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Amid Severe Drought, California Governor Recommends Water Wasters Face $10,000 Fines

Amid Severe Drought, California Governor Recommends Water Wasters Face $10,000 Fines

The fine would only apply to residents and businesses that continually violate water restriction rules

Governor Brown is expected to introduce expanded water restrictions, including the severe fine.

This week, Governor Jerry Brown called for the introduction of a $10,000 fine on residents and businesses found to be wasting the most water, as the state endures one of the most severe droughts in its history.

Among ongoing efforts to conserve water, the governor recently imposed statewide, mandatory water use reductions. Defiance of those restrictions, it was promised, would result in “repercussions, including fines.”

Governor Brown is expected to recommend the $10,000 fine as part of a legislative proposal to expand water restrictions during the drought. State water agencies have reportedly expressed that they would prefer to educate customers rather than punish them, though regulators have approved fines up to $500 for outdoor water waste.

Governor Brown clarified that “only the worst offenders” who are found to be continually violating water rules would face the $10,000 fine.

Meanwhile, both Nestlé and Starbucks are selling bottled water sourced from California, and continue to deny that these activities contribute to the drought.


Some communities may have to cut water use by 35%, regulators say

Beverly Hills will have to cut water use to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought order.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A gardener waters the front lawn of a home in Beverly Hills.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A sign welcomes visitors to Newport Beach.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Newport Beach is one of the heaviest per-capita water using cities in the state.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Homes with swimming pool line the streets of this neighborhood in Palm Springs.

(Chris Carlson / Associated Press )

A bicyclist rides by a Long Beach home that features drought tolerant plants.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A Long Beach homeowner works in his frontyard alongside drought tolerant plants.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In an aggressive push to reduce water usage statewide, California regulators are proposing that the biggest urban water users cut consumption by as much as 35% over the next year.

The State Water Resources Control Board’s plan, unveiled Tuesday, would place the heaviest conservation burden on cities and towns with the highest rates of per-capita water consumption, which would include small rural communities as well as affluent enclaves like Newport Beach and Beverly Hills.

Cities that have the lowest per-capita water use — including East Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Seal Beach — would be required to cut just 10%.

Agencies that don’t comply with the rules could face fines of up to $10,000 a day.

“The gentle nudge is no longer sufficient,” said Max Gomberg, the water board’s senior scientist. “We’re taking the enforcement piece very seriously.”

The conservation targets were part of a new framework the state board unveiled to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s historic order requiring a 25% cut in water use in cities and towns statewide. The proposal assigns targets to more than 400 local water agencies.

The five-member board, whose members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, could adopt the plan in May. The board is seeking feedback on the plan, which could change before the vote.

Most communities would be required to cut water use by 20% to 25%, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Santa Ana, San Jose and Anaheim.

Officials said they measured residential per capita water use in September 2014 to set the benchmarks. But the state will measure whether each community hits its target by comparing overall water use over the next year with 2013 levels.

The targets were released the same day that the board announced dismal water conservation numbers for February. Californians reduced water use just 2.8% in February compared to the same month in 2013. It was the smallest decrease since officials began releasing monthly conservation numbers last summer.

Southern Californians actually used more water in February, while most other areas cut back.

“It’s a really disturbing number,” said State Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus, who attributed February’s results to warmer weather and the improving economy.

Still, she expressed hope that Californians understood the severity of the situation.

“They want to do the right thing,” she said. “But they lead very busy lives. And it’s government’s job to make it easier for them to do those right things.”

Brown’s mandatory statewide water restrictions, the first in California’s history, come as the state endures a fourth year of drought. Slashed irrigation deliveries have forced growers to idle thousands of acres of cropland. Groundwater levels in some areas have plunged, causing the ground to sink. Some small communities have run out of water. And while reservoir levels are higher than last year, the mountain snowpack, which provides about a third of the state’s water supply in normal years, is at a record low.

Amid the growing water worries, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is expected to vote next week to ration water that it supplies to 26 Southland water districts and cities. Local agencies that need more water than the MWD allocates will be required to pay costly rates, a powerful incentive to require the cutbacks needed to meet Brown’s conservation goals.

Per-capita water usage varies significantly across California.

Residents in communities like La Cañada Flintridge, Malibu and Palos Verdes used more than 165 gallons of water per capita per day in February. By contrast, Santa Ana residents used just 60 gallons, and in communities in southeast Los Angeles County, residents used less than 45.

Communities in the 35% reduction group are diverse, including Bakersfield, Redding, South Pasadena, Hemet and Colton.

But some of the state’s wealthy communities have come under scrutiny for high water use. These areas tend to have fewer apartments and less dense housing. Homes tend to be larger and include sprawling, landscaped grounds.

Beverly Hills officials said they were working on a conservation plan, and Newport Beach officials said they were issuing fines to water wasters and were prepared to strengthen watering restrictions.

It remains unclear, though, just how these cities will attain the ambitious conservation mandates.

“Thirty-five percent is achievable, but it’s not going to be easy,” said Heather Engel, spokeswoman for the Coachella Valley Water District, which serves desert resort communities near Palm Springs.

Engel said that the district would need funding for conservation rebates and that more water restrictions were likely.

“Staff has been brainstorming a lot of ideas to see what’s feasible and what will be successful,” she said.

Another agency facing big cuts is the Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves an affluent part of northern San Diego County.

“We knew that we were going to be asked to conserve more than 25%,” said Jessica Parks, an agency spokeswoman.”We are systematically pursuing every opportunity to help our customers drive down their water use, and we’ll keep driving it down until we get it to where we need it to be.”


Contents

Budget Overview

  • Economic Outlook:Governor’s Economic Outlook Has Improved but a Recovery Remains a Long Way Off
  • Revenue:Revised Budget Reflects Significantly Higher Revenues Than Previously Projected
  • Gann Limit:Governor’s Revised Budget Assumes the State Will Exceed Its Constitutional Spending Limit
  • Reserves:Stronger-Than-Expected Revenues Allow State to Build Reserves to $24 Billion
  • Unfunded Liabilities:May Revision Continues to Pay Down Unfunded Liabilities
  • Business-Related Tax Credits & Grants:Governor Proposes Expansions of Grants, Tax Credits, and Other Assistance for Businesses

Health

  • Public Health:The May Revision Misses Key Opportunity to Invest in Local Public Health Departments
  • Health Coverage & Access:May Revision Expands Comprehensive Medi-Cal Coverage to Older Adults Who Are Undocumented
  • CalAIM:Revised Budget Builds on Efforts to Improve Health Outcomes Through Medi-Cal Reform
  • Behavioral Health:Governor’s May Revision Provides Support for Californians’ Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Needs

Homelessness & Housing

Economic Security

  • Golden State Stimulus:Governor Proposes Second Golden State Stimulus for Californians with Low and Moderate Incomes
  • Universal Basic Income:Governor Proposes Investing in Basic Income Pilots
  • Immigration:Governor Proposes Extending Some Benefits to Immigrants Who Are Undocumented, Misses Opportunity to Fill Gaps in Federal Aid
  • CalWORKs:The Administration’s Revised Proposal Makes Some Adjustments to the CalWORKs Program, Anticipates Slow Caseload Growth
  • Food Assistance:May Revision Expands Investment in K-12 School Nutrition, Misses Opportunity to Expand Food Assistance to All Californians Regardless of Immigration Status
  • Child Care:May Revision Provides Partial Plan for Federal Child Care Relief Funds, Including 100,000 New Spaces for Children
  • Paid Family Leave & State Disability Insurance:May Revision Fails to Maintain Payment Rates for California Workers Who Need Paid Time Off
  • SSI/SSP & Proposals to Assist Seniors:Governor Proposes State Increase for SSI/SSP Grants, Makes Additional Investments in Services for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Education

  • Early Learning:Universal Transitional Kindergarten Proposed in May Revision
  • Prop. 98:Increased Revenues Significantly Boost the Minimum Funding Level for Schools and Community Colleges
  • K-12:May Revision Dramatically Increases Funding for Several K-12 Education Programs and Boosts the LCFF Concentration Grant to 65%
  • California Community Colleges:The Revised Budget Expands Investments to Support the California Community Colleges
  • CSU & UC:The May Revision Increases Funding for the California State University and University of California, Including Support for New Initiatives
  • Student Financial Aid:Governor Proposes new Grant for Student Housing and Expands Funding for Golden State Teacher Grant Program
  • Child Savings Account:Revised Budget Includes Investment to Increase Access to College Through Savings Accounts
  • Digital Divide:The Revised Spending Plan Proposes a $7 Billion Dollar Investment to Address the Digital Divide in Learning
  • Workforce Development:Governor’s Workforce Development Proposals Include Higher Education Partnerships, Displaced Worker Support, and Regional Recovery Planning

Justice System

Other Proposals


In the News

California pension plans would get an ‘unprecedented’ boost in Newsom’s budget. Here’s how – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that his budget would put $11 billion toward California’s retirement debts, a sum he called “unprecedented.” That’s true. But California voters deserve much of the credit for this portion of fiscal prudence in the governor’s budget.

California’s highest-in-the-nation gas taxes are rising. But promised repairs are lagging – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
Four years after the Legislature boosted the gas tax to fix California’s crumbling roads and bridges, the state has spent billions and made some progress in repairs, but officials now say the funding is sufficient only to complete less than half of the work needed. And, with the gas tax set to increase again July 1, the campaign to fix roads and bridges is drawing criticism from some lawmakers who say repairs have been too slow and the effort has lagged behind other states in maintaining and improving transportation systems.

California regulator adopts EV mandate for Uber, Lyft ride-hail fleets – Reuters
California’s clean air regulator on Thursday adopted rules to mandate that nearly all trips on Uber’s and Lyft’s ride-hailing platforms have to be in electric vehicles over the next few years, the first such regulation by a U.S. state. The rules, adopted through a unanimous vote by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), mandate that EVs account for 90% of ride-hailing vehicle miles traveled by 2030.

California’s top oil regulator moves to ban fracking by 2024 – Palm Springs Desert Sun
California’s top oil regulator issued a draft regulation on Friday that would ban all new fracking and other well stimulation permits starting in 2024.

A Look at California’s Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Gaps – Public Policy Institute of California
The State Water Board recently completed a multi-year needs assessment of the state’s safe drinking water challenges. One big takeaway: more money is needed. The study identified a funding gap of $4.6 billion to resolve safe drinking water problems over the next five years. PPIC talked to Greg Pierce—the study’s lead researcher and associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation—about the findings.

May 20, 2021

CalPERS considering pension contribution hikes for workers, agencies, as investment outlook dims – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
CalPERS is considering an investment policy change that would raise costs for local governments and some public employees as part of an effort to help stabilize the retirement system. Long-running financial trends are making it harder for the system, recently valued at $459 billion, to earn enough money on its investments to keep up with its growing liabilities. As a result, CalPERS must either raise rates or put more money into riskier investments, CalPERS officials said in a recent meeting with The Sacramento Bee editorial board. Cities, counties, schools and the state — already paying bigger bills under a 2016 change to payment schedules — would pay more if the system raises rates. Local government employees hired after 2013 could be required to chip in, too, depending on the size of the increase. State employees likely would face pressure in labor contract negotiations to pay more toward their pensions.

California Transportation Commission allocates $924 million to improve transportation – Orange County Breeze
This week, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) allocated more than $924 million for projects to improve critical transportation infrastructure throughout the state. Nearly half of this major investment – $458 million – comes from Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

Inflated job numbers prop up bullet train – CalMatters
Inflated job creation numbers help keep California’s bullet train project alive despite lack of justification.

PECG Media Briefing Archive

May 17, 2021

Pay cuts ending for 130,000 California state workers. Others must negotiate – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Pay will be restored automatically for about 130,000 California state workers represented by two union while the rest of the workforce must wait for their unions to bargain new agreements over wage reductions all employees took last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday. The governor’s comments, combined with a written summary of his budget proposal and the unions’ contract language, suggest salaries for about 100,000 employees represented by SEIU Local 1000 and roughly 28,000 people covered by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association will be restored for the pay period that begins July 1.

Newsom: Some State Workers Will Not Return To Downtown Sacramento Offices – CBS13
In a one-on-one interview with CBS13, Gov. Gavin Newsom forecast a new post-COVID look for Downtown Sacramento with fewer state workers than before the pandemic struck. The state telework policy is still in negotiations with unions. Newsom did say he will be setting aside money so many state employees can set up home offices.

Newsom proposes $2 billion to fix roads, bridges – Fox 40
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposed state budget revision on Friday, including a $2 billion allocation for crumbling roads and bridges.

Newsom proposes record climate spending, casts doubt on 2022 bonds – Politico
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proposed record state spending on environmental programs and suggested that California might not need to use voter-approved bonds next year because of its massive budget surplus. On the back of a $75.7 billion budget surplus, Newsom earlier this week unveiled the biggest piece of his environmental budget: $5.1 billion over four years for water projects, with the most significant portion — $1.3 billion — going to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and smaller amounts for groundwater management and cleanup, water recycling, wildlife habitat, irrigation efficiency, flood-risk reduction, and water supply forecasting.

May 14, 2021

California expands drought emergency to large swath of state – Associated Press
On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded a drought emergency to a large swath of the nation’s most populous state while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending. His announcement came as one of the warmest, driest springs on record threatens another severe wildfire season across the American West.

Head of Caltrans Says Time to Pause Current 710 Freeway Expansion – Streetsblog LA
At this week’s meeting of the California Transportation Commission, the head of Caltrans, Toks Omishakin, said it was time for his agency to “put an absolute pause” on the agency’s current plans to widen the 710 Freeway. For decades, Metro and Caltrans have been planning their I-710 Corridor Project to widen about 19 miles of the 710 through southeast L.A. County. In 2018, Metro approved a $6 billion expansion plan that would add two more lanes. This year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency rejected Metro’s 710 plans because they didn’t comply with air pollution laws.

Getting hotter: More blackouts on the way? – CalMatters
The president of California’s electric grid operator expressed “guarded optimism” recently that blackouts won’t be necessary, but he also acknowledged the Golden State could face a power crunch if a heatwave blankets the entire West Coast as it did last summer, contributing to a shortage of both energy and firefighters.

For government employees, remote work is here to stay – allwork.space
Government is not typically looked to as a leader in cutting-edge innovation or fast transformation. Still, the coronavirus pandemic has opened up conversations about how government employees work and how to permanently implement some remote-work policies made in response to the crisis. In California, where a large portion of the state’s 230,000 employees can work from home, the state administration recently reiterated its commitment to a long-term telework strategy, even after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted.

May 10, 2021

California scores staggering $75B budget surplus – The Hill
California’s budget is in the black — by a staggering amount. A state that expected perhaps the most severe budget crunch in American history instead has a more than $75 billion budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Monday, after a booming stock market and better-than-anticipated tax revenues over the pandemic-plagued year.

California aims to cut gas use in homes, stops short of ban – Energy & Environment News
California’s energy bosses want to make it tougher to put gas appliances in new homes, but they aren’t planning to snuff out natural gas use. A proposed California Energy Commission rewrite of the state’s building code adds new mandates with financial incentives for installing electric options for home heating and hot water. The new standards would create the strictest energy-efficiency standards in the nation and take effect in 2023.

Entire Bay Area has gone from ‘severe’ to ‘extreme’ drought levels in just 2 weeks – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
The Bay Area’s drought condition has officially gone from bad to worse. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire region is now in the “extreme” drought category, along with nearly three-quarters of California.

High-Speed Las Vegas Rail Project May Be Back on Track – Los Angeles Business Journal
A planned high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Southern California that stalled out last fall amid the pandemic now appears to be back on track. But it may face some competition.

May 6, 2021

Report: California leads nation in public transportation funding increases – Roads & Bridges
From 2018 to 2019, California far and away led all states in public transportation funding increases, according to a new report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). California increased its funding by $886.9 million—a 33.7% increase—while New York increased funding by $307.6 million, a 5.9% increase. In sum, 27 states plus D.C. saw public transportation funding rise to slightly less than $1.8 billion for FY 2019, but California and New York accounted for about two-thirds of the nationwide gains.

Why California Is Planning to Ban Fracking – The New York Times (tiered subscription)
A little more than a week ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that not only would California effectively ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by 2024, but the state also would work to phase out oil extraction entirely by 2045. This Q&A follows up on those plans with Jared Blumenfeld, who heads California’s Environmental Protection Agency, and Wade Crowfoot, who oversees the California Natural Resources Agency.

California’s Latest Drought in 4 Charts – Public Policy Institute of California
California is grappling with drought again, facing many of the same conditions and challenges that were features of the 2012–16 drought—including stressed ecosystems, depleted reservoirs, hard-hit farms, and rural communities, threats to urban water supplies, and the potential for extensive wildfires. Knowing what’s different and what’s similar to our last major drought can help us better prepare the most vulnerable sectors for ongoing dry times.

As Someone Who Has Two Active Lawsuits Against Caltrans, Let Me Say That Caltrans is Doing a Great Job With Last Chance Grade – Lost Coast Outpost
As the executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center and someone currently suing Caltrans — twice — for projects on Highway 197/199 and at Richardson Grove, I can’t believe I am writing this: Caltrans is doing an impressive job with the Last Chance Grade Project. By listening early on to the community’s concerns, Caltrans has knocked off years from the project’s timeline, slashed the bill by millions of dollars, and has likely threaded the needle to produce something with which all sides can live.

May 3, 2021

California state worker union backs Newsom anti-recall effort in sign of labor’s support – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A California state union’s big donation to defend Gov. Gavin Newsom from recall likely heralds a coming show of support from organized labor, according to union representatives and experts. The Professional Engineers in California Government, which represents about 11,000 state engineers, recently contributed $250,000 to the main campaign committee supporting Newsom. Last week, the Secretary of State’s Office announced the recall campaign had submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, a milestone that is expected to usher in more money from Democratic-leaning groups supporting the governor.

The donation from the engineers’ union was the second-largest so far to the anti-recall effort, behind only the California Democratic Party, which has contributed about $613,000, according to campaign committee totals. Ted Toppin, the engineers’ union’s executive director, said the decision to support Newsom was an easy one. “Gov. Newsom has committed to invest in state infrastructure, address climate change and ensure Californians have clean air and water,” Toppin said. “That is the critical work of state engineers, and his administration supports those goals. And on the other hand, the candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring, these folks are largely anti-government, anti-public employees and against investing in infrastructure and environmental solutions.”

Newsom has had his disagreements with prominent unions, some brought on by the pandemic, since he was elected with broad support from them in 2018. He has butted heads with teachers’ unions on school reopenings over the past year, and he cut state workers’ wages to prepare for a budget crisis that never fully materialized. The pay cuts remain in place. “That is not at play here,” Toppin said. “We will resolve that at the bargaining table where it belongs. This is simply reaffirming our support for the governor of California. We supported him in 2018 and that does not change in 2021.”

Big Highway 12 project underway to end Jameson Canyon backups for Napa motorists – Napa Valley Register
Here’s a sight for congestion-weary eyes — orange-vested construction workers driving piles, bulldozing dirt, and building bridges where Highway 12 meets Interstate 80. Caltrans is building what is supposed to be the $77 million solution to eastbound, mile-long evening Highway 12 backups in Jameson Canyon, the main link between Napa County and the Central Valley.

States now flush with cash after depths of pandemic – The Hill
Last year when California shut down, a terrifying sense of deja vu gripped state lawmakers who still had vivid memories of a decade earlier when the Great Recession forced California’s government to cut services and spending to the bone. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office at the time projected a $54 billion deficit in the year ahead, a sum equivalent to about a quarter of the entire state budget. Now, two weeks before Newsom rolls out a mid-year budget revision, California’s fiscal picture has almost completely reversed.

April 29, 2021

Bay Area freeway traffic has rebounded, but congestion has not. Is this the new normal? – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
Data provided by Caltrans to The Chronicle show average weekday traffic in the Bay Area has nearly rebounded or actually increased during some points of the day. However, congestion levels on most counties’ freeways — as measured by “vehicle hours of delay” — remain significantly below what they were before shelter in place orders. The data provides snapshots in time, and experts say many variables contribute to traffic and congestion, such as highway construction and whether schools are open. But the comparisons illustrate how the domino effect of remote work for large swaths of the region’s white-collar workers has changed behavior patterns on Bay Area highways.

California to use satellites to find greenhouse gas ‘super emitters’ – Spectrum News
In the fight against climate change, California has plans to launch not one but two satellites into orbit to sniff out and track planet-warming “super emitters” — to keep global warming from reaching catastrophic levels. The partnership behind the program includes the California Air Resources Board and NASA.

Problem Solvers Caucus says gas tax increase possible infrastructure funding option – The Hill
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers endorsed a report that includes raising the gasoline tax as a possible way to pay for infrastructure spending, lending support to a measure that both Republican and Democratic proposals have avoided in the debate about how to cover the cost of an infrastructure package. The report released by the 58-member “Problem Solvers Caucus” advocates indexing gasoline and diesel taxes to a number of factors, including highway construction costs, inflation and fuel economy standards. The report also suggests instituting a vehicle-mile -traveled tax to collect revenue from electric vehicle drivers.

California Is Awash in Cash, Thanks to a Booming Market – The New York Times (tiered subscription)
In a single year, the state government’s financial outlook has gone from surplus to deficit to surplus as capital gains tax collections have risen amid a soaring stock market and I.P.O. boom.

April 26, 2021

Newsom orders ban on new oil fracking by 2024 – CalMatters
California will stop approving new oil fracking by 2024 under an executive order that Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday with little fanfare following months of confusing mixed messages.

Highway 1 in Big Sur reopens after 3-month closure – KTVU
Scenic Highway 1 in Big Sur finally reopened after a three-month closure. Caltrans crews worked non-stop to repair a 150-foot section of the roadway that crumbled during a storm. Gov. Gavin Newsom was on hand for the reopening ceremony on Friday to see the finished project.

What can help us get through this drought – Palm Springs Desert Sun
With very little water available, ongoing and added investments in our state’s water delivery systems — making sure they’re modernized and capable of handling California’s needs — coupled with conservation, storage, reuse and reservoir forecasting are critical to getting through this drought.

April 22, 2021

Editorial: You can soon take that Big Sur road trip. Bravo, Caltrans! – The Sacramento Bee / The San Luis Obispo Tribune (tiered subscription)
Let’s hear it for the engineers. While we’re at it, congratulations to the geologists, the surveyors, the heavy equipment operators, the laborers, the inspectors, and all the other workers — both from Caltrans and Papich Construction Co. out of Arroyo Grande — who had a hand in making a rapid repair along one of the most iconic stretches of highway on the West Coast. After a portion of Highway 1 washed away in January, it is scheduled to reopen on April 23, a week ahead of the most recent estimate and two months earlier than the original target date.

For automakers, California emissions standards play a key regulatory role –Marketplace
As soon as this week, the Biden administration will likely drop a lawsuit against California over its authority to regulate auto emissions.

Over 4 of 10 Americans breath polluted air, report says. And people of color are 61% more likely to be affected – USA Today / MSN.com
The air we breathe continues to be unhealthy for many Americans, according to a new report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association. More than 4 out of 10 Americans live where the air is polluted, the report states. In addition, the report found that people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people. California once again had the nation’s most polluted cities, primarily because of its geography and weather. Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Visalia topped the list for smog Bakersfield, Fresno and Visalia led the way for soot pollution.

Clock’s running out on climate change. California says it’s time for giant carbon vacuums Los Angeles Times / Phys.org
Solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars will go far in helping California and the Biden administration meet their aggressive climate goals—but not far enough. As the deadline to avert climate catastrophe barrels nearer, the Biden administration is making new technologies prominent in its plans. Meanwhile, California is scrambling to figure out how to put them to use, including industrial-scale carbon removal systems that would suck emissions from the atmosphere and store them underground. State regulators are drafting blueprints using the technology for what could be one of the larger infrastructure undertakings in California history.

April 19, 2021

CalPERS ahead of earnings goal with absence at top. When will investment chief vacancy hurt? – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A key player in the C-suite, a chief investment officer keeps watch over CalPERS’s money-making strategy. Ideally, the financial leader is equal parts daring and wise when making weighty investment decisions, ensuring pension promises are fulfilled to 2 million California public employees and retirees. California’s largest public pension fund has not yet found those rare qualities in a candidate since its last CIO abruptly resigned eight months ago. A worldwide search was suspended in March. But when will this absence at the top matter? And will it affect the investment arm’s bottom line?

Dan Bienvenue, a deputy investment chief who has been with CalPERS since 2004, stepped into the role of interim CIO. CalPERS Chief Executive Officer Marcie Frost previously said the search will resume in the early summer as the restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic are expected to be lifted.

“I can certainly see how people would not — given the circumstances — be ready to pack up and move into the spot based on Zoom interviews,” said Ted Toppin, chairman of the union-supported group Californians for Retirement Security. He’s also executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government. “This position is big and important and the people who were being considered, and will be considered in the future are making a major decision in their lives. I can see why they wouldn’t want to make it on Zoom.”

Meanwhile, CalPERS officials say the fund is on track to reach its goals, raking in a 12.4% return at the end of the 2020 calendar year. There is no guarantee where its value will land on June 30, which is the end of its fiscal year and when the pension fund determines whether it hit its investment target.

My Turn: CalPERS review of its investment strategy and actuarial assumptions – CalMatters
Michael Cohen, chief financial officer of CalPERS, writes: Managing pension liabilities has become increasingly challenging for governments across the country. Rising costs are due to a variety of factors, including longer lifespans, financial market uncertainty and low inflation. Without a regular review of investment strategies and actuarial assumptions, pension systems run the risk of liabilities not being matched with assets. At CalPERS, we do this review every four years to have solid analytical assumptions underlying our pension system so that we can meet our commitment to workers who spent their careers serving the people of California. Here are some key decisions on the horizon.

