• Export freeze sows bitterness in Venezuela chocolate trade

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    EL CLAVO, Venezuela (AP) — William Machado worked all winter harvesting palm-sized yellow cacao pods and drying the flavorful beans inside. He's part of a chocolate trade that is one of this South American county's most prized industries, but Machado increasingly fears his hard work may be in vain, squandered by a freeze on exports. "We have nothing. We're not reaping any benefits from our harvest because we don't have buyers for the cacao," he said amid a grove of spindly cacao trees in a densely vegetated farming village on Venezuela's northern coast. Two weeks after Venezuela's agriculture minister announced that he would make the resumption of cacao exports a priority, piles of beans are still sitting in warehouses.

  • New scrubber to loom over Cheyenne refinery, cut emissions

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The skyline of Cheyenne is about to change with the addition of a huge new piece of pollution control equipment at a refinery that will stand taller than the Wyoming Capitol. The $30 million wet scrubber is now lying on its side at the HollyFrontier refinery. The device resembles a spacecraft or a submarine from the Jules Verne era. Next month, an enormous crane will set the scrubber upright to a height of 177 feet, making it easily among the tallest structures in Cheyenne. The Capitol building a couple miles northwest of the refinery is 146 feet high. The crane itself will require weeks of assembly ahead of the relatively straightforward job of hoisting the 243,000-pound scrubber upright onto a

  • Fate of money for Ohio cleanup uncertain amid veto threat

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal money for the decontamination and decommissioning of a Cold War-era uranium plant in southern Ohio remained uncertain Wednesday as the House sought to move forward on a broad water and energy bill that the White House is threatening to veto. In a bid to boost economic development, the GOP-controlled House was poised to approve the extra funds on Thursday for the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon. But the Office of Management and Budget said President Barack Obama's senior advisers will recommend he veto the broader bill because it "drastically underfunds" investments to clean energy. The House plan would provide $213 million specifically for cleanup in Piketon.

  • Noranda gets rate cut, other Ameren consumers see increase

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Most Ameren Missouri customers will face higher bills while the electric utility's largest customer will get a lower rate that it has long sought under a decision Wednesday by the state's Public Service Commission. Commission chairman Robert Kenney said some of the costs from the lower rate for Noranda Aluminum Inc. — which operates a smelter that employs about 900 people in southeast Missouri — will be shifted to other consumers. But he said the increase is less than the amount other consumers would have to pay if Noranda shut down entirely. "The rate we grant today does not amount to an infinite corporate bailout," Kenney said. "The commission retains oversight and we will be watching.

  • LePage plan to change nuclear power rules meets resistance

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists on Wednesday blasted Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to make it easier to bring small nuclear power plants to Maine because it would strip voters of the power to sign off on new plants. Currently, voters must approve the construction of any nuclear power plant in Maine but LePage, a Republican, wants to remove that requirement for plants that generate 500 or fewer megawatts. He's hoping to open the door to new nuclear technologies, like small modular units that can be built in a factory and shipped to installation sites, which have also been embraced by President Barack Obama's administration.

  • Senate passes 'weakened' electric utility regulation bill

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Senate passed a bill revising rules for the panel that sets Florida electric rates Wednesday and sent it to Gov. Rick Scott, even though its sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, said the bill was weakened by political influence from big utility companies. Latvala, a St. Petersburg Republican, singled out Florida Power & Light as the main source of the influence he said caused the state House to remove protections for electric customers. Because the House suddenly adjourned Tuesday, no more changes were possible, leaving senators a choice of accepting the House version or killing the bill. Latvala's comments were another sign of the acrimony that has developed between the Senate and the more

  • 5 Things to Know in Florida for April 30

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    Your daily look at news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today. FLORIDA SENATE ASKS HOUSE TO RETURN, SAYS SHUTDOWN ILLEGAL Florida state senators are contending that the House decision to abruptly shut down their work this week violates the state's constitution. Senate President Andy Gardiner sent a letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Wednesday that asked the House to come back to the Capitol. The session was scheduled to end on May 1. Gardiner's letter called the decision by the House to adjourn three and a half days early "unprecedented." The House abruptly stopped work because of an ongoing stalemate over the budget and health care.

