These are some of the stories we’ve been following this week.
- During her testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that although the Fed hasn’t ruled out a March rate increase, it might wait to act. The Fed is also investigating the viability of implementing negative interest rates if the economy gets worse.
- Property taxes vary across the country. This story examined effective property tax rates on owner-occupied housing throughout the United States to determine which states had the highest and lowest property taxes (ranging from 0.28% in Hawaii to 2.38% in New Jersey).
- Commercial property values in the United States have doubled since 2009, but they seem to have plateaued now. Some analysts think prices could be headed downward soon, but they don’t agree on when it will happen.
- Officials are watching Duke Energy’s efforts to close and clean up coal ash ponds in the Carolinas in an effort to better understand the costs of remediation. The company has estimated that digging up, moving, and reburying the coal ash in lined landfills could cost $10 billion, and customers’ rates may be raised to pay for the cleanup.
- Residents along a proposed Pennsylvania natural gas pipeline are ripping up their easement purchase offers to protest the project. However, PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC will likely be able to use eminent domain to obtain the easements if property owners don’t sell.
- TransCanada is challenging President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline by filing a dispute settlement claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as well as a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
- The U.S. EPA reports that 880,000 pounds of toxic metals were dumped into the Animas River from the Gold King Mine last year.
- California’s proposed rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry would give the state the toughest regulations in the country. The proposal comes on the heels of the methane leak that has forced residents of Porter Ranch, California to leave their homes.
- Officials in Porter Ranch are monitoring the air quality and reporting the levels of benzene. So far, the chemical has not been recorded at levels associated with increased health risks.
- The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program will run through September 2016 before it must be re-authorized. Proponents cite several reasons why many industry leaders want to see the program extended.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen (public domain official Fed portrait).