Home drone delivery a step closer to reality

Deliveries by drones took a step closer to being allowed in the United States after a federal advisory panel agreed on a framework for allowing law enforcement to routinely track the small devices. The committee’s report to the Federal Aviation Administration, released Tuesday, is a significant step toward allowing drone flights over people and urban areas, and over long distances. A system to track and identify drones is necessary before companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s X and Amazon.com Inc. can deliver packages via unmanned drones, or for utilities and railroads to broaden their use for inspections. While the report laid out the rough specifications necessary for such tracking, various interest groups dissented over whether certain small drones would get waivers to fly without being identified. Allowing any drones to fly unidentified creates a “potentially dangerous loophole,” a representative for the Air Line Pilots Association said in his comments. The FAA will now take the industry and hobbyists comments under advisement and begin drafting a proposed set of regulations requiring tracking. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


France nixes fossil fuel development

France’s parliament has approved a law banning all exploration and production of oil and natural gas within the country and its overseas territories by 2040. Under that law that passed a final vote on Tuesday, existing drilling permits will not be renewed and no new exploration licenses will be granted. The French government claims the ban is a world first. However, it is largely symbolic since oil and gas produced in France accounts for just 1 percent of domestic consumption. The rest is imported. Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot says the law shows ‘‘current generations can take care of future generations.’’ The ban is part of a larger plan to wean the French economy from fossil fuels and to fulfill France’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement to curb global warming. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Nearly 5,200 US workers were killed on the job last year

Last year was the deadliest for US workers in nearly a decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,190 people were killed on the job in 2016, the most since 2008. The rate of fatal injuries for full-time workers rose to 3.6 per 100,000, the highest since 2010. Categories with significant increases included homicides, suicides, and overdoses. Higher death rates spanned most age groups as well as many races and ethnic groups, with the exception of Hispanic or Latino people. Here are some details from Tuesday’s report: Suicides at work rose to a record 291, and the 500 homicides were the most since 2010. Drug and alcohol overdoses jumped to 217 cases, the fourth straight increase of at least 25 percent, amid the nation’s opioid epidemic. Rate of deaths for workers 55 and older rose to a record for the age group. Transportation incidents were the most common, making up 40 percent of all workplace deaths. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Uber can’t keep taxi unions out of London appeal hearing

Uber Technologies Inc. lost a bid to prevent two unions representing taxi drivers from taking part in the appeal of Transport for London’s decision to ban the company from operating in the city. The GMB union and the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association can participate on a limited basis, Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled Tuesday. Uber’s fight in London is one of many legal battles it faces in Europe. On Wednesday, the European Union’s top court will issue a closely watched ruling on whether Uber should be considered a taxi company or a digital app provider for regulatory purposes. GMB lawyers said the union will argue the company’s business model "encourages and incentivises drivers to work excessive hours, putting public safety at serious risk." Meanwhile the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents drivers of London’s iconic black cabs, will not be allowed to argue Uber’s operating model is illegal, Arbuthnot said. The decision leaves more than six months for the transport regulator and Uber to reach an agreement on the license to operate — a resolution both sides have expressed a desire to reach. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Developer says it’s following rules on proposed oil refinery near national park

North Dakota regulators questioned whether the developer of a proposed oil refinery near picturesque Theodore Roosevelt National Park is trying to skirt state permitting law. The Public Service Commission questioned Meridian Energy Group officials on why the company’s production capacity for the Davis Refinery is listed at 49,500 barrels per day — just under the 50,000-barrel threshold that triggers a state siting review. Such a review, which can take months and cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars, ensures a proposed project is a good fit for the area’s environment and residents. Some opponents believe the company is trying to avoid a review because it might reveal the proposed site near the park isn’t good for the region. While the company is within the law, ‘‘it doesn’t sit well with folks,’’ Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said. ‘‘Let’s be honest. It looks like you’re just barely skirting the siting requirements.’’ Meridian chief executive William Prentice said modern technology will make it ‘‘the cleanest refinery in the world’’ and that the company’s goal has been a facility processing 27,500 barrels daily, with the possibility of expansion. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Two more bitcoin ETFs seeking regulatory approval

Two new bitcoin ETFs are gunning to win the approval of a regulator that’s so far been skeptical of derivatives based on digital currency. Cboe Global Markets Inc. asked the US Securities and Exchange Commission for permission to list two bitcoin-linked exchange-traded funds on one of its markets, in a filing on Tuesday. The GraniteShares Bitcoin ETF and the GraniteShares Short Bitcoin ETF would trade on the Cboe BZX exchange. The issuer, GraniteShares, is a New-York based provider of commodities ETFs. The proposal will come up against a regulator that has so far been leery of bitcoin ETFs. The SEC in March rejected a proposal to list the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, causing bitcoin’s price to plummet at the time. Since then, bitcoin’s price has soared more than 1,700 percent. In the intervening months, other major changes have happened in the relationship between bitcoin and traditional financial firms. Cboe and CME Group Inc. both began offering bitcoin futures contracts this month, providing a different kind of derivative linked to the cryptocurrency. More than 15 bitcoin-related ETFs have been proposed since 2013. Some applications were withdrawn. Others are in purgatory, hoping for SEC approval — the GraniteShares proposal will be added to that pile.  — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Humana getting into home health business

Humana will buy part of Kindred Healthcare’s home health business, the latest example of a health insurer growing more involved in the delivery of care on top of handling the bills for it. The insurer said Tuesday it will pay about $800 million in cash for a 40-percent stake in the business, which includes hospice care and serves about 130,000 patients daily. The remaining stake will be purchased by the private equity firms TPG Capital and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. Humana, which already operates a home health business, said the deal will help it keep costs down, improve health, and manage chronic conditions. Humana is one of the nation’s biggest providers of Medicare Advantage plans, which are privately run versions of the federal Medicare program for people who are over 65 or disabled. It also provides Medicare prescription drug coverage and offers commercial insurance. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Audi recalls cars over faulty fuel lines

Audi is recalling more than 52,000 luxury cars in the United States and Canada to fix fuel lines that can leak and increase the risk of a fire. The recall covers certain A6 and A7 cars from the 2012 through 2014 model years. The Volkswagen luxury brand said in government documents that the fuel lines have a compression point to make them easier to install. But over time, that point can weaken and may leak fuel. The documents posted Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say the cars were made between Jan. 25, 2011, and Sept. 13, 2013. Audi says no fires or injuries have been reported. Owners will be notified starting Feb. 5. Dealers will replace the faulty fuel lines. — ASSOCIATED PRESS