Climate & Extreme Weather News #13 (December 6th to 12th 2016)
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Joel Osteen – Speak Faith into Your Future (New Sermon 2017) Joel Osteen – Speak Faith into Your Future (New Sermon 2017) Bishop Noel Jones – You Had …
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SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – President Donald Trump arrived in office having promised a bold $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan over 10 years for roads, bridges, airports and transit systems crumbling by the day across the United States.
But nearly seven months later the administration has produced few details on the future of federal infrastructure funding, one reason why state and municipal governments have issued fewer bonds to improve roads, water systems and other projects so far in 2017.
An early budget by Republican Trump even proposed stripping popular transportation funding programs.
Through July, new municipal deals to fund transportation, utilities and power projects totaled $50.7 billion, down 19.4 percent from the same period last year, according to an analysis of Thomson Reuters data.
That decline outpaces a broader drop in the U.S. municipal bond market overall, with total issuance down 13.1 percent thus far in 2017 to $201.7 billion.
New deals have lagged since November’s post-election selloff, when state and local governments quickly issued bonds fearing potential policy changes and rate increases by the Federal Reserve.
Since then, the lower issuance has been driven by plummeting refunding volumes. Such refinancings dominated last year’s higher issuance levels, but the states and cities that sell such bonds were put off by the overall rise in rates.
“I think people started to realize that the agenda within the Trump administration wasn’t going to accelerate as quickly as had been advertised,” said Randy Gerardes, director of municipal securities research at Wells Fargo in New York.
That is discouraging news for commuters, travelers and the transportation industry that must contend with yawning gap of new projects and maintenance across the country. The American Society of Civil Engineers this year assigned a D+ grade to U.S. infrastructure.
The Trump administration has announced a 10-year $1 trillion infrastructure plan financed through $200 billion in government funding, underpinned by private investment.
While states and cities build most of the country’s public infrastructure, they rely on stable and predictable funding from the federal government to help complete those projects.
Historically, the U.S. financed the vast majority of its infrastructure through the tax-exempt, low-cost vehicle of the $3.8 trillion U.S. municipal bond market.
Trump’s plan to utilize private financing to spur the bulk of his infrastructure program is “unrealistic,” said James Grabovac, a managing director at McDonnell Investment Management.
But state and local governments may be “reluctant to engage in long-term infrastructure financing given that there’s a promise of a trillion-dollar federal investment program somewhere on the horizon,” Grabovac said.
The dearth of infrastructure-related bond issuance has left a “bond picker’s market,” with more buyers than sellers.
“When deals do come to market, people are aggressively bidding them up,” said Gerardes. “That’s pushing up the price and down the rates.”
Revenue bonds, which often finance infrastructure projects because they are repaid with tolls, fares and fees instead of tax dollars, maintained a small but steady spread over general obligation bonds for all of 2014 and 2015.
But that narrowed in the final days of 2016, and revenue bonds are now trading on par with GO bonds. That is in part because belief in the safety of the GO pledge has waned since special revenue pledges led to better bondholder recoveries in some Chapter 9 bankruptcies.
Such competition for new deals could encourage governments to issue more bonds. But that hinges on the support of politicians and taxpayers, who typically pay higher user fees or increased taxes to service debts.
“Unfortunately neither one of those options are politically palatable,” said Gerardes.
State and local finances are also still pressured by lingering pension and retiree healthcare liabilities, leaving them wary of taking on more debt to fund infrastructure projects.
The tides may be changing, however. Last week transportation deals led the new issuance calendar, buoyed by deals from San Francisco, Washington, Georgia and Illinois.
Of all infrastructure sectors measured by Thomson Reuters – including water and sewer, highways and airports – public power saw the biggest drop in issuance of 57.4 percent below par value.
Bonds issued for seaports and marine terminals, however, increased by 134.1 percent and for bridges by 59.9 percent.
Reporting by Robin Respaut in San Francisco and Hilary Russ in New York; additional reporting by Melissa Wen in San Francisco; Editing by Daniel Bases and Grant McCool
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Soon the footpath you walk on could be full of cigarette butts, instead of being littered with them.
Trillions of cigarette butts are produced every year worldwide, with most discarded into the environment. They take ages to break down while their toxic chemical load is released into creeks, rivers and the ocean.
Now a team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, led by Dr Abbas Mohajerani has demonstrated that asphalt mixed with cigarette butts can handle heavy traffic and also reduce thermal conductivity.
This means the product could not only solve a huge waste problem but would also be useful in reducing the urban heat island effect common in cities.
Mohajerani, a senior lecturer in RMIT’s School of Engineering, said he was keen to find solutions to mounting cigarette butt waste.
“I have been trying for many years to find sustainable and practical methods for solving the problem of cigarette butt pollution,” Mohajerani said.
“In this research, we encapsulated the cigarette butts with bitumen and paraffin wax to lock in the chemicals and prevent any leaching from the asphalt concrete. The encapsulated cigarettes butts were mixed with hot asphalt mix for making samples,” Mohajerani said.
“Encapsulated cigarette butts developed in this research will be a new construction material which can be used in different applications and lightweight composite products.
“This research shows that you can create a new construction material while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem.”
About 6 trillion cigarettes are produced every year, leading to more than 1.2 million tonnes of cigarette butt waste. These figures are expected to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2025, mainly due to an increase in world population.
“Cigarette filters are designed to trap hundreds of toxic chemicals and the only ways to control these chemicals are either by effective encapsulation for the production of new lightweight aggregates or by the incorporation in fired clay bricks,” Mohajerani said.
The project is the result of five years of research. It has been published in the journal of Construction and Building Materials (Elsevier).
Materials provided by RMIT University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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Over the last two decades, the environmental crisis of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee has continued to worsen and dominate local headlines. The lake is the nation’s second largest freshwater lake, but due to years of missteps, it’s been producing massive amounts of toxic algae that have closed beaches, destroyed businesses and poisoned swimmers.
The Weather Channel’s digital team, led by correspondent Kait Parker, takes a closer look at the history of Lake Okeechobee and the future implications of this toxic algae pollution in “Toxic Lake: The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee.”
The project breaks down the many elements of a complicated issue. “Toxic Lake” is hosted by Weather Channel meteorologist Kait Parker. The article, available at Toxiclake.com, was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Marcus Stern.
“Toxic Lake” is the latest endeavor by The Weather Channel to explore the intersection of weather, the environment and social justice.
Over the past three years, the Weather Channel digital team has garnered nearly 50 awards for its reporting, including an Emmy Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) medal, a George Polk Award and Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) awards.
See more of our long-form journalistic work at films.weather.com.
Correspondent: Kait Parker
Produced and Directed by Spencer Wilking
Executive Producers: Greg Gilderman, Shawn Efran, Neil Katz
Producers: Kait Parker, Marc Stern, Craig Wilson
Director of Photographis: Andy Bowley
Editor: Conor Flynn
Finishing Editing: Brandon Kieffer
Assistant Editor: Jake Cummins
Drone Operator: Alex Mandiola
Additional Camera: Spencer Wilking
Graphics: Dorian Orange
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SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX) said on Monday a software “coding error” was responsible for the “vast majority” of the anti-money laundering law breaches it was accused of last week.
The Australian government last Thursday accused the country’s biggest mortgage lender of widespread breaches of money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing rules, alleging the bank failed to report suspicious deposits made at some Automatic Teller Machines.
The bank on Monday said the coding error occurred after a software update was installed on the machines in 2012. “The vast majority of the reporting failures alleged in the statement of claim (approximately 53,000) relate specifically to this coding error,” CommBank said in a statement.
Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Susan Fenton
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