of the global economy," the report stated, referring to the alliance. The market report came as crude prices have tumbled while US officials seek to stabilize a financial system hit by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, which has triggered fears of another banking crisis. Front-month Brent futures, which had breached $86/b just days earlier, were trading at $79.09/b as of 1333 GMT, their lowest since early January. OPEC producers have been hoping for a robust Chinese economic reopening from its strict COVID-19 restrictions to boost oil demand, and signs of such green shoots were promising. The report projected that non-OECD oil demand has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels, as the travel and transportation sectors recover, while OECD demand will fall just slightly short. But western sanctions targeting Moscow have so far kept most Russian oil export volumes intact beyond most market expectations, while clamping down on its revenues.

OPEC predicts “modest” oil surplus amidst demand lull for Q2 2023 - The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is pumping about 28.92 MMbpd, or about 300,000 a day more than it expects will be needed in the second quarter, it said in a monthly report. World oil consumption typically eases around this time, a softer patch between the end of winter and start of the summer driving season. The surplus could be even larger if oil production from Russian continues to prove resilient to international sanctions, because OPEC’s outlook assumes a sharp drop in the country’s output next quarter. “There exist some upside potential and downside risks” to demand, OPEC’s Vienna-based research department said in the report on Tuesday. “Given the ongoing high level of uncertainty with regard to the timing and extent of a full global economic recovery to pre-pandemic levels,” the OPEC+ coalition will need to remain cautious. Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC and its partners are restraining output to keep world markets in balance amid a shaky rebound in consumption and fragile economic outlook, which has faltered further this week in the wake of a bank collapse in the U.S. Oil prices plunged below $80 a barrel in London on Monday for the first time in a month. Despite this turmoil, OPEC largely left estimates for average global supply and demand this year unchanged, projecting that world consumption will climb by 2.3 MMbpd to a record of 101.9 million a day. The group sharply increased estimates for supplies this quarter from Russia, which have remained surprisingly strong despite international sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s threats of retaliatory cuts. OPEC expects Russia will pump 10.9 MMbpd this quarter, about 620,000 bpd more than it estimated in last month’s report. Nevertheless, OPEC kept forecasts for Russian output during the rest of the year unchanged, predicting that it will plunge next quarter by 900,000 bpd — an even bigger drop than was witnessed during the international backlash when Moscow when launched its war a year ago. Key members of the OPEC+ coalition are due to hold an online monitoring session to review oil market conditions early next month, and a full ministerial meeting at its Vienna headquarters in June. Group leader Saudi Arabia has said the alliance intends to keep oil production levels unchanged for the entire year, regardless of what happens in the market.

Global oil stocks at 18-month high: IEA Global oil stocks have built to their highest level in 18 months, the IEA said today, which could provide a buffer later in the year when supplies will be "nowhere close" to matching demand. The IEA's monthly Oil Market Report (OMR) said global inventories rose by 52.9mn bl in January to 7.8bn bl, the highest since September 2021. There were big builds in OECD countries, driven by reduced demand and by European nations filling storage ahead of the complete embargo on Russian oil, with smaller increases in non-OECD nations. Preliminary indicators for February suggest a further stockbuild."Building stocks today will ease tensions as the market swings into deficit during the second half of the year when China is expected to drive world oil demand to record levels," the IEA said. Although it kept its forecast for global demand this year all but unchanged from its previous OMR at 102mn b/d, it said demand growth will be skewed towards the latter part of the year, driven by a rebound in air traffic and a post-Covid-19 lockdown recovery in China. It forecasts demand to grow by 710,000 b/d in the current quarter and by 2.6mn b/d for October-December.The IEA said matching the implied 2mn b/d year-on-year growth this year will be a challenge given the uncertainty over Russian output. It forecast 2023 liquids supplies at 101.6mn b/d, up by 300,000 b/d from its last forecast, "enough to meet demand in [the first half of the year] but falling short in the second half" when it sees demand at an all-time high of 103.2mn b/d.The IEA acknowledged Russian production has remained steady near pre-war levels, and has certainly performed better than the IEA projected in the immediate aftermath of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, but noted a 500,000 b/d fall in its exports in February."Willing buyers in Asia, namely India and, to a lesser extent, China, have snapped up discounted crude oil cargoes. But increasing volumes on the water suggest the share of Russian oil in their import mix may be getting too big for comfort," it said. Russia has said it will cut production by 500,000 b/d for March, casting the move as a response to the G7 crude price cap.