Bill to Fix and Build California’s Roads Using Surplus Plastic Waste Advances in State Senate – The Coronado Times
The California State Senate Committee on Transportation last week unanimously approved Senate Bill 580 by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) that would the task the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with conducting a study assessing the feasibility, cost-effectiveness and lifecycle environmental benefits of including recycled plastics in asphalt used for the construction and repair of a state highway or road. The idea for SB 580 was brought to Hueso by students from Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista.

April 15, 2021

State workers passed over for promotions would get 1 year to file challenges under new rule – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California state employees who believe they were improperly passed over for a promotion would have a year to challenge their departments’ decisions under a proposed new rule. As it stands, there’s no statewide deadline by which employees must file merit issue complaints with their departments, according to background information posted with the new proposal on the State Personnel Board website.

California raised fuel taxes 4 years ago, and it’s still short on money for road repairs – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California’s ambitious road repair program faces financial trouble—a projected $6.1 billion annual shortfall— four years after the state adopted the highest fuel tax in the nation in a plan to fix its battered highways. The new estimates reflect an unexpected decline in fuel tax revenue related to the coronavirus pandemic and a mix of new assumptions about how California roadways might deteriorate as climate change accelerates.

Biden Wants Infrastructure Deal, but GOP Doubts Persist – U.S. News and World Report / Associated Press
President Joe Biden met Monday afternoon with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and tried to assure them that the Oval Office gathering was not “window dressing.” The meeting came as the White House released state-by-state breakdowns Monday that show the dire shape of roads, bridges, the power grid, and housing affordability, among other issues. Please click here to view what the administration’s “American Jobs Plan” proposes for California.

April 12, 2021

Biden to nominate Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker to lead OSHA – Safety and Health Magazine
President Joe Biden intends to nominate Doug Parker as the head of OSHA, according to a White House press release issued April 9. Parker leads the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, a position he has served in since September 2019. He also was a member of Biden’s transition team, focusing on occupational safety and health issues.

California Highway 1 to reopen by April 30, agency says – Associated Press
Highway 1 along Big Sur is expected to reopen by April 30 because work to repair a huge piece of roadway that crumbled during a storm is nearly two months ahead of schedule, the California Department of Transportation announced Thursday. Crews began to fill the canyon below with compacted dirt in early March. They are expected to establish the base of a new road on top of the fill, then pave and stripe it by the end of the month thanks to favorable weather conditions, Caltrans said.

Do High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes Reduce Traffic or Add to it? – Spectrum News Los Angeles
If you build it, will they come? That’s the question California is trying to answer about high-occupancy vehicle lanes, which are expected to make up the majority of new highway investments in the state for the next two decades. HOV lanes, intended to inspire carpooling, are designed to alleviate traffic congestion by maximizing the people-carrying capacity of California highways, according to the state’s Department of Transportation, but they could have the opposite effect.

Caltrans and Others Fight Against Sea Level Rise on the Central Coast – Atascadero News
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), The Nature Conservancy, the Association of Monterey Bay Area of Governments (AMBAG) and Virtual Planet Technologies recently announced the release of an innovative virtual reality app, Sea Level Rise Explorer, that is playing a key role in addressing sea-level rise on Highway 1 along Elkhorn Slough.

April 8, 2021

California state workers told to continue working from home as Newsome signals reopening – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
State employees should keep working from home even as California reopens from its yearlong coronavirus restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration directed Tuesday. Newsom told reporters in the morning that the state will fully reopen June 15 if it still has enough vaccines to meet demand and hospitalizations are low. That would include a return to office work for private employers. Eraina Ortega, the state’s Human Resources Department director, sent out an email around the same time with guidance for state department directors that reiterated the state government’s commitment to telecommuting. One of state workers’ most common questions — whether the state will reimburse their phone and internet expenses for remote work — remains unanswered. The email says the administration is negotiating with unions over the costs and anticipates reaching agreements “later this spring.”

Third-driest year reported in California – The Hill
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has marked 2021 as the third-driest water year on record for the Golden State, potentially setting up another deadly wildfire season after last year’s record-setting blazes. The department’s annual snow survey released this month recorded precipitation levels at 50 percent of the water year’s yearly average.

California to install 1.7GW of battery storage in 2021 to boost grid supply – Renew Economy
To stave off a repeat of 2020’s summer blackouts, California is planning to install 1.7GW worth of new battery storage by August, according to new figures published this week by BloombergNEF. The projects will bring more storage online than forecasters estimate China will install this summer and position the United States as a world leader in the quickly expanding sector.

Minnesota a step closer to California rules – Today’s Motor Vehicles
The Land of 10,000 Lakes could be the next state to follow California’s strict emissions rules for cars and trucks. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has begun accepting comments on final rules to adopt California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) stricter-than-federal standards on vehicle emissions and goals for putting electric vehicles on the road.

April 5, 2021

California fell short on COVID-19 contact tracing amid warnings of new wave, audit reveals – KTLA
Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promises to build an “army” of contact tracers to contain the coronavirus pandemic, a new audit says California mustered less than half of the number promised. Contact tracing was central to California’s strategy early in the pandemic. The Department of Public Health estimated the state needed 31,400 contact tracers. Newsom pledged to train 10,000 state workers and deploy them to help local public health departments meet that goal. But by January, California had just 12,100 contact tracers, including 2,262 state workers.

Newsom asked for a fracking ban. He may get more than he bargained for with ambitious plan – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
When Gov. Gavin Newsom voiced his support last year for a hydraulic fracturing ban – an idea opposed by oil and gas companies and industry trade unions – he gave Democrats the green light to send him legislation. But the crackdown on oil and gas production under consideration by the California Legislature is much broader in scope than the plan requested by the governor.

Drought is back. But Southern California faces less pain than Northern California – Phys.org
Drought is returning to California as a second, consecutive parched winter draws to a close in the usually wet north, leaving the state’s major reservoirs half empty. But this latest period of prolonged dryness will probably play out very differently across this vast state.

Last Chance Grade now on 2-hour delay, long-term solution in the works – KIEM News
Motorists should anticipate two-hour delays, between 9 a.m. to p.m. Monday through Friday, and 30-minute delays outside those hours, at Last Chance Grade just south of Crescent City. That stretch of Highway 101 between Klamath and Crescent City is susceptible to landslides and is need constant maintenance and fixes subject to change without notice. Recent slides caused the roadway to shut down and prompted a multi-million-dollar response.

Will Biden’s infrastructure plan save California’s high-speed rail project? – Railway Track & Structures
A massive dose of federal funding in the coming years could save California’s high-speed rail line. However, that injection has not been made available yet, and may never get congressional approval.

April 1, 2021

New sick leave is available for California state workers. Here are the details – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A new allotment of paid leave is available for California state workers affected by the coronavirus, including those with children whose schools or child care centers are closed, the state’s Human Resources Department announced this week. The department issued guidelines for state employees to use up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave under Senate Bill 95, a piece of legislation from Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, that makes the leave available to most private and public employees. (Please click here for information for PECG members about this important benefit.)

Biden announces huge infrastructure plan to ‘win the future’ – Associated Press
President Joe Biden outlined a vast $2.3 trillion plan Wednesday to re-engineer the nation’s infrastructure in what he billed as “a once-in-a-generation investment in America” that would undo his predecessor’s signature legislative achievement — giant tax cuts for corporations — in the process.

Editorial: CalPERS’ broken promises mislead and shortchange California state worker retirees – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
What CalPERS did to former school psychologist Marla Moura should never happen again to any state retiree. Moura worked first as a mental health worker for El Dorado County. After a two-year hiatus, she returned to work as a psychologist for the Galt school district. CalPERS financial advisers told her on three separate occasions that her monthly pension after retirement would be over $5,000 per month. Based on that information, Moura sold her house in California and made an offer on another home in South Carolina, expecting a comfortable $60,000 annual income. Moura got $2,842 per month, far below the $5,000 she expected based on what CalPERS told her. CalPERS incorrectly gave Moura the wrong pension estimate because it failed to account for a pension law that applied a lower benefit formula to her Galt salary. Moura had to cancel retirement and take another job to augment her now-meager pension. CalPERS Chief Executive Officer Marcie Frost said the state agency is doing “millions of transactions a year, and our error rate is very low.” The error rate for something this important needs to be zero.

Study Suggests There Is No Imminent Public Pension Crisis – Chief Investment Officer
Contrary to popular belief, a recent research paper from the Brookings Institution argues there is no imminent crisis for most public pension plans.

March 29, 2021

States Adopt California Car Rules Amid National Standards Debate – Bloomberg
States across the country are plowing ahead with their own low- and zero-emission vehicle mandates, putting the squeeze on tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions while national car regulations remain in flux at the White House. Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nevada are working to implement clean car standards on the local level in line with California’s more-stringent tailpipe emission and electric vehicle requirements.

‘Gas tax’ helps fuel latest round of California transportation projects – KCRA News
The California Transportation Commission last week allocated $491 million for a new round of state and local transportation projects, including $273 million generated from Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

California Power Grid Operators Try To Avert Blackout Replay – Associated Press / KPBS
California’s primary power grid manager approved plans Wednesday aimed at averting a repeat of the blackouts that rolled across parts of the state in August during a punishing heat wave. The California Independent System Operator’s board approved several policies to provide financial incentives to import power, have producers procure other energy sources to compensate for plant maintenance shutdowns and require storage facilities to keep batteries charged when supplies get tight.

High Speed Rail Explores ‘Single Track’ Plan for 2029 Service Start in Valley – GVWire.com
California’s High-Speed Rail Authority voted Thursday to send a business plan to the state legislature calling for an initial operating segment between Merced and Bakersfield, with the possibility of opening that segment in 2029 as a single-track service. Current plans call for a two-track railroad, but the authority’s chief of rail operations, Frank Vaca, outlined the single-track alternative aimed at cutting costs and speeding construction of the first segment. He said a single-track railroad could save $1 billion in initial costs because it would delay laying 150 miles of rail.

Transportation chief Buttigieg pitches ‘once in a generation’ infrastructure fix – Associated Press
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called for a once in a generation infrastructure investment Thursday that would address a massive backlog in needed improvements for the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems, while also tackling climate change. Buttigieg avoided specifics on how it would be paid for, but said that the current level of investment poses “a threat to our collective future.”

March 25, 2021

Biden plan helps employers expand family leave. Will California offer it to state workers? – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A paid federal family-leave expansion that helped many California state workers manage coronavirus disruptions last year remains in limbo this year under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. When Congress approved the first coronavirus relief package a year ago, it required most employers, including the State of California, to offer 10 weeks of family and medical leave at two-thirds pay, up to a maximum of $10,000, for parents with children at home due to the virus. Congress allowed the mandatory leave to expire, but offered tax credits to employers who wanted to continue a new, expanded version of the program. The state doesn’t pay federal taxes, so it doesn’t have the same incentive a private employer would to offer the program. Last year the state used federal coronavirus funds to pay the mandatory benefits. This year California will receive $26 billion in federal stimulus money, but it is not clear if it could be used to cover expanded family leave benefits.

U.S. Justice Department in talks with California to settle high-speed rail suite – Reuters / Yahoo! Finance
The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday it is in settlement talks with California to resolve a 2019 lawsuit filed by the state after the Trump administration canceled a nearly $1 billion federal grant for a high-speed rail project hobbled by extensive delays.

Study look at covering California’s canals with solar panels – Wired / High Country News
Scientists in California just ran the numbers on what would happen if their state slapped solar panels on 4,000 miles of its canals, including the major California Aqueduct, and the results point to a potentially beautiful partnership. Their feasibility study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, finds the panels would save 63 billion gallons of water from evaporating each year and provide 13 gigawatts of renewable power annually – about half of the new capacity the state needs to meet its decarbonization goals by the year 2030.

March 22, 2021

‘Bad taste.’ CalPERS board regrets pensions, but votes to deny retiree appeals – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Leaders of California’s $445 billion public employee pension system were uncomfortable last week after they rejected a batch of appeals from retirees who believed they were owed more money than they’re getting every month. Members of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System Board of Administration turned down nine of the 10 requests they considered. Still, they said they wanted to prevent mistakes in estimates that can cost retirees thousands of dollars a month. Board member David Miller said that the decisions left a “bad taste” among board members even though they were supported by California pension law. “I think we really deserve, our members really deserve us to take a deeper dive because all too often we make decisions that are in line with our fiduciary responsibility, but that do not feel fair or just to our members,” Miller said.

Are California Oil Companies Complying With the Law? Even Regulators Often Don’t Know. – ProRepublica
While California has long sought to maximize oil and gas production, it has recently tried to pair that goal with environmental stewardship. But an investigation by The Desert Sun and ProPublica has found that enforcement is still lax, and in many cases, the state doesn’t know if companies are complying. In response to questions, California Geologic Energy Management head Uduak-Joe Ntuk and spokespeople defended the agency’s performance, saying the top priority is protecting the public and the environment. But its own budget requests state that the agency does not have enough employees to “prosecute enforcement actions in a timely manner” or to “adequately protect the health and safety of the citizens of the state.”

Buttigieg: Biden plan will usher in a new transportation – Associated Press
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week that an infrastructure plan expected soon from President Joe Biden will offer a “once in a century” opportunity to remake transportation in the United States, where cars and highways are no longer king. He said the U.S. can no longer follow a 1950s mentality of building roads and communities based on moving as many cars as possible, but must adapt to the reality of climate change and ensure the safety of growing numbers of bicyclists and pedestrians on the streets.

Community shows support for Asian-owned gelato shop after vandalism – KCRA (Sacramento)
He’s only on screen for a few seconds, but someone proudly wearing a PECG face mask made an appearance in a Sacramento newscast over the weekend. The story detailed local support for an Asian-owned gelato shop that had been repeatedly vandalized. You can view the 2-minute report by clicking here.

March 18, 2021

State workers are still taking pay cuts as California rakes in tax revenue, stimulus – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The $26 billion that California’s state government will receive from the latest round of federal coronavirus assistance doesn’t change the timeline for discussions about restoring state workers’ pay, according to the state Finance Department. Gov. Gavin Newsom raised the prospect in January that the pay cuts state workers took last summer could be restored as early as July, a year ahead of schedule. When asked whether the federal infusion might speed up that timeline, Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer offered the following response in an email Friday: “Our assessment on this issue, like many others, will be part of the decision-making process for the May revision.” That means the Newsom administration is sticking to the timeline it raised in January.

6 GW a year of new carbon-free resources? California faces a massive build-out – PV Magazine
If California hopes to hit its goal of having a carbon-free electricity system by 2045, then the state will need to add up to 6 GW of new renewable and energy storage systems every year and roughly triple its current grid capacity, according to new joint report by California’s Energy Commission, Air Resources Board, and Public Utilities Commission.

Premature or precautionary? California is first to tackle microplastics in drinking water – CalMatters
California is about to set the world’s first health guidelines for microplastics in drinking water. Yet no one agrees how to test water for the tiny bits of plastic, or how dangerous they are.

California receives federal money for road-funding study – KVML
The federal government announced this week that it is awarding Caltrans a $2.15-million grant to research alternatives to the gas tax for funding road and highway maintenance, and their impact on California’s rural and tribal regions. A related study was launched about five years ago that focused on the state’s urban areas.

March 15, 2021

New state office tower is tallest built in Sacramento in over 10 years. Get a look inside – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The newest addition to downtown Sacramento’s skyline is a $520 million, 21-story glass tower that, when it opens this summer, will provide enough office space to house thousands of state workers. But when those workers will start to fill their cubicles at the California Natural Resources Agency’s new P Street headquarters is another matter. Originally designed for about 3,200 workers, the building has been organized to allow employees to share space so workers can rotate between staying home and coming into the office.

Auto Industry Pitches Emissions Plan – Associated Press
A coalition of automakers has told the White House it would agree to raise mileage standards to reduce tailpipe emissions but with tradeoffs and at rates lower than those brokered by California with five other car manufacturers. A spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, which regulates pollution, wouldn’t comment on the automakers’ proposal but said the agency “continues to advocate for the most rigorous vehicle standards possible.”

A By-the-Mile Tax on Driving Gains Steam as a Way to Fund U.S. Roads – Bloomberg
Transportation is expected to be a big part of — but not all of — the likely infrastructure plan and mileage fees are being raised as a way to pay for some or all of that in a way that accommodates the rise of electric vehicles that Biden also hopes to see.

March 11, 2021

California’s robust budget will get another $26 billion from new COVID-19 stimulus – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
California’s state budget will receive an additional cash infusion of $26 billion under the COVID-19 relief bill that President Biden plans to sign this week. The outcome of state budget negotiations between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature will determine which programs receive the federal funds.

Is the Pandemic Forcing An Evolution in P3 Work? – Engineering News-Record
As the nation reopens, transportation departments in California and other states project it will be years before their revenues return to pre-pandemic levels. Faced with revenue shortfalls and the potential of even tighter budgets, could governments expand their use of P3s?

With Covid relief passed, Biden moves on to infrastructure – CNBC
With President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 stimulus package just a signature away from becoming law, the White House now turns its attention to assembling and passing a once-in-a-generation infrastructure bill. It’s not clear what the legislation will include. Yet the new president has all but guaranteed a spectacular infrastructure overhaul as his next policy priority.

U.S. judge approves Daimler’s $1.5 billion diesel emissions settlement – Reuters
A federal judge on Tuesday approved Daimler AG’s $1.5 billion settlement to resolve a U.S. government probe into the German automaker’s use of undisclosed software that allowed excess diesel pollution to be emitted by 250,000 of its vehicles in the United States. The settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and California Air Resources Board includes a $285.6 million payment to the state, an $875 million civil penalty levied under the Clean Air Act, $70 million in additional penalties, and $546 million to fix the polluting vehicles and offset excess emissions.

March 8, 2021

California’s Pacific Coast Highway is falling into the ocean. Is this the end of the road for one of America’s most scenic drives? – US Today
Given the road’s location, it is no surprise that Highway 1 is frequently damaged. For decades this highway at the edge of the continent has struggled to make it through a calendar year without some misfortune forcing it to close. Usually, that’s because damage occurs due to a combination of weather and geological activity. But what is changing, experts say, is the frequency and severity of that damage.

Chevron to build California carbon capture plant with Microsoft, Schlumberger – Reuters
Chevron Corp is partnering with Microsoft Corp, oilfield services firm Schlumberger NV and privately held Clean Energy Systems to build a carbon capture plant in California, as the U.S. oil major expands investments in renewable technology. The venture adds weight to plans outlined by California’s Air Resources Control Board last month to start phasing out all agricultural waste burning in the valley by 2025.

Highway 17 construction completed, Santa Cruz-California – Construction Review
Renovations of Highway 17 in Santa Cruz, California, have been completed by Caltrans. The $19 million in overhauls upgrade the safety of over 6-miles of tarmac on the road. Senate Bill 1, a funding source for state highway systems and local roads, contributed $2 million to the project.

March 4, 2021

Will Gov. Newsom end state worker pay cuts with tax revenue soaring> Here’s what he said – The Sacramento Bee / msn.com
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that he will continue to work through the collective bargaining process to restore state workers’ pay after the Finance Department reported tax revenue is running $10 billion above projections. Speaking at an Elk Grove news conference, Newsom credited state employee unions with “stepping up” by agreeing to accept pay cuts last year when California projected a $54 billion state budget deficit. “We’re going to work with them in a collaborative spirit, great respect and admiration” on restoring workers’ pay, Newsom said.

Caltrans unveils three-decade vision for future of transportation – Roads & Bridges
Agricultural burning is a practice that began in 1859 but will come to an end on January 1, 2025, after a unanimous decision by the California Air Resources Board last week.

US infrastructure gets C- from engineers as roads stagnate – Associated Press
America’s infrastructure has scored near-failing grades for its deteriorating roads, public transit and storm water systems due to years of inaction from the federal government, the American Society of Civil Engineers reports. Its overall grade: a mediocre C-. In its “Infrastructure Report Card” released Wednesday, the group called for “big and bold” relief, estimating it would cost $5.9 trillion over the next decade to bring roads, bridges and airports to a safe and sustainable level. That’s about $2.6 trillion more than what government and the private sector already spend.

A ‘megadrought’ in California – BBC
This year is likely to be critically dry for California. Winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain across the state are not expected to be substantial enough to counterbalance drought conditions. Meanwhile, scientists forecast the planet will see more extreme environmental conditions and weather: Episodes of flooding and droughts will increase. Lake Oroville, which plays a key water-delivery role in California, has been a perfect illustration of how these extremes can threaten existing infrastructure.

March 1, 2021

More states follow California’s lead on vehicle emissions standards – The Hill
An increasing number of states are looking to follow California’s precedent and adopt stricter vehicle emissions standards as the Biden administration appears poised to green-light those efforts.

No More Ag Burning After 2025 Says Air Board in Unanimous Vote – GV Wire
Agricultural burning is a practice that began in 1859 but will come to an end on January 1, 2025, after a unanimous decision by the California Air Resources Board last week.

Danger posed by earthquake fault will lead to tighter San Diego building restrictions – The San Diego Union-Tribune
The California Geological Survey is creating regulatory areas in the San Diego area where developers may be required to show that their projects are a safe distance from active fault zones.

Caltrans estimates Hwy 1 near Big Sur could reopen this summer – KSBY
Caltrans crews will conduct emergency repairs to Highway 1 at Rat Creek starting Monday, March 1. Officials estimate the road will reopen early this summer.

February 25, 2021

The California Air Resources Board overstated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from its electric vehicle incentive program and other initiatives, according to State Auditor Elaine Howle, and the state is in danger of failing to meet its 2030 goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 40% below 1990 levels.

Once ‘Low Cost’ Bullet Train Plan Will Now Cost $800M Extra – Los Angeles Times / Governing
California awarded the contract for a 65-mile segment of the bullet train route to a company that promised $300M in savings. Now, the cost-saving designs have been changed and the project will run $800M over budget.

Texas blackouts spotlight why Washington must go big on infrastructure – In the Public Interest
All the recent energy and water problems across Texas—including where I live in Austin—are just the latest sign that America’s infrastructure is at its breaking point. That’s why this week’s reintroduction of federal legislation to invest in clean, safe, and affordable drinking water is such great news.

Top Bottlenecks Less Congested Last Year, but Infrastructure Needs Persist – Transport Topics
Trucks moved more swiftly last year through sections of road that historically are congested, as the coronavirus pandemic kept vehicles off highways for easier movement of freight, the American Transportation Research Institute reports. However, researchers expect traffic will return to notoriously clogged conditions along the nation’s 10 slowest commercial corridors – including I-10/I-15 in San Bernardino – as pandemic restrictions lift and more vehicles return to the highways.

February 22, 2021

In Big Sur, mother nature is hard at work healing from the Dolan Fire. In many places, it’s a peaceful transition. Fresh, green growth covers fire-blackened hillsides, hiding the remains of the massive blaze that scorched the region and shut down one of the world’s most scenic routes last summer. But in other areas — such as Rat Creek, just north of the community of Lucia — the burn scar fought back.

California’s air board will vote this week on stopping burns that spew plumes of smoke that can trigger asthma attacks. The move is long in coming — it was supposed to end a decade ago under state law.

California is looking for a new “primary information system” to help manage highway data with a view to making state roads safer.

Power failures have cast a spotlight on whether energy companies and regulators are doing enough to prepare for climate change and natural disasters.

February 18, 2021

State employee retirements increased 15% last year in California amid pay cuts and changes to working conditions brought on by the coronavirus, according to California Public Employees’ Retirement System data. While state workers headed for the exits, retirements among local government employees — who generally avoided pay cuts and even received scheduled raises last year — decreased 7% compared to 2019, according to preliminary figures from CalPERS.

“No one likes to take a pay cut, so it’s understandable that some employees would choose to retire rather than accept less money for their work,” said Ted Toppin, executive director of the Professional Engineers in California Government. Retirements were up 25% among the approximately 11,000 employees PECG represents, Toppin said. “They’re losing a huge asset,” he said. “The state needs engineers and related professionals to deliver infrastructure projects. And when folks retire, that’s not accessible to them.”

State employees’ pensions are calculated based primarily on their highest pay in state service combined with their age and years of service. Those earning the highest pay of their careers as they approach retirement stand to increase their pensions by continuing to work and increase their pay. Without a raise on the horizon, there’s less incentive to stay. Working during the coronavirus added another variable to retirement decisions last year, particularly since retirement-age people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than younger people.

The U.S. Supreme Court should consider and reverse a “bombshell” appellate decision against Volkswagen Group of America Inc. “that threatens fundamentally to alter the regulatory environment faced by global automakers,” international auto industry associations told the court. Four former officials with the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and the Department of Justice also urged the court to take the case. At issue is a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, allowing lawsuits by two counties against VW over post-sale software updates allegedly connected to diesel-emissions cheating. By taking away the environmental agencies’ exclusive authority, the former government officials said in their court filing, “the Ninth Circuit’s decision hampers, if not eliminates, EPA, CARB, and DOJ’s ability to remedy violations of emissions standards through settlements with vehicle manufacturers.”

When part of the pavement near Rat Creek, 30 miles north of the line between Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, gave way Jan. 28 under the onslaught of about a dozen inches of rain in one day, I wasn’t surprised. For those of us who’ve lived for longer than a year or so anywhere around here, that closure of the scenic highway is another of those “here we go again” moments. The heavy rain that caused the Rat Creek closure, and most of the others, turned the coastal Franciscan mélange soil matrix into extraordinarily slippery mud.

