Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 21, 2021

The EPA announces the tightest auto emissions rule ever, Biden offers 20,000 more temporary visas for winter workers, and more

1

EPA unveils tightest auto pollution rule ever

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced that it had finalized a rule tightening tailpipe emission limits to reduce climate-warming carbon dioxide pollution. The change requires U.S. vehicles to get an average of 55 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2026, the tightest standard yet and up from about 38 miles per gallon today. The reduction would prevent the release of 3.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide through 2050. The change restores an Obama administration policy that called for automakers to hit an average of 51 miles per gallon by 2025, but was rolled back by the Trump administration. President Biden is expected to rely on such regulations to reduce emissions as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) essentially blocks a spending bill that includes climate funding.

2

Biden administration offers 20,000 more visas for temporary winter workers

The Biden administration will make 20,000 more seasonal, H-2B guest-worker visas available for employers this winter to help address labor shortages, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday. The new allotment added to the 33,000 visas already set aside for landscapers, hotels, ski resorts, and other seasonal employers for the winter hiring season. They are available for people hired by March 31. H-2B visas can go to foreign workers entering the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs. "DHS is taking action to protect American businesses and create opportunities that will expand lawful pathways to the United States for workers" from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Haiti, said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement.

3

Trump sues to block N.Y. attorney general inquiry into his business

Former President Donald Trump on Monday filed a lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James, asking a federal court in Syracuse to block James' civil fraud investigation into Trump's real estate company. James is seeking to question Trump about whether the Trump Organization inflated the value of its properties to get better loans, and undervalued buildings to lower its tax bills. Trump and his company accuse James of targeting him for political reasons in violation of his constitutional rights. "By filing this lawsuit, we intend to not only hold her accountable for her blatant constitutional violations, but to stop her bitter crusade to punish her political opponent in its tracks," Trump's attorney, Alina Habba, said in a statement.

4

Stock futures rise after Monday's Omicron-fueled losses

U.S. stock futures rose early Thursday, recovering some of their Monday losses fueled by concerns of economic fallout from the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 0.7 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq were up 0.9 percent. Nike shares jumped by nearly 4 percent overnight after the athletic footwear maker reported quarterly sales and earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations. On Monday, all three of the main U.S. averages fell sharply. The S&P 500 fell by 1.1 percent. The Dow and the Nasdaq lost 1.2 percent as public health officials said the new Omicron variant now accounts for 73 percent of new U.S. infections.

5

California sues Walmart over hazardous waste disposal

California prosecutors on Monday filed a lawsuit accusing Walmart of illegally dumping toxic waste in state landfills. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the retail giant throws out a million batteries, aerosol insect-killer cans, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous waste every year. "When a big box store disposes of unwanted goods, just like the rest of us, they need to do so properly. Unfortunately, Walmart — the largest company in the world by revenue — has failed to do that on a grand scale here in California," Bonta said. Walmart, which has more than 300 stores in California, called the lawsuit "unjustified." The company paid $25 million to settle a similar lawsuit in 2010, and agreed to stop the dumping in California landfills unequipped for hazardous waste.

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