Bank Collapse Contagion Fears Spread To Oil Prices - Oil prices have fallen over $2 on Monday, and were down as much as $4 in early trading, as fears of a contagion spread following the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley bank on Friday. By 10:20 a.m. EST on Monday, Brent crude had fallen 2.31% to $80.87, with WTI down 2.62% at $74.67. The Dow was also plunged over 243 points early on Monday, clawing back some of those losses by 10:20 a.m., for a 70 point downswing. Oil prices likely would have fallen even more had not Chinese demand data not provided a counterweight. Fears of a pending financial crisis were sparked on Friday when the U.S. government seized the assets of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) ADVERTISEMENT SVB, the go-to lender for tech startups backed by venture capitalists, failed dramatically on Friday, with shares plunging 60% before the SEC halted trading. On Wednesday, the bank announced a massive capital raise, saying it would sell $2.25 billion in new shares to fix the balance sheet. That created a panic and a run on the bank, sending shares tanking by Friday, leading to an FDCI takeover. On Sunday, Washington launched emergency measures to avoid the contagion spreading into a wider financial crisis. The Biden administration pledged that banks will bear the losses, not taxpayers. "No losses will be — and this is an important point — no losses will be borne by the taxpayers; let me repeat that, no losses will be borne by the taxpayer," Biden said Monday in remarks at White House. "Instead the money will come from the fees that banks pay into the Deposit Insurance Fund." Following the bank’s failure, Goldman Sachs has forecast that the Federal Reserve will now pause rate hikes during its meeting next week. Others agree. "We think the steps taken by the Fed, Treasury and (the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp) will decisively break the psychological 'doom loop' across the regional banking sector," Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay in Toronto, told Reuters.

The Market Whipsawed on Monday Amid Worries of a Possible Banking Crisis - The oil market posted an outside trading day as the market whipsawed on Monday amid worries of a possible banking crisis. The market traded to a high of $77.47 in overnight trading due to a weaker dollar. However, the market gave up its gains and sold off sharply as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank raised fears of a new financial crisis. On Sunday, state regulators closed New York-based Signature Bank. The sudden shutdown of SVB Financial triggered concerns about risks to other banks from sharp rate hikes by the Fed over the last year but also spurred speculation about whether the central bank could slow the pace of its monetary tightening. The oil market extended its losses to over $4.30 as it sold off to a low of $72.30 at the bottom of its one-month trading range. The market later bounced off its low and traded in a range from $74.30 to $76.30 during the remainder of the session. The April WTI contract settled down $1.88 at $74.80, the lowest level since February 22nd while the May Brent contract settled down $2.01 at $80.77. The product markets also ended the session lower, with the heating oil market settling down 1.14 cents at $2.7615 and the RB market settling down 5.44 cents at $2.5914.The oil market on Tuesday is seen trading sideways ahead of the release of the consumer price report. The Federal Reserve will likely have a harder time raising rates aggressively following the collapse of SVB, which should cause some weakness in the dollar and thus support the oil market. The EIA reported that U.S. total shale regions oil production for April is forecast to increase by 69,000 bpd to 9.214 million bpd, the highest level since December 2019. In March, total shale output increased by 86,000 bpd. It reported that U.S. Bakken oil production for April is seen up 18,000 bpd at 1.163 million bpd, the highest level since March 2022, following an increase of 19,000 bpd in March. Eagle Ford oil production for April is seen up 9,400 bpd at 1.132 million bpd, the highest level since April 2020 following an increase of 11,000 bpd in March and Permian Basin oil production for April is seen increasing by 26,000 bpd to 5.622 million bpd, the highest level since December 2022 following an increase of 35,000 bpd in March.IIR Energy reported that U.S. oil refiners are expected to shut in about 1,273,000 bpd of capacity in the week ending March 17th, increasing available refining capacity by 274,000 bpd. Offline capacity is expected to fall to 1,127,000 bpd in the week ending March 24th.Colonial Pipeline Co is allocating space for Cycle 17 on Line 1, its main gasoline line from Houston, Texas to Greensboro, North Carolina. The current allocation is for the pipeline segment north of Collins, Mississippi. Fitch Ratings increased its oil price assumptions on expectation that geopolitical issues will extend the period before prices moderate towards lower, long-term levels. It said its 2023 Brent and long-term oil price assumptions remain unchanged. U.S. President Joe Biden pledged on Monday to do whatever was needed to address a banking crisis threatened by the collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, which forced regulators to step in with emergency measures.