As the mud yields to the force of gravity, it slides, often carrying boulders, trees, even structures down steep hillsides, cliffs and bluffs. The geological movement often blankets the highway with many tons of goo. And sometimes, the roadway’s now soggy foundation slides out from underneath the pavement. At Rat Creek, the onslaught created a deep chasm through the pavement — one that will take expert engineering, hard work and time to repair.

The power outages tormenting Texas in uncharacteristically Arctic temperatures are exposing weaknesses in an electricity system designed when the weather’s seasonal shifts were more consistent and predictable — conditions that most experts believe no longer exist. Beyond Texas, utilities from Minnesota to Mississippi have imposed rolling blackouts to ease the strain on electrical grids buckling under high demand during the past few freezing days. And power outages have become a rite of summer and autumn in California, partly to reduce the chances of deadly wildfires. But the fact more than 3 million bone-chilled Texans have lost their electricity in a state that takes pride in its energy independence underscores the gravity of a problem that is occurring in the U.S. with increasing frequency.

February 16, 2021

California officials gave a nod to Kaiser Permanente’s reputation for efficiency when they recently selected it to help speed vaccine rollout. But a review of worker safety citations shows Kaiser has had its own pandemic troubles, failing to adequately protect its employees early on. Kaiser Permanente has on multiple occasions failed to provide hospital employees the gear or training needed to protect them from COVID-19, according to 12 citations issued by California’s enforcer of workplace safety laws, Cal/OSHA.

In early 2019, a response team composed of experts in various engineering disciplines across the country investigated the damage done to the Paradise Irrigation District’s drinking water infrastructure by the devastating Camp Fire. Normally, regulatory compliance for safe drinking water is enforced at the point of entry to the distribution system (in other words, at the treatment plant), but wildfire contamination originates in and travels through the distribution system. The Camp Fire researchers had many questions to answer to facilitate recovery: the type of contamination, its origin, and its movements as well as how it was detected. Here are their surprising findings.

The Bay Bridge, like most of regional bridges and highways, has been operating with far fewer motorists during the coronavirus pandemic. Given lighter vehicle load on Bay Area roads, there’s a plan to turn one lane of the bridge from San Francisco to Oakland over to bicyclists. The idea, explained Ben Kaufman with Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, could take just one year and $10 million.

President Joe Biden met in the Oval Office Thursday morning with senators and others who will be key to moving his climate and infrastructure goals through Congress, but after the meeting officials made clear that they still are figuring out just how big to go with any eventual legislative package, illustrating the challenges ahead. Biden campaigned on a $2 trillion package that married infrastructure investments with sweeping climate change goals and other items such as broadband deployment. But now that policymakers are beginning talks on how to turn that into reality, they are confronted with the same set of obstacles that have dogged prior attempts, chief among them how to pay for everything they want to do.

February 11, 2021

It was 50 years ago this week the San Fernando, or Sylmar, quake struck before dawn and nearly collapsed the Lower Van Norman Dam in Granada Hills. While earthquakes still loom as the greatest threat to California’s massive collection of dams, a new hazard has emerged: “whiplashing shifts” in extreme weather due to climate change. “The biggest issue facing dam safety in California is aging infrastructure and lack of money to fund repairs and retrofits of dams,” said Sharon K. Tapia, who leads the Division of Safety of Dams at the California Department of Water Resources. “Many older dams were built using construction methods considered outdated by today’s standards.”

The California bullet train authority will seek a $4.1-billion appropriation to complete construction in the Central Valley, as costs and schedules continue to grow. The massive appropriation, which would come out of a 2008 bond fund that voters approved, would provide enough money to complete Gov. Gavin Newsom’s starter system from Merced to Bakersfield, the authority said in newly released documents. The 171-mile rail link would not connect to Los Angeles for more than a decade and not until tens of billions of dollars can be obtained for tunneling through mountains.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is developing the Clean Miles Standard and Incentive Program (Clean Miles Standard), a first-of-its kind regulation designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ride-sharing vehicles and increase the use of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).

February 8, 2021

President Biden’s EPA is expected to draft interim auto emissions standards based on an agreement last year between California and five car companies, according to sources following the matter. EPA is poised to unveil the interim standards and notify the auto industry by April 1. The development, which was first reported by The New York Times, signals that California is influencing the Biden administration’s climate and clean transportation policy in the near term.

California is again pushing back the deadline and raising the cost for its high-speed rail project, this time asking the Biden administration for a one-year extension on completing construction on a section of track in the Central Valley. Brian Kelly, the project’s chief executive officer, detailed delays and cost changes to the project in a letter released Friday alongside the project’s updated business plan. He’ll discuss it Tuesday at a meeting of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors.

Ford Motor Co confirmed on Friday the U.S. Justice Department and California Air Resources Board have closed a lengthy investigation into the No. 2 U.S. automaker’s emissions certification process without taking any action. Ford said in a securities filing that reviews by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment and Climate Change Canada remain open.

For many Bay Area residents who live near the water’s edge, little-publicized research indicates groundwater rising beneath their feet could start to manifest in 10-15 years, particularly in low-lying communities like Oakland. And that could resurface toxic substances that have lingered for years underground.

February 4, 2021

A group representing several automakers including Toyota, Hyundai, and Fiat Chrysler is exiting a legal fight over whether California can set its own vehicle emissions standards, the group said Tuesday. The move comes just one day after the Biden administration requested a pause in the litigation, in which the automakers had intervened to support the federal government’s move to block California from setting tighter standards. The administration had identified the Trump administration’s move as one it would seek to review and potentially reverse.

The last time a colossal landslide happened on Highway 1 south of Big Sur, the famously-scenic stretch of highway snaking along the Pacific Ocean was closed for more than a year. Following last week’s powerful January storm, Big Sur is again cut off on the south side, this time at Rat Creek. A big question for Big Sur is, how will Caltrans engineers repair Highway 1 before the summer tourism season arrives?

The California Department of Water Resources has secured $308 million in funding to pay for completed reconstruction and repair work on the Oroville Dam’s spillways. The funds released by FEMA are in addition to the $260 million that the agency provided for repairs on the lower portion of the dam’s main spillway. Repair work on the damaged emergency and main spillways has been ongoing for nearly four years following February 2017’s spillway crisis.

A year after the first COVID-19 case hit California, the state agency in charge of policing warehouses, offices, factories, and other workplaces is woefully understaffed and significantly undercounting the number of employees who have fallen seriously ill or died as a result of the coronavirus. California employers reported only 1,600 serious worker illnesses or deaths to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, from the start of the pandemic through mid-December, according to data obtained by The Sacramento Bee through a Public Records Act request. While state inspectors have responded to thousands of complaints and levied fines against some workplaces that failed to report serious cases, a long-existing staffing shortage has hindered that process. There were 107 job openings posted for the department as of Friday.

February 1, 2021

A huge piece of California’s Highway 1 was washed out last week by a winter storm that brought heavy rain and snow. California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) officials said in a statement Friday a debris flow from the hillside above the roadway “overwhelmed drainage infrastructure, flowed across the highway, and eroded the road resulting in the complete loss of a segment of Highway 1” at Rat Creek, about 15 miles south of Big Sur, a mountainous stretch of the state’s central coast. (Includes video of the slide zone.)

The California State Water Board released new information about water contamination testing after the North Complex fire devastated parts of Butte County and Plumas County during the summer of 2020. Testing of surface waters throughout the burn scar has revealed contaminant levels are elevated, but lower than anticipated. The State Water Board said the good news is they are not impacting drinking water treatment facilities or the quality of drinking water they deliver to their customers.

Fresh off a week filled with rain and snow due to an atmospheric river, water conservation may not be top of mind for everyday Californians. While the recent precipitation may make the 2011-2017 California drought seem like a distant memory, a couple of laws passed by the legislature at that time are set to rain down policy on water agencies throughout the state.

January 28, 2021

Large California corporations would be required to publicly disclose their carbon footprint and take active steps to reduce emissions, under a proposed law announced Wednesday morning. The bill, Senate Bill 260, would apply to any business that reports more than $1 billion in gross annual revenue. It would give the California Air Resources Board power to track and enforce compliance, including instituting penalties.

We are now past the halfway mark in California’s normally wettest winter months, and the wet season to date has been anything but. Most of the state has received less than half of its average annual precipitation to date. Coming after a very dry Water Year 2020 these conditions are concerning. More precipitation will certainly occur in February and March, but will it be enough to erase the state’s large deficit?

January 25, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief proposal would give workers 14 weeks of paid sick and family leave, according to an outline of the $1.9 trillion spending package his administration provided. Many California state workers relied last year on a similar leave program Congress approved in the spring, known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. That program, which provided two weeks of paid sick leave and 10 weeks of partially paid family leave for people affected by COVID-19, expired on Dec. 31. In December, Congress said employers could extend last year’s benefits through March if they wanted to and could receive tax credits to cover costs. California state government didn’t immediately commit to extending the benefits for state workers. Biden’s proposal would create a similar program for this year – and make the benefits mandatory.

New oil and natural gas drilling hit historic lows in California last year while a renewed emphasis on abandoned wells turned up a record-high number of permanently sealed wells, the state Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) reported last week.

USC alumnus Uduak-Joe Ntuk (M.S. PE ’11), California’s 17th State Oil and Gas Supervisor, answers seven questions about his job, his time at USC, and his legacy.

Pete Buttigieg, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation, told a Senate panel considering his appointment Thursday that the country must invest in strengthening transportation infrastructure nationwide. The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor pitched himself as leader rooted in “the Industrial Midwest” who will “bring a bottom-up perspective” on transportation projects and funding solutions, and someone who will work with stakeholders in industries, communities, and Congress to craft policy. Buttigieg is expected to be among several appointees who will play a central role in helping the U.S. auto industry, the state’s highway systems, and the energy grid transition to a future with fewer greenhouse gas emissions and more electric vehicles.

January 21, 2021

CalPERS earned a net return of 12.4% for the year that ended Dec. 31, CEO Marcie Frost said at the fund’s Tuesday board meeting. Average returns over the last three, five, and 10 years ranged from 8.4% to 10%. Separately, the board re-elected Henry Jones as president and Theresa Taylor as vice president.

The magnitude of America’s water affordability crisis has been laid bare by shocking new data from California, where the debt owed on water bills has hit $1 billion, and one in every eight households is currently in arrears. A survey by the state water board found at least 1.6 million households are behind on water bill payments. The average debt is $500, but 155,000 or so homes are in real trouble, owing more than $1,000 each and accounting for half the total debt.

Financial-resource website WalletHub this week released its annual list for the best and worst states for driving in the U.S. – and California came in at No. 49 of 50. The index compares 31 indicators of commute quality, from average gas prices and weather conditions to rush-hour traffic congestion and road quality. Rankings for traffic and infrastructure (46) combined with the cost of vehicle ownership and maintenance (second highest in the nation), contributed to the Golden State’s poor showing between 48 th -place Washington and cellar-dweller Hawaii. Please click here to see the survey’s details and methodology.

January 19, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom tentatively offered state employees some good news last week when he said his administration might undo the pay cuts the workers absorbed last summer. Newsom provided few specifics, citing uncertainty surrounding the state’s financial forecast despite projections of a surplus. The Finance Department later posted more specific budget documents that, while still not final, show the administration anticipates restoring pay in July while continuing to withhold raises many workers were scheduled to receive last summer.

Several union leaders said the employees they represent should get those raises or similar increases.

“This pandemic has hurt a lot of people, but it did not have the severe budget implications that it was assumed to have last year, so let’s start undoing the cuts that state employees had to bear to be part of the solution,” said Ted Toppin, executive director of the union Professional Engineers in California Government.

The proposed budget would end the personal leave program that reduced most state workers’ pay by 9.23%. Should the program end, employees also would resume contributing to their retirement health care. The contributions, which range from 1.4% to 4.6% of state workers’ pay, were suspended to soften the hit from the cuts. The state also suspended until July 2022 most of the raises it had agreed to give workers in union contracts. Department-level budget documents don’t reflect any general salary increases in the fiscal year to come, suggesting those raises will remain suspended.

However, “the level of available federal aid or stimulus funding available could be part of the determination in May as to whether the state’s fiscal condition permits proposing to end the (personal leave) program early,” Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said in an email.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has told California state department leaders to keep as many state employees as possible out of downtown Sacramento offices through Thursday over unrest concerns.

After missing its planned 2020 construction start date, the company behind the high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Southern California is hopeful work could begin this year.

January 14, 2021

A major contractor’s letter blames the state for delays in building California’s bullet train, contradicting claims that the line’s construction pace is on target and warning the project could miss a key 2022 federal deadline. The 36-page letter from Tutor Perini to the contracting chief at the state rail authority alleges the project’s problems include continuing delays in obtaining land for the line and the state’s failure to finalize deals with outside parties such as utilities and freight railroads.

An appellate court issued a decision this week that will keep individual information on CalPERS disability pensions private, barring an overriding ruling by the state Supreme Court. Transparent California, a website that publishes public salaries and pension information, plans another pass at making pension statuses public following Monday’s dismissal by the Third District Court of Appeal.

As the planet continues to warm, the twin challenges of diminishing water supply and growing energy demand are intensifying. But because water and energy are linked, adapting to one challenge – say, by getting more water via desalination or water recycling – may worsen the other challenge by choosing energy-intensive processes. Researchers in California recently developed a science-based analytic framework to evaluate the complex connections between water, energy, and options for adaptations in response to an evolving climate.

January 11, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration could restore state workers’ pay, at least partially, as early as July, according to a budget proposal released Friday. A better-than-expected financial outlook, including a projected $15 billion surplus, means the state can consider modifying the pay cuts that took effect in July of last year for the state’s roughly 230,000 employees, according to the budget proposal. The state’s Human Resources Department “anticipates inviting” state unions to renegotiate the pay cut agreements for the fiscal year starting July 1, according to Friday’s budget summary.

“Given the updated revenue projections and the scope of the budget, employee compensation reductions may not be necessary during the 2021-2022 fiscal year,” the proposal states. When Newsom introduced the pay cut, the state faced a projected deficit of $54 billion over two years. The cuts save about $2.4 billion per year. “We are in a different position,” Newsom said during a news conference Friday.

Climate change priorities spelled out in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget plan have drawn criticism he’s still not doing enough — and conversely, that he’s again doing too much — to restrain California oil production. The 2021-22 state budget he introduced Friday proposes $4.8 million to hire 26 oil regulators as part of a drive to tighten oversight and complement the state’s drive toward a lower-carbon economy.

California’s most senior oil regulator, Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, placed the $4.8 million proposal — the budget’s only oil-related item — in the context of efforts to modernize the California Geologic Energy Management Division, which would receive the new positions. “I think we recognize that we’re driving a transition to a low-carbon economy with less reliance on fossil fuels,” he told reporters in a conference call Friday. “Our goal is to strengthen regulatory oversight.”

A Paramount-based renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel producer paid $132,500 to settle with the California Air Resources Board over reporting violations under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the board announced Thursday.

The massive Interstate 70 construction design-build project in central Denver is not only going to take almost a year longer than planned to complete, Colorado’s state highway agency has now indicated that it’s also going to end up costing between $100 million and $150 million dollars more than the originally-planned $1.2 billion price tag. Department of Transportation officials refuse to provide the precise cost of the refinancing. In response to public records requests for documents about the refinancing, agency officials redacted the refinancing specifics from records submitted to the federal government.

January 7, 2021

A new proposal in the California State Legislature would force state departments to factor race and gender into decisions about who gets promoted. Assembly Bill 105 — introduced after California voters recently rejected a ballot initiative that would have brought back affirmative action — aims to give women and minority candidates a better shot at navigating a civil service system that the bill’s sponsor described as overly complicated and often biased.

California’s top energy bosses soon will decide when to snuff out natural gas flames in new homes. The seismic move toward omitting some gas appliances comes as the California Energy Commission retools state building codes for energy-efficient homes. It’s an expansion of the state’s first-in-the-nation mandates requiring solar panels on all new homes starting last year.

California’s high-speed rail project is now poised to receive some $20 billion in federal funding, thanks to the results of two senate seat runoff elections in Georgia. “I think this will be great news for CAHSR,” said Andy Kunz, President & CEO of the US HSR association. He added that between Joe Biden’s support for rail and the expected stimulus bill that will come out of the White House, coupled with a Democrat-controlled legislature, California’s rail project in particular stands to gain.

January 4, 2020

About 270,000 CalPERS health insurance policyholders who aren’t protected from “surprise” medical bills will be protected from the bills starting in 2022. The bills come after patients unknowingly or unexpectedly receive treatment from doctors or hospitals that aren’t in their insurance plans’ networks. Out-of-network treatment is much more expensive than in-network treatment. The COVID-19 relief package and budget legislation Congress recently approved includes protections against surprise medical charges that most commonly occur when patients are taken to out-of-network hospitals in emergencies or visit in-network facilities only to find out later that a particular doctor or specialist wasn’t in their insurance plan’s network.

California law already protected most people from the practice of surprise billing, including those with CalPERS HMO plans. Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans have their own limits and protections against surprise billing, also known as “balance billing.” But some health insurance plans that are regulated by the federal government, including CalPERS’ PPO plans, aren’t subject to California’s protections. Under the new law, patients won’t be billed more in those situations than what they would normally pay. The change applies to the PERS Choice, PERS Select and PERS Care plans. The law covers emergency flights but, in a big exception, it doesn’t cover ambulance bills.

The iconic Mt. Vernon Bridge in San Bernardino has closed to the public and will remain so through at least late 2023 as the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, BNSF and CalTrans disassemble it and build a new one. The long-awaited $230 million project will culminate in a new structurally-sound bridge with widened travel lanes and sidewalks, a center median and new bike lanes. Construction is expected to conclude in March 2024.

December 31, 2020

The amount of water in California’s mountain snowpack is only about half of the average for early winter, the state Department of Water Resources said Wednesday. An automated sensor network on 260 snow courses statewide found the snow-water content to be 52% of average to date, although the annual Phillips Station snowpack manual measurement came in at 93% of average.

Broadway has long been an integral-yet-neglected part of Eureka. As a road that serves both as a state highway and as the city’s “Main Street,” it fills neither role satisfactorily. Caltrans has been studying possible improvements to Broadway for decades, starting with a proposed bypass in the 1960s. Now the city and the state are considering a new idea: A $155 million multimodal corridor that makes Broadway’s narrowest stretches a one-way northbound passage. Southbound traffic would be diverted off the road in two distinct locations onto “one-way couplets.”

In the drama over federal Covid-19 relief legislation, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected state and local budget aid because, he said, the bailout would reward poorly managed states, including their public employee pension systems. But an examination of the roughly 6,000 public-sector retirement systems that exist in the U.S. reveals the employer’s economic health is the most important variable determining whether a pension system is adequately funded. After all, the size of a mortgage doesn’t determine household financial health — it’s the ratio of the mortgage payments to total income. Similarly, a pension sponsor’s fiscal health determines whether the costs of funding its pension plan create budgetary stress for the state. And there isn’t much sign the stress is severe.

December 28, 2020

The federal stimulus package that President Trump signed Sunday is “very encouraging news” according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who outlined how much of the $900 billion federal package is likely to flow to the Golden State. The package did not include aid for state and local governments for which Newsom spent months lobbying, and to which he has tied restoring full hours and pay for state employees. However, he said Congress “will need to do more in the future.”

The culprits of California’s power problems are an antiquated grid and archaic market constructs that are holdovers from a less efficient era, when power moved in one direction: from power plant to consumer. Today, we have far greater and far more complex energy needs – yet we’re still working with a set of tools and rules developed generations ago.

The Earthquake Warning California app launches on January 1. The system uses ground-motion sensors to detect an earthquake that has already started and estimates its size, location, and impact, then issues wireless emergency alerts to devices that have the app. It was developed through a partnership between the California Office of Emergency Services, the United States Geological Survey, UC Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, and the California Geological Survey.

December 24, 2020

Departments told to be less specific about COVID case numbers among state workers – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

Gov. Gavin Newsom directed California state departments to provide less specific information to state workers about COVID-19 outbreaks in their workplaces on Friday, citing confidentiality concerns. The new directive says departments shouldn’t share specific numbers unless more than 11 employees have tested positive. The notices should instead say “there are fewer than 11 cases,” according to the directive. The directive suggests less-specific notifications will help ensure confidentiality.

The law, AB 617, is overseen by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). It has established community-based committees to evaluate and remediate local air pollution hot spots. In a departure from nationwide practices, these committees must include not just the usual roster of representatives from industry, labor unions, local government, and regulatory agencies. They must also bring to the table the residents suffering from the very pollution this Californian experiment in democracy is charged with mitigating.

Next week, the Department of Water Resources will conduct the first of five surveys through May by plunging a long steel tube into the snow. (Story includes graphics of current and average water levels for Northern California’s major reservoirs.)

December 21, 2020

The $900 billion pandemic aid package expected to win Congressional approval on Monday will deliver support to a recession-ravaged economy slowing under a deadly coronavirus surge, and set it up for a stronger recovery next year as vaccines become more widely available, economists said. But it comes months after the last big fiscal aid package was passed and lacks direct help to struggling states and cities, as millions remain unemployed and businesses suffer anew from fresh restrictions to slow spread of the virus.

Six months after successfully emerging from bankruptcy — a case driven by massive wildfire damages — PG&E Corp. is wrestling with fire-related claims approaching $1 billion.

California state legislation introduced would set a legally enforceable limit on the amount of lead leaching from drinking water faucets and fixtures, reducing by five times the amount now allowed by a plumbing industry standard. Assembly Bill 100, by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), would restrict the amount of lead leaching from faucets and fixtures to no more than 1 microgram.

December 17, 2020

Former California Air Resources Board head Mary Nichols, the early favorite to lead President-elect Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency, now appears to be out of the running after dozens of environmental justice groups signed a letter criticizing her “bleak” record on environmental racism. Biden’s transition team is now scrambling to find someone else to lead the EPA.

On paper, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg seems an unlikely pick for President-elect Joe Biden’s secretary of Transportation. The 38-year old former mayor oversaw a budget of about $358 million in a city of about 102,000. At the DOT, he’ll oversee a budget of about $90 billion — including about $22 billion in discretionary dollars — and manage a staff of about 55,000. But in choosing Buttigieg as his designee to run the Department of Transportation, Biden has picked one of the few former Democratic presidential rivals to outright endorse paying for highways through a “vehicle miles traveled” fee instead of the current gas-tax system.

California and other areas of the U.S. Southwest may see less future winter precipitation than previously projected by climate models. After probing a persistent error in widely used models, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimate that California will likely experience drier winters in the future than projected by some climate models, meaning residents may see less spring runoff, higher spring temperatures, and an increased risk of wildfire in coming years.

The Port of Long Beach’s beautiful and economically important new cable-stayed bridge lit up in bright colors Monday night, providing a visual reminder of this vital transportation link’s importance to international trade and regional commerce. Just over two months after the new bridge opened to traffic, the energy-saving LED lights were turned on for the first time to illuminate the two 515-foot-tall towers and 80 cables holding the main span portion of the nearly 2-mile-long bridge. The lights will be pre-programmed to mark holidays, such as Independence Day and Christmas, and special occasions, such as the Olympics and Pride Month. The bridge is a joint effort of Caltrans and the Port of Long Beach, with additional funding support from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

December 14, 2020

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has introduced new rules to reduce HFC emissions to 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. The new rules are the first in the US to enact comprehensive measures to ban many HFCs in new equipment, while also tackling existing emissions and venting of refrigerants. It will affect commercial and industrial, stationary refrigeration units, as well as commercial and residential air conditioning units.

State water quality regulators have fined the developer of Montage Healdsburg, the ultra-luxury resort set to open Saturday, more than $6.4 million for environmental violations tied to hotel construction during the stormy winter months of late 2018 and early 2019. The fine — the largest environmental penalty of its kind on the North Coast — was prosecuted by the State Water Resources Control Board and decided Friday by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board after an eight-hour virtual hearing.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court gave California a green light last week to move forward with a contested highway project through a majestic grove of ancient redwood trees, reversing a lower court ruling that halted construction pending further environmental review.

December 10, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced his selection of Liane Randolph, a member of the California Public Utilities Commission, as the new chair of the California Air Resources Board, replacing longtime Chair Mary Nichols.

California regulators have outlined their strategy for transitioning from fossil fuels towards cleaner generation to power communities during wildfire-related public safety power shut-offs for the 2021 wildfire season and beyond. In a proposal issued Monday, regulators recommended that utilities file applications with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) by June 30, 2021, detailing their plans for switching to clean resources for future shut-offs, as well as how they intend to procure them.

The California Transportation Commission has approved $2 billion for 56 new projects, some of which aim to improve the movement of goods and reduce congestion. These projects are supported by three programs that were created by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

Water joined gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street, highlighting worries that the life-sustaining natural resource may become scarce across more of the world. Farmers, hedge funds and municipalities alike are now able to hedge against — or bet on — future water availability in California, the biggest U.S. agriculture market and world’s fifth-largest economy.

December 7, 2020

California is closing state government offices in response to the stay-at-home order Gov. Gavin Newsom issued Thursday, according to an email sent to state departments. With some exceptions, state offices will close Monday, Dec. 7, and remain closed for three weeks, according to an email Human Resources Department Director Eraina Ortega sent to state department leaders.

The Professional Engineers in California Government, a state union representing about 11,000 workers, wrote to Ortega Wednesday urging her to minimize in-person work and strengthen state protocols around testing and prevention.

