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30Mar/15Off

Two Bodies Recovered at East Village Explosion Site


By VIVIAN YEE and SHARON OTTERMANMARCH 29, 2015

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Crews continued to work into the night near the site of the explosion, where two bodies were found.

Credit  Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

As firefighters worked on Sunday afternoon to pull two bodies from the scene of an explosion that demolished three buildings in the East Village, a brother of one of the men reported missing in the blast urged his friends and relatives not to give up hope.

Neal Figueroa clambered partway up a police barrier, kissed a white rose he held and tossed it toward the rubble. “Nicholas, come home,” he shouted to his missing brother, 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa. “We’re here for you! Don’t give up!”

    Within hours, the Figueroas would learn that one of the bodies — found after three days of sifting through the wreckage at Second Avenue and Seventh Street — had been identified as their Nicholas, who had been on a date at Sushi Park, a restaurant at 121 Second Avenue. Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said on Sunday evening that “everyone who was reported missing has been found,” appearing to confirm that the second body was that of Moises Ismael Locón Yac, 27, a busboy at Sushi Park, who was the only other person reported missing.

    “We continue to search,” Mr. Nigro said at a news conference at the site, although “the likelihood of anyone else being here is very small.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/30/nyregion/bodies-are-found-at-east-village-explosion-site-police-say.html?ref=nyregion&_r=0&assetType=nyt_now

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    30Mar/15Off

    Months Before East Village Blast, Utility Found Gas Line Was Tapped in Dangerous Way

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    Utility workers determined that gas intended for the restaurant Sushi Park was being siphoned where an explosion and fire destroyed three buildings on Thursday.

    VICTOR J. BLUE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

      By PATRICK McGEEHAN and JIHA HAM

      MARCH 28, 2015

      More than seven months before an explosion and fire destroyed three buildings in the East Village on Thursday, utility workers discovered that the gas line to a restaurant in one of them had been tapped in a dangerous way, Consolidated Edison and the restaurant’s owner said on Saturday.

      After detecting a “strong odor” of gas in the basement of 121 Second Avenue on Aug. 6, the utility workers found “multiple leaks” in hoses that had been connected to the line, creating a “hazardous situation,” said Philip O’Brien, a spokesman for Con Edison. That discovery led Con Edison to shut off all gas to the building for about 10 days, until the utility deemed it safe to restore the service, Mr. O’Brien said.

      City officials said they suspected that leaking natural gas was the source of the explosion and fire that destroyed 121 Second Avenue and two neighboring buildings. More than 20 people were injured, four critically. Two people who were in the restaurant, Sushi Park, were still missing on Saturday.

      The Manhattan district attorney’s office and the city’s Department of Investigation are among the agencies looking into the explosion. The authorities were focusing on plumbing and gas line work being done at the building, and officials said they were exploring whether a gas line in the building had been tapped inappropriately.

      On Saturday, the owner of Sushi Park, Hyeonil Kim, provided more details about the gas leak Con Edison responded to last summer. “We smelled gas, so we dialed 911,” he said.

      He said firefighters and Con Edison employees arrived and the utility workers determined that gas intended for the restaurant was being siphoned off — he called it illegal gas-tapping — for use in the newly renovated apartments upstairs in the five-story building.

      http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/nyregion/months-before-east-village-blast-utility-found-gas-line-was-tapped-in-dangerous-way.html

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      30Mar/15Off

      Probe of back-channel dealing continues at California PUC

      BY DAVID SIDERSDSIDERS@SACBEE.COM

      03/29/2015 4:57 PM 03/30/2015 12:05 AM

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      On Sept. 9, 2010, a massive fire roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, the result of a gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people. MICHAEL SAH ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

      Michael Peevey’s announcement last fall that he would not seek reappointment to the California Public Utilities Commission appeared to offer closure to years of controversy surrounding his tenure.

      The commission, which regulates California’s massive energy and telecommunications industries, had been shaken by revelations of back-channel communications with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. following a fatal gas line explosion in San Bruno in 2010.

      On the same day critics assembled in San Francisco to call for his ouster, Peevey relented. In a prepared statement, he said, “Twelve years as president is enough.”

      Then, at his final meeting in December, Peevey closed with a laugh.

      “Don’t shoot,” the commission president said. “I surrender!”

