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Subscribe here | Email Alex | Email Matt

With help from Jonathan Lemire, Phelim Kine and Daniel Lippman

For the last few weeks, President JOE BIDEN has been tasked with deciding the immediate futures of two Americans in Russian captivity, with a catch — he can’t free them both.

Biden was convinced it was now or never, and he made the “very painful decision” to solely secure the release of basketball star BRITTNEY GRINER, a senior administration official said. While Biden scored a major diplomatic victory, he again disappointed the family of PAUL WHELAN.

The scramble that ensued between the U.S. and Russia to finalize the remaining details resulted in a movie-like scene unfolding Thursday morning on an Abu Dhabi tarmac. Griner and VIKTOR BOUT, a Russian arms dealer nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” passed each other during a prisoner swap. They made no eye contact as they walked to their respective aircraft.

Since Griner’s detention in February, U.S. negotiators spoke regularly with their Russian counterparts about a grand bargain. Kremlin aides made clear they wanted Bout, the notorious arms dealer in American custody since 2010. In exchange, the Biden administration pushed for the release of Griner and Whelan, a former Marine who Russia has held since 2018 on unproven charges of espionage.

Discussions spanned the globe. MOHAMMED BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN, the leader of the United Arab Emirates, spoke with Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN about the hostage swap during a meeting in October. CIA Director WILLIAM BURNS spoke with his Russian counterpart about striking a deal. And the Saudi government also counseled Moscow against holding foreign prisoners.

Still, Russia rejected the U.S. proposal and came back in the last few weeks with a final answer: It was Griner for Bout, and only Griner for Bout.

Biden’s team briefed the president on the situation, presenting him with potential next-step options. He decided “to provide the clemency necessary to get this done and, indeed, to get it done,” the senior administration official said.

Griner is expected to arrive in San Antonio within the next 24 hours.

Read Alex’s full story with JONATHAN LEMIRE.

The Inbox

CONSIDERING NUKES: KURT CAMPBELL, the National Security Council's Indo-Pacific coordinator, warned today that China’s rapid expansion is prompting U.S. allies in the region to consider the development of nuclear weapons capability to counter that threat, our own PHELIM KINE reports.

“Many countries in Asia who have the potential to build nuclear weapons have chosen not to and have instead relied on the strength and predictability of the American extended deterrence… that is being challenged now,” Campbell said at an Aspen Institute event in Washington, D.C. The Pentagon warned last week that Beijing is aiming to expand its current stockpile of 400 nuclear warheads to around 1,500 by 2035.

Campbell said current non-nuclear armed states in Asia see China’s pursuit of “one of, if not the most fundamental upgrades in military capabilities in history,” as a reason to consider building their own nuclear deterrents, alongside North Korean saber rattling and Russia's nuclear threats against Ukraine.

Campbell offered a hopeful assessment of short-to-medium term U.S.-China relations despite challenges including Beijing’s worsening military intimidation of Taiwan. “The last thing that the Chinese need right now is an openly hostile relationship with the United States,” Campbell said. “They want a degree of predictability and stability. And we seek that as well.”

RUSSIAN TROOPS STRIKE UKRAINE, MOVE ON VILLAGES: Russian troops conducted deadly air and ground attacks on several settlements in eastern Ukraine, Reuters’ VLADYSLAV SMILIANETS reports.

The offensive killed nine civilians in the city of Bakhmut and other parts of the Donetsk region, while Ukrainian troops fired missiles in return, the regional governor said. In a nearby area, Russian forces moved to take a village near the city of Lysychansk.

"They are bringing in more and more reserves” in an attempt to capture Bilohorivka, Luhansk governor SERHIY HAIDAY said on Ukrainian television. "There are constant attacks."

The same day, Russian officials said its troops had shot down a Ukrainian drone over the Russian-occupied city of Sevastopol, suggesting that Ukraine is continuing its air attacks on its adversary following multiple strikes this week.

RED CARPET FOR XI: Saudi Crown Prince MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN met with Chinese President XI JINPING in the Kingdom today as the pair usher in what Beijing’s leader has called “a new era” in relations between the two, Reuters’ AZIZ EL YAAKOUBI and EDUARDO BAPTISTA report.

During their meeting, Xi and bin Salman strengthened ties with a series of strategic deals, including one with tech giant Huawei, whose expansion into the Gulf region has alarmed U.S. security officials. King SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL SAUD also signed a "comprehensive strategic partnership agreement" with the Chinese leader. It was part of the diplomatic charm offensive that our own PHELIM KINElaid out yesterday.

It was a lavish welcome for Xi, who was escorted by members of the Saudi Royal Guard riding Arabian horses and carrying Chinese and Saudi flags to the royal palace in Riyadh. The friendly demonstration coincides with Saudi Arabia cozying up to Russia in latest weeks as OPEC+ cuts oil production worldwide.

A meeting between the two included the crown prince "wishing him, his delegation a pleasant stay" in Saudi Arabia, state media reported. That’s quite different from a fist bump — the royal treatment Biden received from bin Salaman during his visit to the Kingdom in July.

PEACETIME… OR A LONG TIME: Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY predicted “peacetime” for his country next year during an event with European leaders Wednesday night, contrasting with the Kremlin’s comments that the war will be “a long process,” our own NICOLAS CAMUT reports.

Zelenskyy’s remarks came after he was named the most powerful person in Europe during the annual POLITICO 28 ranking gala. During a Human Rights Council meeting earlier in the day, Putin said he expected the war in Ukraine to take much longer, a rare reference to the potential duration of the war from Moscow.

The Kremlin head also warned that the risk of nuclear war was mounting, adding that Russia has “more advanced and modern” nuclear capability than any other country. He then walked back the warning, saying “we aren’t about to run around the world brandishing this weapon like a razor.”

Putin has expressed his willingness to negotiate with the West to end the war, but refuses to concede Ukrainian territory claimed by Russian troops during its invasion, making it unlikely that potential diplomacy will be successful.

OLD DRONES, NEW USE: Drones used to strike two Russian bases hundreds of miles from its border were modified Tu-141 surveillance aircraft left over from the Soviet era, our own ERIN BANCO and PAUL McLEARY reported Wednesday night, citing two people familiar with the operation.

Ukraine has for months requested long-range missiles and drones from its Western allies, but the U.S. and Europe have so far refused to meet those requests over fears they would be used to strike inside Russia. Without additional resources to build up its long-range capabilities, Ukraine may need to continue to rely on the modified drones — and Moscow is now likely attempting to track those.

“The key success factor was a surprise. Russia just did not expect anything of this sort,” said one of the individuals, who works with the Ukrainian government. “Now they will be prepared.”

IT’S THURSDAY: Thanks for tuning in to NatSec Daily. This space is reserved for the top U.S. and foreign officials, the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the experts and the people like you who care about how the natsec sausage gets made. Aim your tips and comments at [email protected] and [email protected], and follow us on Twitter at @alexbward and @mattberg33.

While you’re at it, follow the rest of POLITICO’s national security team: @nahaltoosi, @woodruffbets, @politicoryan, @PhelimKine, @BryanDBender, @laraseligman, @connorobrienNH, @paulmcleary, @leehudson, @AndrewDesiderio, @magmill95, @ericgeller, @johnnysaks130, @ErinBanco and @Lawrence_Ukenye.

Flashpoints

WEAPONS SEIZED IN GERMAN COUP ATTEMPT: Authorities seized weapons found in dozens of properties raided as part of an investigation into the suspected far-right coup attempt on the German government, The Wall Street Journal’s BOJAN PANCEVSKI reports.

Weapons ranged from slingshots to crossbows and rifles, authorities said. Some were legally registered, while others were kept illegally. In Germany, firearm laws require weapon owners to possess permits.

More arrests are expected to be made in connection with the plot, on top of the 25 people arrested Wednesday. Prosecutors believe that members of the terrorist group responsible for the plans subscribed to far-right conspiracy theories such as QAnon and had hired clairvoyants to help formulate the scheme.

Keystrokes

PUNCHING ABOVE ITS WEIGHT: Ukraine has surprised the world with its ability to fend off major cyberattacks from Russia. And one small country — Estonia — has played an outsized role in helping them do so, our own MAGGIE MILLER reports.

The small nation has fought off Russian cyberattacks inside its borders for years. Now, it’s leading many of the efforts to provide cyber threat intelligence, funding and critical international connections to protect Ukraine from Russian hackers.

In interviews during Maggie’s trip to Tallinn, Estonian officials detailed how they aid cybersecurity workers in a besieged Ukraine and coordinate with more powerful allies in Europe and the U.S. in the global effort to defend against Russia’s digital attacks.

It’s a partnership that illustrates a unique aspect of modern cyber warfare — some of the most sustained efforts to protect networks are coming from smaller or less-resourced countries that have been the repeated victims of attacks and have learned the hard way about the need to invest in cyber armies.

The Complex

MAKING EVERYONE HAPPY: Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle received a cloud-computing contract from the Pentagon worth up to $9 billion through 2028, CNBC’s JORDAN NOVET reports.

The contract, which is the outcome of the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, demonstrates the Defense Department's effort to rely on multiple companies providing remotely operated infrastructure technology — a strategy pushed for during the Trump administration.