Ted Toppin, the union’s executive director, said the rate at which he has been receiving notices of positive tests at his members’ workplaces has reached 10 to 12 per day. Most of the workers the union represents work at Caltrans, the Department of Water Resources, the Air Resources Board and the Water Resources Control Board. “I’m happy to hear they’re moving in this direction,” Toppin said. “Cases are surging, and they’re surging in state workplaces too.”

Nissan said Friday that it will no longer support the Trump administration in its legal fight to end California’s ability to set its own auto-pollution and gas-mileage standards. The announcement is another sign that a coalition of automakers backing the outgoing administration could fall apart. General Motors ended its support for the Trump administration’s battle with California on emissions standards last week.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court gave California a green light last week to move forward with a contested highway project through a majestic grove of ancient redwood trees, reversing a lower court ruling that halted construction pending further environmental review.

December 3, 2020

The California Department of General Services, which manages 12 state parking facilities in Sacramento, hasn’t reduced monthly parking prices since Gov. Newsom sent state workers home in March. Meanwhile, many state employees who work from home aren’t using their passes very much, and some wish the state would give them a break. Yet the demand for the passes has only increased during the pandemic.

California’s water managers on Tuesday preliminarily allocated just 10% of requested water supplies to agencies that together serve more than 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. The state Department of Water Resources cited the dry start to the winter rainy season in California’s Mediterranean climate, along with low reservoir levels remaining from last year’s relatively dry winter.

Mary Nichols, a Yale-trained lawyer who first helmed California’s air agency in the 1970s, has made a career of bringing industry on board with groundbreaking environmental policies in ways that others have struggled — and failed — to replicate. One reason is that she’s better than most at negotiating with industry. Her familiarity stems in part from her 46-year marriage to her late husband, a trial attorney who represented energy firms he even defended Exxon after the notorious Exxon Valdez oil spill.

November 30, 2020

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has proposed a regulation that it says will give state departments of transportation more flexibility in setting design standards for resurfacing, restoration and rehabilitation (RRR) projects on existing Interstate highways and other key arteries. The proposal, published in the Federal Register on Nov. 24, would incorporate updated design standards—principally those issued in recent years by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)—and drop older versions of the benchmarks.

A state audit released the day before Thanksgiving shows that California oil regulators didn’t follow their own rules and in 2019 issued hundreds of inappropriate permits for new wells. While the Department of Finance audit found the California Geologic Energy Management Division, CalGEM, was “generally” in accordance with its laws, it also found major areas lacking.

Across California, water providers are discovering the same thing: “Forever chemicals” are everywhere. Used for decades to make non-stick and waterproof coatings, firefighting foams and food packaging, these industrial chemicals — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS — have been linked to kidney cancer and other serious health conditions. They last forever because they don’t break down. They’re dangerous. They’re expensive to get rid of. And many Californians don’t even know they’re drinking them. California is now cracking down by implementing new thresholds for the chemicals that will force cities and utilities to shut down their wells, treat the water, or notify their customers about the contamination.

General Motors is switching sides in the legal fight against California’s right to set its own clean-air standards, abandoning the Trump administration as the president’s term nears its close. CEO Mary Barra said in a letter Monday to environmental groups that GM will no longer support the Trump administration in its defense against a lawsuit over its efforts against California’s standards. And GM is urging other automakers to do the same. The move is a sign that GM and other automakers are anticipating big changes when President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Already at least one other large automaker, Toyota, said it may join GM in switching to California’s team.

November 30, 2020

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has proposed a regulation that it says will give state departments of transportation more flexibility in setting design standards for resurfacing, restoration and rehabilitation (RRR) projects on existing Interstate highways and other key arteries. The proposal, published in the Federal Register on Nov. 24, would incorporate updated design standards—principally those issued in recent years by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)—and drop older versions of the benchmarks.

A state audit released the day before Thanksgiving shows that California oil regulators didn’t follow their own rules and in 2019 issued hundreds of inappropriate permits for new wells. While the Department of Finance audit found the California Geologic Energy Management Division, CalGEM, was “generally” in accordance with its laws, it also found major areas lacking.

Across California, water providers are discovering the same thing: “Forever chemicals” are everywhere. Used for decades to make non-stick and waterproof coatings, firefighting foams and food packaging, these industrial chemicals — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS — have been linked to kidney cancer and other serious health conditions. They last forever because they don’t break down. They’re dangerous. They’re expensive to get rid of. And many Californians don’t even know they’re drinking them. California is now cracking down by implementing new thresholds for the chemicals that will force cities and utilities to shut down their wells, treat the water, or notify their customers about the contamination.

General Motors is switching sides in the legal fight against California’s right to set its own clean-air standards, abandoning the Trump administration as the president’s term nears its close. CEO Mary Barra said in a letter Monday to environmental groups that GM will no longer support the Trump administration in its defense against a lawsuit over its efforts against California’s standards. And GM is urging other automakers to do the same. The move is a sign that GM and other automakers are anticipating big changes when President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Already at least one other large automaker, Toyota, said it may join GM in switching to California’s team.

November 23, 2020

In a wide-ranging conversation, Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin addressed some topics that aren’t usually the focus of a state DOT. He touched on the department’s role in climate change and transit, and discussed the new Caltrans Office of Race and Equity. He also talked about speed limit enforcement, congestion pricing, and highway expansion.

A crew aboard a barge off the coast of Summerland has begun capping the abandoned Treadwell oil well, the second such project under a state law aimed at sealing polluting sites that, in many cases, opened during California’s “Oil Rush” in the 1930s.

As billions of dollars in new state buildings go up in Downtown Sacramento, Governor Gavin Newsom is now asking California state agencies to reduce their “physical footprint” and expand “telework.”

In all, four new downtown state buildings are under construction. Three state buildings are under construction on O Street, and a massive campus for the Department of General Services is under construction on Richards Boulevard.

November 19, 2020

The recession California officials forecast in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic has not been as dire as predicted, leaving the state with a $26 billion windfall heading into the next fiscal year. The bad news: California is heading toward a $17 billion deficit in three years because expenses are growing faster than revenue. That leaves lawmakers with two politically unappealing choices: make ongoing spending cuts or raise taxes. Still, legislative leaders were quick to say they hope to use some of the windfall to restore cuts made in this year’s budget. That could include restoring $602 million to universities, reversing the roughly 10% pay cut state workers took, and canceling plans to delay some payments to schools and suspend some programs for people who are elderly and developmentally disabled. They also suggested using some of it to repay recent borrowing, prepare for emergencies and help people who don’t have homes.

The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (Senate Bill 1) has passed a major timeline milestone, one-fifth of the way through a promised 10-year transformation of California’s transportation network. A recent progress report presented to the California Transportation Commission shows that Caltrans, to this point, is meeting or making significant strides on key SB 1 performance targets set for pavement, bridges, drainages, its signals, signs and sensors system. But challenges remain in the pace of improvements to the bridges that Caltrans maintains, although solid progress has been made to that critical part of the State Highway System.

An agreement announced Tuesday paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a project that promises to reopen hundreds of miles of waterway along the Oregon-California border to salmon that are critical to tribes but have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years. If approved, the deal would revive plans to remove four massive hydroelectric dams on the lower Klamath River, creating the foundation for the most ambitious salmon restoration effort in history. The project on California’s second-largest river would be at the vanguard of a trend toward dam demolitions in the U.S. as the structures age and become less economically viable amid growing environmental concerns about the health of native fish.

Over the years, California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) has sued federal agencies over immigration, border wall financing, transgender rights, health care, education, and consumer privacy. But the bulk of the cases—57—have focused on air, water, wildlife, energy, or environmental policy. Now his office is poring over the lawsuits to see what can be rectified through executive order, by agencies changing course, or by accepting well-established case law. “With a new administration coming in, we might be able to dial it back to normal, which will mean we don’t have to sue all the time,” Becerra said.

November 16, 2020

California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, who sources say could be the next federal environment chief, said on Thursday her state’s agreement with major automakers for fuel efficiency requirements could serve as a “good template” for federal standards through 2025. Meanwhile, many automakers are bracing for lengthy court or regulatory fights over tougher standards that they say could cost them billions of dollars.

A crew aboard a barge off the coast of Summerland has begun capping the abandoned Treadwell oil well, the second such project under a state law aimed at sealing polluting sites that, in many cases, opened during California’s “Oil Rush” in the 1930s.

A state ethics investigation into the top consultant working on the California bullet train last year has found he did not violate state law, following allegations that he was among those who approved a contract modification for a company in which he held stock.

November 12, 2020

Prices for some of the cheapest health insurance plans California state workers can buy would increase by up to $270 per month under a CalPERS proposal to stabilize rates. The price hikes for the cheapest plans, typically favored by young and healthy workers, would help save richer plans favored by older workers and retirees from collapse, a CalPERS health insurance official has told the retirement system’s board. CalPERS posted projected rates online this week ahead of an anticipated decision Tuesday on whether to adopt the stabilization proposal in 2022. Rates for 2021 are not affected.

The state released a study on Monday that finds no urgent repairs are needed right now on the Oroville Dam. Still, the report by the Department of Water Resource says that several “potential vulnerabilities that require further examination” have been identified. Some of the vulnerabilities are “negligible” but aren’t deemed “unacceptable.” A list of fixes in the report would cost from $2 million to $2 billion each. The report is available here.

Caltrans is offering up to $100 to volunteers who can help conduct research on a road user charge as an alternative to the California gas tax. Researchers are exploring the ways in which drivers could be charged mile-by-mile with a payment system at electric vehicle pumps, or a usage-based insurance approach, Caltrans said. In future phases, researchers will test payment of rideshare miles and collect data from autonomous vehicles through an app.

November 9, 2020

The California Coastal Commission has unanimously granted Caltrans approval to realign Highway 1 on the Sonoma Coast, a $34 million project that will shift the roadway about 400 feet inland and create an 850-foot bridge spanning Scotty Creek, which flows to the ocean at a popular beach between Bodega Bay and Jenner.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said utilities are on track to meet renewable energy requirements for 2020, according to its annual Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) report. The state’s RPS requires utilities, electric service providers, and community choice aggregators (CCAs) to procure 33 percent of retail sales per year from renewable sources by 2020 and 60 percent by 2030. By 2045, the goal is to have a 100 percent carbon free electric grid.

November 5, 2020

Telework moved closer to becoming a permanent part of California state employment this week after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration told officials to reconsider building leases and find other permanent savings.

Finance Department Director Keely Bosler sent a letter to agency secretaries and department leaders Tuesday instructing them to submit plans for permanent spending reductions of 5% by Feb. 1. The letter makes repeated reference to telework, saying departments may find savings by reducing lease space, trimming travel spending and using telework to cut costs such as printing, postage, utilities and transit subsidies. The letter doesn’t say anything about layoffs, nor does it institute a hiring freeze.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has an opportunity to put his stamp on the Golden State’s pioneering environmental policies by appointing the influential chair of California’s leading policymaking body on climate change and air pollution. Already, potential leaders are jockeying for the position before California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols departs after more than a decade at the helm. The top candidates, according to sources, are former Democratic legislators who now sit on the board. Hector De La Torre, a former Democratic Assembly member, South Gate city mayor, and nine-year board member, has Nichols’ support, those sources say, while former Sen. Dean Florez, a Democrat from Bakersfield who’s been on the board for six years, is also receiving consideration.

Membership rates for California state unions have dropped slightly amid the pandemic, according to an analysis by The Sacramento Bee of State Controller’s Office data. The State Worker published a story on the trend Monday. This follow-up blog post shows membership rates by bargaining unit and state union for three points in time: just after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, just before the coronavirus arrived in California and six months into the pandemic.

November 2, 2020

Union membership among California state workers declined slightly this year as recruitment has gone remote due to the coronavirus, according to state data and interviews with union leaders. The biggest factor in the slight decline appears to stem from a reduced rate of new employee sign-ups. In August, the most recent month for which data is available, 67% of state workers were dues-paying union members, according to State Controller’s Office data. That’s down 2% from February, the month before the virus began to spread in California.

Union leaders said recruitment by computer or by phone just isn’t the same as meeting in person. “It’s sort of difficult to recruit new members on Zoom you miss that person to person sort of connection,” said Ted Toppin, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government. In the past, union representatives would be in a room with groups of new workers. They could answer questions and hand out copies of contracts, business cards and union-branded swag such as calendars, notepads and pint glasses, said Toppin, with the engineers’ union. The union had an 83% membership rate in August, down 1 percentage point from February. While the unions can mail those things to new members, first impressions aren’t as strong when made by computer or phone, Toppin said.

Work is complete on a two-season project to replace a bridge that served motorists for more than 80 years with a new structure that meets safety and seismic standards. The $14.1 million U.S. Highway 50 Echo Summit Sidehill Viaduct Replacement Project removed the existing bridge, which was completed in 1939 at a cost of $25,000 (equal to roughly $376,000 today). The project includes $5.2 million in funding from Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

Lobbing another hurdle at California’s $16 billion plan to tunnel underneath the West Coast’s largest estuary, environmentalists last week sued to freeze public funding for the megaproject championed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Led by Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, a familiar coalition of critics of the so-called delta tunnel claim the cash-strapped state is pursuing a “blank check” for a project that isn’t fully cooked.

Just days after launching a website with construction details of the rebranded project, Fortress Investment Group is postponing plans for its Las Vegas-to-Southern California high speed rail project after failing to sell bonds to provide financing. Bloomberg reports the effort to sell $2.4 billion in debt to be financed through agencies in California and Nevada — reduced from original plans for a $3.2 billion sale – has been “postponed until market liquidity improves,” according to an email from California Treasurer Fiona Ma. California had given Fortress until Dec. 1 to sell the bonds the bond capacity will now be returned to the state and used for other projects, such as affordable housing.


The history of dogecoin, the joke currency that's worth more than Barclays and Lloyds

Dogecoin (DOGE-USD) stole the spotlight from the world’s largest and second-largest cryptocurrencies Bitcoin (BTC-USD) and Ethereum (ETH-USD) this week after it surged more than 200% in 24 hours, giving it a market cap of $52bn (£37.6bn).

Over the past week it has rocketed as much as 550%, which pushed it beyond the value of several major banks on Friday, including Barclays (BARC.L), which has a market cap of $44bn, and Lloyds Banking Group (LLOYD.L), which is worth $42bn.

It was also ranked the fifth largest cryptocurrency in the world at one point.

Thousands of investors made substantial gains on the rise and social media platforms were populated with memes about the coin “going to the moon." The phrase is often used by traders that think the price of a stock or a cryptocurrency is going to see a huge increase.

But the cryptocurrency hasn’t always been as popular as it is now, in fact, it was first created as a joke by Jackson Palmer and Billy Markus in 2013.

The coin takes its name and logo from the Shiba Inu dog in the “doge” meme that became popular on the internet that same year. The pair of software engineers created Dogecoin to satirise the growth of altcoins by making the doge internet meme into a cryptocurrency.

On Christmas Day in 2013, millions of Dogecoins (worth around $16,000) were stolen during a cyber attack on the online platform Dogewallet. The incident resulted in over 30 million missing coins, according to CNET.

However, this caused the currency to be the most mentioned altcoin (an alternative coin to Bitcoin) on Twitter (TWTR) at the time, generating a rise of interest in the coin.

DOGE is a derivative of Luckycoin which forked from Litecoin (LTC-USD) and uses a Scrypt algorithm. It has 1 minute block intervals making it faster than other blockchains.

There is no cap to the supply of coins and so the coin can inflate infinitely.

WATCH: What is Bitcoin?

As the years went on, Dogecoin’s market capitalisation climbed slowly, and reached a peak of .017 in early 2018 thanks to the cryptocurrency bubble that saw Bitcoin surpass its previous all-time high of over $19,000 before it crashed.

Last year, during the coronavirus pandemic, the price of Dogecoin spiked more than 600% after a viral TikTok challenge urged a buying spree, with the aim to get the value to £$1 per coin.

TikTok user James Galante began asking followers to buy Dogecoin in late June, claiming they could "all get rich" by pushing its value.

The official Dogecoin Twitter account addressed the trend, warning against impulsively joining the viral challenge and urging followers to "be smart."

"Be mindful of the intentions people have when they direct you to buy things. None of them are in the spot to be financially advising," the account tweeted.

Be mindful of the intentions people have when they direct you to buy things. None of them are in the spot to be financially advising.

Make choices right for you, do not ride other peoples FOMO or manipulation.

Dogecoin ended 2020 at less than half a penny per DOGE, according to CoinDesk’s Dogecoin price index.

However, at the start of January 2021, it soared more than 800% as Reddit users, who also pumped stocks such as GameStop (GME) and AMC (AMC), drew their attention to the coin.

In February Tesla (TSLA) founder Elon Musk also began tweeting about it. Musk sent out a flurry of tweets about the cryptocurrency, first tweeting just the word “Doge”, followed by “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto”, and “No highs, no lows, only Doge."

Other celebrities have begun tweeting about the token following the attention from Musk. Snoop Dogg has also buoyed up the price of the joke token, as has KISS singer Gene Simmons.

Despite its rise to fame, Dogecoin, and other cryptocurrencies still remain very volatile and experts continue to remain sceptical about using it as an investment.

"People are buying the cryptocurrency, not because they think it has any meaningful value, but because they hope others will pile in, push the price up and then they can sell off and make a quick buck,” David Kimberley, analyst at Freetrade, said.

"But when everyone is doing this, the bubble eventually has to burst and you’re going to be left short-changed if you don’t get out in time. And it’s almost impossible to say when that’s going to happen.

He added: "This is doubly the case in the crypto markets where a small group of players often hold a huge chunk of the total number of ‘coins’ in circulation. That means it only takes one person to dump all their holdings for the entire market to tank.

“The latest uptick in Dogecoin’s price isn’t indicative of any meaningful value the cryptocurrency offers, it’s just a surge in interest from people looking to get rich quick. That can make for a fun bet, but it’s not good investing. And if you’re the one left holding on to the coins when the market tanks, you may regret taking a punt in the first place.”

WATCH: What are the risks of investing in cryptocurrency?

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Braves-Mets postponed again by rain, DHs in June and July

The game between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets scheduled for Sunday night was postponed because of rain. The teams will make it up as part of a single-admission doubleheader on July 26 beginning at 5:10 p.m. Both games will be scheduled for seven innings. It was the second washout of the series and third in five days for the NL East-leading Mets in a season filled with interruptions from the very beginning.

Man shot, killed after striking Oklahoma deputy with vehicle

A man who struck a sheriff's deputy with his vehicle early Sunday morning following a chase in rural southeastern Oklahoma was fatally shot by a deputy, authorities said. After Pushmataha County sheriff’s deputies pulled the man over for a traffic stop at about 2:45 a.m. west of Antlers, he drove away, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The OSBI said the deputies then pursued the vehicle, which also carried a female passenger, for several miles along rural county roads.

Camposol Holding PLC Invitation to the Presentation of First Quarter 2021 Financial Results

Camposol Holding PLC will announce the results for the first quarter 2021 on Monday, May 31, 2021. In connection with the release, a telephone conference will be held at 4:00 p.m. (Lima) as described below. In connection with the earnings release Samuel Dyer Coriat, CEO, and Andrés Colichón Sas, CFO, will host a conference call presentation and a Q&A session at 4:00 p.m. (Lima). To participate in the conference call, please use the following numbers: London, UK Local +0800 028 8438 US/Canada International +1 409 981 0728 Zurich, Switzerland, Local +044 580 1733 Oslo, Norway, Local +47 8001 6162 Colombia, National Free Phone +01 800 518 5094 Chile, National Free Phone +56 800 914 686 Peru, National Free Phone +51 0800 71470 Participants will be asked for their name and conference ID. The Camposol conference ID is: 5478865 Audio access for the meeting is available by dialing the above-mentioned numbers. To access the presentation webcast in connection with the conference call, please use:https://edge.media-server.com/mmc/p/nytivu4n Participants are advised to log on to the service and check their configuration well ahead of the telephone conference commencement. For further information, please contact: Andrés Colichón Sas, Finance Director [email protected] Milagritos Olivero, Administration and Finance Officer [email protected] Phone: +511 621 0800 Ext.: 7171 About CAMPOSOL Camposol is a multinational company that provides families around the world with fresh and healthy food. It has operations in Peru, Colombia, and Uruguay, commercial offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia, trusting relationships with the main supermarkets worldwide, as well as customers in more than 40 countries. It is involved in the harvest, processing and marketing of high quality agricultural products such as avocados, blueberries, grapes, mangoes and mandarins, among others. Camposol is a vertically integrated company that is committed to supporting sustainable development through social and environmental responsibility policies and projects aimed at increasing the shared-value for all of its stakeholders. It is also an active member of the United Nations Global Compact, issues annual GRI-aligned sustainability reports and has achieved the following international certifications: BSCI, Global Gap, IFS, HACCP, OHSAS, ISO 14001, Rainforest Alliance, and BRC, among others. To learn more about CAMPOSOL please visit: www.camposol.com.pe

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Asia Stocks Eye Muted Start to Week Dollar Steady: Markets Wrap

(Bloomberg) -- Asia stocks face a muted start to the week as traders await U.S. jobs data and Federal Reserve speakers to gauge the pace of the economic recovery. The dollar was steady in early Sydney trading.Holidays in the U.S. and U.K. on Monday are likely to keep trading subdued in Asia. Futures were little changed in Japan, Australia and Hong Kong. U.S. stocks notched their fourth-straight monthly advance as data signaling prospects for a sustained rebound outweighed inflation worries.Bitcoin was higher, trading above $36,000. It slumped Friday after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda expressed skepticism about the usefulness of the digital tokens in the real world.Global stocks are on track for the smallest monthly gain since a rebound in February as debate about inflationary pressures became a dominant feature for investors in May. Concern about whether price increases were temporary or entrenched for the long term whipsawed markets. The U.S. personal consumption expenditures core-price gauge rose the most in two decades.“There is likely more upside to go on the inflation scare front in the months ahead as base effects, the lagged impact of commodity price hikes and bottlenecks continue to feed through, but there are now a few more signs that it will be transitory,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, said in a note.President Joe Biden detailed his ambitions to expand the size and scope of the federal government with more than $6 trillion in spending over the coming fiscal year.Here are key events to watch this week:U.S. markets will be closed for the Memorial Day holiday. U.K. markets will be closed for the Spring Bank holidayReserve Bank of Australia policy decision TuesdayOPEC+ meets to decide on oil production levels TuesdayPhiladelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan speak WednesdayU.S. employment for May on FridayThese are some of the main moves in markets:StocksThe S&P 500 rose about 0.1%The Nasdaq 100 rose 0.2%Nikkei 225 futures fell 0.1%Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index futures rose 0.1%Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index futures rose 0.3% earlierCurrenciesThe Japanese yen was at 109.81 per dollarThe offshore yuan was at 6.3642 per dollarThe euro was little changed at $1.2195The British pound was at $1.4185BondsThe yield on 10-year Treasuries declined one basis point to 1.59% FridayCommoditiesWest Texas Intermediate was at $66.32 a barrelGold was at $1,903.77 an ounceMore stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Jura Announces Release of Interim Filings

CALGARY, Alberta, May 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Jura Energy Corporation (“Jura”) today announced the filing on SEDAR of its condensed consolidated interim financial statements as at, and for the three months ended March 31, 2021 and 2020, and its Management’s Discussion and Analysis for the first quarter of fiscal year 2021. About Jura Energy Corporation Jura is an international energy company engaged in the exploration, development and production of petroleum and natural gas properties in Pakistan. Jura is based in Calgary, Alberta, and listed on the TSX-V trading under the symbol JEC. Jura conducts its business in Pakistan through its subsidiaries, Frontier Holdings Limited and Spud Energy Pty Limited. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: Mr. Muhammad Nadeem Farooq, CEOTel: +92 51 2270702-5Fax: +92 51 227 0701Website: www.juraenergy.comE‐Mail: [email protected] Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Wait 'til next year: Palou, O'Ward fall to Castroneves

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The investigation

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos became a cultural phenomenon in the 2000s. As early as 2005, school administrators considered banning them in the classroom because of their distracting popularity with students Pasadena schools eventually prohibited them in 2012. Their first meme moment came in that same year, in a 2012 viral rap video, “Hot Cheetos and Takis,” a song written and performed by a group of kids as part of an after-school program in north Minneapolis. The years since have seen pop-up restaurants and fashion lines, and countless Instagram-ready Flamin’ Hot Cheetos menu items at restaurants across the country.

Montañez’s story of the janitor who had invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos picked up traction, serving as fodder for blog posts and online videos. Montañez’s own Instagram account accumulated tens of thousands of followers, and his TikTok following now tops 100,000.

But the people who had worked on the original Flamin’ Hot line weren’t watching viral videos or reading food blogs targeted at young audiences. Most of them had already left the company by the early 2000s. Most had already retired.

Greenfeld, the Flamin’ Hot team leader, didn’t see the story of the scrappy janitor who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos until the summer of 2018, when she happened upon a blog post on the Esquire website.

Greenfeld was shocked to see someone taking credit for a product that she had worked on. She reached out to an acquaintance who was still working at Frito-Lay, according to emails viewed by The Times, asking if they had ever heard of the Montañez story, and if they knew anyone she could alert in the legal department that someone was claiming to have invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Michele Thatcher, chief counsel in PepsiCo’s global human resources department, wrote that she and the legal team “know Richard well,” were aware of his book and movie projects, and were unsure what problem, if any, there might be with his story. Over the decades, the institutional memory had been lost.

Further email correspondence shows that the company launched an investigation into the question of Flamin’ Hot’s origin after Greenfeld’s initial email.

In a December 2018 message, Leanne Oliver, general counsel at Frito-Lay North America, wrote that she didn’t think there was “any question” that the Flamin’ Hot test market predated “the Cucamonga meeting” where Montañez pitched some kind of product.

