New Rules Are Killing Community Banks, Public Banks Can Revive Them

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By Ellen Brown for Web of Debt Blog – At his confirmation hearing in January 2017, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said, “regulation is killing community banks.” If the process is not reversed, he warned, we could “end up in a world where we have four big banks in this country.” That would be bad for both jobs and the economy. “I think that we all appreciate the engine of growth is with small and medium-sized businesses,” said Mnuchin. “We’re losing the ability for small and medium-sized banks to make good loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the community, where they understand those credit risks better than anybody else.” The number of US banks with assets under $100 million dropped from 13,000 in 1995 to under 1,900 in 2014. The regulatory burden imposed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act exacerbated this trend, with community banks losing market share at double the rate during the four years after 2010 as in the four years before. But the number had already dropped to only 2,625 in 2010. What happened between 1995 and 2010? Six weeks after September 11, 2001, the 1,100 page Patriot Act was dropped on congressional legislators, who were required to vote on it the next day.

Ottawa Round Of Secret NAFTA Negotiations Threatens Climate Regulation

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By Staff of Friends of the Earth – Prime Minister Trudeau seeks to preserve a “reformed” but still environmentally dangerous investment chapter in NAFTA. Canada has faced 38 NAFTA Chapter 11 Investor-State Dispute Settlement cases – from an early challenge to Canada’s right to regulate environmentally harmful additives to gasoline through to a current challenge by a U.S. affiliate of Lone Star, a Canadian fossil fuel company suing Canada for $250 million because Quebec imposed a moratorium on fracking under the St. Lawrence River. Trudeau is also seeking a new “regulatory reform” chapter in NAFTA, which would hobble climate and other environmental regulations. This would encourage the fossil fuel industry to continue to file NAFTA investment suits for billions of dollars if climate regulations interfere with their expected future profits. These investor-state provisions must be removed. Together, Friends of the Earth Canada and Friends of the Earth U.S. demand that Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto change course.

Federal Bank Regulator Drops A Bombshell As Corporate Media Snoozes

'Conventional monetary policy has failed,' writes Brown. An economy in service of the people, not industry and the banks, is what's needed now. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens for Wall Street On Parade – Last Monday, Thomas Hoenig, the Vice Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), sent a stunning letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. The letter contained information that should have become front page news at every business wire service and the leading business newspapers. But with the exception of Reuters, major corporate media like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, the Business section of the New York Times and Washington Post ignored the bombshell story, according to our search at Google News. What the fearless Hoenig told the Senate Banking Committee was effectively this: the biggest Wall Street banks have been lying to the American people that overly stringent capital rules by their regulators are constraining their ability to lend to consumers and businesses. What’s really behind their inability to make more loans is the documented fact that the 10 largest banks in the country “will distribute, in aggregate, 99 percent of their net income on an annualized basis,” by paying out dividends to shareholders and buying back excessive amounts of their own stock.

Newly Released “Monsanto Papers” Add To Questions Of Regulatory Collusion

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By Carey Gillam for The Huffington Post – Four months after the publication of a batch of internal Monsanto Co. documents stirred international controversy, a new trove of company records was released early Tuesday, providing fresh fuel for a heated global debate over whether or not the agricultural chemical giant suppressed information about the potential dangers of its Roundup herbicide and relied on U.S. regulators for help. More than 75 documents, including intriguing text messages and discussions about payments to scientists, were posted for public viewing early Tuesday morning by attorneys who are suing Monsanto on behalf of people alleging Roundup caused them or their family members to become ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. The attorneys posted the documents, which total more than 700 pages, on the websitefor the law firm Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, one of many firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who are pursuing claims against Monsanto. More than 100 of those lawsuits have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in federal court in San Francisco, while other similar lawsuits are pending in state courts in Missouri, Delaware, Arizona and elsewhere.

Biomass Industry’s Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed

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By Adam Macon and Sasha Stashwick for AlterNet – If we want clean air and a livable planet, cutting down trees for fuel is one of the most counterproductive things we can do. Standing forests are a critical tool in the fight against climate change. Cutting trees down to use as fuel in energy production—known as biomass energy or bioenergy—is one of the most counterproductive things we can do if our goal is clean air and a livable planet. Despite this reality, policymakers around the world have invested heavily in bioenergy. Nowhere is this more true than in the European Union, where bioenergy policies in the U.K. and other member states enable billions in subsidies each year to flow to the balance sheets of large utility companies, padding their profits and financing the conversion of old coal-fired power plants to burn wood. Meanwhile, the evidence of the climate and ecological harm wrought by the biomass industry continues to mount. Yet too many policymakers remain unwilling to acknowledge the impacts of bioenergy and adequately limit its growth. They argue that the industry’s impacts on the climate, forests, and people are still uncertain, that we need more studies, more “proof.”

