Roundup: Oil and gas mergers / EPA approval / Retail sales boost 

Surging: U.S. oil and gas mergers surged last quarter with the most $1 billion-plus combinations since 2014, according to data released today as rising energy and share prices led to larger oil patch deals, Reuters reports. Producers are consolidating in U.S. shale as oil and natural gas prices recover from last year’s pandemic swoon and this month traded at multiyear highs. The total value of the 40 reported deals last quarter was $33 billion, up from $44.5 billion for all of last year. Read the full story. 

Toxic substances: For much of the past decade, oil companies engaged in drilling and fracking have been allowed to pump into the ground chemicals that, over time, can break down into toxic substances known as PFAS—a class of long-lasting compounds known to pose a threat to people and wildlife—according to internal documents from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA in 2011 approved the use of these chemicals, used to ease the flow of oil from the ground, despite the agency’s own grave concerns about their toxicity, according to the documents, which were reviewed by The New York Times. The EPA’s approval of the three chemicals wasn’t previously publicly known. Read the full story. 

Family tax credit: Grocery stores, big-box retailers and even auto mechanics could pick up sales in the coming months, thanks to a new source of cash: Monthly payments that go directly into parents’ and caretakers’ bank accounts, CNBC reports. Starting Thursday, families will receive money for each of their children. The enhanced child tax credits, passed as part of the American Rescue Plan, are intended to fight child poverty. For retailers, however, they could also act as a stimulus that encourages spending on food, school supplies, clothes—or even a car payment. Read the full story.