The week that was: 03/09/14

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Another fine mess

Or, rather: Another fine, mess. Alpha Natural Resources has been fined $27.5 million and agreed to spend $200 million more to reduce discharges of polluted water from its coal operations into waterways across five Appalachian states, reports the PG's Anya Litvak. It's the largest fine for such violations in the history of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Many of the violations covered by Wednesday's settlement stemmed from Alpha's two longwall mine complexes in Greene County, and more than half are connected to operations at Massey Energy, which Virginia-based Alpha acquired in 2011.

The settlement comes just weeks after the state Department of Environmental Protection fined Halliburton Energy Services $1.8 million for transporting, processing and disposing of hydrochloric acid without classifying it as a hazardous substance over a 12-year period.

In case you missed it ...

... read the latest energy news at the Post-Gazette's new industry website, PowerSource, at powersource.post-gazette.com. In print, PowerSource appears every Tuesday.

Sailors, beware!

President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal 2015 budget includes $9 million for continuing long-delayed work on a vital lock and dam project on the Mon River, according to the PG's Len Boselovic. The budget proposal also had $160 million for continuing construction at an Ohio River project in Olmsted, Ill.

From soup to nuts

No matter what's on the menu at your restaurant of choice, you could soon have a better sense of what's going on in the kitchen: Diners in Allegheny County will begin seeing grades go up on restaurant doors under a proposal approved Monday by the county Board of Health. Plans call for A-B-C cleanliness grades to be posted as soon as September, following a test launch in July and August, reports PG business reporter Patricia Sabatini.

County hospital

With Highmark and UPMC making war, how do smaller health networks break through? Go local, be smart, pick your spots and think creatively:

"We're never going to outspend them or outrace them, and that's not really our objective," said Michael Busch, chief operating officer at Excela Health in Greensburg. "We're just doing our best to make sure our community knows what's available at Excela." Read Steve Twedt's story on hospital marketing at www.post-gazette.com/business.

Sugar daddies

People are borrowing more. Consumer borrowing was up $13.7 billion in January, on top of an even larger $15.9 billion rise in December, the Federal Reserve reports. People are borrowing more for cars and student loans -- but, notably, cutting back on credit card borrowing. Still, total consumer borrowing is at a record $3.11 trillion, a good sign for the economy, experts say.


Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.

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