  • Noting slower economy, Fed appears no closer to a rate hike

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve downgraded its view of the U.S. economy Wednesday after a winter in which growth nearly froze. The Fed offered no sign that a rate increase might be coming soon. On a day when the government estimated that the economy barely grew in the January-March quarter, the Fed acknowledged that economic barometers have weakened of late, in part because of temporary factors. It noted in a statement that growth has slowed, business investment has softened and exports have declined. It also reiterated that before raising rates, it needs to be "reasonably confident" that low inflation will move back up to the Fed's 2 percent target.

  • Capitol Hill Buzz: McConnell, McCarthy spar over coal plants

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Maybe it's not Mayweather-Pacquaio, but Wednesday's verbal sparring between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and EPA administrator Gina McCarthy crackled with tension and defiance. They'll eventually settle their differences over coal emissions in a courtroom, not a boxing ring, the two agreed in their rare face-to-face encounter before reporters and cameras. McConnell says EPA's bid to limit carbon emissions would devastate Kentucky's struggling coal industry. McCarthy says the proposed rules are reasonable and necessary to combat climate change. In March, McConnell took the unusual step of urging the nation's 50 governors to defy the Obama administration's power plant rules by refusing to sub

  • Maintenance, refueling outage finished at Cook nuclear plant

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Operators of southwestern Michigan's Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant say that one of its units has returned to service after a 34-day shutdown for refueling. Unit 2 at the plant went back online about 2 a.m. Tuesday. Indiana Michigan Power runs the plant, which is along Lake Michigan in Berrien County's Lake Township, near Bridgman. The Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company says Unit 2 now is "fully compliant with all upgrades and modifications required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan." Indiana Michigan Power says that operators carried out to major projects during the outage — replacing two 71-ton feedwater heaters and the plant's

  • State agency upholds Clatsop decision against gas pipeline

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — State regulators have upheld a county commission decision to deny a permit for a pipeline to a proposed liquefied natural gas plant in northwest Oregon. The decision came Wednesday from the state Land Use Board of Appeals. The Clatsop County commissioners ruled against the pipeline in 2011. The state agency upheld several of the commissioner's findings, including that the high-pressure pipeline could pose a risk to homes nearby and that there's a risk that an accident could release drilling lubricant as pipeline contractors bored holes beneath waterways. The Oregon LNG plant proposed at Warrenton is one of two proposed along the Oregon Coast to receive natural gas in pipelines and then chil

  • Pipeline refiles water permit application to NY regulators

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New Yorkers have an extra two weeks to comment on the proposed 124-mile Constitution Pipeline after the severe winter delayed the state's field review of potential effects to wetlands and streams along the project's planned route through four counties. The Department of Environmental Conservation's yearlong review of the pipeline's water quality certificate application was supposed to be completed by May 8, but the agency asked Constitution to resubmit its application to extend the deadline, pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton said Wednesday. DEC announced that public comments will now be accepted until May 14.

  • 3 Indiana brothers plead guilty in biofuels fraud

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three Indiana brothers have pleaded guilty in a biofuels scam that bilked taxpayers and fuel buyers out of tens of millions of dollars, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Chad Ducey, 39, of Fishers, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis to conspiracy, wire fraud and other charges. His brothers, Chris Ducey, 48, of North Webster; and Craig Ducey, 44, of Fishers, had pleaded guilty to the same charges late last week, prosecutors said. The trio, who had faced a May trial, operated E-biofuels LLC from a central Indiana biofuels plant. Craig Ducey also pleaded guilty to a related $58.