In a later email, another Frito-Lay lawyer, Susan Chao, wrote, “We know you and the Law Dept worked together to trademark ‘Flamin’ Hot’” but asked Greenfeld if she remembered who had invented the name. “I came up with the Flamin’ Hot name on my own,” Greenfeld replied.

The investigation soon came to an effective dead end. Montañez retired in March 2019. Carey, his corporate mentor, retired that same month.

The next month, Oliver wrote in an email that “Frito-Lay will continue to take the position that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos was created by a team of people and, as with all of our products, we do not credit one person with a product invention or flavor extension.”

Carey and Montañez appeared together soon after, at a June 2019 ceremony where Carey accepted a lifetime achievement award from the East Los Angeles Community Union. In a video created for the event, Montañez shifts his story, saying that it was Carey, and not Enrico, who created the motivational video that inspired him to create Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in the first place, though he has since returned to his version of the story featuring Enrico.

Carey currently sits on the board of the Home Depot, serves as executive chairman of the North Carolina textiles company Unifi and is on the board of a blank-check vehicle, Omnichannel Acquisition Corp.

Indra Nooyi, who was chairman and CEO of PepsiCo while Carey was running Frito-Lay and the Pepsi beverage business, has blurbed Montañez’s new memoir, calling it a “tour de force.” (Nooyi also retired in 2019.) Tom Greco, who took over at Frito-Lay once Carey moved to Pepsi, has also blurbed the book. Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994, and Greco worked in Frito-Lay’s Canadian division until the early 2000s.

Montañez has spent much of his time since retirement working the speaker circuit, according to his social media accounts, delivering keynotes at in-person and virtual events for organizations such as Prudential Financial, the Philadelphia Eagles, recruitment tech company Indeed, call center technology company Genesys, and at Pestworld 2019, the annual conference of the National Pest Management Assn.

After the investigation and his retirement, Montañez has also repeatedly posted to his social media accounts photographs of what he claims are original design materials for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Many have recently been deleted.

One photograph, posted to Instagram in October 2019 but now deleted, shows four pieces of lined notebook paper, labeled “mild,” “reg,” “hot” and “extra hot,” with Cheetos piled on top of each. At the bottom of one, Montañez signed his name and wrote the date “1988.”

In another post, now deleted, he wrote that he worked on the Doritos Salsa Rio flavor in 1998 — a product that first hit test markets in 1987, according to Advertising Age articles from that year.

In public statements since conducting its internal investigation, Frito-Lay has struck a cautious tone.

In an August 2019 interview with Fast Company about Montañez’s biopic, Frito-Lay Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Saenz said that the company helped the film’s producers piece together the historical information that exists on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Saenz then substantially repeated the statement that the company had sent to Lynne some months earlier: “At Frito-Lay, and PepsiCo, a product or flavor extension is the work of a number of people across functions as diverse as R&D, sales and marketing, all of whom are proud of the products they help create.”

In April 2020, a new chief marketing officer, Rachel Ferdinando, appears in a CNBC video feature about Flamin’ Hot products. She stops short of calling Montañez the inventor of the product.

But she does name Montañez, saying that “Richard’s insights into the Hispanic consumer really helped us shape and think about how we should talk to that consumer,” adding that his thinking insight “was something we relied on very heavily.”

The filmmakers behind Montañez’s biopic were informed of potential problems with his story two years ago. In April 2019, Frito-Lay’s legal team forwarded a letter that Greenfeld wrote outlining her version of events to Franklin, whose production company, Franklin Entertainment, is co-producing Montañez’s biopic along with Searchlight Pictures.

It’s unclear whether the producers ever informed Longoria, who’s set to direct the film. And like many Hollywood projects, the movie could use Montañez’s story as a jumping-off point for a fictional story.

In early May, Longoria announced that she had chosen the actors to play Montañez and his wife, and that the film would begin shooting this summer in New Mexico.

She told Variety that it has been her “biggest priority to make sure we are telling Richard Montañez’s story authentically.”

For the record:
1:50 PM, May. 16, 2021: An earlier version of this article said Lynne Greenfeld and Miguel Lecuona attended business school at Northwestern. The business school they attended was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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Bitcoin’s Volatility Spawns New Crypto Balance Sheet Alternative

(Bloomberg) -- Corporate treasurers fed up with rock-bottom returns on their cash are about to get another pitch from the world of crypto.Circle Internet Financial Ltd., one of the digital-asset firms behind the so-called stablecoin dubbed USDC that is pegged 1-to-1 to the dollar, has cooked up an alternative for the legions too conservative to follow the likes of Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey into Bitcoin. Park your extra cash in USDC and earn as much as 7% annually through high-yield accounts, the marketing says -- more than 10 times the return on an ultra-safe 1-year Treasury bill.The idea may be appealing to some treasurers who were initially seduced by the big gains in crypto, especially following Bitcoin’s roughly 40% decline since mid-April. Stablecoins such as USDC are gaining increased attention because of their ability to maintain their pegs during the wild crypto price swings, suggesting they could actually serve as a store of value. Even so, not all long-term digital market observers are convinced.“If companies wish to put their corporate reserves into a stablecoin and that is fully audited, it is like putting their money in a bank account which is what they normally do,” John Griffin, professor of finance at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an email. “However, if the account is paying out a higher yield than bank account yields, then it is not merely invested in some risk-free asset.”Here’s how Circle’s program will work: Treasurers would open a “digital-dollar account” where the company’s fiat money is converted into USDC and interest is paid out in USDC. The yield is generated by Circle lending the digital dollars to a network of institutional investors that are willing to pay an interest rate for access to additional capital.The companies would lock in their return when the account is opened, similar to a bank certificate of deposit. Circle plans to offer accounts with maturities ranging from one month to a year, with no early withdrawals allowed. Rates available will be updated on a weekly basis, depending on demand for USDC loans.That’s a bit tamer than the strategy first highlighted last year by MicroStrategy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Saylor, who advocated pouring company reserves into Bitcoin because he said the dollar is being debased by surging inflation. Musk’s February announcement that Tesla Inc. had added Bitcoin to its balance sheet helped fuel the rally that took the largest cryptocurrency to a record in April before it lost more than one-third of its value.“Corporate reserves are not for investing in stocks, going to Vegas, or something more volatile and more rigged against you like Bitcoin,” Griffin said.With few companies outside the crypto realm following MicroStrategy, Tesla and Dorsey’s Square Inc. into Bitcoin, Circle hopes that stablecoins may be the next logical step. The company is working with Genesis Global Capital, one of the largest crypto lenders.The service will be first made available in the U.S. and Switzerland, and will launch “imminently,” Jeremy Allaire, Circle’s CEO, said in an interview. Thousands of businesses are already on the waiting list, according to Circle.“We are seeing the opportunity for the treasury use-case grow a lot,” Allaire said.Other providers of stablecoins are rolling out similar offerings. On May 26, Gemini exchange -- the brainchild of the Winklevoss brothers -- said investors can earn up to 7.4% annually on Gemini dollars through a program called Gemini Earn. The Gemini token is also pegged to the dollar and its reserves are held with State Street Bank and Trust, the largest financial custodian in the world. Each month, the dollar deposit balance is examined by BPM LLP, an independent registered public accounting firm.USDC reserves are attested to monthly by accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP and published online.Various small crypto lenders already offer yield accounts for different coins, including less regulated stablecoins like Tether.For these products, “appropriate users would be people who invest in junk bonds or similar risky lending,” said Aaron Brown, a crypto investor and writer for Bloomberg Opinion. “It might offer a better risk-adjusted return than alternatives. . . or not. But whatever it is, it’s not a savings account in the way most people understand that term.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bitcoin's in a slump — here's why Warren Buffett has hated it all along

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This Time Is Different: Outside OPEC+, Oil Growth Stalls

(Bloomberg) -- “This time is different” may be the most dangerous words in business: billions of dollars have been lost betting that history won’t repeat itself. And yet now, in the oil world, it looks like this time really will be.For the first time in decades, oil companies aren’t rushing to increase production to chase rising oil prices as Brent crude approaches $70. Even in the Permian, the prolific shale basin at the center of the U.S. energy boom, drillers are resisting their traditional boom-and-bust cycle of spending.The oil industry is on the ropes, constrained by Wall Street investors demanding that companies spend less on drilling and instead return more money to shareholders, and climate change activists pushing against fossil fuels. Exxon Mobil Corp. is paradigmatic of the trend, after its humiliating defeat at the hands of a tiny activist elbowing itself onto the board.The dramatic events in the industry last week only add to what is emerging as an opportunity for the producers of OPEC+, giving the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Russia more room for maneuver to bring back their own production. As non-OPEC output fails to rebound as fast as many expected -- or feared based on past experience -- the cartel is likely to continue adding more supply when it meets on June 1.‘Criminalization’Shareholders are asking Exxon to drill less and focus on returning money to investors. “They have been throwing money down the drill hole like crazy,” Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer for CalSTRS. “We really saw that company just heading down the hole, not surviving into the future, unless they change and adapt. And now they have to.”Exxon is unlikely to be alone. Royal Dutch Shell Plc lost a landmark legal battle last week when a Dutch court told it to cut emissions significantly by 2030 -- something that would require less oil production. Many in the industry fear a wave of lawsuits elsewhere, with western oil majors more immediate targets than the state-owned oil companies that make up much of OPEC production.“We see a shift from stigmatization toward criminalization of investing in higher oil production,” said Bob McNally, president of consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official.While it’s true that non-OPEC+ output is creeping back from the crash of 2020 -- and the ultra-depressed levels of April and May last year -- it’s far from a full recovery. Overall, non-OPEC+ output will grow this year by 620,000 barrels a day, less than half the 1.3 million barrels a day it fell in 2020. The supply growth forecast through the rest of this year “comes nowhere close to matching” the expected increase in demand, according to the International Energy Agency.Beyond 2021, oil output is likely to rise in a handful of nations, including the U.S., Brazil, Canada and new oil-producer Guyana. But production will decline elsewhere, from the U.K. to Colombia, Malaysia and Argentina.As non-OPEC+ production increases less than global oil demand, the cartel will be in control of the market, executives and traders said. It’s a major break with the past, when oil companies responded to higher prices by rushing to invest again, boosting non-OPEC output and leaving the ministers led by Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz bin Salman with a much more difficult balancing act.Drilling DownSo far, the lack of non-OPEC+ oil production growth isn’t registering much in the market. After all, the coronavirus pandemic continues to constrain global oil demand. It may be more noticeable later this year and into 2022. By then, vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 are likely to be bearing fruit, and the world will need more oil. The expected return of Iran into the market will provide some of that, but there will likely be a need for more.When that happens, it will be largely up to OPEC to plug the gap. One signal of how the recovery will be different this time is the U.S. drilling count: It is gradually increasing, but the recovery is slower than it was after the last big oil price crash in 2008-09. Shale companies are sticking to their commitment to return more money to shareholders via dividends. While before the pandemic shale companies re-used 70-90% of their cash flow into further drilling, they are now keeping that metric at around 50%.The result is that U.S. crude production has flat-lined at around 11 million barrels a day since July 2020. Outside the U.S. and Canada, the outlook is even more somber: at the end of April, the ex-North America oil rig count stood at 523, lower than it was a year ago, and nearly 40% below the same month two years earlier, according to data from Baker Hughes Co.When Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz predicted earlier this year that “‘drill, baby, drill’ is gone for ever,” it sounded like a bold call. As ministers meet this week, they may dare to hope he’s right.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Earnings to Watch Next Week: Zoom, Advance Auto Parts, Lululemon and Cooper Companies in Focus

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Putin Is Betting Coal Still Has a Future

(Bloomberg) -- European governments are drawing up plans to phase out coal, U.S. coal-fired power plants are being shuttered as prices of clean energy plummet, and new Asian projects are being scrapped as lenders back away from the dirtiest fossil fuel.And Russia? President Vladimir Putin’s government is spending more than $10 billion on railroad upgrades that will help boost exports of the commodity. Authorities will use prisoners to help speed the work, reviving a reviled Soviet-era tradition.The project to modernize and expand railroads that run to Russia’s Far Eastern ports is part of a broader push to make the nation among the last standing in fossil fuel exports as other countries switch to greener alternatives. The government is betting that coal consumption will continue to rise in big Asian markets like China even as it dries up elsewhere.“It's realistic to expect Asian demand for imported coal to increase if conditions are right,'' said Evgeniy Bragin, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at UMMC Holding, which owns a coal company in western Siberia’s Kuzbass region. “We need to keep developing and expanding the rail infrastructure so that we have the opportunity to export coal.’’The latest 720 billion ruble ($9.8 billion) project to expand Russia’s two longest railroads — the Tsarist-era Trans-Siberian and Soviet Baikal-Amur Mainline that link western Russia with the Pacific Ocean— will aim to boost cargo capacity for coal and other goods to 182 million tons a year by 2024. Capacity already more than doubled to 144 million tons under a 520 billion ruble modernization plan that began in 2013. Putin urged faster progress on the next leg at a meeting with coal miners in March.“Russia is trying to monetize its coal reserves fast enough that coal will contribute to GDP rather than being stuck in the ground,” said Madina Khrustaleva, an analyst who specializes in the region for TS Lombard in London.Putin is betting that his country’s land border with China and good relations with President Xi Jinping make it a natural candidate to dominate exports to the nation that consumes more than half of the world’s coal. His case is helped by the fact that Australia, currently the number one coal exporter, is facing trade restrictions from China amid a diplomatic dispute over the origins of the coronavirus.But the plan is fraught with risk, both for Russia’s economy and the planet. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends immediate phasing out of coal to avoid catastrophic global warming and the effects of climate change are expected to cost Russia billions in coming decades. Earlier this month the International Energy Agency went one step further and said no new fossil-fuel infrastructure should be built if the world wants to keep global warming will below 1.5 degrees Celsius. With all but one of the top 10 economies committed to reaching net-zero emissions within decades, the IEA's Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap calls for phasing out all coal power plants without carbon capture as soon as 2040.It’s also not a given that Asian coal demand will keep growing. Coal consumption in China is poised to reach a record this year and the country continues to build coal-fired power plants, but it also plans to start reducing consumption starting in 2026. At the same time it's increasing output from domestic mines, leaving less room for foreign supplies. Even in the IEA's least climate-friendly scenarios, global coal demand is expected to stay flat in 2040 compared to 2019.A coal strategy approved by the Russian government last year envisages a 10% increase in coal output from pre-pandemic levels by 2035 under the most conservative scenario, based on rising demand not just from China, but also India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and possibly Indonesia.The relatively low sulphur content of Russian coal might give it an edge in Korea, which has tightened pollution laws in recent years, but other Asian countries have struggled to secure funding for proposed plants and Indonesia said this week it won’t approve any new coal-fired power plants. At a Group of Seven nations meeting, environment ministers agreed to phase out support for building coal power plants without carbon capture before the end of this year.For Putin there is more at stake than just money. At a video conference in March, he reminded government officials that the coal industry drives the local economies of several Russian regions that are home to about 11 million people. Unrest among coal miners helped put pressure on the government before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, though the sector is now a much smaller and less influential part of the economy.“We need to carefully assess all possible scenarios in order to guarantee that our coal mining regions are developed even if global demand decreases,” Putin said. The country’s biggest coal producers are privately run, meaning they aren’t facing the kind of financing problems currently being encountered by listed companies elsewhere as banks pull back funding for dirty energy. Suek Plc, owned by billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, and Kuzbassrazrezugol OJSC, controlled by Iskander Makhmudov, are both planning to increase output. Russia also plans to boost coal production for steel making. A-Property, owned by Russian businessmen Albert Avdolyan, bought the Elga coal mine in Russia’s Far Eastern region of Yakutia last year and plans to invest 130 billion rubles to expand output to 45 million tons of coal from the current 5 million tons by 2023. A third stage of Russia’s railroad expansion project will focus on boosting infrastructure for shipping coal out of Yakutia, a Russian Railways official said last month.“In 2021, many Asia Pacific states have seen their economies recover from the pandemic,” said Oleg Korzhov, the CEO of Mechel PJSC, one of Russia’s biggest coal companies. “We expect that demand for metallurgical coal in Asia Pacific will remain high in the next five years.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Stock Splits Are Back. So Is the Debate Over Whether They Matter

(Bloomberg) -- Stock splits are back in vogue among big U.S. companies, reviving a debate about whether the practice that had fallen out of favor for years is worth the fuss.Last week, Nvidia Corp. became the eighth company in the S&P 500 Index to announce a split in the past year, joining big names like Apple Inc. and Tesla Inc. That’s the most over a comparable period in six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The surge in splits comes amid a rally that’s pushed share prices of almost 600 stocks in the Russell 3000 Index above $100. Yet that has done little to settle the age-old-argument among investors about whether such stock-price engineering has any bearing on performance. In fact, recent developments such as soaring retail trading and fractional share ownership have only heated things up.“Arithmetically, there’s no merit to the notion that stock splits work,” said Mark Lehmann, chief executive officer of JMP Securities LLC. “But there is an optical hesitancy for certain stocks at certain prices and there is a segment of the investing public where that will never change.”The primary motivation cited by companies doing splits is simple: to make each share cheaper to buy. Nvidia, whose share price has more than quadrupled since the start of 2019 to reach almost $650, said in a statement announcing its 4-for-1 stock-split plan that its aim was to “make stock ownership more accessible to investors and employees.” A representative for the chipmaker declined to comment further.Once a reliable hallmark of bull-market exuberance, the practice had until recently fallen out of favor. In 2006 and 2007, when stocks were again setting records, there were 47 splits in the S&P 500. Three companies -- Nvidia, Paccar Inc. and Cummins Inc. -- even split twice. In 2019, there were only two.For Julian Emanuel, chief equity and derivatives strategist at BTIG, it’s harder to make the case for splitting a stock these days because of the rise of commission-free trading and brokerages offering fractional shares. Those developments “have largely rendered irrelevant the dollar value of a company’s share price,” he said in an interview.Brokerages like Robinhood now let investors buy a slice of a share for as little as $1 rather than forking over, say, more than $2,300 for a single share of Google-parent Alphabet Inc.Limited Benefits A look at the data backs up the case against splits providing long-term benefits to stock performance. The shares of companies that have split outperformed the S&P 500 on average in four of the last five years in the year the split was announced, according to Bloomberg data. The calendar year following the move, however, those same shares underperformed four of the five years.The recent rash of stock splits has sparked speculation that other large technology companies like Amazon.com Inc. that boast four-digit share prices may be next. Amazon split its stock three times in 1998 and 1999 and hasn’t done one since. Shares of the e-commerce giant trade around $3,200 and have gained more than 5,000% since its last split.Regardless of what the historical-performance record shows, the surge in retail trading over the past year may be altering the calculus for companies when it comes to evaluating splits.U.S. retail investors are now second in share trading only to market makers and independent high-frequency traders, according to Larry Tabb, director of market structure research at Bloomberg Intelligence. The retail segment is now larger than quantitative investors, hedge funds and traditional long-only participants, said Tabb.“A lot of investing is driven by psychology,” said Kevin Walkush, a portfolio manager with Jensen Investment Management. “Now, rather than a retail investor facing the challenge of buying a fractional share, a stock split means they can buy it outright. It just opens up the market that much more for retail investors.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Sunak pushes Biden for tougher global tax deal

Rishi Sunak is pushing the United States to agree to tougher rules on the tax paid by tech giants as part of a global corporation tax overhaul. Finance ministers from the G7 will meet this week to thrash out the biggest reforms to global tax rules in a generation in a bid to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share. President Joe Biden has proposed a minimum global corporation tax rate of 15pc as well as new rules forcing the world's largest 100 companies to pay taxes based on the location of their customers, rather than where they book profits. The plans are aimed to preventing multinationals from shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions - a growing problem that is feared will deprive governments of revenues as they try to recover from the pandemic. However, the UK is holding out on backing America's plans for a minimum corporation tax rate as it seeks more assurances over the tax treatment of big tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google. The Chancellor told the Mail on Sunday: "We understand why an agreement on global corporation tax is important to our American friends. We need them to understand why fair taxation of tech companies is important to us. "There's a deal to be had and I'm urging the US - and all of the G7 - to come to the table next week and get it done."

Globant Says It Bought Bitcoin in Q1

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Fourth stimulus check in jeopardy while the last payments keep dwindling

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ESG investment as important as divestment from fossil fuels: former Bank of England governor

Since leaving the top post at the Bank of England last year, former Governor Mark Carney has arguably been the most vocal advocate, in urging financial institutions to align themselves with emissions goals of the Paris climate agreement. But as shareholders increasingly step up pressure, and lawmakers call for stricter regulations around climate disclosures, Carney says fossil fuel divestments shouldn’t be the sole focus of tackling the global crisis.

Credit Suisse Cuts Risk as Defections Mount in Wake of Scandals

(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG is grappling with how to keep top bankers from fleeing to competitors and drastically reducing risk as new Chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio seeks to recover from a series of scandals.The lender is cutting ties with SoftBank Group Corp., a backer to Lex Greensill’s collapsed supply-chain finance empire, and it’s temporarily barring clients from withdrawing all of their cash from a fund that invests with Renaissance Technologies after the strategy tanked and investors rushed for the exit.It’s also considering retention bonuses for top performers to stabilize the business as defections mount in the wake of the Greensill debacle and the implosion of Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management, which contributed to a first-quarter pretax loss of 900 million francs ($1 billion).“They’re looking a bit like a basket case right now,” Octavio Marenzi, chief executive officer of capital markets consulting firm Opimas, said Friday in a phone interview. “The Archegos thing is really bad, and what happens after an event like that is people start to pick on them. They’re seen as the weakest kid in the class.”Some of the firm’s senior talent is streaming for the exits. Its top financial services banker, Alejandro Przygoda, is leaving for Jefferies Financial Group Inc., along with at least three colleagues, people familiar with the matter have said. That followed the recent departures of at least four other members of the financial institutions group to competitors including Barclays Plc., Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.Shares of Zurich-based Credit Suisse have tumbled about 14% this year, the only decline among 35 companies in the Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks & Financial Services Index, which has surged 26%.Credit Suisse will no longer do any new business with SoftBank, people with knowledge of situation said, a decision that may ripple across the firm’s investment bank. SoftBank has been a prolific dealmaker, and last year Credit Suisse and other banks held about $8 billion of SoftBank shares in collateral, pledged by founder Masayoshi Son.A SoftBank Group spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to comment, while Credit Suisse declined to comment.Horta-Osorio, 57, who succeeded Urs Rohner as chairman last month, pledged a wide-ranging review after the bank was forced to suspend billions of dollars of funds it managed with Greensill and took a $5.5 billion hit on Archegos, raising questions about the oversight of key clients.Credit Suisse conducted an internal review into the Greensill funds after allegations of possible conflicts of interest involving SoftBank last year. A number of SoftBank portfolio companies received loans via supply-chain funds at Credit Suisse, while SoftBank was also an investor in the Credit Suisse funds.In the aftermath, SoftBank pulled $700 million from the funds and the bank changed its investment guidelines for Credit Suisse’s funds to reduce the maximum exposure to a single borrower.The overlapping financial relationships raised questions about whether SoftBank was using the Credit Suisse funds to prop up investments in the Vision Fund, including Greensill Capital, in which it had a substantial stake.SoftBank wrote down its $1.5 billion Greensill holding to almost zero after Credit Suisse was forced to unwind its four Greensill-linked funds in March, people familiar with the matter have said. SoftBank is now seeking $1.15 billion in claims as part of Greensill’s insolvency proceedings.Credit Suisse marketed the popular supply-chain finance funds as among its safest investments because the funds were insured and the loans they held backed by invoices typically paid within weeks. But as the funds grew into a $10 billion strategy, they strayed from that pitch and much of the money was loaned through Greensill against expected future invoices, for sales that were merely predicted.Greensill’s collapse forced Credit Suisse to liquidate the funds.Gupta’s BusinessThe Greensill debacle is also at play in claims that Credit Suisse executives ignored warnings from colleagues about troubled steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta as they channeled $1.2 billion of client funds to his businesses. Bankers in Credit Suisse’s commodity trade-finance unit blacklisted Gupta’s Liberty Commodities Ltd. in 2016 because they suspected some of its deals weren’t legitimate, according to people familiar with the matter.When they learned roughly two years later that the bank was lending to his companies through a suite of investment funds, which eventually grew to $10 billion, they flagged their concerns to leaders in compliance and the division that housed the loans, one of the people said.The disclosure that Credit Suisse may have put clients at risk despite internal concerns over Gupta’s businesses adds a new twist to the debacle stemming from the March implosion of Greensill, the finance firm at the center of the three-way relationship. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office is now investigating Gupta’s group of companies for suspected fraud, including in its financing deals with Greensill, according to a May 14 statement.“We are currently focusing our efforts on recovering our investors’ money,” Will Bowen, a spokesman for Credit Suisse in London, said in an emailed statement, adding that the bank’s internal probe will focus on “all of the issues” linked to the funds. “We are committed to learning the lessons and will share the relevant lessons learned at the appropriate time.”Andrew Mitchell, a spokesman for the Gupta Family Group Alliance, or GFG Alliance, a collective of businesses linked to Gupta including Liberty Commodities, denied any wrongdoing.RenTech FundSeparately, Credit Suisse is temporarily barring clients from withdrawing all their cash from a fund that invests with RenTec.The bank has invoked a so-called hold-back clause, after assets in the CS Renaissance Alternative Access Fund slumped to about $250 million this month from approximately $700 million at the start of last year, according to people with knowledge of the matter. While investors will receive 95% of their redemption requests after two months, the remaining 5% is expected to be paid out in January, after the fund’s year-end audit, the people said.The fund lost about 32% last year, in line with the decline in the Renaissance Institutional Diversified Alpha Fund International fund that it invests into, the people said. Renaissance, regarded as one of the most successful quant investing firms in the world, was rocked by billion of dollars in redemptions earlier this year after unprecedented losses in 2020. Three of its funds open to external investors fell by double digits last year.Credit Suisse and Renaissance declined to comment.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bond Traders Look to Jobs for Taper Clues While Cash Glut Grows