      In the months since Peevey left the PUC, however, the scandal that ushered him out of office continues to erupt.

      http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article16859606.html

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      30Mar/15Off

      PUC scandal stretches to UC Berkeley

      Former PUC President Michael Peevey has been criticized for emails and other communications with utility officials.

      BY MARC LIFSHER

      March 29, 2015, 8:01 p.m.

      A scandal at the Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco has reached across the bay to UC Berkeley.

      Money raised by a $250-a-plate retirement dinner for Michael Peevey, the former president of the California Public Utilities Commission, has become too hot to handle for the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. The school was designated as the dinner's charity.

      But after PUC critics condemned the dinner and criticized the school's role in it, Goldman's dean announced that the school would not accept the contributions generated by the Peevey affair.

      Peevey, who retired Dec. 31 after two six-year terms as PUC president, is at the center of a scandal involving improper communications between top PUC officials and regulated electric, natural gas, water and other utilities. Peevey has denied any wrongdoing but has not responded to requests for comment.

      After Peevey's departure, longtime friends — Marin County public relations executive Don Solem and Susan Kennedy, a former commissioner and top aide to Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis — organized the testimonial. The event drew several hundred guests to a ballroom in San Francisco's financial district Feb. 12.

      http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-83175196/

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      30Mar/15Off

      How banquet for ex-PUC head Peevey went sour for UC Berkeley

      By Jaxon Van Derbeken

      March 29, 2015 Updated: March 29, 2015 7:21pm

      A tribute dinner for the embattled former president of the state Public Utilities Commission may have seemed a good way to help bolster funding for UC Berkeley’s public policy school, but the event turned into a nightmare that ended only when the school rejected the proceeds, e-mails released by the university show.

      More than 300 pages of e-mails — obtained by a San Diego citizens group under the Public Records Act — show how the Goldman School of Public Policy had moved from first welcoming the proceeds from the Feb. 12 event honoring Michael Peevey to rejecting $30,000 and severing ties with him.

      At first, Goldman Dean Henry Brady seemed stunned at the reaction to the dinner for Peevey — a large donor and member of the school’s advisory board. But his views appeared to change when a top official at the commission the 77-year-old Peevey ran for 12 years portrayed his former boss as an arrogant autocrat whose ethical lapses made his fall “inevitable.”

      http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/How-dinner-for-ex-PUC-head-Peevey-hit-nerve-at-UC-6166762.php?t=bb949d4d94

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      30Mar/15Off

      State PUC faces $5.1 million in legal fees; public to pay

      By Jaxon Van Derbeken Updated 6:53 pm, Friday, March 27, 2015

      The state Public Utilities Commission’s legal tab related to the ongoing state and federal corruption probes of the agency will probably top $5.1 million, documents show — more than 100 times the sum specified in the original contract.

      Last year, the state agency signed a $49,000 attorney representation contract with the Sheppard Mullin law firm — just below the level that would require full commission authorization — to represent current and former officials during federal and state corruption probes of the agency. The firm offered a 10 percent blanket discount but never sent a single invoice for representation.

      But the new contract, signed Thursday by Timothy Sullivan, the commission’s executive director, lists actual or expected billings for 2015 that would total $5.18 million, including more than $2 million in the first three months of this year. The discount is much more limited in the new deal, with a graduated scale and the 10 percent kicking in only for billings that top $5 million.

      As part of those probes, state investigators searched the commission’s headquarters and the homes of former commission President Michael Peevey and Brian Cherry, a disgraced Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executive.

      http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/State-PUC-faces-5-1-million-in-legal-fees-6163404.php

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      30Mar/15Off

      Achieving California’s goal of sustainable energy future

      BY V. JOHN WHITE SPECIAL TO THE BEE

      03/28/2015 5:00 PM 03/29/2015 12:00 AM

      V. John White is the executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies in Sacramento (www.ceert.org).

      Not so long ago, the idea that renewable energy could be relied upon to power our electric grid was considered far-fetched and too expensive.

      But having spent 40 years involved in the field, first as a legislative staffer and later as a lobbyist and consultant for environmental causes, I have witnessed a remarkable journey.

      Yes, air pollution remains a problem, particularly in the Central Valley. But the air is far better than it once was. And in the past 10 years, renewable sources have gone from being a slice of green on the dirty fossil fuel grid to being cost competitive and more reliable than nuclear energy and coal, and catching up with natural gas.

      The cost of wind and solar power has fallen, and performance has improved. Technology exists to store electricity and modulate the grid to coincide with demand. All of it opens a path to reliable, affordable, low-carbon energy with less vulnerability to imported fuel price spikes. All this opens the possibility to more jobs and tax revenue for the state.

