State DPU approves contracts with Hydro-Quebec

Globe Staff


State DPU approves contracts with Hydro-Quebec

The state Department of Public Utilities on Tuesday approved long-term contracts between the state’s major utilities and Hydro-Quebec that will bring hydropower to Massachusetts via a $950 million power line to be built in western Maine. Power line developer Avangrid is still securing the state and federal permits it needs to construct the 145-mile line, known as New England Clean Energy Connect. The company plans to start construction later this year, and to finish it by the end of 2022. The DPU says the agreements will save electricity customers in Massachusetts about 2 to 4 percent off their monthly electric bills over the life of the 20-year contracts. These contracts — with utilities National Grid, Eversource, and Unitil — were set in motion by a 2016 energy law aimed at increasing the grid’s reliability and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. One point of controversy: the utilities secured compensation for themselves equal to 2.75 percent of the contracts, the maximum allowed under state law. — JON CHESTO


Authorities crack down on robocallers

Federal and state authorities on Tuesday announced that they had punished dozens of illegal robocallers that allegedly placed an estimated 1 billion spam calls to consumers, a crackdown they said should send a signal about the government’s heightened attention to Americans targeted by such scams. Some of the robocallers sought to deceive people into paying fees or surrendering their personal information for fraudulent services, such as lowering their credit card interest rates or providing help with health insurance, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which worked alongside state attorneys general and other local law enforcement officials. In total, they said their operation spanned 94 actions over the past nine months, including issuing warning letters and fines and filing charges in court. The government’s efforts come as robocalls continue to ring Americans’ phones at record rates: Scam calls made up a large share of the estimated 4.7 billion robocalls to mobile devices in May, according to YouMail, an app that helps block them. That’s more than double the amount from two years ago, an uptick that has prompted Americans to complain to the FTC at historic levels. The agency said Tuesday that it now receives on average about 10,000 robocall complaints per day. — WASHINGTON POST



Citigroup cancelling perks on credit cards

Citigroup Inc. is eliminating free trip insurance and price-protection guarantees for its US credit-card customers. Other perks, including car-rental and lost-baggage insurance, will be pulled from some accounts, sparking customer complaints on social media. “Citi continuously evaluates our products to ensure that associated benefits best meet the needs of our customers,” the New York-based company said in an e-mailed statement, citing “sustained low usage” of the rewards being discontinued. The changes take effect Sept. 22. Banks fought a rewards war for years as they sought to capture more of their customers’ spending. But competition has begun to plateau in recent quarters as card issuers focus more on profitability and retaining existing customers. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Private club for women executives to expand

Chief, a private club for the powerful women of New York City, launched in January with 200 members and a party in Tribeca. Six months later, the network has a 5,000-person waiting list, nationwide demand and, now, money to grow. Chief on Tuesday announced a $22 million series A investment round led by Ken Chenault at General Catalyst and Alexa Von Tobel at Inspired Capital. The chief executive officer of American Express Co. until 2018, Chenault will also join Chief’s board, as will von Tobel. Chief plans to use the money to expand in New York and open chapters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Washington by the end of 2020. Unlike women’s trade groups or other professional networks, Chief is only interested in women who are already successful — defined as a job at the vice president level or higher. Often members get their employers to cover the cost of the annual dues, which are set at $5,400 or $7,800, depending on experience level. They get access to the Tribeca clubhouse, a Slack channel, and events with speakers like Whoopi Goldberg and Valerie Jarrett. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Federal debt set to rise to highest levels since World War II in coming decades

The federal debt is set to rise over coming decades to the highest levels since World War II, as falling tax revenue and increased spending look likely to worsen the nation’s fiscal outlook, according to a report released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office. In 2019, the debt held by the public amounted to 78 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, compared to just 35 percent in 2007. That number is set to increase to 92 percent by the end of next decade, as well as 144 percent by 2049, the report says. ‘‘That level of debt would be the highest in the nation’s history by far, and it would be on track to increase even more,’’ the CBO report says. ‘‘The prospect of such high and rising debt poses substantial risks for the nation, and presents policymakers with significant challenges.’’ Decreasing federal tax revenue are expected to widen the nation’s deficit, particularly in the short-term. In 2017, federal tax revenues amounted to 17.3 percent of the nation’s GDP. In 2019, two years after passage of President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut, that number that fell to 16.5 percent for this year for 2019. But spending is the bigger problem in the long-term, with the CBO expecting it to rise from 20.7 percent of GDP to 27.1 percent of GDP by 2049. Ballooning health care costs and the nation’s aging population expected to drive up spending on Medicare, the nation’s health insurance program for the elderly. — WASHINGTON POST



Chairman of Buzzfeed steps down

Kenneth Lerer, a prolific investor who helped found HuffPost, has stepped down as chairman of BuzzFeed, the viral-happy website that has lately experienced turbulence after a sharp rise in prominence. Lerer’s departure, which was first reported by Axios on Tuesday, was confirmed by two people with knowledge of the matter who declined to speak publicly. Lerer’s investment fund has not altered its stake in BuzzFeed, the people said. Jonah Peretti, the site’s founder and chief executive, has been BuzzFeed’s principal leader of late. BuzzFeed has struggled in the past few years after a period of significant growth. In January, BuzzFeed laid off 15 percent of its staff, including dozens of journalists at its money-losing but prestigious news division. — NEW YORK TIMES


Airbnb launches luxury listings

Gone are the days of air mattresses on the floor. Airbnb Inc. is now catering to the mega-wealthy with a new tier of luxury rentals. Airbnb Luxe went live Tuesday morning after long being teased, with 2,000 new listings on Airbnb’s website offering guests the chance to stay in some of the world’s most extravagant homes. Everything from entire islands to medieval castles and mansions decked out with water slides, dinosaur skulls, and archery ranges are up for rent. The average luxury listing has an asking price of $14,000 a week — but can go as high as $1 million a week for a private atoll near Tahiti that comprises 21 bungalows and a staff of 50. — BLOOMBERG NEWS