Impacting Travel

White House denies considering new domestic air travel restrictions

Despite recent reports, White House officials revealed that they are currently not considering new domestic air travel restrictions to combat COVID-19, according to Reuters.

Ahead of the meeting scheduled for Friday between US President Joe Biden and airline CEOs, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said “no decisions have been made on additional public health measures. that they would change the national trips “.


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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

Sources told Reuters that the meeting between airline executives, coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients and other administration officials will focus on health and safety, but the administration is unlikely to require testing for COVID- 19 for domestic flights.

Government officials said the administration could revise the idea if conditions change.

In a report earlier this week, The Miami Herald reported that an anonymous federal official revealed that the White House was considering possible travel restrictions within the US After several outbreaks of highly contagious forms of COVID were reported- 19 who were identified for the first time abroad.

While potential travel restrictions were not targeted at any specific state, the report claims that recent increases in new coronavirus strains in Florida and California forced officials to consider new travel restrictions and health measures in conjunction with state governments. and local.

In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that all international travelers entering the US must submit a negative COVID-19 test.

Weeks later, reports emerged that President Biden was considering legislation mandating COVID-19 testing for all travelers preparing to board a domestic flight.


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Air Force training jet crashes in Alabama, killing 2 people

An Air Force trainer flying from Columbus, Mississippi to Tallahassee, Fla., Crashed Friday night in a wooded area near the Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama, killing the two people in edge, officials said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the plane to crash. It was a T-38 trainer aircraft assigned to the 14th Flight Training Wing, which is based at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, the wing said in a statement.

The 14th Flight Training Wing specializes in training undergraduate pilots, and the T-38 is one of the planes it uses to prepare pilots to fly fighters and bombers. Authorities did not immediately release the names of the two people killed.

The plane fell around 5:30 p.m., the squadron said.

Marshall J. Taggart Jr., the executive director of Montgomery Airport, said the plane crashed in a wooded area near Old Lamar Road and US Highway 80, about 100 yards from the ‘airport. He said firefighters and police responded.

The 14th Flight Training Wing said a safety investigation committee would meet to investigate the crash.

The crash came less than three weeks after three Idaho Army National Guard pilots were killed when their helicopter crashed in bad weather on February 2 while on a training mission to routine. The pilots were in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it fell south of Lucky Peak, a park about 10 miles east of Boise, the National Guard said in a statement .

Last month, a New York Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter on a routine training mission crashed in a rural area south of Rochester, killing three people. It was not immediately clear what caused the fall of this plane, a UH-60 medevac helicopter. Monroe County Sheriff Todd K. Baxter told a press conference people called 911 and said they saw a helicopter flying very low and heard the sounds of a spray engine.

In October, a Navy plane crashed in a residential area in southern Alabama, killing its two crew members. The plane fell next to a house near Foley, a coastal area about 30 miles southeast of Mobile, officials said. The plane was a T-6B Texan IIsaid the Navy. The type of aircraft is often used to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots, according to the Navy website.

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Scientists call on CDC to set air standards for workplaces now

Almost a year after scientists showed that the coronavirus can be inhaled in tiny droplets called aerosols that linger inside in stagnant air, more than a dozen experts are calling on the Biden administration to take immediate measures to limit aerial transmission of the high-risk virus from places such as meat packing plants and prisons.

The 13 experts – including several who advised President Biden during the transition – have urged the administration to impose a combination of masks and environmental measures, such as better ventilation, to mitigate risks in various workplaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for reopening schools on Friday, but quickly adopted improved ventilation as a precaution. It wasn’t until July that the World Health Organization admitted the virus could linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, after 239 experts publicly called on the organization to do so.

In a letter to the administration, scientists detailed evidence supporting airborne transmission of the virus. It has become even more urgent for the administration to take action now, experts said, due to the slow rollout of the vaccine, the threat of more contagious variants of the virus already circulating in the United States, and the rate high Covid-19 infections. and deaths, despite a recent decline in cases.

“It’s time to stop snooping on the fact that the virus is transmitted primarily through the air,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech.