It’s a surprising win for Oracle, which analysts don’t view as a top company providing cloud-based computing services. The company generated $900 million in cloud infrastructure revenue in the last quarter, compared to Amazon’s $20.5 billion in revenue.

On the Hill

NDAA PASSES WITH FLYING COLORS: The House overwhelmingly passed defense policy legislation on Thursday that would repeal the Pentagon's mandate that troops receive the Covid vaccine or be forced out of the military, our own CONNOR O’BRIEN reports.

The $847 billion National Defense Authorization Act cleared the House in a blowout 350-80 vote and now heads to the Senate, which is expected to send the bill to President Joe Biden for his signature next week.

The compromise defense bill, a product of weeks of talks between congressional leaders, jabs at a number of Biden's military policies. The bill also endorses a $45 billion increase to Biden's request.

The measure crossed the House floor under suspension of the rules, a process to expedite bills that requires a two-thirds majority to pass. Coupled with the $30 billion increase Biden already sought in his budget, national defense spending would surge by roughly $75 billion above last year's level.

TRIO PUSHES CHIPS INTO NDAA: A bipartisan trio of senators today announced that an amendment to ban the U.S. government from doing business with companies that rely on certain Chinese chip makers with ties to China has been included in the NDAA.

Among targets of the amendment, which is spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Texas), Sen. ROGER WICKER (R-Miss.), are a company the Pentagon has designated as a “Chinese military contractor” and another that’s already subjected to U.S. export controls.

The so-called Schumer-Cornyn amendment would eliminate the government’s use of chips manufactured by companies with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, building on the CHIPS and Science Act signed into law earlier this year.

Broadsides

IRAN EXECUTES PROTESTER: Iranian officials said a prisoner convicted of a crime allegedly committed during protests that have roiled the nation was executed, the first public death penalty related to the demonstrations, the Associated Press’ JON GAMBRELL reports.

Iran state media identified the protester executed as MOHSEN SHEKARI, who had been charged with “moharebeh” 一 a Farsi word meaning “waging war against God” 一 for allegedly blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a member of security forces with a machete.

It’s a morbid development for at least a dozen other detainees who also face the death penalty for involvement in the protests, which Tehran has cracked down on after they erupted following the death of 22-year-old MAHSA AMINI at the hands of the country’s morality police in September.

Shekari’s execution shows “the Iranian regime’s contempt for humanity is limitless,” German Foreign Minister ANNALENA BAERBOCK said in a tweet.

Transitions

— LEILA ELMERGAWI has returned to the State Department to be economic policy adviser for global women’s economic security. She most recently served simultaneously as director for international economic affairs (focused on digital economy policy) at the National Security Council and director for strategic workforce planning for the office of the NSC chief of staff.

— GABRIELLE FONG is now senior associate at early-stage investment firm First In. She most recently was an intelligence officer at U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. Navy Space Command.

PETER BENZONI is joining the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy as an investigative data and research analyst. He most recently was a data analyst with Atlas Public Policy.

What to Read

— BENJAMIN FRIEDMAN, Defense Priorities: Don’t Fear Vacuums: It’s Safe To Go Home

— MINNA ÅLANDER and WILLIAM ALBERQUE, War on the Rocks: NATO’s Nordic Enlargement: Contingency Planning and Lesson Learning

— TIM GOLDEN, The New York Times: The Cienfuegos Affair: Inside the Case that Upended the Drug War in Mexico

Tomorrow Today

— Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 9 a.m.: The Future of Korean Competitiveness

Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot me an email at [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.

Thanks to our editor, Heidi Vogt, who would include Matt in a deal with Russia, but not Alex.

And we thank our producer, Kierra Frazier, who would save them both.

Thu, 08 Dec 2022 05:59:00 -0600 en text/html https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2022/12/08/inside-bidens-decision-to-bring-brittney-griner-home-now-00073020
Killexams : Carbon removal is coming. Can it bring jobs and climate action?

This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy and the environment. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here. 

ROCK SPRINGS—In early fall, residents of this desolate corner of southwestern Wyoming opened their mailboxes to find a glossy flyer. On the front, a truck barreled down a four-lane desert highway with a solar farm on one side and what looked like rows of shipping containers on the other. On the back was an invitation.

“CarbonCapture Inc. is launching Project Bison,” it read, announcing a “direct air capture facility” set to begin operations here next year. “Join us at our town hall event to learn more.”

Few had heard about the proposal before receiving the flyer, let alone had any idea what a direct air capture facility was. So the following week, about 150 people packed into a large classroom at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs to find out.

“We are a company that takes CO2 out of the air and stores it underground,” said Patricia Loria, CarbonCapture’s vice president of business development, in opening the meeting.

Loria described a plan to deploy a series of units — the shipping container-like boxes pictured on the flyer — that would filter carbon dioxide from the air and then compress the greenhouse gas for injection underground, where it would remain permanently.

As carbon dioxide levels continue to climb, scientists, entrepreneurs and governments are increasingly determining that cutting emissions is no longer enough. In addition, they say, people will need to pull the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere, and an emerging field of carbon removal, also called carbon dioxide removal or CDR, is attempting to do just that. 

There are companies like Loria’s looking to use machines and others trying to accelerate natural carbon cycles by altering the chemistry of seawater, for example, or mixing crushed minerals into agricultural soils. These efforts remain wildly speculative and have removed hardly any of the greenhouse gas so far.

Some environmental advocates warn that carbon removal will be too expensive or too difficult and is a dangerous diversion of money and attention from the more urgent task of eliminating fossil fuels. Perhaps more troubling, they say, the various approaches could carry profound environmental impacts of their own, disrupting fragile ocean ecosystems or swallowing vast swaths of agricultural fields and open lands for the energy production needed to power the operations.

Yet even as those potential impacts remain poorly understood, the Biden administration is making a multi-billion dollar bet on carbon removal. The administration’s long-term climate strategy assumes that such approaches will account for 6%-8% of the nation’s greenhouse gas reductions by 2050, equal to hundreds of millions of tons per year, and it has pushed through a series of laws to subsidize the technology.

The first investments will come from the Energy Department, which is expected to open applications within weeks for $3.5 billion in federal grants to help build “direct air capture hubs” around the country, with a particular focus on fossil fuel-dependent communities like Rock Springs — where mineral extraction is by far the largest private employer. The goal is to pair climate action with job creation.

The money has prompted a rush of carbon-removal-focused companies to fossil fuel communities, from Rock Springs to West Texas to California’s San Joaquin Valley, seeding hope from supporters that a concept long relegated to pilot plants and academic literature is on the cusp of arriving as an industry.

As Loria made her pitch, Lou Ann Varley was listening intently. Varley sits on a local labor union council and spent a 37-year career working at the Jim Bridger coal plant outside town before retiring in 2020. She knows that young workers starting at the plant today won’t be able to match her longevity there, with its four units slated to close over the next 15 years, and hoped Project Bison might offer some of them a new opportunity.

Others weren’t having it. Throughout the presentation, residents listened quietly, sitting in pairs at folding tables in the classroom. Some munched on sandwiches and cookies the company had provided. Others leaned back, arms crossed. But when it came time for questions, they launched a volley of concerns about the potential risks and unknowns.

Who was going to pay for this? Would it use hazardous chemicals? What about earthquakes from the underground injections of carbon dioxide? What would happen if the company went bankrupt, and who would be liable in the event of an accident? Wyomingites are deeply protective of their open landscapes, and many wondered about the impacts of all of the renewable energy that would be required for power.

Direct air capture machines consume tremendous amounts of energy. Project Bison, according to CarbonCapture’s figures, could eventually require anywhere from 5 to 15 terawatts of power per year, equal to 30%-90% of Wyoming’s current electricity consumption, depending on whether the company can increase its efficiency.

Laura Pearson, a sheep rancher who wore heavy work clothes, was sitting in the back row that night feeling deeply skeptical of the entire premise. Pearson’s family has worked the same land for generations, and she sees the wind farms and solar panels that have started covering parts of her state as a threat to its open range.

“If you don’t think those affect wildlife and livestock grazing and everything else in this state,” she told Loria from across the room, “you’re crazy.”

Loria said the company was working with wildlife scientists and officials to minimize impacts, but Pearson was unswayed.

“I love Wyoming and I don’t want to see it change,” Pearson said after the meeting ended. She said she doubted the company’s intentions, didn’t think carbon dioxide posed such a threat to the planet and didn’t like seeing out-of-state interests, whose demands for cleaner energy have sent Wyoming’s coal sector into decline and are threatening to do the same for its oil and gas, coming to peddle something new. “It’s all about the money,” she said. 

Storied coal history

Rock Springs was built on coal. In 1850, an Army expedition found coal seams cropping out of the valley bluffs. Less than 20 years later the Union Pacific Railroad routed the nation’s first transcontinental line through here so its locomotives could refuel as they crossed the Rockies. The mines soon snaked right under the center of town, where the outlaw Butch Cassidy earned his nickname while working at a butcher shop.

