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Wind power bill gaining co-sponsors

For the second time in as many legislative sessions, state lawmakers will try to give the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin final say on all new wind farm developments.

State Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, and Rep. James Soletski, D-Green Bay, began seeking co-sponsorship on a bill this week that would eliminate the 100-megawatt threshold that separates PSC decisions from those of local governments.

In the past two years, several local governments including Trempealeau County and the towns of Union and Magnolia enacted their own wind farm ordinances to deter proposed developments.

Although municipal leaders and property owners oppose the bill, which failed to make it to the governor’s desk last year, Plale has long maintained he would try again. He said the state needs to be able to meet its renewable energy goals and convey a sense of being open to wind farm developers.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, and Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Ashwaubenon.

Clean Wisconsin Inc. issued a statement Thursday applauding the bill’s new life.

“Every day we allow the existing system to prevent the development of safe wind farms, we lose family-supporting jobs to neighboring states,” said Ryan Schryver, the group’s clean energy advocate.

“Wind development projects stand shovel-ready. Now is the time to cut the bureaucratic red tape and break ground on a clean energy economy.”

EPA proposes adding Cedarburg’s  Amcast Industrial site to Superfund list

Cedarburg city officials are counting on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to raise money to clean the contaminated Amcast Industrial Corp. property.

The EPA on Wednesday announced plans to add Amcast to its list of Superfund sites, meaning the federal government would test and clean up the property. Cedarburg can’t afford the multi-million cleanup, said City Administrator/Treasurer Christy Mertes.

Amcast filed for bankruptcy twice and has no money to pay for the work.

The former Amcast factory at W5789 Hamilton Road was a die-casting facility from 1939 to 2004, and the industrial operations contaminated the ground and surrounding waterways with polychlorinated biphenyls.

The former factory’s roof has collapsed, and the building must be demolished, but the Amcast office can be redeveloped, said Alderman Michael Maher. The city rezoned the land about three years ago for residential and commercial uses, but developers have not made offers on the property.

“If the property were cleaned up, it would be an excellent site for a project,” Maher said. “But no developer is going to want to take this site.”

The EPA will accept comments on its plan to make Amcast a Superfund site until June 8.

Wisconsin will get stimulus money for homes and airports

Madison (AP) — Wisconsin will receive millions of dollars under the federal stimulus bill to help pay for home improvements and upgrades at two airports.

Government officials announced Wednesday the state will get $6.7 million for programs designed to identify and control lead hazards in homes and decrease other environmental hazards.

Gov. Jim Doyle’s office said the money will generate another $5.5 million in construction spending and create 60 jobs.

Also, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh will get $3.2 million to reconstruct a runway.

Burlington Municipal Airport in Racine County will get just over $600,000 for a variety of improvements.

Federal-Mogul lays off 103 workers in Manitowoc as demand slows

Manitowoc (AP) — A Federal-Mogul official said it laid off 103 workers at its Manitowoc plant that makes piston rings for heavy-duty diesel engines.

Federal-Mogul spokeswoman Paula Silver said its business has been hurt by the economy and problems in the auto industry.

The company previously announced it would cut shifts at the plant from three to two.

The Manitowoc plant employed 580 people in January.

Federal-Mogul is based in Southfield, Mich. It announced in December it would cut 4,600 jobs, or 10 percent of its work force, in response to weak demand for cars and trucks.

German industrial production posts sixth consecutive monthly drop

Berlin (AP) — German industrial production fell 2.9 percent in February from the previous month as the global economic crisis curbed demand, preliminary government figures showed Thursday.

The decline — the sixth consecutive drop — was just short of economists’ expectations of a 3 percent slide. Besides a 1.9 percent increase in construction activity, all sectors saw decreases.

The overall drop followed a 6.1 percent fall in January, the Economy Ministry said. That figure was revised from an initial estimate of a 7.5 percent slump.

In year-on-year terms, industrial production dropped 23.2 percent in February.

The production data followed figures released Wednesday which showed that German manufacturing orders fell by 3.5 percent on the month in February, following a 6.7 percent decline in January. They were down 38.2 percent on the year.

Germany has Europe’s biggest economy and is the world’s largest exporter. It has been hard-hit by a slump in global demand for its products, and went into recession in last year’s third quarter.

Data released this week showed exports were down 0.7 percent on the month and 23.1 percent on the year in February.

Oldest U.S. nuclear plant gets new license despite environmental concerns

Lacey Township, NJ (AP) — The nation’s oldest nuclear power plant has been granted a new license allowing it to operate for another 20 years.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission dismissed objections from anti-nuclear and environmental groups and issued the license Wednesday to the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township, N.J., about 50 miles east of Philadelphia and 75 miles south of New York City.

Opposition centered on corrosion to a metal enclosure that keeps superheated radioactive steam within a containment building at the 39-year-old plant.

The NRC says the enclosure is safe despite previous water leaks. Chicago-based plant operator Exelon Corp. has made repairs.

Oyster Creek’s boiling-water reactor is considered obsolete by today’s standards.

But the plant generates enough electricity to power 600,000 homes a year. It provides 9 percent of New Jersey’s electricity. It went online Dec. 1, 1969.

Ethanol producer files Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as profit margins shrink

Sioux Falls, SD (AP) — Ethanol producer Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, the latest victim in an industry stung by volatile commodity prices and shrinking profit margins.

The Pekin, Ill.-based company listed assets of $799 million with $491 million in debt. The company listed 30 creditors.

Aventine last month said it did not expect to have enough cash to satisfy a $15 million interest payment due April 1 on an outstanding senior unsecured 10 percent fixed-rate note or to pay $24.4 million due to its engineering and construction contractor, Kiewit Energy Co.

In its most recent earnings statement, Aventine reported a fourth-quarter 2008 loss of $36.9 million compared with a profit of $3.3 million during the year-earlier period.

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