Concerns of a Broader Recession that Could Reduce Demand | Sprague --The oil market continued on its downward path on Tuesday following Monday’s trading session, when the market saw a $5 trading range. The market posted a high of $74.90 in overnight trading before the market extended the previous day’s decline as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank added to concerns of a broader recession that could reduce demand. The market traded down to $72.66 following the release of the Consumer Price Index report, which showed that consumer prices increased 0.4% in February, which would lower the year-on-year increase in the CPI to 6.0% in February and mark the smallest year on year increase since September 2021. The market bounced off that level and retraced its losses as OPEC indicated in its monthly report that stronger demand in China may provide some support and offset the weakness in the U.S. and Europe. However, the market once again erased its gains and breached its support at $72.25 as it extended its losses and posted a low of $71.36 ahead of the close amid a rebound in the dollar. The April WTI contract settled down $3.47 at $71.33, the lowest settlement since December 9th and continued to trend lower in the post-settlement period, trading to a new low of $70.78. The May Brent contract settled down $3.32 at $77.45. The product market settled in negative territory, with the heating oil contract settling down $3.42 at $2.7144 and the RB market settling down 3.84 cents at $2.5530. According to OPEC, global oil markets appear on track for a modest surplus next quarter amid a seasonal lull in demand. OPEC is producing about 28.92 million bpd or about 300,000 bpd more than it expects will be needed in the second quarter. It said the surplus could be even larger if production from Russia continues to prove resilient to international sanctions. OPEC expects Russia to produce 10.9 million bpd this quarter, about 620,000 bpd more than it estimated in last month’s report. OPEC kept forecasts for Russian output during the rest of the year unchanged, predicting that it will fall next quarter by 900,000 bpd. OPEC raised its forecast for Chinese oil demand growth in 2023 due to the relaxation of the country's COVID-19 curbs, although it left the global total steady, citing potential downside risks for world growth. In its monthly report, OPEC said world oil demand in 2023 will increase by 2.32 million bpd or 2.3% to 101.9 million bpd. This was unchanged from last month's forecast. OPEC expects Chinese oil demand to grow by 710,000 bpd in 2023, up from last month's forecast of 590,000, although the global total was steady due to downward revisions elsewhere. The report also showed OPEC's crude oil production increased in February despite the wider OPEC+ alliance last year pledging output cuts to support the market. OPEC said its crude oil output in February increased by 117,000 bpd to 28.92 million bpd. OPEC cut its global demand forecast for its crude in 2023 by 200,000 bpd. U.S. senators reintroduced a bipartisan bill on Tuesday that would allow nationwide sales of gasoline with a higher blend of ethanol year-round. Senators Deb Fischer and Amy Klobuchar argue that the expanded sales of E15 or fuel containing 15% ethanol would decrease gasoline prices and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The API supported the bill when it was introduced last autumn.

WTI Slides to 3-Month Low on Firmer USD, Fuel Demand Concerns -- Oil futures settled Tuesday's session sharply lower on a stronger U.S. dollar tied to expectations for another rate hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve next week and persistent concerns over fuel consumption in the United States along with uncertainty about a post-lockdown rebound in Chinese demand. On the session, the U.S. dollar index strengthened a modest 0.03% against a basket of foreign currencies to settle at 103.215, pressuring West Texas Intermediate futures which has an inverse relationship to the U.S. currency. WTI for April delivery declined $3.47 to $71.33 bbl, and international crude benchmark Brent contract for May delivery fell to $77.45 bbl, down $3.32. NYMEX RBOB April futures dropped back $0.0384 to $2.5530 gallon, and ULSD April futures retreated $0.0471 to $2.7144 gallon. Greenback's rebound after three down sessions follows a strong reading on core U.S. consumer price index, which is considered a barometer of a long-term inflation trend, increased 0.5% in February, according to data published this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Shelter was once again the largest contributor to the monthly rise in consumer prices, accounting for over 70% of the increase, with the indexes for food, recreation, and household furnishings and operations also boosting consumer prices. That is bad news for the Federal Reserve that has tried to ease price pressures in the services industry for over a year now. All else equal, a resurgence of faster inflation in the core services might have led the Federal Open Market Committee to approve a 50-basis point increase in the federal funds rate next week after gradually moderating the pace of rate hikes. However, the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank and the risks to the financial system likely took this option off the table, at least according to money markets. U.S. funds rates futures, however, point to a higher chance for the FOMC to approve a 25-basis point rate increase at their March 21-22 meeting. Also Tuesday, oil traders positioned ahead of the weekly inventory report from the American Petroleum Institute on tap for 4:30 PM ET release, followed by official data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration Wednesday morning. Analysts expect U.S. commercial crude oil inventories to have increased by a marginal 100,000 bbl last week, with estimates ranging from a decrease of 3 million bbl to an increase of 3.5 million bbl.