Rock Springs was built around the coal mines that snake under the town. As coal mining has declined, the region has looked for new economic development and is now considering a direct air capture plant that would pull carbon dioxide out of the sky. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News) © Provided by WyoFile Rock Springs was built around the coal mines that snake under the town. As coal mining has declined, the region has looked for new economic development and is now considering a direct air capture plant that would pull carbon dioxide out of the sky. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News)

The rail line still bisects the town, although the old station has been converted into the Coal Train Coffee Depot cafe. A large sign arcs above the tracks outside: “Home of Rock Springs Coal, Welcome.” A stone monument next to the depot lists everyone who died in the mines each year, coming by the dozen in the early 1900s, with names like Fogliatti, Mihajlovic and Papas reflecting all the countries from which men flocked to find work.

Varley started at Jim Bridger, one of the country’s largest coal plants, in 1983 after getting laid off from mining trona. All but one of the eight largest private employers in Sweetwater County either mine or use the minerals and fossil fuels that underlie this part of Wyoming. As oil, gas and coal operations have shed jobs in latest years, the trona mines have absorbed many of the losses.

Varley began as a laborer, sweeping and shoveling coal or ash, before working her way up through operations and maintenance. Eventually, she helped operate the computer systems that ran the plant. “I loved the job,” she said.

Two years after retiring, Varley still refers to Bridger as “my plant.”

Until recently, her plant was facing the forced shutdown of some of its units for failing to meet federal pollution rules set by the Environmental Protection Agency. But in February, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon struck a deal to forestall any retirements by converting two of Bridger’s four units to burn natural gas instead. Still, all of its units are expected to close within 15 years.

Wyoming produces about 40% of the nation’s coal, so the fuel’s plummeting share in the nation’s electricity — from half in 2005 to about 20% this year — has brought acute anxiety to towns like Rock Springs.

“It makes it kind of tough when you know that they’re talking towards phasing out coal,” Varley said. Many people who work at the plant, which employs more than 300, get angry about the prospect, she said. “Especially some of the younger ones, because they hired on believing like me that they would be able to retire from that facility.”

Wyoming officials have spent years trying everything to promote carbon capture technology, which removes carbon dioxide from power plant or industrial emissions, in the hope it could save coal. The state university has mapped its geology for places to store CO2. Regulators won federal approval to oversee the underground injection of carbon dioxide, one of only two states to do so, along with North Dakota. (The EPA oversees the practice everywhere else.) In 2020, Wyoming lawmakers passed a law that tried to force utilities to install carbon capture equipment at their coal plants.

These efforts have not yielded a single commercial carbon capture operation at a power plant, but they do seem to have attracted CarbonCapture Inc., to the delight of state economic development officials.

A California-based start-up, CarbonCapture said it has secured enough private investment to begin work next year on the Wyoming plant, although it still needs to receive state and local permits. Rather than attaching to a coal plant, this project would pull carbon dioxide out of ambient air by passing it through giant fans fitted with a chemical sorbent, which traps the CO2. The sorbent is then heated to release the gas for compression before being reused.

Project Bison would initially capture 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, but the company said it plans to expand to reach a capacity of 5 million metric tons by 2030. That higher figure would be orders of magnitude above what any company has achieved so far, yet roughly equal to the emissions of one coal power plant, or less than 0.1% of total U.S. emissions of nearly 6 billion metric tons in 2020. 

The operations would be financed by selling carbon credits to corporations seeking to offset their own emissions. The company said it has already sold credits at $800 per ton to Cloverly, a carbon-offset marketer, and to CO2.com, a new carbon offset venture of TIME, the magazine owned by the billionaire Marc Benioff.

Varley had gone into the town hall meeting feeling optimistic that the project could potentially provide high-quality jobs while also helping the environment. While she wants the coal plant to continue operating for as long as possible, she knows its days are numbered, and when it closes, it could take more than 300 jobs with it.

Southwest Wyoming is hard country to live in: Varley has spent her entire life here and said “it grows on you like a fungus.” The state has the highest suicide rate in the country, and the decline of fossil fuels, it feels to many, will only make life harder.

“People are looking for ways to maintain our ability to live here,” Varley said.

Carbon-removal dreams

The summer of 2022 was yet another season of climate extremes. Drought and severe heat covered large parts of China, Europe, Africa and North America. In Pakistan, heavy rains submerged up to one-third of the country, killing more than 1,000, destroying crops and spreading vector-borne diseases like dengue fever.

These disasters have driven many people toward desperate acts of civil disobedience. They’ve also pushed many to conclude that carbon removal technologies, however unlikely their deployment, will now be necessary to avoid the worst impacts of warming.

When the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on how to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, it determined that at least some degree of carbon removal was needed but that the amount could vary drastically, depending on how quickly fossil fuel consumption declined. 

“It’s critical to have this tool,” said Jennifer Wilcox, the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management at the Department of Energy, “and we need to have it on the order of gigatons,” or billions of tons.

The last year has brought an explosion of funding to try to make that happen. In addition to the $3.5 billion that Congress allocated to the Energy Department for direct air capture hubs, lawmakers earmarked another $1 billion for research and development this year and, as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, more than tripled the value of a federal tax credit for direct air capture.

© Provided by WyoFile

United Airlines, Airbus, Microsoft, Alphabet, Meta, Stripe and other corporations have collectively pledged billions more. The billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has funded a $100 million prize for carbon removal startups. The field is also one of the fastest growing areas of climate philanthropy.

So far, however, hardly any carbon dioxide has been pulled from the atmosphere. The largest direct air capture plant in operation, opened by a company called Climeworks in Iceland, pulls in about 4,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. By contrast, the Jim Bridger plant outside Rock Springs spewed out 10.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021 alone.

Skeptics have noted how far carbon removal is from making a dent in global emissions. Supporters, however, argue that the rates of growth the industry must achieve to make a difference, while high, are comparable to what solar energy generation has seen since the 1990s.

The rush of funding and attention has prompted a new set of questions about carbon removal technologies. The concerns of many skeptics have moved beyond whether carbon removal can possibly work, to wondering what it would look like if it somehow did. 

Displacing pronghorn

Pearson’s route to town takes her past Wyoming’s first utility-scale solar farm, which was built in 2018. The 700-acre site was cleared of vegetation before the panels were installed and surrounded with a chain-link fence. Now it marks a shiny, incongruous break in the high desert, though it is hardly the only disturbance around, with trona mines in each direction.

The sight of it was bad enough for Pearson and other residents, but soon after the project’s completion, residents noticed herds of pronghorn tramping onto the highway. The area that the solar farm had enclosed, it turned out, had been used by resident pronghorn, and the fences shut them out. The companies behind the project sponsored a study, published last spring in a scientific journal, that determined the animals lost nearly a square mile of high-use habitat, about 10% of their core range. Today, the pronghorn’s trails and droppings line the perimeter of the fence that locked the animals out of lands they once called home.

CarbonCapture plans to build its new facility about 20 miles west of the solar farm, a rough and barren landscape of greasewood and sagebrush, and it could eventually need much more solar development to run its operations.

The company has said it will try to minimize the impacts, by choosing lands already disturbed by oil development, for example. But some will be unavoidable. State maps show that the sage grouse has core habitats surrounding the area where the plant would be built. Closer to the site, cattle roam on rangeland that is dotted with oil wells and a creek trickles south on its way to the Green River, a tributary of the Colorado.

A carbon dioxide pipeline runs from an ExxonMobil gas processing plant under Wyoming’s first utility-scale solar farm. The state has tried to attract carbon capture operations to help its ailing coal industry, as well as renewable energy development. The solar farm upset many locals after it displaced wildlife. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News) © Provided by WyoFile A carbon dioxide pipeline runs from an ExxonMobil gas processing plant under Wyoming’s first utility-scale solar farm. The state has tried to attract carbon capture operations to help its ailing coal industry, as well as renewable energy development. The solar farm upset many locals after it displaced wildlife. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News)

CarbonCapture said it would initially use natural gas to power its operations while capturing the resulting carbon dioxide emissions, but aims to eventually rely on renewable energy. At full scale, that would require 1,000 acres to house the energy supply, and 100 acres more for the project itself.

The World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, has estimated that if direct air capture technology reaches the scale envisioned by the Biden administration, about 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year by mid-century, the industry would consume more than 4% of the nation’s current total energy supply. If all that energy were generated by wind and solar power, that could mean covering an area equal to a small state with turbines and panels.

The prospect alarms Pearson, who said her family has been offered money to allow solar panels on their land, but that they declined. “We would have been set for life, and we said no way. Because we knew what it would do to the wildlife, to our way of life, to Wyoming’s way of life.”

Adrian Corless, CarbonCapture’s chief executive, said because the project will connect to the electric grid, the new renewable energy development could be located in other parts of the state, or even out of state.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to find the right situations for land use that are aligned with community expectations and needs,” Corless said.

Justin Loyka, energy program manager in the Wyoming office of the Nature Conservancy, said CarbonCapture asked his organization for help in reducing its impacts, and there were opportunities to do so. But he added that as renewable energy development spreads, some impacts are inevitable.

“The vast majority of Wyoming is some of the most intact ecosystem in the lower 48,” Loyka said. “Wyoming has these wildlife migration corridors that are hundreds of miles long, and that really doesn’t exist in many other places.” 

Even Varley, who supports the project and views climate change as a concern, is resistant to the new renewable energy development it would bring.

