Nation briefs: States sue over EPA coal rules

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WASHINGTON — A dozen states led by West Virginia sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block a proposed rule that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The states said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the EPA from issuing power-plant rules under one section of the Clean Air Act, known as 111(d), when it has already regulated them under a separate section. The agency previously used the act to regulate hazardous air pollutants in 2012, according to the filing.

The high court ruled in 2011 that the “EPA may not employ section 111(d) if existing stationary sources of the pollution in question are regulated under...the ‘hazardous air pollutants’ program,” the states said in their filing in federal court in Washington.

Regulation of mercury and other toxics in 2012 “does not deprive EPA of the authority regulate CO2 emissions” under section 111(d), the EPA said in a memo accompanying the June rulemaking for carbon dioxide reduction.

Barring it from doing so would be inconsistent with Congress’s intent in 1990 Clean Air Act amendments requiring EPA to regulate more substances, the agency said.

Co-filers in the West Virginia case are Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina and Wyoming.

From dinosaurs to birds.

How did birds emerge from a lineage of large dinosaurs whose clawed feet were planted firmly on the ground? Size really matters, according to a team of scientists that traced the incredibly fast shrinkage along 50 million years of ancient avian evolution.

The findings, published in the journal Science, show how the continuous miniaturization of this dinosaur lineage allowed for a whole host of physical changes that made powered flight possible.

Paleontologists have long known that birds evolved from dinosaurs known as theropods, a group that included the formidable Tyrannosaurus rex. But there’s been considerable argument over whether the branch of theropods leading to birds really was quickly shrinking until the earliest birds emerged roughly 160 million years ago.

More visas for Afghan interpreters

WASHINGTON — In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate on Friday passed legislation that will grant an additional 1,000 visas to Afghan interpreters who have worked for the U.S. military and are seeking a chance to come to the United States.

The measure was passed on a voice vote, following passage of similar legislation in the House earlier last week.

As the war in Afghanistan comes to a close, an increasing number of interpreters have applied to come to the United States, in some cases out of fears of Taliban reprisal for their work with U.S.-led forces.

With the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program set to end in September, the new legislation expands the number of visas available to 4,000 for fiscal year 2014. As of July, there were around 6,000 applicants in the midst of the process, with about 300 whose cases were close to completion.

Victims Begin Filing Claims in GM Case

DETROIT — A fund General Motors put in place to compensate victims of accidents caused by its vehicles’ faulty ignition switches began accepting claims Friday. The process will ultimately help calculate how many people were killed or seriously hurt by the deadly defect.

The automaker hopes that the fund, overseen by the compensation expert Kenneth R. Feinberg, will help put the worst safety crisis in its nearly 106-year history at least partly behind it. But it is also expected to result in a rise in the number of deaths and accidents linked to the faulty switches that GM failed to fix for years before recalling 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars in February.

GM has so far tied 13 deaths and 54 accidents to the defective switch, which can suddenly cut engine power and disable air bags in moving vehicles. But those totals are expected to grow, possibly substantially, as Feinberg accumulates claims through the end of the year.

Dismantling California nuke plant

SAN DIEGO  — Dismantling the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California will take two decades and cost $4.4 billion, but spent radioactive fuel will be held at the site indefinitely, according to a game plan from Southern California Edison.

The price tag could make it the most expensive decommissioning in the 70-year history of the nuclear power industry, U-T San Diego  reported.

The plant was shut down in 2012 after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of extensive damage to steam-generator tubes that carried radioactive water. Edison, which operated the plant, closed it for good last year.

On Friday, the utility laid out a draft plan for dismantling the twin reactors and restoring the property north of San Diego over two decades, beginning in 2016.

Food-stamp use declines

NEW YORK — Participation in the U.S. government food-stamp program is declining modestly as low-income Americans get some economic reprieve.

About 46.25 million people were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in April, according to the most-recent data available from the Department of Agriculture. That’s down 3.2 percent from a high of almost 47.8 million in December 2012. May figures are scheduled to be released Aug. 8.

The “gradual decline” shows some low-income households no longer use these benefits as their finances slowly have improved, said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, an institutional equity-trading broker in New York, who monitors these data each month. “A portion of this population is seeing some level of economic relief.”e from the Department of Agriculture. That’s down 3.2 percent from a high of almost 47.8 million in December 2012. May figures are scheduled to be released Aug. 8.

The “gradual decline” shows some low-income households no longer use these benefits as their finances slowly have improved, said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, an institutional equity-trading broker in New York, who monitors these data each month. “A portion of this population is seeing some level of economic relief.”

— Compiled from wire services


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