Oil prices rebound on improving China outlook after 4% fall - Oil prices rebounded on Wednesday on an improving fuel demand outlook in China after interest rate concerns and a broader market-sell off triggered by the collapse of an American bank dragged futures lower by more than 4 per cent the previous day. Brent, the benchmark for two thirds of the world’s oil, was trading 1.43 per cent higher at $78.51 a barrel at 9am UAE time. West Texas Intermediate, the gauge that tracks US crude, was up 1.51 per cent at $72.41 a barrel. On Tuesday, Brent settled 4.11 per cent lower at $77.45 a barrel while WTI was down 4.64 per cent at $71.33. Opec on Tuesday raised its forecast for Chinese oil demand growth in 2023 on the relaxation of Covid-19 measures, but stuck to its global demand estimate of 2.3 million barrels per day, citing a potential economic slowdown in Europe and the Americas. The oil producers' group, which expects China’s crude consumption to rise by about 700,000 bpd this year, said the world economy had continued to face challenges ranging from elevated inflation to the Ukraine war. “Overall, oil demand continues to be driven by the ongoing recovery in the travel and transportation sectors,” it said. China, the world’s second-largest economy and top crude importer, reopened its borders in January after adhering to a strict zero-Covid policy for about three years. The country is aiming for gross domestic product growth of 5 per cent in 2023, after it grew by 3 per cent in 2022. The US consumer price index, a key inflation metric, rose by 0.4 per cent in February from January, the Labour Department reported on Tuesday. On an annual basis, prices increased by 6 per cent, which was down from 6.4 per cent in January. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, grew by 0.5 per cent from January and increased by 5.5 per cent on the year. “A mostly in-line inflation report sealed the deal for at least one more [US Federal Reserve] rate hike,” s “The Fed’s tightening work is not done just yet and the chances are growing that they will send the economy into a mild recession, and as risks remain that it could be a severe one,” Global markets have been hit hard after the failure of California-based Silicon Valley Bank triggered concerns of a US banking crisis. On Friday, US regulators closed SVB, the 16th largest bank in the country, after depositors hurried to withdraw money amid concerns about the bank’s health. It was the second biggest retail bank failure in US history, after the 2008 collapse of Washington Mutual due to the global financial crisis. US crude stocks recorded a small increase of 1.1 million barrels last week, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Oil Falls After IEA Signals Global Oil Market in Surplus -- Oil futures nearest delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude traded on the Intercontinental Exchange dropped more than 1% early Wednesday after the International Energy Agency forecast that the global oil market is likely to remain in surplus for the first half of the year, with oil inventories held in OECD countries climbing to 18-month highs on the back of strong Russian crude oil exports. In its monthly oil market report released Wednesday morning, the IEA estimated global oil supply leapt 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) in February to 101.5 million bpd, driven by a rebound in the U.S. and Canada after weather-related disruptions along with ample crude exports from Russia that are being rerouted to new destinations in Asia. The agency forecasts output growth in non-OPEC countries will continue to outstrip lackluster demand in the first half of the year, but seasonal trends and China's post-COVID recovery are still set to tip the market balances into deficit in the second half of the year. Global oil demand is set to accelerate sharply over the course of 2023, rising from a 710,000-bpd year-on-year increase in the first quarter 2023 to 2.6 million bpd in the fourth quarter. Rebounding air traffic and the release of pent-up Chinese demand dominate the recovery. The most recent data out of China showed the economy picked up some momentum at the start of the year, with retail sales rising 3.5% in January and February compared to year-ago levels and industrial output jumping 2.4% as local governments increased infrastructure spending. However, the unemployment rate, particularly among young people, increased to almost 18%, pointing to protracted weakness in domestic demand. Despite these uncertainties, the IEA sticks to its bullish call on China, expecting the momentum in Asia's largest economy to drive global demand to a record 102 million bpd. For Russia, the IEA expects average oil production will stand at 10.4 million bpd this year, 300,000 bpd more than it was forecasting last month, but still 740,000 bpd less than in 2022. Russia has largely managed to maintain its production levels as it has sought out alternative customers, particularly in India and China. Stable crude oil exports are seen lifting the Russian economy into positive growth this year, according to economists from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF, known for its gloomy forecasts, upgraded Russian gross domestic product estimates from a 2.3% decline seen at the end of 2022 to a positive 0.3% in February. Separately, the American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by a larger-than-expected margin during the week ended March 10, while draws in gasoline and distillate fuel stockpiles surpassed expectations. Details of the report showed an increase of 1.155 million barrels (bbl) in commercial crude oil stocks last week, well above calls for a 100,000-bbl gain. Stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, tank farm -- the New York Mercantile Exchange delivery point for West Texas Intermediate futures -- fell 946,000 bbl on the week. Gasoline inventories dropped 4.587 million bbl through March 10, more than three times the estimate for a 1.2-million-bbl draw. API data show middle distillate inventories were drawn down 2.886 million bbl, more than four times the expected 600,000-bbl decline. Near 7:45 a.m. EDT, West Texas Intermediate contract for April delivery declined $0.98 to $70.34 bbl, and the international crude benchmark Brent contract for May delivery fell to $76.38 bbl, down $1.04. NYMEX RBOB April futures dropped back $0.0261 to $2.5269 gallon, and ULSD April futures retreated $0.0402 to $2.6742 gallon.