“If we properly recognize this and put the right recommendations and directions in place, this is our chance to end the pandemic within the next six months,” she added. “If we don’t, it could very well go on forever.”

The letter was delivered Monday to Jeffrey D. Zients, the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response coordinator; Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The letter urged the CDC to recommend the use of high-quality masks, such as N95 respirators, to protect workers at high risk of infection. Currently, health workers mainly rely on surgical masks, which are not as effective against aerosol transmission of the virus.

Many workers vulnerable to infection are people of color, who have borne the brunt of the outbreak in the United States, experts noted.

Mr Biden ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sets workplace requirements, to issue emergency temporary standards for Covid-19, including those for ventilation and masks , by March 15.

But OSHA will only prescribe standards backed by CDC guidance, said David Michaels, an epidemiologist at George Washington University and one of the signatories.

(Dr. Michaels led OSHA during the Obama administration; the agency has not had a permanent leader since he left.)

“Until the CDC makes certain changes, OSHA will have a hard time modifying the recommendations it is proposing, as it is understood that the government must be consistent,” said Dr. Michaels. “And the CDC has always been viewed as the lead agency for infectious diseases.”

Public health agencies, including the WHO, have been slow to recognize the importance of aerosols in the spread of the coronavirus. It wasn’t until October that the CDC recognized that the virus could sometimes be airborne, after a confusing sequence of events in which a description of how the virus spreads appeared on the site. Agency web then disappeared, then resurfaced two weeks later.

But the agency’s recommendations on workplace accommodations did not reflect this change.

At the start of the pandemic, the CDC said healthcare workers did not need N95 respirators and could even wear bandanas to protect themselves. He also did not recommend covering their faces for the rest of the population.

The agency has since revised these recommendations. He recently recommended that people wear two masks or improve the fit of their surgical masks to protect themselves from the virus.

“But they don’t say why you need a better-fitting mask,” said Dr. Donald Milton, an aerosol expert at the University of Maryland. “They recognize the importance of inspiring it and the channel of transmission, but they don’t clearly state it in their various web pages.”

The agency recommends surgical masks for healthcare workers and says N95 respirators are only needed during aerosol-generating medical procedures, such as certain types of surgery.

But numerous studies have shown that healthcare workers who do not have direct contact with Covid-19 patients are also at high risk of infection and should wear high-quality respirators, said Dr Celine Gounder, infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital in New York and an advisor to Mr. Biden during the transition.

“The CDC has not emphasized enough the risk of aerosol transmission,” said Dr Gounder. “Unfortunately, concerns about the supply continue to cloud the discussion.”

Many hospitals still expect their staff to reuse N95 masks as per the agency’s recommendation to reuse them when stocks are low. But as masks are no longer scarce, the agency is expected to change its recommendations, Dr Gounder said.

“We really need to stop this approach of reusing and decontaminating N95s,” she added. “We’re a year away and it’s really not acceptable.”

Hospitals, at least, tend to have good ventilation, so healthcare workers are protected in other ways, experts said. But in meat-packing plants, prisons, buses or grocery stores, where workers are exposed to the virus for long periods of time, the CDC does not recommend high-quality respirators and does not endorse ventilation improvements. .

“If you go to other workplaces, this idea that aerosol transmission is important is virtually unheard of,” said Dr. Michaels. In food processing plants, for example, a refrigerated environment and lack of fresh air are ideal conditions for the virus to thrive. But the industry has not put security measures in place to minimize the risk, he added.

Instead, employers follow the CDC’s recommendations for physical distance and surface cleaning.

The recent emergence of more contagious variants makes it urgent for the CDC to tackle the airborne transmission of the virus, said Dr Marr of Virginia Tech. Germany, Austria and France are now mandating N95 respirators or other high-quality masks on public transport and shops.

Dr Marr was one of the experts who wrote to the WHO last summer to call for recognition of airborne transmission. She didn’t expect to be in a similar situation again so many months later, she said, “It’s like Groundhog Day.”

