Thursday

Major Oil Leak Raises Concerns About Ability of Pipeline Companies to Detect Ruptures

Questions abound over an 865,000-gallon oil spill discovered by a wheat farmer in northwestern North Dakota. The leak, from a pipeline owned by Tesoro Logistics, was one of the nation’s largest inland oil pipeline accidents. It was reported by the farmer on Sept. 29, but neither Tesoro nor the state informed the public for 11 days. The incident has fueled questions about how long the pipeline was leaking before the problem was discovered and why sensors on the pipe failed to detect the spill. The concerns are running high as the Obama administration nears a decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry a type of Canadian crude to American refineries on the Gulf Coast that is especially difficult to clean if spilled. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times

Liggett Group to pay $110 million to settle thousands of Florida suits accusing it of concealing smoking’s dangers. The out-of-court deal will resolve nearly 4,900 of the 5,300 cases pending in Florida against Liggett and its parent company, Vector Group. The agreement is expected to be wrapped up within 90 days, and will include a lump-sum payment of $61 million, with the remaining $49 million coming in installments over 15 years. Liggett and Vector are the first defendants to reach a broad agreement to end suits in Florida brought by former plaintiffs in a 1994 class action known as Engle v. Liggett. A Florida Supreme Court ruling in the Engle case cleared the way for individual plaintiffs to bring suits based on findings in the litigation that nicotine is addictive and that tobacco use can cause various diseases, including cancer. Reuters

Use of expensive radiation treatment for prostate cancer is linked to doctors’ financial interest. A study found that urologists who buy their own equipment to perform what’s known as intensity-modulated radiation therapy are more likely to use it to treat prostate cancer — even when the benefit for patients is unclear. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that one-third of men whose doctors own the $2 million radiation equipment get the therapy at a cost of about $35,000 per treatment course. The same doctors prescribed the therapy for just 13 percent of their patients before they had their own equipment and could profit directly. After doctors buy the equipment, “their behavior changes dramatically,” the study’s author said. Bloomberg

Health officials identify a second source for last summer’s stomach bug outbreaks that sickened 643 people in 25 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said some cyclospora cases in Texas are linked to cilantro from Puebla, Mexico, that was served at Mexican restaurants and sold at one grocery store. The CDC didn’t provide further details. Other cyclospora cases from last summer have been linked to salad mix served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in Iowa and Nebraska. It is still unclear what caused the illnesses in other states. Separately, federal authorities are asking for information from pet owners and veterinarians to help determine why nearly 600 pets have died after eating jerky treats. The Associated Press, Reuters

Omnicare agrees to pay $120 million to settle a whistleblower suit accusing it of kickbacks. The Cincinnati-based company, the top seller of prescription drugs in U.S. nursing homes, was accused of giving the kickbacks to win more referrals. The suit said Omnicare gave steep discounts for prescription drugs to nursing homes for some Medicare patients in exchange for referrals of other patients whose drugs, bought with federal money, would be priced higher. Under the settlement deal, Omnicare does not admit to wrongdoing. The deal still needs U.S. Justice Department and court approval. Omnicare paid a $98 million settlement to the U.S. in 2009 over a separate claim alleging that it paid and solicited kickbacks. The Associated Press, Bloomberg

U.S. judge gives the green light to a legal challenge to digital billboards along highways. The judge found that Scenic America, a nonprofit advocacy group, met the early threshold for challenging a Federal Highway Administration policy shift that made it easier to get approval for digital billboards. As FairWarning has reported, the policy shift was signaled in a 2007 FHWA memo stating that electronic displays were allowable despite federal-state agreements banning ‘’intermittent’’ or ‘’flashing’’ signs. Anti-billboard groups say digital displays that alternate content every few seconds are the exact definition of ‘’intermittent’’ signs. The number of digital billboards nationally is estimated to have jumped to several thousand, up from 500 in 2006. The Blog of Legal Times

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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