(Bloomberg) -- The glut of spare cash in dollar funding markets is combining with inflation concerns to stoke debate among investors about just how soon the Federal Reserve might have to take its foot off the accelerator.Bond traders are keenly attuned to the buildup of dollars in short-term interest-rate markets, an overabundance reflected in the amount of money sitting and earning absolutely nothing at the Fed’s reverse repo facility. For some, that’s yet another sign that the so-called quantitative easing program ought to be dialed back from its current pace of $120 billion a month, although others say that the central bank facility is acting like it should, as a safety valve, and also point to the other factors fueling the oversupply.Either way, the cash pile --and whether the usage of the Fed’s facility resumes its upward trajectory after slipping on Friday -- is set to be a key focus for traders in the coming week along with crucial U.S. jobs data, which may give clues about just how strong growth and inflation really are.“Progress toward achieving the dual mandate should be the biggest factor” driving decisions about policy tightening, said Credit Suisse Group AG strategist Jonathan Cohn, referring to the Fed’s twin goals on employment and consumer prices.The drumbeat of policy makers making noises about when the Fed should debate tempering its asset purchases has been quickening, although officials have been careful to say that their views are premised on the economy continuing to power forward and the prospects for sustained inflation. The strength of the upcoming labor market report is therefore set to be a major catalyst for bets about when both tapering and rate hikes might begin to take place, as will the evolution of funding markets.The next central bank policy meeting will take place June 15-16, while there is talk of possible tapering signals coming out of the Kansas City Fed’s annual gathering at Jackson Hole in August.Money-market traders are currently pricing in about 18 basis points worth of Fed rate hikes by the end of next year -- down around 3 basis points from levels late last month. That equates to around a 72% chance of a standard 25 basis-point increase in 2022. Before they even get to that point though, officials need to get through tapering, and most analysts expect there to be a lag before they embark on pushing interest rates higherAsymmetric RiskThe yield on 10-year notes has drifted slightly lower over the past couple of weeks, although it received some support in recent days from reports about government budget proposals and at around 1.59% is firmly entrenched in the range that it’s been in for a few months. Bond-market inflation expectations, as measured by so-called breakeven rates, have also eased back slightly, although they remain within sight of the decade highs they reached earlier in May.Some traders are wary that the upcoming report on May job creation could reignite the move higher in long-term yields. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for an increase in payrolls of around 671,000 people and a figure of that magnitude or higher could make the prior month’s unexpectedly weak reading seem like a one off. There is also the prospect of a revision to figures for April, which came in at around 266,000 despite earlier predictions for a gain of 1,000,000.“The risks in the market are asymmetric toward higher yields,” said John Briggs, global head of desk strategy at Natwest Markets. “After last month’s payroll figure, economists are being conservative this time, so there’s a chance the actual figure is above consensus. And after that, people will then start to worry about the next consumer price report,” set to be released on June 10.What to WatchThe Treasuries market will be closed Monday for a U.S. holiday. Below are the calendar highlights.The economic calendarJune 1: Markit U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers index construction spending Institute for Supply Management manufacturing gauge Dallas Fed manufacturing indexJune 2: MBA mortgage applications Fed Beige Book vehicle salesJune 3: Challenger job cuts ADP employment change nonfarm productivity weekly jobless claims Langer consumer comfort Markit U.S. services PMI ISM services indicatorJune 4: Monthly jobs report factory, durable goods and capital goods ordersThe Fed calendar:June 1: Fed Vice Chairman for supervision Randal Quarles Fed Governor Lael BrainardJune 2: Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker Chicago Fed President Charles Evans Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic Dallas Fed President Robert KaplanJune 3: Bostic Kaplan Harker QuarlesJune 4: Fed Chair Jerome Powell takes part in a Bank for International Settlements panel on climate change with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and other officialsThe auction calendar:June 1: 13-week bills, 26-week bills, 42-day cash management billJune 3: 4-week bills, 8-week billsMore stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Mortgage rates dip beneath 3% again, offering new refinance savings

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Australia Central Bank Faces Taper Pressure Beyond Anglosphere

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s central bank is approaching a decision on whether the economy is strong enough for it to join Canada and New Zealand in signaling a move away from emergency mode.While no change in policy settings is expected at Tuesday’s meeting, the Reserve Bank will likely hold preliminary discussions on whether to extend the three-year yield target and undertake further quantitative easing. Governor Philip Lowe said the board will make a call on both in July.The strength of recent economic data suggests the central bank could opt against rolling its yield target maturity to November 2024 from April 2024 and taper purchases under its longer-dated bond buying program. Melbourne’s latest Covid-19 outbreak is a reminder that a sluggish vaccine roll-out has the potential to jeopardize the recovery.“Covid hasn’t gone away, so that’s still the risk that bubbles around in the background,” said Gareth Aird of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “But if you park that to one side, you couldn’t really ask for a better economic backdrop at the moment to try and meet the RBA’s objectives.”Central banks are beginning to edge away from their emergency monetary settings as vaccine roll-outs continue and economies reopen. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand surprised markets last week in presenting an outlook with projections of its official cash rate rising in the second half of next year.The RBA slightly shifted its tone in this month’s quarterly update as it lifted the economic outlook to reflect strong hiring, investment intentions and sentiment, while maintaining that it doesn’t expect to hike rates until 2024. A commitment to this dovish stance is keeping a lid on any currency appreciation, especially as other central banks pivot.Risks RemainMeantime, Australia’s gross domestic product data for the first three months of the year is due Wednesday. Economists estimate the economy expanded 1.1% from the prior quarter. The economy has rapidly recovered, but covid remains an ever present risk for a country heading into the Southern Hemisphere winter.What Bloomberg Economics Says. “A snap lockdown in Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, is likely to dent the recovery. Uncertainty may dent business and consumer sentiment across unaffected regions, and could weigh on the recovery in business investment.”-- James McIntyre, economistFor the full report, click here.The RBA is currently running a three-year yield target at 0.1% -- the same level as the cash rate -- and will decide at its July 6 meeting whether to roll it over. A decision to let it lapse would signal greater confidence in the outlook. Similarly, the bank needs to decide if it will extend its QE program that is currently due to expire in September.Lowe says wages growth will need to rise at a pace faster than 3% -- more than double the current rate -- for inflation to return sustainably to the central bank’s 2-3% target before he raises rates.Anecdotal evidence of labor shortages are growing in Australia, in a signal that employers may need to offer higher wages to attract workers. The government is also trying to help the RBA push down unemployment and boost wages with targeted fiscal assistance.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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More than 6,000 firefighters battling wildfires in California as vineyards, homes burn

More than 6,000 firefighters battled 14 large wildfires across California Monday as hot, dry and windy conditions in many areas fanned flames, forcing thousands of evacuations and destroying dozens of structures. One blaze scorched vineyards in a major wine region of the state and another briefly trapped youth at a summer camp. Australian vintner Treasury Wine Estates confirmed to CNBC that one of its California vineyards was damaged in the wildfires. Three of the largest fires burning now in the state have already charred more than 54,000 acres, or about 84 square miles. The state's five-year drought left extremely dry vegetation and winter rains produced thick grasses, which are now drying out and providing the perfect fuel for massive fires. "The drought-stressed vegetation is still out there with an abundant grass crop that we have across the state," Cal Fire spokeswoman Amy Head said Monday. "Those are both factors contributing to the number of fires that we're seeing." Overall, California has seen an amount of acreage charred so far this year that is more than double the amount at the same period last year, according to Cal Fire. The risk of fire remains high statewide with more than 100 million dead trees in California forests following the long drought. The busy start to the fire season could result in increased firefighting costs for the state at a time when California is seeing its state revenues fall below forecasts. On Monday, the state Controller's Office reported that monthly revenues for June were about $2.7 billion short of projections in the governor's revised budget. The state spent more than $210 million last year during the wildfire season and so far this season it appears to be spending money at a faster pace than last June or July in order to keep up with the growing number of fires. The largest of the blazes now underway in the state is dubbed the Alamo Fire, which has burned nearly 29,000 acres since it broke out July 6 in San Luis Obispo County. The fire later spread to Santa Barbara County and officials say more than than 130 structures are threatened and at least one house has been lost. Wineries and vineyards also have been in the path of the Alamo Fire, including some located in the Santa Maria area. "As of Sunday, our vineyard teams were reporting some vines burnt along the eastern perimeter of the property," said James Caudill, a spokesman for Treasury Wine Estates in Napa, California. TWE is an Australian Stock Exchange-listed company owning several major California wineries, including North Canyon Vineyard in Santa Maria. "Fire surrounded parts of the vineyard and burned through the canyons, hillsides along the river bed which runs through a portion of the property," Caudill said in an emailed statement. "No major infrastructure (sheds or equipment) had been damaged." The property of adjacent Bien Nacido Vineyards, though, was spared any wildfire damage. "We had the fire come down to the edges of our vineyard, but we were able to maintain the fire lines that we had cut," said Michael Brughelli, sales manager for Bien Nacido Vineyards. Added Brughelli, "The fire came to within 50 feet of the vineyards. We worked through the night with our crew and fire crews to ensure that the vineyard was fully protected and that the fire wouldn't encroach on our vineyards." Wildfires can sometimes cause smoke damage to wine grapes. However, Brughelli said there did not appear to be any such problem for his vineyard's crop. "The smoke went up and away from our vineyards," Brughelli said. "Some of our neighbors maybe are not quite as fortunate. But for what we see, we've done some testing and find zero contamination by way of what we call smoke taint on our ranch." The fast-moving fire took off Friday, doubling size with help from sundowner winds, which are known to hit the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria region during the wildfire season. At the same time, temperatures were above 100 degrees in the fire area. The Alamo Fire was 15 percent contained as of Monday evening and more than 130 structures remained threatened, according to Cal Fire. About 1,700 fire personnel were fighting the blaze, including inmate firefighters who receive fire training while serving prison time. Yet another Santa Barbara County wildfire is the so-called Whittier Fire in the Los Padres National Forest, which started Saturday and has burned nearly 11,000 acres. Much of the area hasn't burned since the mid-1950s and years of drought have left high levels of dead vegetation and fuels to feed the fire. The federal government usually reimburses state and local fire agencies for help fighting blazes in the national forests. However, the state's emergency services agency recently claimed the U.S. Forest Service didn't fully pay costs last year to fight some fires in California on federal lands. The Associated Press reported Saturday the Whittier Fire had "temporarily trapped about 90 children at a summer camp." There also were reports of a Boy Scouts camp burning down over the weekend just before it was scheduled to start a new season. As of Monday evening, the Whittier Fire was only 5 percent contained. Further north, firefighters are battling several blazes, including the so-called Wall Fire in Butte County. The fire has burned at least 17 structures, including some homes in the Oroville area — a community about 70 miles north of Sacramento. Around 4,000 people in Butte County were under evacuation orders from the 5,600-acre blaze, which was about 35 percent contained as of Monday afternoon. On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency in the county, where the National Guard was activated to help battle the blaze and provide aerial firefighting support.

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Bitcoin’s Volatility Spawns New Crypto Balance Sheet Alternative

(Bloomberg) -- Corporate treasurers fed up with rock-bottom returns on their cash are about to get another pitch from the world of crypto.Circle Internet Financial Ltd., one of the digital-asset firms behind the so-called stablecoin dubbed USDC that is pegged 1-to-1 to the dollar, has cooked up an alternative for the legions too conservative to follow the likes of Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey into Bitcoin. Park your extra cash in USDC and earn as much as 7% annually through high-yield accounts, the marketing says -- more than 10 times the return on an ultra-safe 1-year Treasury bill.The idea may be appealing to some treasurers who were initially seduced by the big gains in crypto, especially following Bitcoin’s roughly 40% decline since mid-April. Stablecoins such as USDC are gaining increased attention because of their ability to maintain their pegs during the wild crypto price swings, suggesting they could actually serve as a store of value. Even so, not all long-term digital market observers are convinced.“If companies wish to put their corporate reserves into a stablecoin and that is fully audited, it is like putting their money in a bank account which is what they normally do,” John Griffin, professor of finance at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an email. “However, if the account is paying out a higher yield than bank account yields, then it is not merely invested in some risk-free asset.”Here’s how Circle’s program will work: Treasurers would open a “digital-dollar account” where the company’s fiat money is converted into USDC and interest is paid out in USDC. The yield is generated by Circle lending the digital dollars to a network of institutional investors that are willing to pay an interest rate for access to additional capital.The companies would lock in their return when the account is opened, similar to a bank certificate of deposit. Circle plans to offer accounts with maturities ranging from one month to a year, with no early withdrawals allowed. Rates available will be updated on a weekly basis, depending on demand for USDC loans.That’s a bit tamer than the strategy first highlighted last year by MicroStrategy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Saylor, who advocated pouring company reserves into Bitcoin because he said the dollar is being debased by surging inflation. Musk’s February announcement that Tesla Inc. had added Bitcoin to its balance sheet helped fuel the rally that took the largest cryptocurrency to a record in April before it lost more than one-third of its value.“Corporate reserves are not for investing in stocks, going to Vegas, or something more volatile and more rigged against you like Bitcoin,” Griffin said.With few companies outside the crypto realm following MicroStrategy, Tesla and Dorsey’s Square Inc. into Bitcoin, Circle hopes that stablecoins may be the next logical step. The company is working with Genesis Global Capital, one of the largest crypto lenders.The service will be first made available in the U.S. and Switzerland, and will launch “imminently,” Jeremy Allaire, Circle’s CEO, said in an interview. Thousands of businesses are already on the waiting list, according to Circle.“We are seeing the opportunity for the treasury use-case grow a lot,” Allaire said.Other providers of stablecoins are rolling out similar offerings. On May 26, Gemini exchange -- the brainchild of the Winklevoss brothers -- said investors can earn up to 7.4% annually on Gemini dollars through a program called Gemini Earn. The Gemini token is also pegged to the dollar and its reserves are held with State Street Bank and Trust, the largest financial custodian in the world. Each month, the dollar deposit balance is examined by BPM LLP, an independent registered public accounting firm.USDC reserves are attested to monthly by accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP and published online.Various small crypto lenders already offer yield accounts for different coins, including less regulated stablecoins like Tether.For these products, “appropriate users would be people who invest in junk bonds or similar risky lending,” said Aaron Brown, a crypto investor and writer for Bloomberg Opinion. “It might offer a better risk-adjusted return than alternatives. . . or not. But whatever it is, it’s not a savings account in the way most people understand that term.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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This Time Is Different: Outside OPEC+, Oil Growth Stalls

(Bloomberg) -- “This time is different” may be the most dangerous words in business: billions of dollars have been lost betting that history won’t repeat itself. And yet now, in the oil world, it looks like this time really will be.For the first time in decades, oil companies aren’t rushing to increase production to chase rising oil prices as Brent crude approaches $70. Even in the Permian, the prolific shale basin at the center of the U.S. energy boom, drillers are resisting their traditional boom-and-bust cycle of spending.The oil industry is on the ropes, constrained by Wall Street investors demanding that companies spend less on drilling and instead return more money to shareholders, and climate change activists pushing against fossil fuels. Exxon Mobil Corp. is paradigmatic of the trend, after its humiliating defeat at the hands of a tiny activist elbowing itself onto the board.The dramatic events in the industry last week only add to what is emerging as an opportunity for the producers of OPEC+, giving the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Russia more room for maneuver to bring back their own production. As non-OPEC output fails to rebound as fast as many expected -- or feared based on past experience -- the cartel is likely to continue adding more supply when it meets on June 1.‘Criminalization’Shareholders are asking Exxon to drill less and focus on returning money to investors. “They have been throwing money down the drill hole like crazy,” Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer for CalSTRS. “We really saw that company just heading down the hole, not surviving into the future, unless they change and adapt. And now they have to.”Exxon is unlikely to be alone. Royal Dutch Shell Plc lost a landmark legal battle last week when a Dutch court told it to cut emissions significantly by 2030 -- something that would require less oil production. Many in the industry fear a wave of lawsuits elsewhere, with western oil majors more immediate targets than the state-owned oil companies that make up much of OPEC production.“We see a shift from stigmatization toward criminalization of investing in higher oil production,” said Bob McNally, president of consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official.While it’s true that non-OPEC+ output is creeping back from the crash of 2020 -- and the ultra-depressed levels of April and May last year -- it’s far from a full recovery. Overall, non-OPEC+ output will grow this year by 620,000 barrels a day, less than half the 1.3 million barrels a day it fell in 2020. The supply growth forecast through the rest of this year “comes nowhere close to matching” the expected increase in demand, according to the International Energy Agency.Beyond 2021, oil output is likely to rise in a handful of nations, including the U.S., Brazil, Canada and new oil-producer Guyana. But production will decline elsewhere, from the U.K. to Colombia, Malaysia and Argentina.As non-OPEC+ production increases less than global oil demand, the cartel will be in control of the market, executives and traders said. It’s a major break with the past, when oil companies responded to higher prices by rushing to invest again, boosting non-OPEC output and leaving the ministers led by Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz bin Salman with a much more difficult balancing act.Drilling DownSo far, the lack of non-OPEC+ oil production growth isn’t registering much in the market. After all, the coronavirus pandemic continues to constrain global oil demand. It may be more noticeable later this year and into 2022. By then, vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 are likely to be bearing fruit, and the world will need more oil. The expected return of Iran into the market will provide some of that, but there will likely be a need for more.When that happens, it will be largely up to OPEC to plug the gap. One signal of how the recovery will be different this time is the U.S. drilling count: It is gradually increasing, but the recovery is slower than it was after the last big oil price crash in 2008-09. Shale companies are sticking to their commitment to return more money to shareholders via dividends. While before the pandemic shale companies re-used 70-90% of their cash flow into further drilling, they are now keeping that metric at around 50%.The result is that U.S. crude production has flat-lined at around 11 million barrels a day since July 2020. Outside the U.S. and Canada, the outlook is even more somber: at the end of April, the ex-North America oil rig count stood at 523, lower than it was a year ago, and nearly 40% below the same month two years earlier, according to data from Baker Hughes Co.When Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz predicted earlier this year that “‘drill, baby, drill’ is gone for ever,” it sounded like a bold call. As ministers meet this week, they may dare to hope he’s right.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Earnings to Watch Next Week: Zoom, Advance Auto Parts, Lululemon and Cooper Companies in Focus

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Putin Is Betting Coal Still Has a Future

(Bloomberg) -- European governments are drawing up plans to phase out coal, U.S. coal-fired power plants are being shuttered as prices of clean energy plummet, and new Asian projects are being scrapped as lenders back away from the dirtiest fossil fuel.And Russia? President Vladimir Putin’s government is spending more than $10 billion on railroad upgrades that will help boost exports of the commodity. Authorities will use prisoners to help speed the work, reviving a reviled Soviet-era tradition.The project to modernize and expand railroads that run to Russia’s Far Eastern ports is part of a broader push to make the nation among the last standing in fossil fuel exports as other countries switch to greener alternatives. The government is betting that coal consumption will continue to rise in big Asian markets like China even as it dries up elsewhere.“It's realistic to expect Asian demand for imported coal to increase if conditions are right,'' said Evgeniy Bragin, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at UMMC Holding, which owns a coal company in western Siberia’s Kuzbass region. “We need to keep developing and expanding the rail infrastructure so that we have the opportunity to export coal.’’The latest 720 billion ruble ($9.8 billion) project to expand Russia’s two longest railroads — the Tsarist-era Trans-Siberian and Soviet Baikal-Amur Mainline that link western Russia with the Pacific Ocean— will aim to boost cargo capacity for coal and other goods to 182 million tons a year by 2024. Capacity already more than doubled to 144 million tons under a 520 billion ruble modernization plan that began in 2013. Putin urged faster progress on the next leg at a meeting with coal miners in March.“Russia is trying to monetize its coal reserves fast enough that coal will contribute to GDP rather than being stuck in the ground,” said Madina Khrustaleva, an analyst who specializes in the region for TS Lombard in London.Putin is betting that his country’s land border with China and good relations with President Xi Jinping make it a natural candidate to dominate exports to the nation that consumes more than half of the world’s coal. His case is helped by the fact that Australia, currently the number one coal exporter, is facing trade restrictions from China amid a diplomatic dispute over the origins of the coronavirus.But the plan is fraught with risk, both for Russia’s economy and the planet. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends immediate phasing out of coal to avoid catastrophic global warming and the effects of climate change are expected to cost Russia billions in coming decades. Earlier this month the International Energy Agency went one step further and said no new fossil-fuel infrastructure should be built if the world wants to keep global warming will below 1.5 degrees Celsius. With all but one of the top 10 economies committed to reaching net-zero emissions within decades, the IEA's Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap calls for phasing out all coal power plants without carbon capture as soon as 2040.It’s also not a given that Asian coal demand will keep growing. Coal consumption in China is poised to reach a record this year and the country continues to build coal-fired power plants, but it also plans to start reducing consumption starting in 2026. At the same time it's increasing output from domestic mines, leaving less room for foreign supplies. Even in the IEA's least climate-friendly scenarios, global coal demand is expected to stay flat in 2040 compared to 2019.A coal strategy approved by the Russian government last year envisages a 10% increase in coal output from pre-pandemic levels by 2035 under the most conservative scenario, based on rising demand not just from China, but also India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and possibly Indonesia.The relatively low sulphur content of Russian coal might give it an edge in Korea, which has tightened pollution laws in recent years, but other Asian countries have struggled to secure funding for proposed plants and Indonesia said this week it won’t approve any new coal-fired power plants. At a Group of Seven nations meeting, environment ministers agreed to phase out support for building coal power plants without carbon capture before the end of this year.For Putin there is more at stake than just money. At a video conference in March, he reminded government officials that the coal industry drives the local economies of several Russian regions that are home to about 11 million people. Unrest among coal miners helped put pressure on the government before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, though the sector is now a much smaller and less influential part of the economy.“We need to carefully assess all possible scenarios in order to guarantee that our coal mining regions are developed even if global demand decreases,” Putin said. The country’s biggest coal producers are privately run, meaning they aren’t facing the kind of financing problems currently being encountered by listed companies elsewhere as banks pull back funding for dirty energy. Suek Plc, owned by billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, and Kuzbassrazrezugol OJSC, controlled by Iskander Makhmudov, are both planning to increase output. Russia also plans to boost coal production for steel making. A-Property, owned by Russian businessmen Albert Avdolyan, bought the Elga coal mine in Russia’s Far Eastern region of Yakutia last year and plans to invest 130 billion rubles to expand output to 45 million tons of coal from the current 5 million tons by 2023. A third stage of Russia’s railroad expansion project will focus on boosting infrastructure for shipping coal out of Yakutia, a Russian Railways official said last month.“In 2021, many Asia Pacific states have seen their economies recover from the pandemic,” said Oleg Korzhov, the CEO of Mechel PJSC, one of Russia’s biggest coal companies. “We expect that demand for metallurgical coal in Asia Pacific will remain high in the next five years.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Stock Splits Are Back. So Is the Debate Over Whether They Matter

(Bloomberg) -- Stock splits are back in vogue among big U.S. companies, reviving a debate about whether the practice that had fallen out of favor for years is worth the fuss.Last week, Nvidia Corp. became the eighth company in the S&P 500 Index to announce a split in the past year, joining big names like Apple Inc. and Tesla Inc. That’s the most over a comparable period in six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The surge in splits comes amid a rally that’s pushed share prices of almost 600 stocks in the Russell 3000 Index above $100. Yet that has done little to settle the age-old-argument among investors about whether such stock-price engineering has any bearing on performance. In fact, recent developments such as soaring retail trading and fractional share ownership have only heated things up.“Arithmetically, there’s no merit to the notion that stock splits work,” said Mark Lehmann, chief executive officer of JMP Securities LLC. “But there is an optical hesitancy for certain stocks at certain prices and there is a segment of the investing public where that will never change.”The primary motivation cited by companies doing splits is simple: to make each share cheaper to buy. Nvidia, whose share price has more than quadrupled since the start of 2019 to reach almost $650, said in a statement announcing its 4-for-1 stock-split plan that its aim was to “make stock ownership more accessible to investors and employees.” A representative for the chipmaker declined to comment further.Once a reliable hallmark of bull-market exuberance, the practice had until recently fallen out of favor. In 2006 and 2007, when stocks were again setting records, there were 47 splits in the S&P 500. Three companies -- Nvidia, Paccar Inc. and Cummins Inc. -- even split twice. In 2019, there were only two.For Julian Emanuel, chief equity and derivatives strategist at BTIG, it’s harder to make the case for splitting a stock these days because of the rise of commission-free trading and brokerages offering fractional shares. Those developments “have largely rendered irrelevant the dollar value of a company’s share price,” he said in an interview.Brokerages like Robinhood now let investors buy a slice of a share for as little as $1 rather than forking over, say, more than $2,300 for a single share of Google-parent Alphabet Inc.Limited Benefits A look at the data backs up the case against splits providing long-term benefits to stock performance. The shares of companies that have split outperformed the S&P 500 on average in four of the last five years in the year the split was announced, according to Bloomberg data. The calendar year following the move, however, those same shares underperformed four of the five years.The recent rash of stock splits has sparked speculation that other large technology companies like Amazon.com Inc. that boast four-digit share prices may be next. Amazon split its stock three times in 1998 and 1999 and hasn’t done one since. Shares of the e-commerce giant trade around $3,200 and have gained more than 5,000% since its last split.Regardless of what the historical-performance record shows, the surge in retail trading over the past year may be altering the calculus for companies when it comes to evaluating splits.U.S. retail investors are now second in share trading only to market makers and independent high-frequency traders, according to Larry Tabb, director of market structure research at Bloomberg Intelligence. The retail segment is now larger than quantitative investors, hedge funds and traditional long-only participants, said Tabb.“A lot of investing is driven by psychology,” said Kevin Walkush, a portfolio manager with Jensen Investment Management. “Now, rather than a retail investor facing the challenge of buying a fractional share, a stock split means they can buy it outright. It just opens up the market that much more for retail investors.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Sunak pushes Biden for tougher global tax deal

Rishi Sunak is pushing the United States to agree to tougher rules on the tax paid by tech giants as part of a global corporation tax overhaul. Finance ministers from the G7 will meet this week to thrash out the biggest reforms to global tax rules in a generation in a bid to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share. President Joe Biden has proposed a minimum global corporation tax rate of 15pc as well as new rules forcing the world's largest 100 companies to pay taxes based on the location of their customers, rather than where they book profits. The plans are aimed to preventing multinationals from shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions - a growing problem that is feared will deprive governments of revenues as they try to recover from the pandemic. However, the UK is holding out on backing America's plans for a minimum corporation tax rate as it seeks more assurances over the tax treatment of big tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google. The Chancellor told the Mail on Sunday: "We understand why an agreement on global corporation tax is important to our American friends. We need them to understand why fair taxation of tech companies is important to us. "There's a deal to be had and I'm urging the US - and all of the G7 - to come to the table next week and get it done."