“Smug people in Teslas tell me about how bad my power plant is — and where does that power come from?” she said, referring to the visitors’ cars. 

“People in California don’t know the difference between a green electron and a black electron,” Varley said, adding: “They want us to fix their problem.”

A just transition?

Last month, the University of Wyoming announced it was “considering applying” for funding under the Energy Department’s direct air capture hub program, along with the state economic development and energy agencies, and put out an appeal to companies, local governments or others interested in partnering. Corless said CarbonCapture would likely take part in that application.

The Energy Department has said that when it selects funding targets, it “intends to use this program to support the creation of good-paying jobs with the free and fair choice to join a union, the incorporation of strong labor standards and high-road workforce development.” At least two of four hubs must be in “economically distressed” parts of the country with “high levels of coal, oil or natural gas resources.”

The Jim Bridger coal plant, one of the nation’s largest, has faced forced retirement and is slated for closure within 15 years. The impending loss of jobs has brought anxiety to the coal-reliant community of Rock Springs. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News) © Provided by WyoFile The Jim Bridger coal plant, one of the nation’s largest, has faced forced retirement and is slated for closure within 15 years. The impending loss of jobs has brought anxiety to the coal-reliant community of Rock Springs. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News)

CarbonCapture has said its project, at full scale, would create at least 200 jobs, which would be significant but not enough to make up for the more than 300 now employed at the Jim Bridger coal plant. The first phase would entail more like 20 full-time positions, Corless said, though he added it would create far more construction jobs that could last for years.

Some local leaders will take what they can get.

“We talk about how our youth are our top export,” said Devon Brubaker, who runs a regional airport in Rock Springs and also sits on the county’s economic development coalition.

Demand for Wyoming’s fossil fuels is declining, Brubaker said, so people in the state need to be open to new ideas, even when they clash with their conservative political leanings. “If people are willing to pay for carbon credits,” he said, “why should we stand in the way?”

Stressing the land, wildlife

Perched above the Green River, about halfway between Rock Springs and the stretch of oil and gas wells where CarbonCapture plans to build its plant, Michele Irwin keeps a small herd of bison in a pen ringed by an electrified fence.

Irwin and her husband started raising the bison for meat for their family and to help supply animals to herds introduced on public lands around the region. But their real motivation was a love for the animals that they see as central to the region’s character and ecosystems, and a dream that one day the bison might roam free once again.

Irwin is the southwest organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a Wyoming environmental nonprofit, and when she learned about CarbonCapture’s plans, she was somewhat miffed by the “Project Bison” name.

Michele Irwin looks out over the pen where she raises a small herd of bison near Green River. Irwin wants the state to take a more holistic approach to economic development that looks beyond the energy sector. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News) © Provided by WyoFile Michele Irwin looks out over the pen where she raises a small herd of bison near Green River. Irwin wants the state to take a more holistic approach to economic development that looks beyond the energy sector. (Nicholas Kusnetz/Inside Climate News)

“You talk about this thing, about purchasing carbon credits. Well, you know, there you go,” she said, pointing to her animals as the sun set, casting a sharp yellow hue across their matted fur. The bisons’ breaths roared through their nostrils, like monstrous billows.

Bison were once a keystone species in ecosystems across the West. They grazed on native plants like sagebrush that cattle avoid. Their stampedes turned the soil and helped seeds germinate. The wallows became ephemeral pools after scarce rains, little watering holes.

Some academic research has suggested that restoring grassland ecosystems could help the land sequester far more carbon dioxide than it does today, like a massive natural carbon removal helping to pull back what humans have released.

Perhaps the most fundamental critique of novel and technological approaches to carbon removal is that they miss the point. Climate change might be the largest environmental threat people face, but it is merely one facet of the larger exploitative pressures that humans have exerted on the planet. Mass extinctions, widespread chemical and plastic pollution and the wholesale replacement of wild species with domestic livestock have all tipped Earth toward a less hospitable state.

Through this lens of ecological collapse, the idea that we would further stress the air, water and land that surrounds us by altering ocean chemistry or building a new power-hungry industry seems wrongheaded to many.

Supporters of carbon removal say it should be pursued not as a replacement for emissions cuts but as insurance for when those reductions fall short. They argue that it is unrealistic to think that climate emissions from agriculture, cement manufacturing, aviation and other hard-to-abate sectors can be eliminated within 30 years while the global population swells toward 10 billion.

Failing to pursue carbon removal now, said Danny Cullenward, policy director at CarbonPlan, a nonprofit that seeks to Excellerate the transparency of carbon offsets and carbon removal, would be like failing to pursue solar power 25 years ago when it was nascent and prohibitively expensive.

Irwin said she’s keeping an open mind about Project Bison and whether it might be part of a larger set of solutions. But she’d rather see Wyoming try a more holistic approach to preparing for a world of declining fossil fuel investment.

“If we keep on doing economic development from this perspective of, ‘Oh, here’s a project, great, let’s sign up for that one. Oh, here’s a project. Oh, let’s sign up for that one,’” she said, “by the time you get all the permits together, and I’m all done, it’s like… There’ll be no putting it back together.”

The post Carbon removal is coming. Can it bring jobs and climate action? appeared first on WyoFile.

Tue, 06 Dec 2022 01:13:50 -0600 en-US text/html https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/carbon-removal-is-coming-can-it-bring-jobs-and-climate-action/ar-AA14XDSB
Killexams : In-house legal work: best practice case studies

The four sets of case studies showcased here feature examples of the most innovative work undertaken by in-house teams for their businesses.

For an overview of how in-house lawyers are seeking visibility and executive influence, read more here.

The case studies were researched, compiled and ranked by RSGI. “Winner” indicates that the organisation won an FT Innovative Lawyers North America award for 2022.


Operations and people management

WINNER: American Red Cross
Originality: 8; Leadership: 8; Impact: 8; Total: 24

Rather than spend $1.4mn a year on outside counsel to handle the administration of donations to the charity, via bequests or in trusts, the legal team built a platform for managing the documentation and workflows in-house. This has led to 60 per cent savings on legal fees for the work. The platform includes a dashboard that enables the team to visualise data on where the donations come from — which it can share with the charity to guide fundraising strategies.

Standout

Marsh McLennan
O: 7; L: 8; I: 8; Total:
23
The team at the insurance group has created a legal innovation and technology unit run by chief legal innovation counsel. Its principles are that innovations should save time and money, Excellerate quality, reduce risk and even be enjoyable. The team has focused on modernising the department’s operations by working with the company’s IT department to develop tools. It has introduced robotic process automation in areas such as e-discovery and sanctions monitoring and rolled out an artificial intelligence review tool for contract analysis.

VMware
O: 8; L: 8; I: 7 Total: 23

The legal team at the US cloud software company has improved the privacy review process to ensure risks are properly addressed before releasing products or features. The team has refined questions to elicit more specific answers and created a single form using so-called conditional logic order techniques. Review time has been halved. The team has also created 15-minute training sessions on subjects relating to privacy risks. Other areas of the business now handle more privacy-related queries for themselves.

Tyson Foods
O: 7; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 22

The legal team at the US meat provider has implemented a programme to measure and analyse the value of legal work, producing detailed metrics for each matter and practice area, whether completed by a law firm or in-house. These metrics have helped to save money and identify inefficiencies, as well as showing the value that in-house lawyers deliver.

Commended

Liberty Mutual
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21

The insurance company’s legal department is aiming to unify practice areas and encourage greater collaboration and agility in problem solving. Initiatives include short assignments for lawyers to work between practice areas, monthly forums, and training programmes on subjects such as blockchain and leadership.

Robinhood
O: 7; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 20

Since the fast-growing US financial services business set up a legal operations unit in 2020, Tami Davis has led the digitisation of managing outside counsel and consolidated contract management processes. The result is better oversight of workflows and legal spend. The legal ops team has standardised the legal department’s approach to making public disclosures and helped with the launch of Robinhood’s policy website.

Jones Lang LaSalle
O: 6; L: 7; I: 5; Total: 18

The leadership team at the property consultancy launched training programmes through a central platform to build cohesion within the newly centralised global legal department. Subjects included environmental, social and governance standards and digital transformation.


Commercial and strategic advice

WINNER: Canadian Pacific
Originality: 8; Leadership: 8; Impact: 7; Total: 23

The railway company’s legal team helped in its bid for Kansas City Southern. The purchase of the railroad operator will enable Canadian Pacific to launch the first rail network spanning Canada, the US and Mexico. The lawyers’ strategy was to avoid a bidding war with other companies and instead focus on arguing that they were most likely to achieve regulatory approval.

Standout

Hewlett Packard Enterprise
O: 7; L: 9; I: 6; Total: 22

The US tech company’s legal team initially adopted virtual reality headsets for its own use as a way for staff to communicate with each other. It has expanded this idea by working with the business to develop a new virtual “workplace as a service” (WaaS), providing the hardware and software support needed for businesses to use virtual reality technology.

Tyson Foods
O: 9; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 22

When Tyson Foods’ executives imposed a Covid vaccine mandate on staff, its legal team worked on a policy to accommodate exemptions on religious and medical grounds — but also to take on any lawsuits challenging its demands, the first of which followed in October 2021. The company has succeeded so far in fending off challenges to the policy, which is no longer in force.

