AP Photo

Michigan governor signs $28M bill to address water crisis

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed into law $28 million more in emergency funding to address Flint's lead-contaminated water.

It's the second round of state aid for the city since the crisis was confirmed in the fall, bringing the total allocated to nearly $39 million. The Republican governor said the funding will provide immediate resources in Flint, but is not the end of state assistance.

Improperly treated water leached lead from pipes into drinking water after Flint switched from Detroit's water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. The switch was supposed to be an interim move until the completion of a new pipeline from Lake Huron.


Falling oil prices push Chevron to first loss since 2002

DALLAS (AP) — Chevron suffered its first money-losing quarter since 2002 in the final three months of last year, as plunging crude prices chopped more than one-third from its revenue.

Oil traded this month at levels not seen since 2003, although it has rebounded slightly in the last few days. Cheaper energy is great for consumers, who save with every fill-up, but oil-producing nations and big exploration companies like Chevron and Exxon are paying the price.

Chevron is cutting spending, laying off workers, and looking to sell even more of its assets. The problem with that strategy: It's a buyer's market right now for oil facilities, with too many for-sale signs.

Senators seek federal review of California gas leak

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California's U.S. senators are seeking a federal investigation into the ongoing leak of natural gas from a utility's underground storage site that has forced thousands of people to leave nearby Los Angeles neighborhoods.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein said Friday that they will introduce an amendment to legislation on the Senate floor that would direct Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to lead a review of the cause and response to the leak at a Southern California Gas Co. facility.

Massive amounts of climate-changing methane have been spewing for more than three months from a well blowout at the Aliso Canyon site. The stench has sickened residents in the Porter Ranch community who have complained of nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and other symptoms.

Appeals court orders EPA to issue rules on mining cleanups

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered to issue long-overdue rules aimed at stopping mining companies from declaring bankruptcy to avoid pollution cleanups.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Friday that EPA must begin the rulemaking process for the hard-rock mining industry before the end of this year. EPA was sued in 2014 by six environmental groups.

At issue is a 35-year-old edict under the federal Superfund program that requires mining companies to show they have the financial resources to cover the costs of cleaning up ongoing contamination from their operations as well as any potential spills of hazardous materials. The court said mining companies often claim insolvency rather than paying cleanup costs, sheltering profits while leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.

Ohio EPA chief: Action over lead-tainted water took too long

Ohio regulators should have clamped down right away on a village water system after its operators didn't meet federal deadlines requiring them to alert residents about their lead-tainted tap water, the state's environmental agency director said Friday.

Urgent warnings should have been sent to the village of Sebring after officials failed to notify all water users within 60 days that tests during the late summer showed high levels of lead in at six homes, said Craig Butler, head of Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency.

"It is not as if there was no communication, but I don't think it was strong enough," he said.

State workers in Flint got bottled water as crisis brewed

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Michigan offered fresh bottled water for state employees in Flint starting in January 2015, although residents were told that tap water was safe to drink until last fall, a state official said.

Flint residents are now warned to drink only filtered or bottled water because of lead contamination in the city's supply.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings, said water coolers were introduced at the State Office Building after Flint flunked some drinking water standards that weren't related to lead.

Japan restarts nuclear reactor using plutonium-mixed fuel

TOKYO (AP) — Japan on Friday restarted a nuclear reactor that uses riskier plutonium-based MOX fuel, the first of that type to resume operations under stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Japan's large stockpile of plutonium has raised international nuclear security concerns, and the government has come up with the idea of burning it in reactors to reduce the amount.

The No. 3 reactor at Takahama nuclear plant in western Japan, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., went back online Friday. Dozens of people protested outside the plant in Fukui prefecture, where preparations for a restart of another reactor, No. 4, are also underway.

Proposed ethanol plant gets $4.2 million state tax break

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Minnesota businessman whose construction company has built many of the nation's ethanol plants received state sales tax incentives Friday to complete construction on a previously idled project in southwest Iowa.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority board approved $4.2 million in sales tax refund benefits for the project proposed by Farmers Energy Cardinal to build a corn ethanol plant northwest of Atlantic. The company had sought $17.2 million in tax benefits, including investment tax credits and sales tax refunds, but the board took a cautious approach and approved just the sales tax incentives for the company, which promises to create 49 jobs.

The plant is designed to produce 150 million gallons of ethanol a year — a capacity that ranks it among the largest of Iowa's 44 corn ethanol refineries.


