NOAA Photo

Obama ties federal construction to flood risks

President Barack Obama on Friday ordered the first national flood protection standard for federally funded roads and buildings, which the White House said was prompted by expected climate change impacts and the immense costs of rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard requires that federal projects in flood-prone areas be built to withstand the impact of rising sea levels. It will reduce taxpayer exposure to climate-caused flood disasters, the White House said, and will support community floodplain management codes.

Oil

Markets brace for Big Oil profit plunge

NEW YORK (AP) — It's just a forecast, and for only one of 10 industry groups in the stock market. Yet it has almost singlehandedly turned what had been a strong earnings season into a weak one.

Profits for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index are expected to have grown in the fourth quarter at one of the lowest rates in years, just 2.2 percent. The culprit: Energy companies that suffered as oil prices plunged. Their profits are expected to have dropped 23 percent, a collapse of fortune nearly unheard of outside of a recession, and one that has weighed on the stock market.

Oil

Government sells scandalized Teapot Dome oilfield for $45M

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A private company finally will be able to drill legally for oil at Teapot Dome, a remote Wyoming oilfield that remains best known for a political scandal that embroiled the administration of President Warren G. Harding in the early 1920s.

The Energy Department announced Friday that it had finalized the sale of the 9,481-acre Teapot Dome oilfield to New York-based Stranded Oil Resources Corporation for $45.2 million. Stranded Oil was the highest of nine bidders last fall.

Cost pressure intensifies for Southern Co. nuclear plant

ATLANTA (AP) — The delays and cost overruns are piling up for a new plant in Georgia that was supposed to prove nuclear energy can be built affordably.

Instead, the companies building first-of-their-kind reactors at Plant Vogtle expect they will need an extra three years to finish construction. The plant's owners and builders are fighting over who should pay for more than $1 billion in unexpected construction expenses — a figure that could easily grow.

US economy slowed last quarter, but signs are pointing up

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy slowed in the final three months of 2014, but a burst in consumer spending and the prospect of continued low energy prices are bolstering confidence that growth will strengthen this year.

The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the October-December period, the government said Friday. That was down from a sizzling 5 percent gain in the previous quarter.

EPA administrator at Vatican ahead of encyclical

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency met Friday with Vatican officials who helped draft Pope Francis' upcoming encyclical on ecology, evidence that the Obama administration is seeking to hitch its climate-change message onto that of the popular pope.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters that her aim in visiting was to show the Vatican how aligned President Barack Obama and Francis are on climate change. She said she wanted to stress that global warming isn't just an environmental issue, but a public health threat, and yet also a chance for economic opportunity.

Oil

Mexico cuts spending by $8.4 billion due to oil price drop

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico will cut government spending by $8.4 billion this year because of a drop in revenues due to declining oil prices.

Finance Minister Luis Videgaray also said Friday the government will put on hold plans to build a high-speed rail project that has been marred by allegations of favoritism.

House Democrats' new message on the economy: We told you so

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Democrats' new message on America's economic recovery is: We told you so, and we're going to keep telling you so.

The economy is rebounding on nearly every front, even if the middle class still needs help, and it's time to tell that story loudly, top Democrats say. That's the key to reversing their midterm election setbacks, according to a host of House Democrats, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, all of whom came to Philadelphia this week for pep talks and strategy sessions.

Oil

Moody's' downgrades credit rating of Brazil's Petrobras

SAO PAULO (AP) — Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the credit rating of Brazil's state-owned oil company because of the widening kickback-corruption scandal affecting Petrobras.

The credit rating agency announced its decision late Thursday in a statement posted on its website.

Freeport LNG photo

LNG exports next up for Senate Republicans

With the Keystone XL pipeline bill approved in the Senate, Republicans are looking ahead to their next energy goal: speeding up approvals of natural gas exports. An Energy Department official signaled Thursday the Obama administration might not oppose pending legislation.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said after a hearing that she would push a bill through the committee in the coming weeks, combined with other legislation to be named.

Oil

Yellowstone oil spills fuel arguments over Keystone line

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Oil pipeline accidents have become increasingly frequent in the U.S. as Congress presses the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline — a project that would pass near the spot where 30,000 gallons of crude spilled into Montana's Yellowstone River earlier this month.

The Montana pipeline breach temporarily fouled a city's water supply and emerged as the latest in a string of spills to highlight ongoing problems with maintenance of the nation's 61,000 miles of crude oil pipelines.

Regulators issue final volumes in Nevada nuclear dump report

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Findings released Thursday by analysts in the federal agency with the power to give the go-ahead for a proposed national nuclear waste dump in Nevada appear to provide wiggle room for adopting rules to open the repository, if decision-makers want to go forward.

"Conditions (to open the repository) could be included," Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff said, "if there is a commission decision to authorize construction."

Builder projects 18-month delay for nuclear plant in Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) — Southern Co. said the firms building its new nuclear power plant in Georgia estimate the project will be delayed 18 months, potentially costing the power company $720 million in new charges, company officials said Thursday.

The latest delay at Plant Vogtle is another setback for a project that was supposed to prove nuclear reactors could be built on time and without the cost overruns that financially strained utilities decades ago. Power companies are already shuttering existing nuclear plants because natural gas is so cheap by comparison.

Obama calls for spending surge, buoyed by rising economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Declaring an end to "mindless austerity," President Barack Obama called for a surge in government spending Thursday, and asked Congress to throw out the sweeping budget cuts both parties agreed to four years ago when deficits were spiraling out of control.

Obama's proposed $74 billion in added spending — about 7 percent — would be split about evenly between defense programs and the domestic side of the budget. Although he's sought before to reverse the "sequester" spending cuts, Obama's pitch in this year's budget comes with the added oomph of an improving economy and big recent declines in federal deficits.

Obama budget to call for $1 billion for Central America

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says President Barack Obama's budget will call for $1 billion in aid for Central America. He says that's three times what the U.S. typically gives the region.

Biden writes in an op-ed in The New York Times that the aid will help Central American leaders make tough reforms needed to address security, political and economic challenges.

US-backed Mexico dam project triggered protest, rare defeat

SANTA URSULA, Mexico (AP) — People in the hamlet of Santa Ursula began to worry when the logging started. In a few short weeks, more than a mile of densely forested riverbank was stripped from the Arroyo Sal to make way for heavy dredging equipment.

Work was just beginning in late 2010 on an ambitious, three-year, $30 million project to build a 15-megawatt hydroelectric plant directly adjacent to the Cerro de Oro dam, with support from a U.S. government agency in Washington.

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