Commended

General Motors
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21

Carmaker General Motors launched its BrightDrop subsidiary in 2021 to supply electric home delivery vehicles. The BrightDrop legal team worked with their business partners on adapting the product for a commercial audience.

PepsiCo
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21

The legal team helped manage the rapid growth of PepsiCo’s new alcohol distribution division, Blue Cloud Distribution. The team tackled varying state laws to secure 11 operating licences in its first year.


Sustainability and responsible business

WINNER: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Originality: 8; Leadership: 7; Impact: 9; Total: 24

The intellectual property team collaborated with peers at leading tech companies, such as Microsoft and Meta, to establish the Low Carbon Patent Pledge. Companies that sign up commit to sharing free access to technologies that can be used in generating and storing renewable energy.

Standout

Generate Capital
O: 8; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 23

Since the green infrastructure investment firm became a public benefit corporation in 2021, the legal team has overseen the transition to ensure the business is answering to all stakeholders — to which it now has a fiduciary duty alongside its shareholders. This involves helping to identify stakeholders in the company’s investments, developing community engagement plans, and collecting data for reports.

General Motors
O: 7; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 22

The legal team has helped the carmaker devise a proactive approach to managing its environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. The team ran an evaluation for the board to assess whether its members had the necessary expertise in these areas and helped it update its committee charters to include relevant considerations. It set up a cross-disciplinary ESG disclosure committee from across the company.

Honeywell
O: 7; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 22

The industrial group’s legal team introduced initiatives to ensure that diverse candidates are considered for job vacancies, and provide training in unconscious bias and empathetic leadership. These have been applied across the business. In addition, the team has ensured there is accountability for the company’s sustainability commitments, by assigning specific ESG responsibilities to board committees.

Target
O: 7; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 22
When diversity goals for outside counsel failed to deliver substantive improvements, members of the legal team at the US retailer switched to working collaboratively with legal service providers to review their diversity issues and identify ways they could help.

Commended

Cognizant
O: 6; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 19

The IT consulting group’s legal team took a leading role in redesigning the business’s proxy statement outlining items to be voted on at shareholders’ meetings, making the document more accessible and transparent.

Marsh McLennan
O: 6; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 19

The insurance group’s legal team established a committee, including representatives from the management team, that oversees ESG reporting and the sustainability director’s efforts. The ESG team meets regularly with managers to assess progress towards net zero.


Use of tech and data

WINNER: Salesforce
Originality: 8; Leadership: 8; Impact: 8; Total: 24

The legal team now uses the software company’s own Service Cloud platform to manage workflow more efficiently, saving the company 20 per cent in legal costs a year. In addition, the system links up with other teams, such as product management or engineering — allowing them to seek support and notifying them automatically when project stages require legal review. The company’s messaging app, Slack, bought in 2021, has also been integrated into the workflow tool.

Standout

Intel
O: 7; L: 8; I: 8; Total: 23
The legal department’s data analytics team has worked on more than 15 projects in the past two years that assess how staff handle information. They include a tool for anti-corruption compliance that uses data from previously separate sources across the business to examine compliance risk.

Equitable Holdings
O: 7; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 22
The financial services group’s legal operations team has taken a multipronged approach to modernise its digital capabilities, saving thousands of work hours and reducing spending on outside counsel. It has adopted a cloud-based management tool that improves workflow, document handling and data management, including invoicing, which can now be reviewed using artificial intelligence. The team is working through more than 100 processes that it aims to automate with robotics.

Commended

Flex
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21

The legal team at manufacturing group Flex uses an artificial intelligence tool to generate reports identifying potential risks in contracts with customers and suppliers. The average review time has shrunk from eight days to five minutes.

Sprucegrove Investment Management
O: 6; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 19

Chief legal officer Jeremy Gauld has introduced software to evaluate spending on outside investment research. As a result, the company has reduced its roster of external research providers from 35 to 15 and cut costs by $1.5mn a year.

Mon, 05 Dec 2022 15:00:00 -0600 en-GB text/html https://www.ft.com/content/c6e1d7b7-5b75-4ddd-b23b-5d04261ca806
Killexams : WHO officially renames monkeypox under pressure from Biden administration

The World Health Organization, or WHO, will officially begin using the term "mpox" instead of "monkeypox" after the Biden Administration pressured the international organization to change the name because of racial connotations associated with it.

On the international organization’s website, it says both names will be used simultaneously for a year until "monkeypox" is phased out.

Test tubes labeled "Monkeypox virus positive and negative" are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

"When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO," the organization said in a press release. "In several meetings, public and private, a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name."

WHO DECLARES MONKEYPOX STILL A GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY

The WHO is tasked with assigning names to diseases, whether new or existing. Through consultations with experts, countries, and the public, the WHO recommended that mpox be adopted as the new term in English for the disease, will become the preferred term after one year, and that "monkeypox" will remain as a searchable term for historical information.

Last week, the WHO announced it was set to change the name of "monkeypox" to "mpox" after senior Biden officials urged the WHO to make the change. The administration even reportedly threatened to adopt new terminology without the WHO’s approval.

According to the report, the Biden administration believed the name "monkeypox" carries an unnecessary stigma for people of color.

TUSTIN, CA - August 16: Families Together of Orange County held a monkeypox vaccine clinic in Tustin, CA on Tuesday, August 16, 2022. The Jynneos vaccine consists of two doses administered 28 days apart.  ((Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images))

After the WHO’s announcement of the name change on Monday, the Biden Harris Administration announced its support for the change.

WHO TO RENAME ‘MONKEYPOX’ TO ‘MPOX’ AT BIDEN ADMIN'S REQUEST

"We welcome the change by the World Health Organization," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox."

In the same release, the administration said Human monkeypox first got its name in 1970, before the WHO published its best practices when naming diseases in 2015.

The best practices for naming new diseases should "minimize unnecessary negative impact of names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups."

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The monkeypox outbreak is a global health emergency and the WHO has given it the highest level of alert.

The U.S. has seen 29,200 cases of monkeypox within its borders.

Mon, 28 Nov 2022 14:22:00 -0600 Fox News en text/html https://www.foxnews.com/health/who-officially-renames-monkeypox-under-pressure-biden-administration
Killexams : Here are the 42 Biden administration officials House Republicans have put on notice


House Republicans are wasting no time to get their agenda underway as they prepare to take control of the lower chamber, alerting at least 42 officials in the Biden administration that they will be expected to testify in a slew of GOP-led investigations early next year.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have sent letters to White House chief of staff Ron Klain and other top Biden administration officials, requesting testimony from a number of officials. The testimony is expected to be used for the party’s investigations into border security, suspected bias within the FBI and the Department of Justice, and the financial dealings of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

IMPEACH BIDEN? INCOMING GOP HOUSE MAJORITY GRAPPLES WITH HOW TO USE NEW POWER

“The American people elected a new House Republican majority because the past two years of one-party Democrat rule have failed America,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is set to become House speaker in the next Congress. “These actions by the Biden administration deserve oversight and accountability, which Republicans will pursue in the new Congress. … Every congressional committee has an oversight responsibility, and we intend to finally get the answers the American people deserve.”

The House Judiciary Committee sent five letters on Nov. 18 requesting testimony from certain Biden administration officials, including in the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the DOJ, the FBI, and the Department of Education.

Here’s a breakdown of the 42 Biden administration officials who are expected to testify before Republicans next Congress:

White House staff

In a letter to Klain, the group of 19 Republicans led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) requested testimony from four White House staff members in relation to “the Biden Administration’s misuse of federal criminal and counterterrorism resources to target concerned parents at school board meetings.”

The request comes after Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo to law enforcement officials in October 2021 instructing them to address reported threats targeting school board officials, teachers, and school administrators. The memo came in response to a letter from the National School Boards Association a month earlier asking the Biden administration to investigate such threats.

However, the NSBA request has come under scrutiny by House Republicans who say the Executive Office of the President was involved in sending the letter, resulting in “collusion.”

The House Judiciary Committee requests testimony from the following White House officials:

  • Mary C. Wall — Senior adviser of the COVID-19 Response Team
  • Julie C. Rodriguez — Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Katherine Pantangco — Policy adviser for intergovernmental affairs
  • Nezly Silva — Senior policy analyst for intergovernmental affairs

Department of Education

House Republicans have also requested the testimony of three officials inside the Department of Education for its investigation into the Biden administration’s alleged involvement with the NSBA letter. They are:

  • Kimberly Watkins-Foote — Director of the national engagement division
  • Larry Bowden — Senior adviser to the secretary
  • Nicholas Simmons — Special assistant to the Office of the Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

The House Judiciary Committee also seeks the testimony of 11 officials inside the Department of Homeland Security, including from Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The testimony is likely to focus on the flux of immigrants coming into the United States from the southern border, which has significantly increased under the Biden administration. Republicans have previously demanded DHS officials preserve documents pertaining to the border, with some GOP lawmakers reportedly considering impeaching Mayorkas once they take control of the House in January.