  • Text of the Federal Reserve's statement Wednesday

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Below is the statement the Fed released Wednesday after its policy meeting ended: Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March suggests that economic growth slowed during the winter months, in part reflecting transitory factors. The pace of job gains moderated, and the unemployment rate remained steady. A range of labor market indicators suggests that underutilization of labor resources was little changed. Growth in household spending declined; households' real incomes rose strongly, partly reflecting earlier declines in energy prices, and consumer sentiment remains high. Business fixed investment softened, the recovery in the housing sector remained slow, and exports declined.

  • Iran scraps cash handouts to its wealthiest to ease burden

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has scrapped the country's wealthiest citizens off a list of people receiving monthly cash handouts in a small step toward easing the burden on the budget and freeing up more government funds, an official said Wednesday. The move, which will free up about $3 million a month of government money, is the latest in Tehran's efforts to juggle cash and wean the nation off subsidies in an oil-dependent economy suffering from a steep drop in global oil prices. But it will also likely be another test of public support for moderate President Hassan Rouhani as Tehran negotiates a conclusive deal with world powers over its controversial nuclear program.

  • McCrory's top tax collector leaving NC governor's team

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's top tax collector is leaving Gov. Pat McCrory's administration. McCrory's office said Wednesday that state Revenue Secretary Lyons Gray is being nominated for a seat on the state utilities regulatory board. Gray is expected to stay in place until legislators confirm his spot on the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which regulates rates charged and services delivered by electricity, water, telecommunications and other providers. Gray's ancestors co-founded Wachovia Bank, ran R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and provided early funding for the Winston-Salem medical school that's now part of Wake Forest University.

  • Groups petition PUC to reconsider energy efficiency cuts

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Three groups are asking Maine utility regulators to reconsider a decision that will result in a loss of $38 million for energy efficiency programs. The Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals filed their motion with the Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday. A sweeping energy bill approved by the Legislature aimed to set one source of funding for Efficiency Maine at $60 million, but there was a typo in the complex funding formula. The PUC interpreted that to mean that funding should be capped at about $22 million. The groups say that the utility regulators should've taken into account legislative intent.

  • MasterCard 1Q profits rise 17 percent

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    NEW YORK (AP) — Credit and debit card payment processor MasterCard said its profit rose 17 percent in the first quarter, as consumers across the globe spent more on their MasterCards. The Purchase, New York-based company reported net income of $1.02 billion, up from $870 million a year earlier. On a per-share basis, MasterCard earned 89 cents versus 73 cents a year earlier. Net revenue was $2.23 billion. MasterCard's profits beat expectations but the company's revenue fell slightly short. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were looking for MasterCard to earn 80 cents per share on $2.28 billion in revenue. MasterCard showed strong growth on purchase volume, or the amount of money customers spent on their MasterCards.

  • Marathon Petroleum approves dividend, stock split

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    NEW YORK (AP) — Marathon Petroleum's board has approved a dividend and a two-for-one stock split, the oil refiner said Wednesday. Under the stock split, Marathon Petroleum's shareholders as of May 20 will receive one additional share of the company's stock on June 10, for each one they already own. The dividend will give shareholders 50 cents for each share they own before the stock split. The dividend will also be paid on June 10 to shareholders of record as of May 20. Marathon Petroleum said it is making the moves to reduce its share price. Its shares are currently trading above $100. "We believe the stock split will make our shares more affordable for a wider range of investors," said Marathon Petroleum CEO a

  • Feds pledge $75M for joint study of harnessing solar energy

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Federal officials have pledged $75 million for the study of harnessing solar energy for fuel production at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology. The Berkeley lab announced Tuesday that the money would be paid out over five years to the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. Officials say researchers are making inroads in producing liquid fuels from a combination of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. The center was founded as one of several Energy Innovation Hubs established by the Energy Department in 2010. The majority of the research is conducted at the Berkeley lab and the Caltech campus in Pasadena.




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