      But as Gov. Jerry Brown said in his inaugural address, achieving these goals will require creativity and innovation. California’s success in reducing pollution and transforming energy systems stems from our ability to adjust and recalibrate our policies as we gain experience, and as new technology comes along.

      With the price of renewable energy continuing to fall, it makes sense to buy more. But as we achieve greater use, how all the pieces fit together will matter.

      http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article16434323.html

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      30Mar/15Off

      Rob Portman, under fire from environmentalists, scores energy victory (while few were awake)


      on March 27, 2015 at 12:22 PM, updated March 27, 2015 at 12:40 PM

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      WASHINGTON, D.C. - While you were sleeping, two members of the U.S. Senate including Ohio's Rob Portman were finally able to pass part of a long-awaited energy efficiency initiative. It's a boring-sounding matter but has significance for Portman, who is under fire by environmentalists for not doing enough, from their viewpoint, on climate change.

      This happened after 4 a.m., with the Senate chamber nearly empty. In fact, Portman, the bill's Republican sponsor, and his Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, were the only ones on the Senate floor, according to Roll Call.

      Since 2011, the Portman-Shaheen duo have pushed a broad package of government incentives - they are not mandates, Portman points out - to help Americans and their federal, state and local governments use less energy.

      Portman says energy efficiency is a key way to save money, develop technologies and jobs, and cut emissions that are linked to global warming. He says this approach, combined with incentives to halt deforestation globally, are far preferable to the Obama administration's pending carbon mandates, which would force power plants to cut their coal use. The process of burning coal to create electricity releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and scientists say it is a major source of climate change.

      http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2015/03/rob_portman_under_fire_from_environmentalists_scores_energy_victory_while_few_were_awake.html#incart_river

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      30Mar/15Off

      Dynegy gets federal OK to buy Duke, Energy Capital plants

      Posted on March 27, 2015 at 7:51 pm by Bloomberg in Deals, Electricity

      Dynegy  won federal approval to buy power plants from Duke Energy Corp. and private-equity firm Energy Capital Partners for $6.25 billion.

      The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the sale of the units in two separate orders posted today on the agency’s website.

      http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/03/27/dynegy-gets-federal-ok-to-buy-duke-energy-capital-plants/

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      30Mar/15Off

      Exelon Subsidiary Denied Tax Breaks On Three Mile Island Purchase

      Peter J Reilly Contributor

      I focus on the tax issues of individuals, businesses & more

      Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

      TAXES 3/30/2015 @ 8:58AM 11 views

      Remember Three Mile Island?  That was a really long time ago.  In 1979 the movie China Syndrome, starring Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas playing a television reporter and cameraman who secretly film an accident at a nuclear power plant, was released
      Twelve days later there was a partial meltdown of a Pennsylvania nuclear reactor called TMI-2 (TMI, of course stands for Three Mile Island).   According to Wikipeida, the partial meltdown was the worst accident in US commercial nuclear power history.

      TMI-2? That would imply that there was at least one other TMI and there was.  TMI-1 was off-line for refueling at the time of the TMI-2 accident and there was sentiment that is should stay that way permanently.  Nonetheless, it began operating again in 1985.  TMI-1 is owned by AmerGen Energy Company LLC, which is now a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Exelon through Exelon Generaton LLC (Generation). AmerGen acquired TMI-1 along with the Clinton Power Station in Illinois and the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey in 1999 and 2000, prior to Exelon’s acquisition of AmerGen.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2015/03/30/exelon-subsidiary-denied-tax-breaks-on-three-mile-island-purchase/?ss=energy

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      30Mar/15Off

      Halliburton, Baker Hughes shareholders OK $35 billion deal

      Posted on March 27, 2015 at 11:53 am by Collin Eaton in Deals, featured, Oil field services

      HOUSTON – The world’s second and third-largest oil field service firms took another step toward closing a $34.6 billion merger Friday.

      Shareholders of Halliburton and Baker Hughes overwhelmingly approved deal at separate special meetings early Friday, the firms said. Roughly 98 percent of the shareholder votes cast in both votes were in favor of the deal, which is expected to close in the second half of this year.