The House Judiciary Committee requests testimony from the following DHS officials:

  • Alejandro Mayorkas — Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
  • Ur M. Jaddou — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Tae Johnson — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Kerry E. Doyle — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Blas Nunez-Neto — U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Raul L. Ortiz – Chief of U.S. Border Patrol
  • Jennifer Daskal — Office of the General Counsel
  • Adam Hunter — Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans
  • Jen Easterly — Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
  • Geoff Hale — Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
  • Julia Treanor — Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Department of Justice

In a letter sent to the Department of Justice, House Republicans informed Garland they would be seeking the testimony of 15 officials — the most of any of the departments that received the Nov. 18 notices.

The testimony is likely to be in reference to the department’s handling of its investigations into Donald Trump because Republicans have accused the department of being politically biased against the former president. Republicans’ investigations are expected to home in on the raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, during which the FBI and DOJ obtained several boxes of classified White House documents.

The DOJ is investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice in its inquiry about the Mar-a-Lago document tranche, according to court documents. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

The House Judiciary Committee requests testimony from the following DOJ officials:

  • Merrick B. Garland — Attorney general
  • Lisa Monaco — Deputy attorney general
  • Vanita Gupta — Associate attorney general
  • Kenneth A. Polite Jr. — Assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division
  • Matthew G. Olsen — Assistant attorney general for the National Security Division
  • Kristen Clarke — Assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division
  • Jonathan Kanter — Assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division
  • Brian Boynton — Principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Division
  • Jacqueline C. Romero — U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Mark H. Wildasin — U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee
  • Matthew M. Graves — U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia
  • Mark A. Totten — U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan
  • Susan Hennessey — Senior counsel, National Security Division
  • Margy O’Herron — Office of the Deputy Attorney General
  • David Neal — Executive Office for Immigration Review

FBI

Republicans are also requesting testimony from FBI officials as GOP lawmakers seek to investigate the agency for similar political bias against Trump.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have requested information and documents related to the agency’s conduct for nearly two years but said the FBI has “failed to respond sufficiently,” according to a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Nov. 18.

The House Judiciary Committee requests testimony from the following FBI officials:

  • Christopher A. Wray — FBI director
  • Paul Abbate — FBI Deputy director
  • Timothy Langan — Executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch
  • Jennifer L. Moore — Executive assistant director of the Human Resources Branch
  • Steven M. D’Antuono — Assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office
  • Carlton L. Peeples — Deputy assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division
  • Kevin Vorndran — Deputy assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division
  • Laura Dehmlow — Section chief of the Foreign Influence Task Force
  • Elvis Chan — Special agent with the San Francisco Field Office
Sat, 26 Nov 2022 13:56:00 -0600 en text/html https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/house/biden-administration-officials-house-republicans-put-on-notice
Killexams : Ranjay Gulati: How Deep Purpose Drives Extraordinary Performance

Last week, I met with Ranjay Gulati, professor of business administration, Harvard Business School, to discuss his book Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies (Harper Business, February 2022). The book describes the kind of feeling and passion that I have seen in leaders who have inspired extraordinary performance.

Real leaders, instead of saying, “Well, I think we should give a little bit more emphasis to this dimension, or to that aspect,” in a hyper-intellectual way, put their heart and soul into what they say and do. They communicate the why. The book gets to what is missing in so many management and leadership tracts.

Ranjay Gulati: The book—my seventh—turned out to be my hardest book to write. The subject was outside my comfort zone. I am a left-brain thinker: econ, math, computer science—that’s my world. To do a book on purpose—a loosey-goosey, fuzzy topic—was not straightforward.

Academics aren’t used to bringing our personal story into our research. We're supposed to be dispassionate observers of business or whatever phenomenon we study.

The book also reflected my own growth as an individual. In one sense, the subject of the book was uncomfortable, but it was also exciting to be more open about myself.

Denning: Why is that important?

Gulati: Having clarity of intention just makes life simpler. It forces you to think about legacy and what you will leave behind. When you have clarity of purpose, you're no longer confused about yourself, the choices you're making or the decisions you make. You are not confused about career choices, spouse choices, family choices, or lifestyle choices. You may not have answers to all these questions, but you have a framework to think of the answers.

Denning: What does this mean for organizations?

Gulati: My definition of purpose comes from The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life (Free Press, 2008) by William Damon, a psychologist and a professor at Stanford University. Damon said that purpose is the stable and enduring framework to think about what is meaningful to yourself and of consequence to the world beyond yourself. Deep down, we want to do something that's consequential to the world beyond the self. Whether it is to write, or to educate others, or to build a business.

I remember as a graduate student that we came from the tradition at Harvard Business School that was all about the what and the how. When I started unlocking business potential. I thought I had a great strategy and I began implementing the hell out of that strategy. I never thought about the why.

Denning: What changed your thinking?

Purpose At Microsoft

Gulati: I had several epiphanies. One was interviewing Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO. He said, “Listen, we have a great strategy, an implementation plan to turn around Microsoft. But we needed a purpose.”

And I'm like, “Really? give me a break!”

And he's like, “No. Without a purpose, we couldn't develop a strategy or an implementation plan.”

Purpose At Lego

Then I went to Lego, where Jørgen Vig Knudstorp was leading a turnaround. And he said, “Look, Sanjay. We needed to have a strategy. We needed to have an implementation plan. We had to get out of the random businesses we were in. We were in theme parks and entertainment. But we couldn't sort that out without a purpose.”

I'm like, “Really?”

He says, “We had to go back to first principles. Foundational principles. Why does this enterprise exist?”

And when you ask that question, the strategy question and the implementation problem become easier to solve.

Purpose and Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker's notion of purpose was that every business purpose is to create a customer. This is natural for small companies to understand, but when they grow, they lose that purpose orientation and become less purposeful. And that is a huge scaling problem for many entrepreneurs. They cry, “Oh, we've lost our soul!” And that's the key: purpose is the aspect that they need to understand.

Denning: Yet, it isn’t an accident that they businesses lose sight of deep purpose when Milton Friedman and the Business Roundtable insisted that maximizing shareholder value was sole the purpose of a business.

Gulati: Now you get from “having a purpose” to “what's in your purpose?” The content of the purpose. Let's agree that having a purpose is better than not having a purpose. But right now, the question is: “purpose towards achieving what goal?”

The debate is: “Is the purpose of an enterprise maximizing shareholder value or something broader than shareholder value?” And this is where there's confusion.

So, how do we then create some set of guiding principles for ourselves? That's the selfish aspect. The other aspect is that society today expects more of business. The idea that a business can ignore the externalities of the business on the community is unacceptable anymore. Businesses get a license to operate and if they don't choose to partake in the community, employees and society are rebelling.

Satisfaction, Engagement, and Inspiration

Gulati: We talk about the emotional response that the firm wants to trigger from an employee. For the longest time, we talked about job satisfaction. Satisfaction came when you gave me a decent job. With decent pay, with decent benefits, with a decent work environment. That gave me satisfaction.

We then moved to engagement. Engagement comes when I feel empowered. I'm part of a team and part of a positive work culture. I feel I have a voice, and I have choice. That leads me to feel engaged.

There's a third level which is inspired. How do I make staff feel inspired to come to work. And that's the holy grail of understanding employee connection to the workplace.

Denning: Even getting to engagement is hard. Gallup says that globally, we're stuck at 20% engagement over the last 20 years. So, if we could get people engaged, even that would be a huge step forward.

How To Get Engagement

Gulati: I want to paint the picture for the next phase, even beyond engagement. Engagement comes from two things, giving people voice and choice. I wrote an article on this called “Structures That Don't Stifle.” (HBR, May-June 2018). When you want to give people voice and choice, the reason companies struggle with getting engagement, is they don't know how to delegate the control system, how to empower people.

Denning: If the purpose of a firm is a purpose like making money for the executives, there is no way you can have a lot of delegation and freedom because the employees don't agree with the goal.

Gulati: Exactly.

Denning: When you have a large number of big organizations with that purpose, it's not surprising that engagement in the workplace is generally so low.

Doing Good In The World: The Case Of Etsy

Denning: At the other extreme, is there a risk that aiming at an vast inspiring purpose may have such negative financial effects that it will prevent the firm from doing anything in the world? Can such goals be self-defeating?

Gulati: I hundred percent agree with that. I wrote a case on Etsy, a public company that was making no money, but claimed they were doing good in the world. The investors rebelled. The new CEO said, “We're going to redo this company: we have to make money for shareholders, too.”

The staff response was “What do you mean, make money for shareholders? We're not that kind of company.” The thinking had become so polarized they thought the company existed solely for themselves. They had yoga classes all day long. And fine dining. And there were also hundreds of social impact efforts going nowhere. So it had become a pipe dream, full of great ideas and but not really accomplishing anything.

Reworking capitalism gets to the heart of a firm. Creating a positive work environment is part of it. Deep purpose can help us do that in a way that unlocks value for shareholders, value for customers, value for employees, value for everybody.

And read also:

What Firms Must Learn About Deep Purpose

How Measurement Makes Deep Purpose Work

Fri, 25 Nov 2022 02:19:00 -0600 Steve Denning en text/html https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2022/11/25/ranjay-gulati-how-deep-purpose-drives-extraordinary-performance/
Killexams : Biden administration faces multifront battle on student loans

The Biden administration is pushing forward on multiple fronts in its battle to see through a $500 billion student debt transfer .