Secret Industry Teams Rolling Back Regulations For Trump Admin

Mr Trump has said he needs more to time to decide whether to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement Evan Vucci/AP

By Robert Faturechi for ProPublica and Danielle Ivory for The New York Times – We’ve found many appointees with potential conflicts of interest, including two who might personally profit if particular regulations are undone. This story was co-published with The New York Times. President Trump entered office pledging to cut red tape, and within weeks, he ordered his administration to assemble teams to aggressively scale back government regulations. But the effort — a signature theme in Trump’s populist campaign for the White House — is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts. Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But ProPublica and The New York Times identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Jeff Sessions’ Alternative Facts About Marijuana

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By Tony Newman for AlterNet – Attorney General Jeff Sessions became the second member of the Trump administration in less than a week to provide “alternative facts” and backward analysis when it comes to marijuana. Yesterday, in a meeting with reporters, Sessions spoke out against marijuana legalization and implied that it’s leading to more violence. “I’m dubious about marijuana. I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana sold at every corner grocery store.” “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” said Sessions. “You can’t sue somebody for a drug debt. The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that.”

Coalition Sues Challenging Trumps Order On Removing Regulations

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By Phillip Ellis for Earthjustice – Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Communications Workers of America represented by Earthjustice sued the Trump administration today to block an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Jan. 30 that directs federal agencies to repeal two federal regulations for every new rule they issue. The plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaration that the order cannot be lawfully implemented and bar the agencies from implementing the order. The order requires new rules to have a net cost of $0 this fiscal year, without taking into account the value of the benefits of public protections.

Trump Moves To Aggressively Protect Wall Street

Barack Obama signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on July 21, 2010. Photographer: Win McNamee/Pool via Bloomberg

By Justin Sink, Elizabeth Dexheimer, and Katherine Chiglinsky for Bloomberg – President Donald Trump will order a sweeping review of the Dodd-Frank Act rules enacted in response to the 2008 financial crisis, a White House official said, signing an executive action Friday designed to significantly scale back the regulatory system put in place in 2010. Trump also will halt another of former President Barack Obama’s regulations, hated by the financial industry, that requires advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interests of their clients. Trump’s order will give the new administration time to review the change, known as the fiduciary rule.

Trump Already Pushing Koch Industries' Bill To Hobble Regulatory Agencies

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By Steve Horn for Desmog Blog – The OMB pointed toward the myriad existing safeguards that already ensure regulatory agency accountability, including the federal court system, the fact that many regulatory proposals actually stem from laws passed by Congress, and the requirement for robust public commenting periods. “This radical departure from the longstanding separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches would delay and, in many cases, thwart implementation of statutory mandates and execution of duly-enacted laws, create business uncertainty, undermine much-needed protections of the American public, and cause unnecessary confusion,” OMB wrote in July 2015.

Trump's Regulations Advisor, Billionaire Carl Icahn, Will Profit From Weak Regulations

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By Steve Horn for Desmog – In a recent “Victory Tour” speech in Des Moines, Iowa, President-elect Donald Trump told the audience that he sought to pick a Cabinet and team of advisors composed of “people that made a fortune” because “now they’re negotiating with you, OK?” Carl Icahn, the 26th richest man on the planet according to Forbes, fits the “made a fortune” bill. Icahn, a business partner of Trump and major donor to his presidential campaign, has been named by the President-elect as his Special Advisor on Regulatory Reform. However, as recently reported by DeSmog, Icahn stands to gain directly from deregulation in the energy and environmental sphere.

Factory Farms Get Bigger, Pollution Grows; Regulators Don’t Know Where They Are

As massive animals farms continue to get bigger, the EPA has trouble collecting information about where they are, much less how much they pollute. Credit: Wikimedia

By Georgina Gustin for Inside Climate News – After Hurricane Matthew churned across North Carolina earlier this month, swollen rivers deluged poultry and swine farms, killing millions of chickens and thousands of hogs and sending potentially toxic animal waste coursing into waterways. It could take weeks or months for North Carolinians to learn the scope of the pollution or where it came from—if they ever do.

Joining Trend, NY Suspends Review Of Oil Train Terminal Permit

New York regulators have suspended the application of a major oil-by-rail terminal project pending review of potential environmental, health and climate change impacts. Credit: STEEVE DUGUAY/AFP/Getty Images

By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News – New York environmental regulators have suspended their review of two proposals to renew and expand operations at a Port of Albany oil terminal until Global Partners LP addresses a laundry list of concerns over environmental, public health, safety and climate change. Officials at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) told the company in a letter on Sept. 16 it has three months to provide plans for the following…

Obama Appointed Judge Says Feds Cannot Regulate Fracking On Public Land

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By Timothy Cama for The Hill – A federal judge appointed by President Obama struck down the administration’s regulation on hydraulic fracturing on federal lands on Tuesday, ruling that the Interior Department does not have congressional authority to regulate fracking. The decision is a major loss for the administration, which worked for years to update its oil and natural gas drilling regulations to account for dramatic increases and innovations in fracking.

Federal Probe Of Competitive Power Ventures

Smoke stacks at a coal-fired power plant near Cincinnati in the US. Photo by Robert S. Donovan

By Pramilla Malick and Nadine Raia for Protect Orange County – Slate Hill N.Y.- The residents of Orange County have long been calling for a federal investigation into the numerous irregularities in the approval process for the CPV Valley Power Plant and related Minisink Compressor Station. (This 650 MW fracked-gas power plant is now under construction in Orange County, N.Y.) We applaud the launch of this probe and hope it serves to explain these irregularities and restore the integrity of the review process.