Drilling Rig Owner Agrees to Pay $1.4 Billion to Settle Charges From 2010 Gulf of Mexico Disaster

Settlement calls for Transocean to pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties. Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that sank after an explosion killed 11 workers and spawned the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, also agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act. While the settlement resolves the government’s claims against Swiss-based Transocean, the company and others involved in the spill still face a sprawling, multistate civil case set to begin in February in New Orleans. British oil giant BP, the owner of the ill-fated Macondo well, settled its own criminal charges and some of its civil charges in November for $4.5 billion. The Associated Press, The New York Times

On the new Congress’ first day, gun control measures are reintroduced. Democratic Reps. Carolyn McCarthy of New York and Diana DeGette of Colorado refiled bills they promoted in previous Congresses, saying they hoped the prospects for gun laws would improve following the school shooting last month in Newtown, Conn. One of the bills would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, and the other would stop the sale of ammunition online. More bills are expected soon in the Senate. They include the Fix Gun Checks Act by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., which would close loopholes that allow gun sales at shows without background checks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she will reintroduce a ban on the ownership on assault weapons. USA Today

State ballot measure to require labeling of genetically engineered foods submitted in Washington. The move came two months after California voters rejected a similar measure that pitted food safety advocates against agricultural and biotechnology giants in a $55 million advertising battle. Labeling opponents argue it would raise food prices. Supporters contend that consumers should have a choice about eating genetically engineered products, even if federal authorities say such foods are safe. Backers of the measure, known as Initiative 522, collected 340,000 signatures, more than the 241,153 valid voter signatures required to qualify. If state lawmakers do not adopt the measure, it will go on the November ballot. The Associated Press, Food Safety News

While declining in U.S., coal use booms globally. The main factor has been the thirst for energy in China, which in 2011 became the world’s biggest electricity producer, but growing use by other developing economies and even Europe are factors, too. Coal-fired power stations provide two-fifths of the world’s electricity, and at the current rate of growth, coal will vie with oil as the largest source of primary energy within five years. Coal’s attraction is that it is cheap and widely available. Yet burning it gives off particles that harm people’s health and produces carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas. In the U.S., the coal business and the rest of the country’s energy industry has been upended by the advent of natural gas extracted from shale. The Economist

Two Wisconsin construction firms cited in fatal accident. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused Lunda Construction of Black River Falls, Wis., and Choice Construction of Menomonee Falls, Wis., with 10 safety violations overall in connection with a July accident that killed a truck driver and seriously injured another worker. The truck driver was killed when he was struck by the boom of a crane that overturned while bridge girders were being erected on U.S. Route 41 near Oshkosh, Wis. A Lunda Construction employee operating the crane was hurt when he was thrown from the cab as the crane fell. OSHA proposed penalties of $105,000 for Lunda and $13,220 for Choice, its staffing subcontractor. OSHA, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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