WTI Holds Losses After Big Product Draws Oil prices have collapsed further this morning - after bouncing last night on API-reported product inventory drawdowns - as last night's China macro data didn't suggest a strong re-opening and Europe's banking system joining the systemic crash freight train is not helping sentiment as oil stands alone for now in pricing an imminent recession. "The energy complex appears to be connecting the dots between the recent banking issues and a possible recession," Additionally, the EIA says global oil markets are contending with a surplus as Russian production defies predictions of a slump while fuel demand slowly picks up. “World oil supply should comfortably exceed demand in the first half of the year,” said the agency, which advises major economies. “Much of the supply overhang reflects ample Russian barrels racing to re-route to new destinations.” API

  • Crude +1.16mm (+100k exp)
  • Cushing -950k
  • Gasoline -4.59mm (-1.2mm exp)
  • Distillates -2.89mm (-600k exp)

DOE

  • Crude +1.55mm (+100k exp)
  • Cushing -1.916mm - biggest draw since May 2021
  • Gasoline -2.061mm (-1.2mm exp)
  • Distillates -2.527mm (-600k exp)

US Crude stocks rose last week but Products and Cushing saw considerable drawdowns... Graphics: Bloomberg The now much-watched 'adjustment factor' on the DOE data is back near record highs... Total crude stocks remain at highest since May 2021...Inventory levels at the Cushing hub are rolling over from two year highs... US crude production was flat last week as rig counts trend lower... WTI was trading just below $69 ahead of the official data and rose modestly after...

Oil tumbles to lowest level since December 2021 as banking crisis routs markets - Oil prices fell sharply Wednesday, as traders feared a brewing banking crisis could dent global economic growth. West Texas Intermediate futures fell more than 5% to settle at $67.61 per barrel, reaching its lowest level since December 2021. Brent crude , the international benchmark, slid 4% to $74.36 per barrel. "The oil market is going to be stuck in a surplus for most of the first half of the year, but that should change as long as we don't see a major policy mistake by the Fed that triggers a severe recession," A retest of October's lows could add increased downward pressure on WTI crude, he said, adding that energy stocks may struggle given the weakening demand outlook and surplus likely to persist in the short-term. "Longer-term views however still support having energy in your portfolios as a lot of the oil giants have robust balance sheets that support continued buybacks and dividends," he added. The drop came as global risk markets sold off following news that Credit Suisse's biggest investor, the Saudi National Bank, would not provide more assistance for the embattled bank. The news led to a more than 20% drop in the bank's U.S.-listed shares. It also raised concern over the state of the global banking system less than a week after two U.S. regional banks failed. The stress in smaller banks led Goldman Sachs to cut its U.S. GDP growth forecast. "Small and medium-sized banks play an important role in the US economy," Goldman economists wrote. "Banks with less than $250bn in assets account for roughly 50% of US commercial and industrial lending, 60% of residential real estate lending, 80% of commercial real estate lending, and 45% of consumer lending." "US policymakers have taken aggressive steps to shore up the financial system, but concerns about stress at some banks persists," they added. "Ongoing pressure could cause smaller banks to become more conservative about lending in order to preserve liquidity in case they need to meet depositor withdrawals, and a tightening in lending standards could weigh on aggregate demand." The Federal Reserve is slated to hold a policy meeting next week. Entering this week, traders had priced in at least a 25 basis-point rate hike. However, CME Group's FedWatch tool now shows nearly a 2-to-1 chance of rates staying at current levels.