Travel News

Winter conditions have paralyzed the air, travel on the road in much of the south

The massive winter storm that swept through the southern and central states on Monday crippled air, rail and road transport in the region, with severe travel disruptions that are sure to continue through Tuesday as the storm heads towards the North.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport canceled 196 flights on Monday, representing almost all flights to and from the transportation hub, according to the FlightAware tracking website. Austin Airport tweeted on Monday that the teams would remain in place, “mitigating the effects of this historic weather”.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, 934 flights were canceled Monday night and nearly 300 more were delayed, according to FlightAware. Airport said on Twitter that further delays and cancellations were expected Tuesday, and urged the public to check their flight status with their airline before heading to the airport.

All rail operations operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit will be suspended until Thursday, and bus services in the city will be suspended from Monday evening, to resume Tuesday with what will likely be further delays, the system said. public transport. In Houston, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport said the airfield would be closed at least until early Tuesday afternoon.

Nashville International Airport canceled 278 flights on Monday, according to FlightAware, and the airport declared additional delays and cancellations seemed certain on Tuesday. There were fewer flight disruptions at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the country’s busiest hubs, with just 213 cancellations.

The storm forced road closures in parts of Louisiana, including the Lafayette and Baton Rouge areas, while in Tennessee, authorities closed about 20 roads just south of Nashville, County. of Williamson, due to slippery conditions, according to the Tennessean.

Several Amtrak trains providing service across the country were canceled on Monday, including trains departing from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Saint-Louis to San Antonio and Los Angeles to Chicago.

Authorities in many states have asked people to avoid driving except for absolutely essential trips. “We all see the current situation, I’m not going to calm her down. The next few days are going to be very difficult, ”Justice Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”

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After years in government, Biden has a new advantage: Air Force One.

WASHINGTON – President Biden has been elected for nearly four decades. He interacted with nine presidents. He’s used to the staff waiting for him, traveling in motorcade, and knowing his way around the Oval Office and the Mazelike layout of the West Wing for eight years as vice president.

“It feels like I’m coming home,” he said on the opening day, as he approached the White House along the parade route.

But not all the attributes of power are an old hat for the country’s oldest president. When he flies on Air Force One Friday afternoon to return home to Wilmington, Del., For the weekend, it will be his first flight on the presidential jet in more than two decades, according to more than a half- dozen administration officials and former Biden aides.

As Vice President of President Barack Obama, Biden was banned from flying the Boeing VC-25 known as Air Force One. For security reasons, the vice president and the president never fly together. Air Force Two, a Boeing 757, is a smaller, much smaller, and much more modest aircraft.

Despite his decades in the public service, the only trip on Air Force One that anyone in the White House or in Mr. Biden’s circle can remember taking was in the summer of 2000. At the time, Mr. Biden had visited Colombia as part of a delegation. with President Bill Clinton, helping unveil an emergency aid package to fight the drug trade and support the country’s democracy.

This means that Jill Biden, the first lady, who accompanied Mr. Obama to a Michigan community college on Air Force One in 2015, was on board more recently than her husband. (At the time, Dr Biden said she spent her time on flight filing papers.)

It is possible that Mr Biden will be riding Air Force One on Friday afternoon, but not the one that delighted his predecessors so much. It might be called Air Force One, but it’s a Boeing 757-200, which is a smaller, narrow-bodied jet airliner used for smaller airports. In this case, the journey that has usually left the Commander-in-Chief, whoever he is, stunned and in awe of his newfound advantage will have to be postponed.

“When that 747 lands, it’s a sight to see,” John Podesta, former White House chief of staff, told Clinton. “When the president takes these steps, you feel the power. He will feel the power. It’s a little different from the 757. ”

Even President Donald J. Trump, who loved to brag about his own Trump-branded aircraft, was impressed.

“It’s a very special plane,” he told reporters after taking them to his front cabin for a rare glimpse en route to Philadelphia. He had only been on duty for six days when he showed off a navy Air Force One jacket. His press officer, Sean Spicer, described him as “impressed by the splendor of this plane”.

In 2018, Mr. Trump boasted that the plane, outfitted to function as a mobile White House, had “about 20 televisions.” Still, he had plans for an airplane makeover, plans that never came to fruition and which the Biden administration made clear could not be lower than his priority list.