US stocks soar; Microsoft leads a surge in technology

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks soared on the last trading day of January, led by big gains in technology companies after Microsoft turned in a strong quarter.

Visa and MasterCard also joined the rally in technology Friday, and several other companies also surged on strong earnings. Consol Energy jumped along with the price of natural gas.

The gains, as big as they were, weren't enough to make up for a dismal start to the year. U.S. indexes are still down sharply for January following the worst beginning to a year on record.

House Dems focus on running on Obama record

BALTIMORE (AP) — House Democrats said Friday they have a clear election-year message — low unemployment, health insurance for millions and dropping gas prices — as they face steep odds of reclaiming the majority that delivered President Barack Obama his greatest first-term legislative victories.

"We're leaving this weekend stronger and more united than we were coming in," said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., chairman of the Democratic campaign committee, who added that the party has a "foundation to build from as opposed to tearing that apart."

Democrats wrapped up their three-day issues retreat on Friday after hearing from Trevor Noah of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday delivered separate pep talks to the Democrats, who have their smallest minority in the House since the Truman administration in the late 1940s.

Prosecutors use refuge occupiers' own words against them

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Ammon Bundy and his followers made ample use of social media and videos to summon armed recruits to join their takeover of a wildlife refuge and to declare their readiness to stand their ground. Now federal authorities are using the occupiers' own words against them.

Two criminal complaints unsealed this week against the 11 protesters under arrest show that FBI agents have carefully scrutinized social media postings, interviews and online talk shows that were broadcast from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the siege that began nearly a month ago.

Four holdouts continued to occupy the refuge in the snowy high country near Burns, and on Friday they posted a YouTube video demanding pardons for everyone involved in the occupation.

1000s without power as storm Gertrude lashes Britain

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of people have been left without electricity as winter storm Gertrude lashes northern Britain with snow, rain and wind gusts of more than 100 miles an hour (161 kph).

The Met Office weather service says 60 to 70 miles per hour (96 to 113 kph) winds are expected over large areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland. A gust of 105 miles an hour (169 kph) was recorded Friday in the Shetland islands, off Scotland's northern coast.

Around 10,000 homes were left without power in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and there was widespread disruption to train and ferry services.

2 Chinese miners rescued after 36 days, 2 still trapped

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese state media say two miners have been rescued from a collapsed mine after spending 36 days trapped underground.

Efforts continued Friday to reach the remaining two people in the mine in east China's Shandong province.

The gypsum mine collapsed on Christmas Day, killing one and leaving 13 others missing. In the days that followed, rescuers detected four survivors 200 meters (660 feet) below the surface.


Wyoming adopts wildlife migration conservation guidelines

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — New state guidelines adopted in Wyoming, an energy-rich state that constantly seeks to balance conservation with development of fossil fuels, seek to protect some of North America's longest wildlife-migration routes from oil and natural gas drilling on public lands.

The guidelines approved Thursday by the state Game and Fish Commission call on state wildlife officials to continue to identify routes traveled twice a year by thousands of elk, antelope and mule deer. Tracking technology has enabled scientists in Wyoming and elsewhere to map such routes with increasing precision — and even discover new ones.

Biologists also will study how to counter threats to migrations, such as by replacing barbed-wire fences with a type that allows antelope to crawl under the bottom wire.

EPA: New York village should test water for Teflon chemical

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is telling people in an upstate New York village to have their well water tested for a chemical used in making Teflon.

The agency on Thursday advised residents of Hoosick to have their wells tested for PFOA, which has been linked to cancer and other illnesses. It has been detected in municipal wells in Hoosick Falls, a village within the Rensselaer (rehn-suh-LEER') County town.

The agency says water with a level of PFOA higher than 100 parts per trillion shouldn't be used for drinking or cooking. That's a quarter of the EPA's current advised limit of 400 ppt.

US economy slowed to scant 0.7 pct. growth rate last quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy struggled to grow in the October-December quarter as consumer spending, business investment and exports slowed. Yet despite global weakness and shrunken oil and stock prices, many economists expect growth to accelerate on the strength of healthy job gains.

The economy grew at an annual rate of just 0.7 percent last quarter, less than half the 2 percent growth rate in the July-September period, the government said Friday. It was the worst showing since a severe winter slowed the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, to a 0.6 percent annual growth rate in last year's first quarter.

Though the slowdown late last year could renew doubts about the durability of the 6½-year-old economic expansion, most analysts said they expected the slump to be short-lived.

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