Thursday Briefing

Mutated trout trigger controversy over the dangers of selenium. J. R. Simplot Co., whose mining operations have polluted nearby creeks in southern Idaho, sought approval by the Environmental Protection Agency to allow selenium, a mining byproduct that is toxic to fish and birds, to remain in the water at higher levels than currently permitted. The EPA appeared headed toward granting the approval. But selenium has come under new scrutiny since some environmentalists and federal scientists learned of photos, relegated to an appendix of a study written for J.R. Simplot, that showed deformed fish, including two-headed baby trout, that were the offspring of local fish. The New York Times

Federal prosecutors charge mine superintendent with conspiracy in explosion that killed 29 workers in West Virginia. The superintendent, Gary May, 43, is the highest-ranking of the three mining company officials now charged with crimes in connection with the disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010. It is the mining industry’s worst accident in four decades. May is accused of tipping off employees in advance to government safety inspections and concealing dangerous violations. The Charleston Gazette, Reuters

Death toll from cantaloupe listeria outbreak rises to 32. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added two fatalities to its tally from the outbreak that emerged last summer. Officials are evaluating another four recent deaths to determine if they also should be included in the tally from the tainted fruit. The food-borne outbreak, linked to Jensen Farms in Colorado, is the nation’s deadliest since the early 1900s. The Denver Post

Federal advisory panel endorses weight-loss pill Qnexa. The recommendation, in a 20-2 vote, raises the likelihood that the Food and Drug Administration within the next two months will approve a prescription diet drug for the first time in 13 years. Qnexa and two other weight-loss drugs were rejected by the FDA in the past two years on concerns about possible safety risks. But on Wednesday, a panel of advisers to the FDA reviewed additional clinical data that convinced them that the drug’s benefits outweigh any dangers. The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg

Last settlement reached to pay for cleanup of Superfund waste site in Pennsylvania. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that ATI Allegheny-Ludlum has agreed to pay $535,000 for past cleanup costs at a former fuel oil recycling facility in Coraopolis, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The Breslube-Penn Site was added to the national Superfund List of toxic waste sites in 1996. EPA says ATI Allegheny-Ludlum is the last of 158 responsible parties to settle in the case. Overall, the settlements totaled about $20 million for the cleanup. The Associated Press, EPA

Federal workplace safety regulators cite “willful violations” by four employers. In the biggest case, the Occupational Safety and Health administration is seeking fines of $112,00 against Basic Grain Products in Coldwater, Ohio. It accused the company of 13 safety violations following a September accident in which a worker was caught in a conveyor belt and injured. The agency also has proposed fines of $77,100 against an Amy Food plant in Houston, $72,000 against a Milk Specialties operation in Fond du Lac, Wis., and $55,000 against a Miniature Precision Components site in Richland Center, Wis. OSHA cites willful violations, its most serious charges, if investigators find intentional disregard for the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Recalls: Map Pro, Propylene and MAPP gas cylinders2012 Honda Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs, Kelty jogging strollers, Go!Control modules in home security systems, Meijer forced air heaters

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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