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ESG investment as important as divestment from fossil fuels: former Bank of England governor

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Credit Suisse Cuts Risk as Defections Mount in Wake of Scandals

(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG is grappling with how to keep top bankers from fleeing to competitors and drastically reducing risk as new Chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio seeks to recover from a series of scandals.The lender is cutting ties with SoftBank Group Corp., a backer to Lex Greensill’s collapsed supply-chain finance empire, and it’s temporarily barring clients from withdrawing all of their cash from a fund that invests with Renaissance Technologies after the strategy tanked and investors rushed for the exit.It’s also considering retention bonuses for top performers to stabilize the business as defections mount in the wake of the Greensill debacle and the implosion of Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management, which contributed to a first-quarter pretax loss of 900 million francs ($1 billion).“They’re looking a bit like a basket case right now,” Octavio Marenzi, chief executive officer of capital markets consulting firm Opimas, said Friday in a phone interview. “The Archegos thing is really bad, and what happens after an event like that is people start to pick on them. They’re seen as the weakest kid in the class.”Some of the firm’s senior talent is streaming for the exits. Its top financial services banker, Alejandro Przygoda, is leaving for Jefferies Financial Group Inc., along with at least three colleagues, people familiar with the matter have said. That followed the recent departures of at least four other members of the financial institutions group to competitors including Barclays Plc., Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.Shares of Zurich-based Credit Suisse have tumbled about 14% this year, the only decline among 35 companies in the Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks & Financial Services Index, which has surged 26%.Credit Suisse will no longer do any new business with SoftBank, people with knowledge of situation said, a decision that may ripple across the firm’s investment bank. SoftBank has been a prolific dealmaker, and last year Credit Suisse and other banks held about $8 billion of SoftBank shares in collateral, pledged by founder Masayoshi Son.A SoftBank Group spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to comment, while Credit Suisse declined to comment.Horta-Osorio, 57, who succeeded Urs Rohner as chairman last month, pledged a wide-ranging review after the bank was forced to suspend billions of dollars of funds it managed with Greensill and took a $5.5 billion hit on Archegos, raising questions about the oversight of key clients.Credit Suisse conducted an internal review into the Greensill funds after allegations of possible conflicts of interest involving SoftBank last year. A number of SoftBank portfolio companies received loans via supply-chain funds at Credit Suisse, while SoftBank was also an investor in the Credit Suisse funds.In the aftermath, SoftBank pulled $700 million from the funds and the bank changed its investment guidelines for Credit Suisse’s funds to reduce the maximum exposure to a single borrower.The overlapping financial relationships raised questions about whether SoftBank was using the Credit Suisse funds to prop up investments in the Vision Fund, including Greensill Capital, in which it had a substantial stake.SoftBank wrote down its $1.5 billion Greensill holding to almost zero after Credit Suisse was forced to unwind its four Greensill-linked funds in March, people familiar with the matter have said. SoftBank is now seeking $1.15 billion in claims as part of Greensill’s insolvency proceedings.Credit Suisse marketed the popular supply-chain finance funds as among its safest investments because the funds were insured and the loans they held backed by invoices typically paid within weeks. But as the funds grew into a $10 billion strategy, they strayed from that pitch and much of the money was loaned through Greensill against expected future invoices, for sales that were merely predicted.Greensill’s collapse forced Credit Suisse to liquidate the funds.Gupta’s BusinessThe Greensill debacle is also at play in claims that Credit Suisse executives ignored warnings from colleagues about troubled steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta as they channeled $1.2 billion of client funds to his businesses. Bankers in Credit Suisse’s commodity trade-finance unit blacklisted Gupta’s Liberty Commodities Ltd. in 2016 because they suspected some of its deals weren’t legitimate, according to people familiar with the matter.When they learned roughly two years later that the bank was lending to his companies through a suite of investment funds, which eventually grew to $10 billion, they flagged their concerns to leaders in compliance and the division that housed the loans, one of the people said.The disclosure that Credit Suisse may have put clients at risk despite internal concerns over Gupta’s businesses adds a new twist to the debacle stemming from the March implosion of Greensill, the finance firm at the center of the three-way relationship. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office is now investigating Gupta’s group of companies for suspected fraud, including in its financing deals with Greensill, according to a May 14 statement.“We are currently focusing our efforts on recovering our investors’ money,” Will Bowen, a spokesman for Credit Suisse in London, said in an emailed statement, adding that the bank’s internal probe will focus on “all of the issues” linked to the funds. “We are committed to learning the lessons and will share the relevant lessons learned at the appropriate time.”Andrew Mitchell, a spokesman for the Gupta Family Group Alliance, or GFG Alliance, a collective of businesses linked to Gupta including Liberty Commodities, denied any wrongdoing.RenTech FundSeparately, Credit Suisse is temporarily barring clients from withdrawing all their cash from a fund that invests with RenTec.The bank has invoked a so-called hold-back clause, after assets in the CS Renaissance Alternative Access Fund slumped to about $250 million this month from approximately $700 million at the start of last year, according to people with knowledge of the matter. While investors will receive 95% of their redemption requests after two months, the remaining 5% is expected to be paid out in January, after the fund’s year-end audit, the people said.The fund lost about 32% last year, in line with the decline in the Renaissance Institutional Diversified Alpha Fund International fund that it invests into, the people said. Renaissance, regarded as one of the most successful quant investing firms in the world, was rocked by billion of dollars in redemptions earlier this year after unprecedented losses in 2020. Three of its funds open to external investors fell by double digits last year.Credit Suisse and Renaissance declined to comment.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bond Traders Look to Jobs for Taper Clues While Cash Glut Grows

(Bloomberg) -- The glut of spare cash in dollar funding markets is combining with inflation concerns to stoke debate among investors about just how soon the Federal Reserve might have to take its foot off the accelerator.Bond traders are keenly attuned to the buildup of dollars in short-term interest-rate markets, an overabundance reflected in the amount of money sitting and earning absolutely nothing at the Fed’s reverse repo facility. For some, that’s yet another sign that the so-called quantitative easing program ought to be dialed back from its current pace of $120 billion a month, although others say that the central bank facility is acting like it should, as a safety valve, and also point to the other factors fueling the oversupply.Either way, the cash pile --and whether the usage of the Fed’s facility resumes its upward trajectory after slipping on Friday -- is set to be a key focus for traders in the coming week along with crucial U.S. jobs data, which may give clues about just how strong growth and inflation really are.“Progress toward achieving the dual mandate should be the biggest factor” driving decisions about policy tightening, said Credit Suisse Group AG strategist Jonathan Cohn, referring to the Fed’s twin goals on employment and consumer prices.The drumbeat of policy makers making noises about when the Fed should debate tempering its asset purchases has been quickening, although officials have been careful to say that their views are premised on the economy continuing to power forward and the prospects for sustained inflation. The strength of the upcoming labor market report is therefore set to be a major catalyst for bets about when both tapering and rate hikes might begin to take place, as will the evolution of funding markets.The next central bank policy meeting will take place June 15-16, while there is talk of possible tapering signals coming out of the Kansas City Fed’s annual gathering at Jackson Hole in August.Money-market traders are currently pricing in about 18 basis points worth of Fed rate hikes by the end of next year -- down around 3 basis points from levels late last month. That equates to around a 72% chance of a standard 25 basis-point increase in 2022. Before they even get to that point though, officials need to get through tapering, and most analysts expect there to be a lag before they embark on pushing interest rates higherAsymmetric RiskThe yield on 10-year notes has drifted slightly lower over the past couple of weeks, although it received some support in recent days from reports about government budget proposals and at around 1.59% is firmly entrenched in the range that it’s been in for a few months. Bond-market inflation expectations, as measured by so-called breakeven rates, have also eased back slightly, although they remain within sight of the decade highs they reached earlier in May.Some traders are wary that the upcoming report on May job creation could reignite the move higher in long-term yields. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for an increase in payrolls of around 671,000 people and a figure of that magnitude or higher could make the prior month’s unexpectedly weak reading seem like a one off. There is also the prospect of a revision to figures for April, which came in at around 266,000 despite earlier predictions for a gain of 1,000,000.“The risks in the market are asymmetric toward higher yields,” said John Briggs, global head of desk strategy at Natwest Markets. “After last month’s payroll figure, economists are being conservative this time, so there’s a chance the actual figure is above consensus. And after that, people will then start to worry about the next consumer price report,” set to be released on June 10.What to WatchThe Treasuries market will be closed Monday for a U.S. holiday. Below are the calendar highlights.The economic calendarJune 1: Markit U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers index construction spending Institute for Supply Management manufacturing gauge Dallas Fed manufacturing indexJune 2: MBA mortgage applications Fed Beige Book vehicle salesJune 3: Challenger job cuts ADP employment change nonfarm productivity weekly jobless claims Langer consumer comfort Markit U.S. services PMI ISM services indicatorJune 4: Monthly jobs report factory, durable goods and capital goods ordersThe Fed calendar:June 1: Fed Vice Chairman for supervision Randal Quarles Fed Governor Lael BrainardJune 2: Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker Chicago Fed President Charles Evans Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic Dallas Fed President Robert KaplanJune 3: Bostic Kaplan Harker QuarlesJune 4: Fed Chair Jerome Powell takes part in a Bank for International Settlements panel on climate change with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and other officialsThe auction calendar:June 1: 13-week bills, 26-week bills, 42-day cash management billJune 3: 4-week bills, 8-week billsMore stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Mortgage rates dip beneath 3% again, offering new refinance savings

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Australia Central Bank Faces Taper Pressure Beyond Anglosphere

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s central bank is approaching a decision on whether the economy is strong enough for it to join Canada and New Zealand in signaling a move away from emergency mode.While no change in policy settings is expected at Tuesday’s meeting, the Reserve Bank will likely hold preliminary discussions on whether to extend the three-year yield target and undertake further quantitative easing. Governor Philip Lowe said the board will make a call on both in July.The strength of recent economic data suggests the central bank could opt against rolling its yield target maturity to November 2024 from April 2024 and taper purchases under its longer-dated bond buying program. Melbourne’s latest Covid-19 outbreak is a reminder that a sluggish vaccine roll-out has the potential to jeopardize the recovery.“Covid hasn’t gone away, so that’s still the risk that bubbles around in the background,” said Gareth Aird of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “But if you park that to one side, you couldn’t really ask for a better economic backdrop at the moment to try and meet the RBA’s objectives.”Central banks are beginning to edge away from their emergency monetary settings as vaccine roll-outs continue and economies reopen. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand surprised markets last week in presenting an outlook with projections of its official cash rate rising in the second half of next year.The RBA slightly shifted its tone in this month’s quarterly update as it lifted the economic outlook to reflect strong hiring, investment intentions and sentiment, while maintaining that it doesn’t expect to hike rates until 2024. A commitment to this dovish stance is keeping a lid on any currency appreciation, especially as other central banks pivot.Risks RemainMeantime, Australia’s gross domestic product data for the first three months of the year is due Wednesday. Economists estimate the economy expanded 1.1% from the prior quarter. The economy has rapidly recovered, but covid remains an ever present risk for a country heading into the Southern Hemisphere winter.What Bloomberg Economics Says. “A snap lockdown in Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, is likely to dent the recovery. Uncertainty may dent business and consumer sentiment across unaffected regions, and could weigh on the recovery in business investment.”-- James McIntyre, economistFor the full report, click here.The RBA is currently running a three-year yield target at 0.1% -- the same level as the cash rate -- and will decide at its July 6 meeting whether to roll it over. A decision to let it lapse would signal greater confidence in the outlook. Similarly, the bank needs to decide if it will extend its QE program that is currently due to expire in September.Lowe says wages growth will need to rise at a pace faster than 3% -- more than double the current rate -- for inflation to return sustainably to the central bank’s 2-3% target before he raises rates.Anecdotal evidence of labor shortages are growing in Australia, in a signal that employers may need to offer higher wages to attract workers. The government is also trying to help the RBA push down unemployment and boost wages with targeted fiscal assistance.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

A16z to Boost Size of Its Third Crypto Fund: Report

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US Stocks Marginally Higher as Investors Shrug Off Inflation Surge

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Banning meat

Banning meat

The Community Voice

So, I heard on Fox News that President Biden may be banning meat to combat global warming. Then I remembered that Colorado Democrat Governor Jared Polis had issued a similar proclamation last month. My first reaction was, what kind of cockamamie idea will the Democrats cook up next? But then I read the article they quoted, and it made a bit more sense. Apparently, a University of Michigan research report found that replacing 50 percent of animal products with plant-based foods would prevent more than 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gasses by 2030, which is Biden&rsquos target date for a 50 percent reduction in emissions.

Another article I found in The Guardian, argues that animal farming is a major driver of climate change, as well as air and water pollution, soil depletion, and destruction of wildlife habitats. It&rsquos possible that, in an environmentally sustainable world, we may eventually need to replace meat and other animal products with vegetables, fruits, and grains, just as we replace fossil fuels with wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. I may look and see what the internet and my local supermarket have to offer in terms of plant-based meat products.


From Cap to Carton -- Better Than Milk® Organic Plant Based Drinks are the Conscious Choice for Protecting Mama Earth

ROCHELLE PARK , N.Y., April 21, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- April 22 nd marks the 51 st anniversary of Earth Day and while Better Than Milkmay be young compared to that, they are committed to catching up on those 50+ years and celebrating the Earth not just for one day, not even just for the whole month of April, but EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! To Better Than Milk, the Earth is EVERYTHING From the pristine mountaintops, to the colorful rainforests, to the abundance of amazing species that live within her embrace. And, if we're being honest, she's been through a lot, so our Mama Earth needs all the love she can get! This is why Better Than Milkis committed to being a part of the change and caring for our planet one organic, plant-based milk at a time.

Better Than Milk believes that what you put into your body should not only taste good and be good for you, but also respect the gorgeous blue planet that we call home, which is why it is the wise choice for all of your plant-based drink needs. Better Than Milkis a delicious line of creamy plant-based alternative-milk drinks that are made from the simplest, best tasting, sustainable & renewable ingredients. The Earth-Friendly lineup features five mouthwatering flavors that include Unsweetened Almond Drink, Almond Drink, Unsweetened Oat Drink, Unsweetened Rice + Calcium Drink, and Rice Hazelnut Drink. All of Better Than Milks alternative milks are organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free, dairy-free, and 100% vegan—making them better for your body, the earth… And, don't you worry, you will never find any unwanted preservatives, thickeners or artificial ingredients in Better Than Milk, ever. These 100% shelf stable plant-based milks are so nourishing, creamy and delicious that they'll earn a permanent spot in your pantry, we can promise you that!

Each carton of Better Than Milk is made with mindfully sourced Organic plant-based ingredients that are selected according to the highest quality and traceability standards. These ingredients include Rice, Almond, Hazelnuts & Oats that are grown on Sustainable, Organic Farms in Italy , Finland & Denmark from farmers that would never dream of using harmful chemicals or pesticides on their crops. The farms are committed to the highest standards of organic farming which protect local bee colonies and keep streams and tributaries clean are self-sustaining, focused on composting and on-site water replenishment, which leads to less water usage & according to researchers releases 40% fewer carbon emissions compared to non-organic farms. The RICE is from organic farmers in the plains of Northern Italy , Piedmont , and Lombardy regions near Milan . The ALMONDS are from Sicily , a southern Italian island full of sunshine sourced by organic pesticide-free farms which is crucial to maintaining healthy bee colonies, whereas 99% of other almond drinks may source their almonds from non-organic California farms that use bee-harming pesticides and excessive water in drought prone areas. The fresh HAZELNUTS are from organic farms in the Lazio region of Italy near Rome . And lastly, the pure OATS, are naturally gluten-free, grown in Finland and Denmark .

The plants aren't the only stars of their ingredient list Better Than Milkis made from the purest spring water Mama Earth can offer. The incredible spring water in every Better Than Milkcarton flows directly from the source, as nature intended, down from the Lessini Mountains in Northern Italy , nearly 1,500 feet above sea level into their production facility instead of using other water sourcing methods that are more taxing on the environment. This helps Better Than Milkreduce their carbon footprint as the production facility is located in a small village at the base of the mountain spring, leaving in all of the natural minerals that nourish our bodies and our planet.

When it comes to packaging, Better Than Milk cares a LOT! All Better Than Milk drinks are packaged in earth friendly recyclable paper aseptic cartons made from paper that is FSC certified, meaning that all materials that go into Better Than Milk cartons are responsibly harvested from renewable and sustainably managed forests, ensuring that our forests are protected, as well as the people and wildlife who rely on them. Another cool thing about each carton is that they are made with bio-based plastic caps made from sugarcane, not petroleum. Fun fact: Did you know that Sugarcane is an incredibly sustainable resource that is net-zero and carbon-neutral? This means that it captures carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the atmosphere helping to reduce CO₂ emissions between 14-19% compared to plastic caps made with petroleum (aka fossil fuels) and it only needs rainwater to grow and not traditional irrigation!

When it comes to Better Than Milk, you've got loads of options! Every Better Than Milkdrink is stored in multi-serving 1-Liter cartons helping combat single-use waste and making it easy for you to use one carton throughout your day or week. You can enjoy a fresh cold glass of Better Than Milk Oat Drink or pour some over your morning bowl of cereal, then save the rest for your afternoon tea or for baking your favorite brownies recipes. And, after guzzling down the whole carton, don't forget to recycle because every package of Better Than Milk is 100% recyclable from cap to carton! Whether you recycle your carton straight into the recycling bin or by upcycling it into a DIY flowerpot, bird house, or toy spaceship, you're helping Better Than Milk eliminate single-use waste and protect the planet.

"We care about our consumers, and we care about the Earth," says Lonnie Williard , Vice President of Marketing at PANOS brands, parent company of the Better Than Milk. "Our organic drinks are responsibly sourced and made with 100% recyclable packaging, so we proudly bring welcomed relevance to plant-based milk drinks, as even our caps our made from renewable sources. As we say, we're 100% recyclable - From Cap to Carton!"

Better Than Milk has also just teamed up with the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), the trade association representing over 180 plant-based food companies to give plant-based foods a voice and better educate people about the benefits of eating plant-based for your body and for the environment. This partnership will further help extend Better Than Milks important sustainability messages.

"As more information emerges about the benefits of a plant-based diet, more folks who care about the environment, animal welfare, and their health are choosing to drink plant-based milks." says Lonnie Williard . "So, whether they already follow a plant-based diet or are looking to supplement dairy for a more sustainable and flavorful alternative, we know that everyone will love Better Than Milk!

Media Contact:
Hayden Hammerling
973-405-4600
[email protected]

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Bitcoin’s Volatility Spawns New Crypto Balance Sheet Alternative

(Bloomberg) -- Corporate treasurers fed up with rock-bottom returns on their cash are about to get another pitch from the world of crypto.Circle Internet Financial Ltd., one of the digital-asset firms behind the so-called stablecoin dubbed USDC that is pegged 1-to-1 to the dollar, has cooked up an alternative for the legions too conservative to follow the likes of Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey into Bitcoin. Park your extra cash in USDC and earn as much as 7% annually through high-yield accounts, the marketing says -- more than 10 times the return on an ultra-safe 1-year Treasury bill.The idea may be appealing to some treasurers who were initially seduced by the big gains in crypto, especially following Bitcoin’s roughly 40% decline since mid-April. Stablecoins such as USDC are gaining increased attention because of their ability to maintain their pegs during the wild crypto price swings, suggesting they could actually serve as a store of value. Even so, not all long-term digital market observers are convinced.“If companies wish to put their corporate reserves into a stablecoin and that is fully audited, it is like putting their money in a bank account which is what they normally do,” John Griffin, professor of finance at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an email. “However, if the account is paying out a higher yield than bank account yields, then it is not merely invested in some risk-free asset.”Here’s how Circle’s program will work: Treasurers would open a “digital-dollar account” where the company’s fiat money is converted into USDC and interest is paid out in USDC. The yield is generated by Circle lending the digital dollars to a network of institutional investors that are willing to pay an interest rate for access to additional capital.The companies would lock in their return when the account is opened, similar to a bank certificate of deposit. Circle plans to offer accounts with maturities ranging from one month to a year, with no early withdrawals allowed. Rates available will be updated on a weekly basis, depending on demand for USDC loans.That’s a bit tamer than the strategy first highlighted last year by MicroStrategy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Saylor, who advocated pouring company reserves into Bitcoin because he said the dollar is being debased by surging inflation. Musk’s February announcement that Tesla Inc. had added Bitcoin to its balance sheet helped fuel the rally that took the largest cryptocurrency to a record in April before it lost more than one-third of its value.“Corporate reserves are not for investing in stocks, going to Vegas, or something more volatile and more rigged against you like Bitcoin,” Griffin said.With few companies outside the crypto realm following MicroStrategy, Tesla and Dorsey’s Square Inc. into Bitcoin, Circle hopes that stablecoins may be the next logical step. The company is working with Genesis Global Capital, one of the largest crypto lenders.The service will be first made available in the U.S. and Switzerland, and will launch “imminently,” Jeremy Allaire, Circle’s CEO, said in an interview. Thousands of businesses are already on the waiting list, according to Circle.“We are seeing the opportunity for the treasury use-case grow a lot,” Allaire said.Other providers of stablecoins are rolling out similar offerings. On May 26, Gemini exchange -- the brainchild of the Winklevoss brothers -- said investors can earn up to 7.4% annually on Gemini dollars through a program called Gemini Earn. The Gemini token is also pegged to the dollar and its reserves are held with State Street Bank and Trust, the largest financial custodian in the world. Each month, the dollar deposit balance is examined by BPM LLP, an independent registered public accounting firm.USDC reserves are attested to monthly by accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP and published online.Various small crypto lenders already offer yield accounts for different coins, including less regulated stablecoins like Tether.For these products, “appropriate users would be people who invest in junk bonds or similar risky lending,” said Aaron Brown, a crypto investor and writer for Bloomberg Opinion. “It might offer a better risk-adjusted return than alternatives. . . or not. But whatever it is, it’s not a savings account in the way most people understand that term.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bitcoin's in a slump — here's why Warren Buffett has hated it all along

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This Time Is Different: Outside OPEC+, Oil Growth Stalls

(Bloomberg) -- “This time is different” may be the most dangerous words in business: billions of dollars have been lost betting that history won’t repeat itself. And yet now, in the oil world, it looks like this time really will be.For the first time in decades, oil companies aren’t rushing to increase production to chase rising oil prices as Brent crude approaches $70. Even in the Permian, the prolific shale basin at the center of the U.S. energy boom, drillers are resisting their traditional boom-and-bust cycle of spending.The oil industry is on the ropes, constrained by Wall Street investors demanding that companies spend less on drilling and instead return more money to shareholders, and climate change activists pushing against fossil fuels. Exxon Mobil Corp. is paradigmatic of the trend, after its humiliating defeat at the hands of a tiny activist elbowing itself onto the board.The dramatic events in the industry last week only add to what is emerging as an opportunity for the producers of OPEC+, giving the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Russia more room for maneuver to bring back their own production. As non-OPEC output fails to rebound as fast as many expected -- or feared based on past experience -- the cartel is likely to continue adding more supply when it meets on June 1.‘Criminalization’Shareholders are asking Exxon to drill less and focus on returning money to investors. “They have been throwing money down the drill hole like crazy,” Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer for CalSTRS. “We really saw that company just heading down the hole, not surviving into the future, unless they change and adapt. And now they have to.”Exxon is unlikely to be alone. Royal Dutch Shell Plc lost a landmark legal battle last week when a Dutch court told it to cut emissions significantly by 2030 -- something that would require less oil production. Many in the industry fear a wave of lawsuits elsewhere, with western oil majors more immediate targets than the state-owned oil companies that make up much of OPEC production.“We see a shift from stigmatization toward criminalization of investing in higher oil production,” said Bob McNally, president of consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official.While it’s true that non-OPEC+ output is creeping back from the crash of 2020 -- and the ultra-depressed levels of April and May last year -- it’s far from a full recovery. Overall, non-OPEC+ output will grow this year by 620,000 barrels a day, less than half the 1.3 million barrels a day it fell in 2020. The supply growth forecast through the rest of this year “comes nowhere close to matching” the expected increase in demand, according to the International Energy Agency.Beyond 2021, oil output is likely to rise in a handful of nations, including the U.S., Brazil, Canada and new oil-producer Guyana. But production will decline elsewhere, from the U.K. to Colombia, Malaysia and Argentina.As non-OPEC+ production increases less than global oil demand, the cartel will be in control of the market, executives and traders said. It’s a major break with the past, when oil companies responded to higher prices by rushing to invest again, boosting non-OPEC output and leaving the ministers led by Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz bin Salman with a much more difficult balancing act.Drilling DownSo far, the lack of non-OPEC+ oil production growth isn’t registering much in the market. After all, the coronavirus pandemic continues to constrain global oil demand. It may be more noticeable later this year and into 2022. By then, vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 are likely to be bearing fruit, and the world will need more oil. The expected return of Iran into the market will provide some of that, but there will likely be a need for more.When that happens, it will be largely up to OPEC to plug the gap. One signal of how the recovery will be different this time is the U.S. drilling count: It is gradually increasing, but the recovery is slower than it was after the last big oil price crash in 2008-09. Shale companies are sticking to their commitment to return more money to shareholders via dividends. While before the pandemic shale companies re-used 70-90% of their cash flow into further drilling, they are now keeping that metric at around 50%.The result is that U.S. crude production has flat-lined at around 11 million barrels a day since July 2020. Outside the U.S. and Canada, the outlook is even more somber: at the end of April, the ex-North America oil rig count stood at 523, lower than it was a year ago, and nearly 40% below the same month two years earlier, according to data from Baker Hughes Co.When Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz predicted earlier this year that “‘drill, baby, drill’ is gone for ever,” it sounded like a bold call. As ministers meet this week, they may dare to hope he’s right.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

How to get rid of student loan debt by refinancing the mortgage on your home

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Earnings to Watch Next Week: Zoom, Advance Auto Parts, Lululemon and Cooper Companies in Focus

Following is a list of company earnings scheduled for release May 31-June 4, along with earnings previews for select companies. Next week’s earnings are probably not much significant for major market movements, but it is adequate to gauge investors’ sentiment.

