Stefan Kuhn

Nuclear industry raises flags over Baran, Burns nominations to NRC

The head of the nuclear power industry's trade group raised questions Tuesday about President Barack Obama's two nominees to the fill one current and one expected vacancy on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The White House said earlier in the day that President Barack Obama would nominate Jeffery M. Baran, a congressional staffer, and Stephen G. Burns, a former longtime NRC official who rose to general counsel before leaving in 2012 to become head of legal affairs at the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency.

Oil

Oil falls to near $102 amid Gaza peace efforts

The price of oil retreated to near $102 per barrel on Wednesday amid a new push for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine and after Europe imposed additional sanctions on Russia that fell short of a heavy hit.

U.S. benchmark oil for September delivery was down 34 cents to $102.07 a barrel at 0850 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slipped 47 cents to $102.39 on Tuesday.

Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, was up 9 cents to $107.43 on the ICE exchange in London.

John Kerry flies to Tel Aviv despite FAA ban

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The top U.S. diplomat defied a Federal Aviation Administration ban and flew into Israel's main airport Wednesday in a sign of sheer will to achieve a cease-fire agreement in the warring Gaza Strip despite little evidence of progress in ongoing negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry planned to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during what appeared to be a crucial day in the flailing talks. U.S. officials have downplayed expectations for an immediate, lasting truce between Israel and the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza. At the least, Kerry's mission Wednesday sought to define the limits of what each side would accept in a potential cease-fire.

Obama attributes wildfires to climate change

SEATTLE (AP) — President Barack Obama says a wildfire that has burned nearly 400 square miles in the north-central part of Washington state, along with blazes in other Western areas, can be attributed to climate change.

Obama, speaking at a fundraiser Tuesday, offered federal help to deal with Washington's wildfire, the largest in the state's history.

He said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate had authorized an emergency declaration to ensure electrical power.

With GOP runoff over, Perdue and Nunn face off in Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) — Now that Georgia Republicans have settled on businessman David Perdue as their nominee for the state's open Senate seat, the real battle begins with a marquee match-up in the fall against Democrat Michelle Nunn that could help determine control of the chamber.

The contest is one of the nation's most closely-watched in the 2014 elections, and the prospects of Democrats winning a Senate seat in the staunchly conservative state are tantalizing for Nunn and her party as they defend their Senate majority. But Perdue is running as a Washington outsider and has the firepower of his own wealth behind him, having sunk at least $3 million of his own money into winning the GOP nomination against veteran Rep. Jack Kingston.

Oil

Fire extinguished at ND oil supply company

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A once-massive blaze at an oil supply and logistics company that housed flammable chemicals in Williston, North Dakota, has been extinguished, according to the town's fire department.

Most firefighters returned from the facility belonging to Red River Supply late Tuesday, though one truck remained early Wednesday to monitor hot spots, said fire department shift captain Steven Kerzmann.

"The fire is out, but you've got some smoldering embers that might pop up here and there," he said.

Australian guilty in $41M biodiesel scam in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 64-year-old Australian man has pleaded guilty to charges in federal court in Nevada for his role in a scheme to bilk a U.S. biodiesel fuel program out of more than $41 million.

Nathan Stoliar pleaded guilty in Las Vegas Tuesday to two counts of wire fraud and one count each of conspiracy, conspiracy to engage in money laundering and making false statements under the Clean Air Act.

Oil

Gulf oil spill: Ex-BP engineer's retrial postponed

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The August retrial of a former BP engineer accused of obstructing justice in an investigation of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been postponed while an appeals court decides whether a judge was right to throw out his earlier conviction.

Federal prosecutors allege that Kurt Mix illegally deleted text messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor involving the amount of oil flowing from BP's Macondo well after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

Baran, Burns nominated for Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama will nominate Jeffery M. Baran and Stephen Burns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Baran is a senior Democratic staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and aide to retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Burns is a former NRC general counsel who is currently head of legal affairs at the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency, a unit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

If confirmed by the Senate, they will fill two Democratic vacancies on the five-member commission, which oversees U.S. nuclear power safety.

Commissioner William D. Magwood said Tuesday that he will depart on Aug. 31 to become director-general of the agency on Sept. 1, a move he previously announced. George Apostolakis was not nominated by Obama for a second term and departed the commission at the end of June.

Business groups vow court challenge of EPA carbon plan

Manufacturing, refiner and business executives on Tuesday called on the Obama administration to pull back its proposed carbon regulations on existing power plants, which they've threatened to oppose in court.

"We're all going to tell the EPA that this regulation is simply not workable," during the agency's planned public listening sessions next week, said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Oil

Geopolitical tensions seen keeping oil prices high

The price of oil fell slightly Tuesday but experts see geopolitical tensions preventing any significant short-term declines.

U.S. benchmark crude for August delivery fell 17 cents to $104.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The more heavily traded September contract slipped 47 cents to $102.39.

Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, dropped 35 cents to $107.33 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

US: No link to Russian gov't in plane downing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

Senators urge new sanctions against Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — Leading Democratic senators want harsh new measures against Russia for its actions in Ukraine. They are also asking President Barack Obama to add a Ukrainian rebel group to a U.S. terrorism blacklist.

In a letter to Obama, Sens. Bob Menendez, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin say Russia's defense, energy and finance sectors should be targeted for sanctions. They say Russian must halt weapons, equipment and training to separatists in eastern Ukraine. The senators also ask Obama to consider designating the "Donetsk People's Republic" a foreign terrorist organization.

Ex-miner asks Congress for help on black lung

WASHINGTON (AP) — A retired coal miner who suffers from black lung disease urged Congress on Tuesday to help clear a backlog of claims of fellow miners who have the disease.

"I look to y'all to help us to get that which we need," Robert Bailey of Princeton, West Virginia told senators at a Capitol Hill hearing. "I would like to see that Congress step in and do make some changes to help process these claims" that are taking too long.

Senate panel approves Vietnam nuclear agreement

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam, as Washington looks to expand its relationship with its former Southeast Asian foe.

The agreement would allow U.S. companies into Vietnam's expanding market for nuclear power. The U.S. and Vietnamese governments reached the agreement in October, and it was approved by President Barack Obama in February this year. It now has to be endorsed by the full Senate. The prospects for passage remain uncertain.

Oil

Cause of Williston fire unknown

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A massive fire at an oil supply company was burning itself out Tuesday afternoon, 12 hours after it began in an industrial part of the western North Dakota oil patch town of Williston.

Authorities had not said as of Tuesday afternoon what caused the fire at Red River Supply, which Williams County Emergency Manager Mike Hallesy said broke out about midnight Monday. Company officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment and law enforcement wouldn't let anyone past the half-mile evacuation border.

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