Business Briefs – June 16, 2016

Board OKs Tax Credit for 3rd California Electric Car Company&

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – A state board has approved $10 million in tax credits for an electric vehicle company promising to add more than 900 jobs in San Jose and San Francisco.

The board of California Competes considered the credit for NextEV USA among $47 million taken up at its meeting Thursday to encourage job creation.

It’s the third tax credit Gov. Jerry Brown’s Go-Biz board has approved in the hyper-competitive electric car market. It previously approved $15 million for Tesla and $12.7 million for Faraday Future.

NextEV attorney Paula Brown tells the board the company plans to begin selling its first commercial vehicles in China next year.

The California jobs will be in research and development, many in engineering, but Brown says the company has not decided where to base its production.

Judge Says Waste Leak From Coal Plant Ponds Is ‘Alarming’&

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A state judge expressed alarm at the estimated 200 million gallons of contaminated water seeping annually from leaky ash-storage ponds at a Montana power plant serving customers across the Pacific Northwest — a problem that’s persisted years after the company and state officials reached an agreement to address it.

A 2012 deal between Montana environmental regulators and the Pennsylvania-based manager of Colstrip Steam Electric Station was intended to clean up decades of contamination of surrounding water tables.

The agreement, known as an administrative order on consent, came after the plant’s six owners paid $25 million in a separate settlement to Colstrip residents whose water was fouled by the plant’s ash ponds.

District Judge Robert Deschamps said he found it “alarming” that 380 gallons of wastewater continues to seep from the ponds every minute. That’s equivalent to nearly 200 million gallons a year.

Claims by plant manager Talen Energy that the seepage was being effectively controlled “is clearly a disputed fact,” Deschamps wrote in a Wednesday ruling.

“What is a reasonable amount of time in which the [state] should act versus conduct further study, given there has already been 30 years of seepage and the [administrative order] itself was seven years in the making?” Deschamps wrote.

The judge rejected arguments from Montana Department of Environmental Quality officials that they were appropriately handling the matter. That means environmentalists can proceed with a lawsuit challenging the 2012 agreement, which set few deadlines for action and could entail years of further study.

Talen spokesman Todd Martin said in an email that the company was abiding by the agreement to investigate and remediate the ash-pond leaks. He said the agreement “established a formal and comprehensive process” to remediate the seepage.

Opponents warned that Colstrip could close long before Talen cleans up the problem.

“This is our last chance to right the ship before the companies leave town,” said attorney Jenny Harbine. “We have literally rooms full of monitoring data documenting an ongoing and increasing groundwater problem. We don’t need more documentation of the problem. We need a solution,” she said.

Harbine is with the environmental law firm Earthjustice representing plaintiffs National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center.

Montana DEQ spokeswoman Kristi Ponozzo said the ongoing study of the contamination is necessary to figure out what kind of risk is posed by the contaminated water. The agency could not say whether the seeping was getting worse, and there is no timeline for when a fix to the problem will be put into place, Ponozzo said.

Oregon Officials Seek to Suspend Oil Trains After Derailment

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Oregon transportation officials are asking federal rail authorities to suspend crude oil trains in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River Gorge until there is a better understanding of what caused a fiery derailment there this month.

State Department of Transportation officials presented their concerns Thursday at a meeting in Hood River and made public a letter to the Federal Rail Administration asking for the moratorium on oil-only trains in Oregon. The letter expresses concern about lag bolts, a type of fastener used on a curved section of track to attach the rail to the rail tie.

Union Pacific has said a failure of the bolts caused the June 3 derailment.

More than 12 of the 96 oil cars derailed, sparking a fire and forcing evacuations. No one was injured.