Mr Obama also seemed enthralled with his new commute when he caught his first flight in the third week of his presidency, traveling a short distance to Williamsburg, Va., To attend a retreat for Democrats from the Bedroom.

“What do you think of this breathtaking ride here? It’s not bad, ”Obama told reporters in the back of the plane. Like Mr. Trump, he also put on a show of his crew jacket, which had his name sewn on.

Mr. Clinton took his first flight 22 days after taking office in 1993. He flew to Detroit for a nationally broadcast town hall event to lay the groundwork for the economic policies he was on. the point of revealing, while his staff joked about how relieved he was. to give up his rickety country plane, nicknamed “Air Elvis”.

President George W. Bush’s first trip on Air Force One after moving to the White House took place less than a month after starting his presidency, when he visited families and military troops to Fort Stewart, Ga., as part of a list of trips to promote its national security policies.

White House officials have not said when Mr Biden will make his first domestic trip, but said a typical presidential travel schedule is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Certainly her preference would be to take a plane and fly across the country, but that’s not the stage we’re currently planning,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the meeting. ‘a briefing last month.

Other senior administration officials insisted Mr Biden was not on the ground and would be visiting the country soon, pointing to the fact that he had safely made two trips to Georgia during the transition to campaign for the Democratic Senate candidates.

Presidential travel is expensive and time consuming, but it is also essential for work, former White House officials have said.

“It is essential that people feel the presence and are aware that the President has taken the time to come to where they are,” said Mr. Podesta. “One of the things that underlies the deep divisions in the country is the people who feel like ‘you forgot me’. Show changes in this dynamic. “

Mr Podesta said it would be essential for Mr Biden to travel after speaking at a joint session of Congress this month, even if it meant taking health risks. “He’s going to give a lot of ideas on what needs to be built and he’s got to go to some places where these things will be built,” he said.

But given the pandemic and the politically fragile time the country finds itself in, Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, said staying in Washington more often might work better for Mr Biden.

“After the assassination of John Kennedy, the country was so agitated that the new president, Lyndon Johnson, pledged not to travel abroad for a while,” he said. “Although for different reasons, the fact that Biden stays close to the White House reminded me of that. I believe right now seeing Biden in the State Dining Room announcing how he’s dealing with one supreme issue after another is more reassuring than seeing him on the road, in the middle of a pandemic, trying to find a crowd to talk to.

Mr. Biden, however, may disagree once he gets on the plane.

Travel News

Businesses aim to extract greenhouse gases from the air. It is a bet.

“It’s a chicken or an egg problem,” said Nan Ransohoff, climate manager at Stripe, a San Francisco-based online payments company. “The best way to cut costs is to start deploying these technologies on a large scale. But until there are real customers, no one will build them. “

To help break the deadlock, Stripe announced in 2019 that it would start spending at least $ 1 million a year on carbon removal, regardless of the price per tonne up front. The goal was to assess companies working on promising technologies and provide them with a reliable revenue stream.

After summoning outside experts to review the applications, Stripe announced its first round of payments last May. This included an agreement with Climeworks, a Swiss start-up that has already built several small direct air collection plants in Europe. Stripe also paid $ 250,000 to Project Vesta, a nonprofit that plans to sprinkle volcanic minerals on beaches, testing how much carbon dioxide they absorb when waves break them down, through a process known as name of aging.

Companies receiving Stripe’s funding say the money has been crucial.

“It’s existential for us,” said Peter Reinhardt, co-founder of Charm Industrial, a start-up Stripe pays to phase out 416 tonnes of carbon dioxide at $ 600 a tonne. His company will take crop waste and convert it into an oil that can be injected underground, rather than letting it decompose and release carbon into the atmosphere.

Other companies invest in the same way. German automaker Audi is paying Climeworks to capture and remove 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from a new direct air capture facility in Iceland, which is slated to enter service this year. Climeworks also signed an agreement with insurance giant Swiss Re, which this month created a dedicated carbon phase-out funding stream. Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company, has already committed $ 1.6 million to various carbon-elimination startups.

Christoph Gebald, co-director of Climeworks, said his company now has more than 50 corporate customers who pay to capture and store carbon dioxide. Its goal is to build enough facilities to remove 30 to 50 million tonnes per year from the atmosphere by 2030.

