Business

SC business notebook, Nov. 23

Should all airlines be able to bid on surrendered gates?

Four key members of Congress say that all airlines – not just low-fare carriers – should be able to bid on gates and landing rights that American Airlines and US Airways will give up after their merger. The leaders of the House and Senate transportation committees say they’re worried that unless the big airlines can bid, service between Washington and some smaller cities may be lost. The U.S. Justice Department settled a lawsuit against the merger earlier this month after American and US Airways agreed to give up gates and landing rights at several big airports, notably Washington’s Reagan National Airport. On Friday, top Democrats and Republicans on the transportation committees released a letter that they sent to Attorney General Eric Holder protesting terms of that settlement.

Duke Energy to pay $1 million for killing 14 eagles

For the first time, the Obama administration is taking action against wind farms for killing eagles. In a settlement announced Friday, Duke Energy will pay $1 million for killing 14 golden eagles over the past three years at two Wyoming wind farms. The company says it pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The case is a first to be prosecuted under that law for a wind company by the Obama administration, which has been a champion for pollution-free wind power. Eagles act like texting drivers when they search for prey and slam into massive turbines. A study by federal biologists this year found that wind energy facilities in 10 states had killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles since 2008.

Phone calls on planes explored

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission says even he isn’t a fan of phone calls on planes. A day after setting off a uproar among airline passengers by saying the government might permit cellphone calls above 10,000 feet, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is clarifying his position Friday. Wheeler says the agency’s proposal recognizes that there is no technical reason to prohibit the use of mobile devices. Even so, Wheeler says he sympathizes with travelers who prefer no voice calls on planes, saying he feels the same way. It will ultimately be up to individual airlines to decide if they want to allow calls or not, Wheeler says. Most airlines have said they would study the issue and survey their customers.

Administration losing $139 million on green loan

The Obama administration said Friday it will lose $139 million on a loan to struggling electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. after selling part of the loan to a private investor that immediately took the company into bankruptcy. Hybrid Technology LLC, the California car marker’s new owner, said it plans to keep Fisker operating after it emerges from bankruptcy. The $139 million loss is the largest in the Obama administration’s green energy loan program since the 2011 failure of solar panel maker Solyndra. The government lost $528 million in the Solyndra collapse, triggering sharp Republican criticism of the loan program and President Barack Obama’s investments in green energy. The Energy Department awarded Fisker a half-billion loan guarantee in 2009, but suspended it in 2011, after Fisker failed to meet a series of benchmarks.

The Associated Press contributed.

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