Putin Is Betting Coal Still Has a Future

(Bloomberg) -- European governments are drawing up plans to phase out coal, U.S. coal-fired power plants are being shuttered as prices of clean energy plummet, and new Asian projects are being scrapped as lenders back away from the dirtiest fossil fuel.And Russia? President Vladimir Putin’s government is spending more than $10 billion on railroad upgrades that will help boost exports of the commodity. Authorities will use prisoners to help speed the work, reviving a reviled Soviet-era tradition.The project to modernize and expand railroads that run to Russia’s Far Eastern ports is part of a broader push to make the nation among the last standing in fossil fuel exports as other countries switch to greener alternatives. The government is betting that coal consumption will continue to rise in big Asian markets like China even as it dries up elsewhere.“It's realistic to expect Asian demand for imported coal to increase if conditions are right,'' said Evgeniy Bragin, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at UMMC Holding, which owns a coal company in western Siberia’s Kuzbass region. “We need to keep developing and expanding the rail infrastructure so that we have the opportunity to export coal.’’The latest 720 billion ruble ($9.8 billion) project to expand Russia’s two longest railroads — the Tsarist-era Trans-Siberian and Soviet Baikal-Amur Mainline that link western Russia with the Pacific Ocean— will aim to boost cargo capacity for coal and other goods to 182 million tons a year by 2024. Capacity already more than doubled to 144 million tons under a 520 billion ruble modernization plan that began in 2013. Putin urged faster progress on the next leg at a meeting with coal miners in March.“Russia is trying to monetize its coal reserves fast enough that coal will contribute to GDP rather than being stuck in the ground,” said Madina Khrustaleva, an analyst who specializes in the region for TS Lombard in London.Putin is betting that his country’s land border with China and good relations with President Xi Jinping make it a natural candidate to dominate exports to the nation that consumes more than half of the world’s coal. His case is helped by the fact that Australia, currently the number one coal exporter, is facing trade restrictions from China amid a diplomatic dispute over the origins of the coronavirus.But the plan is fraught with risk, both for Russia’s economy and the planet. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends immediate phasing out of coal to avoid catastrophic global warming and the effects of climate change are expected to cost Russia billions in coming decades. Earlier this month the International Energy Agency went one step further and said no new fossil-fuel infrastructure should be built if the world wants to keep global warming will below 1.5 degrees Celsius. With all but one of the top 10 economies committed to reaching net-zero emissions within decades, the IEA's Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap calls for phasing out all coal power plants without carbon capture as soon as 2040.It’s also not a given that Asian coal demand will keep growing. Coal consumption in China is poised to reach a record this year and the country continues to build coal-fired power plants, but it also plans to start reducing consumption starting in 2026. At the same time it's increasing output from domestic mines, leaving less room for foreign supplies. Even in the IEA's least climate-friendly scenarios, global coal demand is expected to stay flat in 2040 compared to 2019.A coal strategy approved by the Russian government last year envisages a 10% increase in coal output from pre-pandemic levels by 2035 under the most conservative scenario, based on rising demand not just from China, but also India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and possibly Indonesia.The relatively low sulphur content of Russian coal might give it an edge in Korea, which has tightened pollution laws in recent years, but other Asian countries have struggled to secure funding for proposed plants and Indonesia said this week it won’t approve any new coal-fired power plants. At a Group of Seven nations meeting, environment ministers agreed to phase out support for building coal power plants without carbon capture before the end of this year.For Putin there is more at stake than just money. At a video conference in March, he reminded government officials that the coal industry drives the local economies of several Russian regions that are home to about 11 million people. Unrest among coal miners helped put pressure on the government before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, though the sector is now a much smaller and less influential part of the economy.“We need to carefully assess all possible scenarios in order to guarantee that our coal mining regions are developed even if global demand decreases,” Putin said. The country’s biggest coal producers are privately run, meaning they aren’t facing the kind of financing problems currently being encountered by listed companies elsewhere as banks pull back funding for dirty energy. Suek Plc, owned by billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, and Kuzbassrazrezugol OJSC, controlled by Iskander Makhmudov, are both planning to increase output. Russia also plans to boost coal production for steel making. A-Property, owned by Russian businessmen Albert Avdolyan, bought the Elga coal mine in Russia’s Far Eastern region of Yakutia last year and plans to invest 130 billion rubles to expand output to 45 million tons of coal from the current 5 million tons by 2023. A third stage of Russia’s railroad expansion project will focus on boosting infrastructure for shipping coal out of Yakutia, a Russian Railways official said last month.“In 2021, many Asia Pacific states have seen their economies recover from the pandemic,” said Oleg Korzhov, the CEO of Mechel PJSC, one of Russia’s biggest coal companies. “We expect that demand for metallurgical coal in Asia Pacific will remain high in the next five years.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Memorial Day gas prices are the highest in 7 years — here's how to fight back

Take defensive action as the economy opens back up and fuel costs rise.

Stock Splits Are Back. So Is the Debate Over Whether They Matter

(Bloomberg) -- Stock splits are back in vogue among big U.S. companies, reviving a debate about whether the practice that had fallen out of favor for years is worth the fuss.Last week, Nvidia Corp. became the eighth company in the S&P 500 Index to announce a split in the past year, joining big names like Apple Inc. and Tesla Inc. That’s the most over a comparable period in six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The surge in splits comes amid a rally that’s pushed share prices of almost 600 stocks in the Russell 3000 Index above $100. Yet that has done little to settle the age-old-argument among investors about whether such stock-price engineering has any bearing on performance. In fact, recent developments such as soaring retail trading and fractional share ownership have only heated things up.“Arithmetically, there’s no merit to the notion that stock splits work,” said Mark Lehmann, chief executive officer of JMP Securities LLC. “But there is an optical hesitancy for certain stocks at certain prices and there is a segment of the investing public where that will never change.”The primary motivation cited by companies doing splits is simple: to make each share cheaper to buy. Nvidia, whose share price has more than quadrupled since the start of 2019 to reach almost $650, said in a statement announcing its 4-for-1 stock-split plan that its aim was to “make stock ownership more accessible to investors and employees.” A representative for the chipmaker declined to comment further.Once a reliable hallmark of bull-market exuberance, the practice had until recently fallen out of favor. In 2006 and 2007, when stocks were again setting records, there were 47 splits in the S&P 500. Three companies -- Nvidia, Paccar Inc. and Cummins Inc. -- even split twice. In 2019, there were only two.For Julian Emanuel, chief equity and derivatives strategist at BTIG, it’s harder to make the case for splitting a stock these days because of the rise of commission-free trading and brokerages offering fractional shares. Those developments “have largely rendered irrelevant the dollar value of a company’s share price,” he said in an interview.Brokerages like Robinhood now let investors buy a slice of a share for as little as $1 rather than forking over, say, more than $2,300 for a single share of Google-parent Alphabet Inc.Limited Benefits A look at the data backs up the case against splits providing long-term benefits to stock performance. The shares of companies that have split outperformed the S&P 500 on average in four of the last five years in the year the split was announced, according to Bloomberg data. The calendar year following the move, however, those same shares underperformed four of the five years.The recent rash of stock splits has sparked speculation that other large technology companies like Amazon.com Inc. that boast four-digit share prices may be next. Amazon split its stock three times in 1998 and 1999 and hasn’t done one since. Shares of the e-commerce giant trade around $3,200 and have gained more than 5,000% since its last split.Regardless of what the historical-performance record shows, the surge in retail trading over the past year may be altering the calculus for companies when it comes to evaluating splits.U.S. retail investors are now second in share trading only to market makers and independent high-frequency traders, according to Larry Tabb, director of market structure research at Bloomberg Intelligence. The retail segment is now larger than quantitative investors, hedge funds and traditional long-only participants, said Tabb.“A lot of investing is driven by psychology,” said Kevin Walkush, a portfolio manager with Jensen Investment Management. “Now, rather than a retail investor facing the challenge of buying a fractional share, a stock split means they can buy it outright. It just opens up the market that much more for retail investors.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Sunak pushes Biden for tougher global tax deal

Rishi Sunak is pushing the United States to agree to tougher rules on the tax paid by tech giants as part of a global corporation tax overhaul. Finance ministers from the G7 will meet this week to thrash out the biggest reforms to global tax rules in a generation in a bid to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share. President Joe Biden has proposed a minimum global corporation tax rate of 15pc as well as new rules forcing the world's largest 100 companies to pay taxes based on the location of their customers, rather than where they book profits. The plans are aimed to preventing multinationals from shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions - a growing problem that is feared will deprive governments of revenues as they try to recover from the pandemic. However, the UK is holding out on backing America's plans for a minimum corporation tax rate as it seeks more assurances over the tax treatment of big tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google. The Chancellor told the Mail on Sunday: "We understand why an agreement on global corporation tax is important to our American friends. We need them to understand why fair taxation of tech companies is important to us. "There's a deal to be had and I'm urging the US - and all of the G7 - to come to the table next week and get it done."

Globant Says It Bought Bitcoin in Q1

With the purchase, the Luxembourg-based company becomes the latest company to hold cryptocurrency on its balance sheet.

Fourth stimulus check in jeopardy while the last payments keep dwindling

Will President Biden and Congress provide more relief? It's looking iffy.

ESG investment as important as divestment from fossil fuels: former Bank of England governor

Since leaving the top post at the Bank of England last year, former Governor Mark Carney has arguably been the most vocal advocate, in urging financial institutions to align themselves with emissions goals of the Paris climate agreement. But as shareholders increasingly step up pressure, and lawmakers call for stricter regulations around climate disclosures, Carney says fossil fuel divestments shouldn’t be the sole focus of tackling the global crisis.

Credit Suisse Cuts Risk as Defections Mount in Wake of Scandals

(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG is grappling with how to keep top bankers from fleeing to competitors and drastically reducing risk as new Chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio seeks to recover from a series of scandals.The lender is cutting ties with SoftBank Group Corp., a backer to Lex Greensill’s collapsed supply-chain finance empire, and it’s temporarily barring clients from withdrawing all of their cash from a fund that invests with Renaissance Technologies after the strategy tanked and investors rushed for the exit.It’s also considering retention bonuses for top performers to stabilize the business as defections mount in the wake of the Greensill debacle and the implosion of Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management, which contributed to a first-quarter pretax loss of 900 million francs ($1 billion).“They’re looking a bit like a basket case right now,” Octavio Marenzi, chief executive officer of capital markets consulting firm Opimas, said Friday in a phone interview. “The Archegos thing is really bad, and what happens after an event like that is people start to pick on them. They’re seen as the weakest kid in the class.”Some of the firm’s senior talent is streaming for the exits. Its top financial services banker, Alejandro Przygoda, is leaving for Jefferies Financial Group Inc., along with at least three colleagues, people familiar with the matter have said. That followed the recent departures of at least four other members of the financial institutions group to competitors including Barclays Plc., Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.Shares of Zurich-based Credit Suisse have tumbled about 14% this year, the only decline among 35 companies in the Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks & Financial Services Index, which has surged 26%.Credit Suisse will no longer do any new business with SoftBank, people with knowledge of situation said, a decision that may ripple across the firm’s investment bank. SoftBank has been a prolific dealmaker, and last year Credit Suisse and other banks held about $8 billion of SoftBank shares in collateral, pledged by founder Masayoshi Son.A SoftBank Group spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to comment, while Credit Suisse declined to comment.Horta-Osorio, 57, who succeeded Urs Rohner as chairman last month, pledged a wide-ranging review after the bank was forced to suspend billions of dollars of funds it managed with Greensill and took a $5.5 billion hit on Archegos, raising questions about the oversight of key clients.Credit Suisse conducted an internal review into the Greensill funds after allegations of possible conflicts of interest involving SoftBank last year. A number of SoftBank portfolio companies received loans via supply-chain funds at Credit Suisse, while SoftBank was also an investor in the Credit Suisse funds.In the aftermath, SoftBank pulled $700 million from the funds and the bank changed its investment guidelines for Credit Suisse’s funds to reduce the maximum exposure to a single borrower.The overlapping financial relationships raised questions about whether SoftBank was using the Credit Suisse funds to prop up investments in the Vision Fund, including Greensill Capital, in which it had a substantial stake.SoftBank wrote down its $1.5 billion Greensill holding to almost zero after Credit Suisse was forced to unwind its four Greensill-linked funds in March, people familiar with the matter have said. SoftBank is now seeking $1.15 billion in claims as part of Greensill’s insolvency proceedings.Credit Suisse marketed the popular supply-chain finance funds as among its safest investments because the funds were insured and the loans they held backed by invoices typically paid within weeks. But as the funds grew into a $10 billion strategy, they strayed from that pitch and much of the money was loaned through Greensill against expected future invoices, for sales that were merely predicted.Greensill’s collapse forced Credit Suisse to liquidate the funds.Gupta’s BusinessThe Greensill debacle is also at play in claims that Credit Suisse executives ignored warnings from colleagues about troubled steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta as they channeled $1.2 billion of client funds to his businesses. Bankers in Credit Suisse’s commodity trade-finance unit blacklisted Gupta’s Liberty Commodities Ltd. in 2016 because they suspected some of its deals weren’t legitimate, according to people familiar with the matter.When they learned roughly two years later that the bank was lending to his companies through a suite of investment funds, which eventually grew to $10 billion, they flagged their concerns to leaders in compliance and the division that housed the loans, one of the people said.The disclosure that Credit Suisse may have put clients at risk despite internal concerns over Gupta’s businesses adds a new twist to the debacle stemming from the March implosion of Greensill, the finance firm at the center of the three-way relationship. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office is now investigating Gupta’s group of companies for suspected fraud, including in its financing deals with Greensill, according to a May 14 statement.“We are currently focusing our efforts on recovering our investors’ money,” Will Bowen, a spokesman for Credit Suisse in London, said in an emailed statement, adding that the bank’s internal probe will focus on “all of the issues” linked to the funds. “We are committed to learning the lessons and will share the relevant lessons learned at the appropriate time.”Andrew Mitchell, a spokesman for the Gupta Family Group Alliance, or GFG Alliance, a collective of businesses linked to Gupta including Liberty Commodities, denied any wrongdoing.RenTech FundSeparately, Credit Suisse is temporarily barring clients from withdrawing all their cash from a fund that invests with RenTec.The bank has invoked a so-called hold-back clause, after assets in the CS Renaissance Alternative Access Fund slumped to about $250 million this month from approximately $700 million at the start of last year, according to people with knowledge of the matter. While investors will receive 95% of their redemption requests after two months, the remaining 5% is expected to be paid out in January, after the fund’s year-end audit, the people said.The fund lost about 32% last year, in line with the decline in the Renaissance Institutional Diversified Alpha Fund International fund that it invests into, the people said. Renaissance, regarded as one of the most successful quant investing firms in the world, was rocked by billion of dollars in redemptions earlier this year after unprecedented losses in 2020. Three of its funds open to external investors fell by double digits last year.Credit Suisse and Renaissance declined to comment.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bond Traders Look to Jobs for Taper Clues While Cash Glut Grows

(Bloomberg) -- The glut of spare cash in dollar funding markets is combining with inflation concerns to stoke debate among investors about just how soon the Federal Reserve might have to take its foot off the accelerator.Bond traders are keenly attuned to the buildup of dollars in short-term interest-rate markets, an overabundance reflected in the amount of money sitting and earning absolutely nothing at the Fed’s reverse repo facility. For some, that’s yet another sign that the so-called quantitative easing program ought to be dialed back from its current pace of $120 billion a month, although others say that the central bank facility is acting like it should, as a safety valve, and also point to the other factors fueling the oversupply.Either way, the cash pile --and whether the usage of the Fed’s facility resumes its upward trajectory after slipping on Friday -- is set to be a key focus for traders in the coming week along with crucial U.S. jobs data, which may give clues about just how strong growth and inflation really are.“Progress toward achieving the dual mandate should be the biggest factor” driving decisions about policy tightening, said Credit Suisse Group AG strategist Jonathan Cohn, referring to the Fed’s twin goals on employment and consumer prices.The drumbeat of policy makers making noises about when the Fed should debate tempering its asset purchases has been quickening, although officials have been careful to say that their views are premised on the economy continuing to power forward and the prospects for sustained inflation. The strength of the upcoming labor market report is therefore set to be a major catalyst for bets about when both tapering and rate hikes might begin to take place, as will the evolution of funding markets.The next central bank policy meeting will take place June 15-16, while there is talk of possible tapering signals coming out of the Kansas City Fed’s annual gathering at Jackson Hole in August.Money-market traders are currently pricing in about 18 basis points worth of Fed rate hikes by the end of next year -- down around 3 basis points from levels late last month. That equates to around a 72% chance of a standard 25 basis-point increase in 2022. Before they even get to that point though, officials need to get through tapering, and most analysts expect there to be a lag before they embark on pushing interest rates higherAsymmetric RiskThe yield on 10-year notes has drifted slightly lower over the past couple of weeks, although it received some support in recent days from reports about government budget proposals and at around 1.59% is firmly entrenched in the range that it’s been in for a few months. Bond-market inflation expectations, as measured by so-called breakeven rates, have also eased back slightly, although they remain within sight of the decade highs they reached earlier in May.Some traders are wary that the upcoming report on May job creation could reignite the move higher in long-term yields. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for an increase in payrolls of around 671,000 people and a figure of that magnitude or higher could make the prior month’s unexpectedly weak reading seem like a one off. There is also the prospect of a revision to figures for April, which came in at around 266,000 despite earlier predictions for a gain of 1,000,000.“The risks in the market are asymmetric toward higher yields,” said John Briggs, global head of desk strategy at Natwest Markets. “After last month’s payroll figure, economists are being conservative this time, so there’s a chance the actual figure is above consensus. And after that, people will then start to worry about the next consumer price report,” set to be released on June 10.What to WatchThe Treasuries market will be closed Monday for a U.S. holiday. Below are the calendar highlights.The economic calendarJune 1: Markit U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers index construction spending Institute for Supply Management manufacturing gauge Dallas Fed manufacturing indexJune 2: MBA mortgage applications Fed Beige Book vehicle salesJune 3: Challenger job cuts ADP employment change nonfarm productivity weekly jobless claims Langer consumer comfort Markit U.S. services PMI ISM services indicatorJune 4: Monthly jobs report factory, durable goods and capital goods ordersThe Fed calendar:June 1: Fed Vice Chairman for supervision Randal Quarles Fed Governor Lael BrainardJune 2: Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker Chicago Fed President Charles Evans Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic Dallas Fed President Robert KaplanJune 3: Bostic Kaplan Harker QuarlesJune 4: Fed Chair Jerome Powell takes part in a Bank for International Settlements panel on climate change with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and other officialsThe auction calendar:June 1: 13-week bills, 26-week bills, 42-day cash management billJune 3: 4-week bills, 8-week billsMore stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Mortgage rates dip beneath 3% again, offering new refinance savings

Over 14 million mortgage holders can qualify to save on a refi, new data shows.

Australia Central Bank Faces Taper Pressure Beyond Anglosphere

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s central bank is approaching a decision on whether the economy is strong enough for it to join Canada and New Zealand in signaling a move away from emergency mode.While no change in policy settings is expected at Tuesday’s meeting, the Reserve Bank will likely hold preliminary discussions on whether to extend the three-year yield target and undertake further quantitative easing. Governor Philip Lowe said the board will make a call on both in July.The strength of recent economic data suggests the central bank could opt against rolling its yield target maturity to November 2024 from April 2024 and taper purchases under its longer-dated bond buying program. Melbourne’s latest Covid-19 outbreak is a reminder that a sluggish vaccine roll-out has the potential to jeopardize the recovery.“Covid hasn’t gone away, so that’s still the risk that bubbles around in the background,” said Gareth Aird of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “But if you park that to one side, you couldn’t really ask for a better economic backdrop at the moment to try and meet the RBA’s objectives.”Central banks are beginning to edge away from their emergency monetary settings as vaccine roll-outs continue and economies reopen. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand surprised markets last week in presenting an outlook with projections of its official cash rate rising in the second half of next year.The RBA slightly shifted its tone in this month’s quarterly update as it lifted the economic outlook to reflect strong hiring, investment intentions and sentiment, while maintaining that it doesn’t expect to hike rates until 2024. A commitment to this dovish stance is keeping a lid on any currency appreciation, especially as other central banks pivot.Risks RemainMeantime, Australia’s gross domestic product data for the first three months of the year is due Wednesday. Economists estimate the economy expanded 1.1% from the prior quarter. The economy has rapidly recovered, but covid remains an ever present risk for a country heading into the Southern Hemisphere winter.What Bloomberg Economics Says. “A snap lockdown in Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, is likely to dent the recovery. Uncertainty may dent business and consumer sentiment across unaffected regions, and could weigh on the recovery in business investment.”-- James McIntyre, economistFor the full report, click here.The RBA is currently running a three-year yield target at 0.1% -- the same level as the cash rate -- and will decide at its July 6 meeting whether to roll it over. A decision to let it lapse would signal greater confidence in the outlook. Similarly, the bank needs to decide if it will extend its QE program that is currently due to expire in September.Lowe says wages growth will need to rise at a pace faster than 3% -- more than double the current rate -- for inflation to return sustainably to the central bank’s 2-3% target before he raises rates.Anecdotal evidence of labor shortages are growing in Australia, in a signal that employers may need to offer higher wages to attract workers. The government is also trying to help the RBA push down unemployment and boost wages with targeted fiscal assistance.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

A16z to Boost Size of Its Third Crypto Fund: Report

The fund could lead to $50 million in annual fees, sources told reporter Eric Newcomer.

US Stocks Marginally Higher as Investors Shrug Off Inflation Surge

Consumer spending rose 0.5% and personal income plunged 13.1% last month. Consumers’ one-year inflation expectations shot up to 4.6%.


Table of Contents

Historical Note Return to Top

The KUTV station first signed onto the air on September 10, 1954 as an ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah. The original co-owners of the station were Frank C. Carman & Associates and the Salt Lake Tribune. In 1994, NBC bought the majority control of KUTV from VS&A Communications Partners. Just under a year later, on September 10, 1995, KUTV switched its affiliation to CBS.

Content Description Return to Top

In 1977, the Salt Lake City television station KUTV-2 began recording its nightly news reports off-air onto U-matic videocassette. The KUTV News collection includes 241 recorded airchecks between January 5, 1977 through March 6, 1979 which have been digitized for preservation and access. The videos can be accessed online from computers on the University of Utah campus with a hardwired internet connection and in the Special Collections Reading Room. Research copies can also be requested by sending the Special Collections Reproduction Request form to the contact e-mail above.

Use of the Collection Return to Top

Restrictions on Use

The library does not claim to control copyright for all materials in the collection. An individual depicted in a reproduction has privacy rights as outlined in Title 45 CFR, part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). For further information, please review the J. Willard Marriott Library’s Use Agreement and Reproduction Request forms.

Preferred Citation

Initial Citation: KUTV News collection A0303, Special Collections and Archives. University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott. Salt Lake City, Utah.


Watch the video: Ασυνήθιστος 4-χρονος κινητήρας - ΧΩΡΙΣ ΒΑΛΒΙΔΑ το μανίκι περιστρέφεται Τι είδους θηρίο είναι αυτό ;; (November 2021).