Impacting Travel

Travel industry reacts to CDC’s new air travel requirements

The travel industry has responded quickly to news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will begin requiring a negative COVID-19 test of all U.S.-bound air passengers. January, hailing the strategy as a key security measure but expressing concern that the mandate could further hamper travel and ultimately delay the industry’s recovery.

In a statement released Tuesday night, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said a testing requirement must be met with the removal of travel restrictions. and quarantine mandates.


Being a trend now

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“We welcome the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a COVID-19 testing requirement for inbound international travelers. A testing requirement provides another level of security for international travel and must be accompanied by other policies. based on risk, including lifting travel restrictions and eliminating any post-arrival quarantine requirements, “Barnes said.

“With an international testing requirement in place, international visitors and returning residents would be tested at much higher rates than the general public and would pose a much lower risk of transmitting the disease. Therefore, it would make sense to eliminate international travel restrictions and quarantine requirements at the same time, “he added. “With a layered approach based on health and safety risk in all aspects of travel, it is possible to protect public health and allow travel to resume safely.”

Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), warned that the new requirement “will not guarantee that COVID-19 will not spread” and could lead to “stranded passengers, missed connections and canceled flights.”

“ASTA supports an accurate and rapid response testing regime for airline travelers in lieu of mandatory quarantines and travel bans. However, requiring a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure will not guarantee that the COVID-19 does not spread, “Kerby said in a statement issued Wednesday. “It is very possible to become infected within 72 hours of receiving a negative test result. As the CDC has already recognized, on its own, the new testing regulation will not stop the spread of the virus due to the wait time between testing. test and flight, incubation period and false positives “.

“Implementing such a requirement without a reliable rapid response test threatens to create a logistics crisis. When travelers are stranded because they cannot get a test at the destination in time for departure (if at all), this will trigger a ripple effect throughout the supply chain: stranded passengers, missed connections and canceled flights, “he added. “The inability to obtain proof and the uncertainty of being stranded will cause many travelers to postpone their plans, resulting in further mental, emotional, and financial harm. At the very least, the CDC should communicate its list of exempt destinations for assessors to and consumers can make informed decisions about their travel plans. “

“Also, now that vaccines are available, we have a solution to ensure that travelers are protected. ASTA remains committed to promoting more resources for vaccine distribution, increasing the capacity and timeliness of testing in our own backyard, and a federal mandate that requires masks in all public places, “said Kerby.” The CDC director has said that wearing a mask is the most important step you can take to protect yourself from the virus. That is why we have asked the incoming Biden Administration to require passengers to wear masks on all flights, domestic and foreign. Requiring virus testing when the global infrastructure for testing does not exist will further affect travel economics without addressing the issue at hand. “

Doctor testing patient for COVID-19.
PHOTO: Doctor testing a patient for COVID-19. (photo via Morsa Images / E +)

Travel advisers are equally concerned about the CDC announcement. Jemica Archer of TruBlue Travels said she is “absolutely amazed that this measure is being implemented so quickly” and predicts that it will be “detrimental” to travel companies.

“We were starting to recover for the 2021 travels. I started getting emails from clients about cancellations or their concerns about not being able to return to the country. I think it will be detrimental to the travel industry. Based on this news, I expect to see more cancellations and I probably won’t see my business recover in 2021, “he added.

Meanwhile, Ryan Doncsecz of VIP Vacations Inc called the CDC’s latest effort a “major hurdle and possibly a devastating last blow for travel agencies,” and predicted that an “already very small clientele will shrink once again.”

“To help save our industry, the CDC has now called on tourism boards in other countries to help initiate a plan on how to help effectively implement testing in these destinations that may already be struggling to manage and process. trials. Hopefully our resort partners will see the need to offer trial at the destination as well, but by no means do I expect others to continue to collect additional bills that were previously not associated with their hotel deals, “said Doncsecz, who continues being cautiously optimistic.

“I am very concerned about the outcome of this, but I hope that an attitude of solidarity will be maintained among travel professionals who express their concerns not only about their careers, but also about the financial support of so many travel-related jobs, combined With the backing of ASTA and others, corporations can help CDC see how negatively this will affect so many people around the world, “he concluded.