Two separate courts have blocked the program, which President Joe Biden attempted to implement without congressional approval on Aug. 24, and the White House is now appealing to the Supreme Court for help while extending the student loans repayment pause for at least another six months.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE'S GUN COMMENTS PROVE BIDEN'S POINT

"As Americans continue to recover from the pandemic, my administration has been working to provide student debt relief to millions of working- and middle-class families across the country," Biden said in a video about the latest pause extension. "But Republican special interests and elected officials sued to deny this relief even from their own constituents. But I'm completely confident my plan is legal."

The federal student loan repayment pause dates to March 2020, when then-President Donald Trump implemented it along with a wave of other COVID-19-related policies. The latest extension is Biden's sixth since taking office and could see the pause last until Aug. 30, three and a half years after its initial implementation.

Biden promised the last pause extension would be the final one. That news came in conjunction with a loan "forgiveness" announcement of up to $20,000 for some borrowers. However, with the forgiveness program looking vulnerable to being struck down in court, the Biden administration is pushing the pause back once again.

On the political side, administration officials have heavily criticized Republicans for the legal setbacks. College-educated voters have emerged as a reliably Democratic bloc in latest elections.

“We’re extending the payment pause because it would be deeply unfair to ask borrowers to pay a debt that they wouldn’t have to pay, were it not for the baseless lawsuits brought by Republican officials and special interests," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said .

However, those lawsuits have been successful in icing the program, and the White House faces long odds in a Supreme Court that has emphasized separation of powers of late.

"Whenever you hear Democrats or even President Biden try to blame conservatives for the failure of their illegal student loan bailout just remember why; they're mad because the Constitution applies to them in the same way it does everyone else," said Elaine Parker, president of the conservative Job Creators Network Foundation. "They're mad because Biden cannot rule the country like a king."

Proponents of student loan forgiveness are still holding out hope that the program will go through as designed.

"The administration has done a good job of laying out its reasoning for using the HEROES Act to implement the president's $10,000/$20,000 debt relief plan and its authority for doing so as well," said Persis Yu, deputy executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center. "The law is on the administration's side."

Criticisms of Biden's forgiveness program tend to focus on its cost, which has been estimated at between $500 billion and $1 trillion by various scorekeepers, and the fact that it only benefits those who attended college at the expense of blue-collar workers. But the pause itself comes with a hefty price tag.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the latest pause extension could cost $40 billion, bringing the grand total for the pause to $195 billion, mostly due to missed payments. The pause costs more than $5 billion per month and also fuels inflation, CRFB argues.

Neal McCluskey, director of Cato's Center for Educational Freedom, said earlier this month that Biden's student debt transfer faced 50-50 odds of being overturned in court. He now says those odds have shifted to perhaps 80-20 in favor of the program being struck down.

“Once the courts determined people had standing to sue, the constitutional and legal case was pretty clear,” he said. “The Biden administration does not have the authority to cancel $400 billion in student debt.”

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If courts strike down the student debt transfer, it's possible lawsuits could then emerge attacking the legality of the pause as well. Both rest on the authority the White House says it has under the HEROES Act of 2003, which was designed with military service members in mind.

Biden is also battling with Congress over his continued extension of the national COVID-19 emergency, which grants him expanded powers. So long as the emergency powers remain in effect, the White House may continue working to keep the repayment pause in effect.

"There's been a general belief that the HEROES Act does allow a president to freeze repayment so long as there's still a national emergency," said McCluskey. "As long as the federal government keeps saying we're in a period of national emergency, he'd technically have the ability to continue these waivers."

Mon, 28 Nov 2022 23:40:00 -0600 en text/html https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/restoring-america/fairness-justice/biden-administration-faces-multifront-battle-student-loans
Killexams : Biden Administration Quietly Approves Huge Oil Export Project Despite Climate Rhetoric

The Biden administration has approved plans to build the nation’s largest oil export terminal off the Gulf Coast of Texas, which would add 2 million barrels per day to the U.S. oil export capacity. 

The approval by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration was filed in the federal register on Monday without any public announcement, a day after the United Nation’s annual climate conference wrapped up in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit, spotted the filing and publicized approval of the Sea Port Oil Terminal on Tuesday.

“President Biden cannot lead on combating climate change, protecting public health or advocating for environmental justice while simultaneously allowing fossil fuel companies to lock-in decades of fossil fuel extraction,” said the group’s senior policy advocate, Kelsey Crane.

In its 94-page decision, the Maritime Administration wrote: “The construction and operation of the Port is in the national interest because the Project will benefit employment, economic growth, and U.S. energy infrastructure resilience and security. The Port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to U.S. allies in the event of market disruption.”

The administration’s move marked a major step forward for the export sector, which has grown rapidly since the U.S. began to allow crude sales abroad in 2015, the same year that the U.S. helped broker the Paris climate accord that called for dramatic reductions in global fossil fuel emissions. 

Oil Exporters Plan Deepwater Ports

The offshore oil export terminal, the first to be approved of four proposed along Texas’ Gulf Coast, will enable continued growth in U.S. shale oil production and in global consumption, dealing a substantial setback to the White House’s goals for drastic cuts in carbon emissions by year 2030. 

“President Biden has renewed United States leadership in the fight against climate change,” the White House said ahead of the U.N. climate conference in Egypt this month. “The President is delivering on his Day One promises, positioning the United States to achieve our ambitious climate goals.” 

In July, the Maritime Administration’s 890-page impact statement said oil processed at the Sea Port Oil Terminal would create greenhouse gas emissions equal to 233 million tons of carbon dioxide per year (about 4 percent of total 2020 U.S. emissions). 

Approval of the Sea Port Oil Terminal, off the coast of Freeport, about 50 miles south of Galveston, gave its corporate developers—Enterprise and Enbridge—a clear lead in the race to build the first new offshore export terminal in the Gulf. It was the agency’s first endorsement and followed a three-year review process.

According to James Coleman, who teaches energy law at Southern Methodist University in Texas, the export terminal’s approval represents the “hands-off” approach the Biden administration has adopted toward oil infrastructure projects since winning the White House on promises to block pipeline expansions

“They keep asking the oil industry to expand its production and build more refineries. And yet they are saying we need to phase out fossil fuels,” Coleman said. “What they’ve said seems contradictory.”

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The Environmental Protection Agency issued its approval of  the project last month—also without a public announcement—prompting Gulf Coast activists to stage a protest in Washington, D.C. that ended in four arrests last week.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Melanie Oldham, founder of Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water in Brazoria County, where the project is proposed. “[Transportation] Secretary Pete Buttigieg and President Biden have chosen not to be climate change leaders.”

The EPA has not responded to repeated requests for comment. While its Oct. 7 endorsement of the new terminal outlined concerns over climate change and environmental justice, it did not explain why the agency opted to approve the project. 

“Last week, they were in Egypt telling the world that now is the time for climate action. This week, they’re locking us into a climate-wrecking monstrosity for at least a generation,” said Jeffrey Jacoby, deputy director of Texas Campaign for the Environment.    

According to the Maritime Administration, the project will expand a Houston-area terminal operated by Enterprise and connect it to a new 140-acre onshore facility near Freeport with 4.8 million barrels of storage capacity. From there, two 36-inch underwater pipelines will run to the new deepwater port, 30 miles offshore, where two 24-inch floating crude hoses will load it onto the world’s largest class of crude tankers.

At least 14 giant pumps with a combined output of 86,000 horsepower will be needed to move the oil from Houston, to Freeport, and then out to the offshore terminal. 

The project will create 62 permanent jobs, plus up to 1,400 temporary construction jobs, according to the Maritime Administration.

The project aims to Excellerate the efficiency of oil exports from the Texas coast, where smaller tankers currently ferry oil from coastal depots to larger ships that wait in deeper water, miles offshore. 

It will process more oil than the largest U.S. export terminal currently operating, Moda Ingleside Crude Export Terminal, owned by Enbridge in Texas, which moves up to 1.6 million barrels per day at the Port of Corpus Christi, the nation’s top port for oil exports. 

“Compared to facilities and processes used today, this project will create a safer, more efficient mechanism for exporting oil, and will play a key role in facilitating U.S. energy security,” a Maritime Administration spokesperson said in a statement. 

The administration’s decision laid out a series of final steps for the Sea Port Oil Terminal to receive a license and begin construction. 

Plans to develop the offshore oil sector date back to the lifting of the oil export ban in December 2015, said Jordan Blum, editorial director at Hart Energy in Houston. But efforts lost momentum in 2020 when the Covid pandemic caused global oil demand to dip. 

Now that demand has roared back and prices are soaring, development of the export sector is pushing forward. The Maritime Administration’s approval gives the Sea Port Oil Terminal a clear lead among the other projects.

“There was essentially this big race to build these,” Blum said. “Not all these projects are going to be built, so being the first mover is really important.”

The Sea Port Oil Terminal hopes to start operations by the end of 2025. When it does, Blum said, it will initially draw business from less efficient onshore terminals in Houston and Corpus Christi. Over time, it will enable growth in oil production from Texas’ shale oil fields and beyond. 

“It would allow for increased production to continue. It would encourage more production, but it wouldn’t be like a light switch,” Blum said. 

