SC business notebook

March 19, 2013 

Santee Cooper files plan to enclose coal ash ponds

Santee Cooper on Monday filed plans with state regulators to enclose the coal ash ponds at its closed Grainger electric plant here into a cement-fortified vault designed to prevent contaminants including arsenic from seeping into nearby groundwater and the adjacent Waccamaw River, the state-owned utility said in a news release. The proposal would need approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control before it could be implemented. DHEC spokeswoman Lindsey Evans said the proposal is under consideration but she “cannot speculate about how long that review will take.” Evans said the public would be given a chance to comment on the proposal before any action is taken. Santee Cooper said the proposal, once approved, would take about three years to implement and would cost about $40 million — less than half the amount of other disposal methods the utility studied. The Southern Environmental Law Center has called for the utility to remove the ponds from the Grainger property so the slurry can be disposed of off-site.

Fed likely to back low-rate policies despite gains

The U.S. economy is strengthening on the fuel of more job growth, rising home prices and solid retail sales. Just don’t expect the Federal Reserve to let up in its drive to keep stimulating the economy with record-low interest rates. Not yet, anyway. That’s the view of economists as Fed policymakers hold a two-day meeting that ends Wednesday. The Fed today will issue a policy statement and update its economic forecasts, and Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a news conference. All of which will likely reinforce Bernanke’s stated view that the job market, in particular, has a long way to go to full health and still needs the Fed’s extraordinary support. The unemployment rate, at 7.7 percent, remains well above the 5 percent to 6 percent range associated with a healthy economy. The Fed has said it plans to keep short-term rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild. And it foresees unemployment staying above 6.5 percent until at least the end of 2015.

CEOs defend American Airlines-US Airways merger

The CEOs of American Airlines and US Airways reassured a Senate panel Tuesday that their merger would not lead to fewer flights or lost jobs in the lawmakers’ states. The merger would create the world’s biggest airline and provide more competition for United and Delta, the CEOs said. But consumer advocates told the Senate antitrust subcommittee that the merger would lead to higher fares and less service to midsize cities. Diana Moss of the American Antitrust Institute said American and US Airways want to compete with giant global airlines, “but we have to find a way not to sacrifice U.S. consumers on the altar of global competition.” Regulators allowed mergers of Delta and Northwest, United and Continental, and Southwest and AirTran, and most analysts expect this deal to be approved.

The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News and The Associated Press contributed.

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