Internova Travel Group CEO JD O’Hara echoed the sentiment expressed by US Travel and called on those in power to lift restrictions on inbound travelers.

“We support the new ruling by the Centers for Disease Control to prevent the spread of the virus, especially if the testing regime will replace quarantine requirements and bring us one step closer to opening the world to travel,” he said in a statement. . “The trials will allow for safer air and cross-border travel and will be critical to our industry rebound. We therefore urge the Administration to move forward with lifting entry restrictions on travelers from the UK, Europe and Brazil. A collaborative approach with Clear and transparent communication between the government and airlines, hotels, destinations and travel advisors is essential as we continue to work together towards a safe return from travel. “

AAA is promoting the development of a comprehensive testing infrastructure to drive a safe recovery.

“As a trusted brand, AAA is focused on the safety of our members and all travelers. Access to testing is a critical component in supporting safe return to travel, as well as achieving critical mass in vaccines. AAA encourages the development of testing infrastructure to enable safe return to travel, “AAA Senior Vice President of Travel Paula Twidale said in a statement.

“Traveling is a very personal decision. For travelers unsure how to navigate today, AAA travel agents are available to help them make an informed decision to travel safely.”


Impacting Travel

CDC will require COVID-19 testing of all air travelers entering the U.S.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they will begin requiring a negative COVID-19 test from all air passengers entering the United States beginning on January 26.

With the US already in the midst of a surge domestically, testing requirements to prevent importation of fresh infections should help slow the spread.


With new variants of the virus appearing around the world, some more highly transmissible than previous ones, the agency has viewed pre-travel and post-trip testing as an important layer of precaution to slow the introduction and spread of new strains.

Being trending now

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans,” the CDC wrote in its statement.

International travelers bound for the U.S. will need to test negative within the 72-hour window of departure, and the CDC also recommends testing again three to five days after arrival, quarantining for seven days after the trip.

Passengers will need to provide their documented lab results to the airline prior to boarding, either electronically or on paper, or they can provide documented evidence of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines are instructed to confirm the “negative” status of each passenger, and those who do not provide documentation of their negative test or recovery, or who choose not to test, should be denied boarding.

“Testing does not eliminate all risks,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, “but when combined with a home stay period and daily precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing , they can make travel safer, healthier and more “responsible by reducing the spread at airplanes, airports and destinations.”


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Toyota to pay record fine for decade of air quality law violations

Toyota Motor expected to pay $ 180 million for long-standing violations of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said Thursday, the largest civil penalty ever imposed for a violation of federal emissions reporting requirements .

Between around 2005 and 2015, the global automaker consistently failed to report faults that interfered with the way its cars controlled tailpipe emissions, violating standards designed to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollutants, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan.

Toyota officials and staff in Japan were aware of the practice but failed to stop it, and the automaker most likely sold millions of faulty vehicles, the prosecutor’s office said.

“Toyota has turned a blind eye to the non-compliance,” Audrey Strauss, the acting US lawyer, said in a statement. Toyota has agreed not to challenge the fine.

Eric Booth, a spokesperson for the automaker, said the company alerted authorities as soon as the breaches were revealed, and the delay in reporting “had a negligible impact on emissions, if any.”

“Nonetheless, we recognize that some of our reporting protocols did not meet our own high standards, and we are happy to have resolved this issue,” added Mr. Booth.

Toyota is the world’s second-largest automaker behind Volkswagen, and has built a reputation for clean technology on the back of its best-selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrid passenger cars. But the auto giant’s decision in 2019 to support the Trump administration’s rollback of tailpipe emissions standards – coupled with its relatively slow introduction of fully electric vehicles – has made it a target of criticism from the share of environmental groups.

Toyota’s newer model lineup has been heavy on gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, which come with much higher price tags and have generated much higher profit margins. According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency report, Toyota vehicles have provided one of the worst fuel savings in the industry, leading to an overall worsening of mileage and pollution from passenger cars and trucks in the United States for the first time in five years.