Mon, 05 Dec 2022 13:05:00 -0600 en-US text/html https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23112022/biden-administration-oil-export-texas/
Killexams : Supreme Court skeptical of Biden administration's immigrant deportation policy

A majority of the Supreme Court appeared likely to limit the federal government's discretion when enforcing guidelines dealing with illegal migrant deportations, an important case over the Biden administration's immigration strategy.

In more than two hours of intense oral arguments on Tuesday, all six conservative justices had tough questions about the 2021 Department of Homeland Security policy that prioritizes certain groups of unauthorized immigrants for arrest and deportation – only those considered a serious threat to public safety, border security, terrorism or espionage.

A ruling could put more pressure on the federal government to adopt a tougher removal policy for a broader range of illegal immigrants, including those that may not have committed a crime and have been in the U-S for years.

Chief Justice John Roberts noted federal immigration law mandates DHS "shall" detain and remove most non-citizens in the country illegally.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION SET RECORDS THIS YEAR, BUT DEMOCRATS KEPT BORDER FUNDING FLAT

"It's our job to say what the law is, not whether or not it can be possibly implemented or whether there are difficulties there," said Roberts. "And I don't think we should change that responsibility just because Congress and the executive can't agree on something that's possible to address this problem. I don't think we should let them off the hook. So shouldn't we just say what we think the law is, even if we think 'shall' means 'shall,' and then leave it for them to sort that out?"

However, the Biden Justice Department argued the federal government is dealing with the reality of limited resources due to congressional funding inaction, and that it retains discretion on enforcing the policies.

President Biden answers a reporter's question at the White House, Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

"Immigration policy is supposed to be the zenith of federal power and especially executive power," said Justice Elena Kagan. "And instead we're creating a system where a combination of states and courts can bring immigration policy to a dead halt... you're coming in here with a set of speculative possibilities about your costs" of illegal immigration.

Following a lawsuit by Louisiana and Texas, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction vacating or freezing the "Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law" policy. The Biden administration then asked the high court to intervene.

WATCH LIVE: THE SUPREME COURT HEARS ORAL ARGUMENTS ON IMMIGRATION CASE | FOX NEWS VIDEO

The GOP-led states say the situation along the Mexican border is a growing crisis, and that they are suffering financial, security, education and healthcare problems associated with the new policy.

However, the Justice Department criticized a single federal judge's injunction, saying it amounted to a "nationwide, judicially imposed overhaul" of the executive branch's enforcement priorities, noting federal authorities are best equipped to handle the detention of illegal immigrants, with its limited resources.

The Biden policy sharply modified the Trump DHS guidelines that aggressively moved to deport illegal immigrants, regardless of their criminal history or community ties. Previous administrations had also used their discretion to implement immigration policies.

A number of both red- and blue-leaning states have challenged various immigration policies in latest years involving both GOP and Democrat administrations.

A Venezuelan migrant, waves before boarding a bus outside of St. Andrew's Parish House at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Sept. 16. (Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

In the last Supreme Court term, the justices debated separate appeals over asylum seekers, and public benefits available to newly-arrived migrants. Courts have traditionally limited the ability of states to challenge federal immigration enforcement policies – or implement their own. However, the current high court conservative majority seems more eager to consider states challenges.

The high court in this case was dealing with three issues: whether the state plaintiffs have "standing" in court to challenge the DHS enforcement policies, whether those guidelines are contrary to federal law, or otherwise violate the Administrative Procedure Act; and whether federal law prevents the entry of an order to "hold unlawful and set aside" the Guidelines under federal law.

TEXAS DPS INTERCEPTS HUMAN SMUGGLING ATTEMPT, DISCOVER 18 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN TRUCK TRACTOR

The 6-3 conservative majority seemed poised to give the states the right to sue and sharply questioned the federal government's discretionary enforcement arguments.

Justice Samuel Alito said the federal government was showing "special hostility" toward the states over their ability to bring these kinds of immigration enforcement challenges in the first place.

The strongest comments from the right, however, came in reaction to the administration's assertion federal judges lack authority in this case to block the Biden guidelines nationwide.

Roberts said courts have had the power for decades – "over and over and over again" – to issue "vacaturs" or orders temporarily voiding a government agency's action." He called the government's position "fairly radical," adding "wow!" in apparent astonishment.

 A man was arrested near Brett Kavanaugh's home in Maryland for allegedly threatening violence toward the justice. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Justice Brett Kavanaugh added the arguments were "astonishing," "extreme" and "extraordinary."

Later in the argument, both justices questioned the Texas solicitor general, saying the federal government was not able to enforce the law, for practical reasons.

"The government says: we don't have the money to comply. Then what do you do?" asked Kavanaugh. "So nothing changes... if they say: we have don’t the money to comply with the court's order?"

The court has a number of options, including throwing out the entire lawsuit or ruling the lower courts had no authority to vacate the policies nationwide. Or the court could proceed to the merits and say federal law requires a no-tolerance approach to deporting illegal immigrants.

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The case is U.S. v. Texas. A ruling is expected by June 2023.

Tue, 29 Nov 2022 23:07:00 -0600 Fox News en text/html https://www.foxnews.com/politics/supreme-court-skeptical-biden-administration-immigrant-deportation-policy
Killexams : Biden administration dealt another setback in court in effort to revive student loan debt relief policy

CNN  — 

A second federal appeals court has rejected a Biden administration bid to put on hold a ruling blocking the President’s student debt relief policy.

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday night that it would not pause a ruling from a Texas judge striking down the policy while an appeal of the ruling played out.

The move sets the stage for the US Justice Department to take the case to the US Supreme Court, which is already considering a separate request from the Biden administration that it reverse an order from the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the loan forgiveness program.

The 5th Circuit denial was handed down by a panel made up of a George W. Bush appointee, a Barack Obama appointee and a Donald Trump appointee.

They did not explain their reasoning for rejecting the administration’s request, but the panel ordered the full appeal to be considered on an expedited basis.

College alum tells CNN: The only way to open the door was to take on student loan debt

Nearly two weeks ago, the Biden administration began notifying people who are approved for federal student loan relief, even as the future of that relief remains in limbo since lower courts blocked the program nationwide. The emails from the US Department of Education to borrowers acknowledged latest legal challenges have kept the administration from discharging the debt.

Biden’s program would offer up to $20,000 of debt relief to millions of qualified borrowers, but it has been met with legal challenges.

The November 10 Texas ruling upheld by the appeals court Wednesday declared Biden’s program illegal. That prompted the Education Department to halt accepting loan relief applications.

About 26 million people had applied for student loan relief prior to the latest court decisions with 16 million of those applications being approved, according to the Biden administration.

Federal student loan payments that had been paused during the Covid-19 pandemic were set to resume in January. But the Biden administration again extended the pause period on November 22 as legal battles continue.

The payment pause will last until 60 days after the litigation is resolved. If the program has not been implemented and the litigation has not been resolved by June 30, payments will resume 60 days after that, according to the Department of Education.

“I’m completely confident my plan is legal,” said President Joe Biden in a video posted on Twitter last week, referencing his student loan forgiveness program.

“But it isn’t fair to ask tens of millions of borrowers eligible for relief to resume their student debt payments while the courts consider the lawsuit,” he added.

Economist offers "counter-intuitive" advice on student loans

The Biden administration has argued that Congress granted the secretary of education the power to broadly discharge student loan debt in a 2003 law known as the HEROES Act, which was passed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The government’s lawyers argue that the law allows the secretary to discharge debt in an event of a national emergency, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the Texas federal judge found that the law does not provide the executive branch clear congressional authorization to create the student loan forgiveness program.

“The program is thus an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated,” wrote Judge Mark Pittman, who was nominated by then-President Trump.

“In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone,” he continued.

The Texas lawsuit was filed by a conservative group, the Job Creators Network Foundation, in October on behalf of two borrowers who did not qualify for debt relief.

One plaintiff did not qualify for the student loan forgiveness program because her loans are not held by the federal government and the other plaintiff is only eligible for $10,000 in debt relief because he did not receive a Pell grant.

They argued that they could not voice their disagreement with the program’s rules because the administration did not put it through a formal notice-and-comment rule making process under the Administrative Procedure Act.

“This ruling protects the rule of law which requires all Americans to have their voices heard by their federal government,” said Elaine Parker, president of Job Creators Network Foundation, in a statement following the ruling on November 10.

The advocacy group was founded by Bernie Marcus, a major Trump donor and former Home Depot CEO.

If Biden’s program is allowed to move forward, individual borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 and married couples or heads of households who made less than $250,000 annually in those years could see up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt forgiven.

If a qualifying borrower also received a federal Pell grant while enrolled in college, the individual is eligible for up to $20,000 of debt forgiveness.

There are a variety of federal student loans and not all are eligible for relief. Federal Direct Loans, including subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans, parent PLUS loans and graduate PLUS loans, are eligible.

But federal student loans that are guaranteed by the government but held by private lenders are not eligible unless the borrower applied to consolidate those loans into a Direct Loan before September 29.

This story has been updated with additional background information.

Wed, 30 Nov 2022 22:06:00 -0600 en text/html https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/01/politics/student-loan-forgiveness-appeals-court-biden-administration/index.html
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