      Halliburton’s acquisition, one of the biggest in energy deals so far this century, still has to pass a regulatory review by antitrust authorities. The firms could look to sell businesses with up to $7.5 billion in revenue to appease federal trustbusters, but Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar has said he expects the sum to be well below that.

      http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/03/27/halliburton-baker-hughes-shareholders-ok-35b-deal/

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      30Mar/15Off

      Cash-strapped oil firms top Moody’s watch list

      Posted on March 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm by Collin Eaton in Crude oil, featured, Finance/Earnings

      HOUSTON – The oil industry won a dubious distinction Friday, topping a major credit rating agency’s watch list of the most financially stressed firms.

      It’s a sign more oil companies could default on their debt if crude stays cheap.

      In the first quarter, a dozen oil companies including Energy XXI’s operating unit, Midstates Petroleum Co. and Halcón Resources Corp. tumbled into credit-rating territory reserved for the most financially unfit firms, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

      That nearly doubled the number of oil companies and their equipment suppliers on Moody’s watch list to 25, or 13.6 percent of the entire count – the industry’s biggest position ever.

      http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/03/27/cash-strapped-oil-firms-top-moodys-watch-list/

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      30Mar/15Off

      Gov. Kate Brown’s signature could trigger data center boom in rural Oregon

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      Apple built one 338,000-square-foot data center in Prineville, but hasn't followed through with plans for a matching facility and a massive solar array. Public officials expect those plans will resume -- perhaps this year -- with tax savings in hand. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

      By Mike Rogoway | The Oregonian/OregonLive

      Email the author | Follow on Twitter

      on March 29, 2015 at 6:45 AM, updated March 29, 2015 at 5:20 PM

      A package of tax breaks for tech companies passed the Oregon Legislature last week and could become law any day with the signature of Gov. Kate Brown, ending years of legal disputes and corporate anxiety over the unusual way the state values telecom property.

      The new law, Senate Bill 611, could also trigger a new building boom among big data center operators in central and eastern Oregon.

      With the thorny tax issue settled, Amazon has said it may build as many as 11 new data centers in Morrow County, potentially creating hundreds of new jobs in a small corner of northeastern Oregon.

      Public officials say Facebook and Apple have also indicated they are planning to expand existing facilities in Prineville. Each company quietly supported the bill, but neither has made a public commitment to expand.

      http://www.oregonlive.com/silicon-forest/index.ssf/2015/03/gov_kate_brown_signs_tech_tax.html#incart_2box

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      30Mar/15Off

      Solar panel owners and utilities battle it out in California

      By Tim McDonnell on 29 Mar 2015

      http://grist.org/business-technology/solar-panel-owners-and-utilities-battle-it-out-in-california/

      This story is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

      Solar power is having a major moment. It’s growing faster than any other energy source — in 2014, a new system was installed in the United States every three minutes — while the price of a typical panel has dropped 63 percent since 2010. By 2016, experts predict that solar will be as cheap or cheaper than conventional electricity in most states. But solar companies are warning that the boom could soon end, if utilities and some Republican state lawmakers have their way.

      Power companies’ beef with solar boils down to a clever payment system that was largely responsible for bringing about the solar boom in the first place — a practice known as net metering. Most solar homes aren’t actually “off the grid”: They stay connected to transmission lines, using regular power when their panels aren’t operating (like at night). But they also feed electricity into the grid when they produce more than they can use.

      Sounds great, right? Not really, say the power companies. They pay solar homeowners for their excess kilowatts — but argue homeowners aren’t paying their fair share for grid maintenance. That has utilities in revolt, and the fight has reached a fever pitch in Northern California, where the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, serves more residential solar homes than any other.

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      30Mar/15Off

      Jerry Brown signs drought relief package

      BY DAVID SIDERSDSIDERS@SACBEE.COM

      03/27/2015 1:43 PM 03/27/2015 9:34 PM

      Gov. Jerry Brown signed a $1.1 billion drought relief and flood protection package Friday, as California’s dry conditions stretch into a fourth year.

      The package’s enactment marks the second time in two years that Brown and lawmakers approved emergency legislation related to California’s ongoing drought.

      “This funding is just one piece of a much larger effort to help those most impacted by the drought and prepare the state for an uncertain future,” Brown said in a statement. “But make no mistake, from Modoc to Imperial County, rain is not in the forecast and every Californian must be doing their utmost to conserve water.”

      The measure largely serves to allocate bond funds that were previously approved, including $660 million for flood control projects and about $273 million in water recycling and drinking water quality programs.

      http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article16507031.html

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