Many automakers are now bracing for a likely push from the incoming Biden administration for a return to stricter exhaust emission rules, and have indicated they are determined to work with those responsible for administration.

“It’s appalling that automakers cheat on the pollution rules, but then want President Biden to negotiate with them over new clean car standards,” said Dan Becker, who leads the Safe Climate Transport campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. “After reneging on their previous commitments, why should anyone trust the automakers?”

The auto industry has been plagued by emissions scandals in recent years. In 2017, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States government after admitting that it had rigged its diesel-powered cars to meet air quality standards while being tested, even though the cars exceeded these standards in regular driving. Last year, Daimler, another German automaker, agreed to pay $ 2.2 billion to settle charges that Mercedes-Benz cars and vans sold in the United States were programmed to cheat on testing. emissions.

The car owners themselves have also been accused of tampering with their vehicles. A federal report this year concluded that owners and operators of more than half a million diesel pickup trucks have illegally disabled their vehicles’ emission control technology over the past decade, allowing excess emissions equivalent to 9 millions more trucks on the road.

Transportation, which remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels, accounts for the bulk of global warming emissions, ahead of emissions generated by the energy sector, manufacturing or agriculture. Scientists have long warned that cars and trucks around the world must ditch gasoline to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Recent estimates have shown that transportation-related emissions in the United States fell by almost 15% in 2020, with millions of people stopped commuting to work and airlines canceling flights. But experts warn that emissions from cars and trucks will rebound unless policymakers take stronger action to keep emissions low.

Travel News

United States must require negative viral tests from international air passengers

Before boarding their flights, all international passengers to the United States will first need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test, according to a new federal policy that came into effect on January 26.

“Testing does not eliminate all risks,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement outlining the new policy.

“But when combined with a period of stay at home and daily precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier and more responsible by reducing the spread on planes,” at airports and destinations.

Dr Redfield is expected to sign the order detailing the new rules on Tuesday.

The new policy requires all air passengers, regardless of their immunization status, to be tested for the current infection within three days of their flight departing to the United States and to provide written documentation of the results. of their tests or proof of recovery from Covid-19.

Evidence of vaccination will not be enough, because vaccines have been shown to only prevent serious illness, said Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesperson.Vaccinated people can still be infected, in theory, and transmit the virus during a flight.

The agency will not require further testing within three months of a positive test, until the traveler has shown symptoms. In this situation, a passenger may travel with documentation of the positive test result and a letter from a health care provider or public health official stating that the traveler has now been cleared for travel.

Airlines must confirm negative test results for all passengers or recovery documentation before boarding. If a passenger does not provide proof of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to be tested, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger, the agency said.

“Pre and post travel testing is critical in slowing the introduction and spread of Covid-19,” agency officials said in a statement. “With the United States already in a push, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.”

The policy is expanding on a similar rule, implemented in late December, which required travelers from Britain to show proof of a negative result on a test for the virus. The Trump administration introduced the restriction following reports that a more contagious variant of the coronavirus had become the source of the majority of infections in much of this country.

This variant has since been detected in several U.S. states and has likely spread even more widely, scientists said. However, the United States genetically sequence only a tiny proportion of its virus samples – too little to have an accurate estimate of the spread of the variant in that country.

The new travel policy follows an announcement by the Japanese government on Tuesday that four travelers from Brazil had imported another new variant of the virus to Japan. Two other so-called worrying variants are said to be circulating in South Africa and Brazil.

The White House coronavirus task force and federal agencies, including the CDC, have been debating the expanded requirements for weeks.

The CDC currently recommends that all air travelers, including those flying to the United States, get tested one to three days before travel, and again three to five days after travel ends.

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Many airlines offer optional tests for passengers, but only impose them when destinations require them to do so. But last week, a group representing major U.S. airlines backed a policy that would require all passengers to get tested.

In a statement, United Airlines welcomed the move, saying the tests were “the key to unlocking international borders.”

“United has already put procedures in place to comply with similar orders for international jurisdictions, and we plan to expand them in light of this new mandate,” the airline said in a statement.

“In addition, United is actively working on the introduction of new technologies and processes to make it easier to navigate these test requirements for our employees and customers.”

Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting.