EPA reducing fish kills at power plants, factories

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new standards Monday aimed at reducing the billions of fish, crabs and shrimp killed by cooling water systems at power plants and factories each year.

The regulations will force more than 1,000 power plants and factories that withdraw at least 2 million gallons of water a day from adjacent waterways for cooling to take steps to minimize its toll on aquatic wildlife. Marine animals, many of them juvenile, die by either being pinned or by being exposed to heat, chemicals and other stress after they are sucked inside the system. The EPA estimates 2.1 billion fish, crab and shrimp die annually.

"EPA is making it clear that if you have cooling water intakes you have to look at the impact on aquatic life in local waterways and take steps to minimize that impact," said Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for water, in a statement.

The rule is among a series issued by the Obama administration targeting various forms of air and water pollution from the nation’s power plants, particularly coal-fired facilities. Coal-burning power plants already face limits on mercury and toxic air pollution, and will be the target of a new proposal due in June to regulate the gases blamed for global warming for the first time.


Advertisement

The EPA is also working on new rules to deal with coal ash, the refuse left over from increasing air pollution controls, and discharges of metals and other toxics into waterways.

Republicans in Congress immediately painted the regulation as another attack on the nation’s power producers. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., vowed to work to get a vote to repeal it. However, any such effort is likely to be vetoed by the president.

"The EPA has released another rule that threatens the affordability and reliability of America’s electricity, and I am committed to ensuring that Congress weighs in," Inhofe said.

Russia’s Putin orders troops
near Ukrainian border to return
to their home bases

MOSCOW (AP) -- In what could be an attempt to ease tensions with the West and avoid more sanctions, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops deployed near Ukraine to return to their home bases Monday.

Putin also praised the launch of a dialogue between Ukraine’s government and its opponents even as fighting continued in parts of the country ahead of Sunday’s presidential election.

The seemingly conciliatory approach suggested that Putin may believe he has achieved his key goal of maintaining Russian influence over eastern Ukraine without having to send in troops.

Russia still wants guarantees that Ukraine will not join NATO and will conduct constitutional reforms to give broader powers to its regions, something that would allow Moscow to maintain its clout in the Russian-speaking east that forms the industrial heartland. The continued unrest in the east is serving Putin by making it difficult for the government in Kiev to consolidate its control in the region.

Putin specifically ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to pull back the forces involved in the "planned spring drills" in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk regions to their home bases, the Kremlin said. The order appears to go further than a similar statement by the Russian leader two weeks ago that troops were being pulled back from the border to shooting ranges.

Emergency workers race to
protect town from flood surge in Serbia, but some refuse to flee

OBRENOVAC, Serbia (AP) -- Serbia ordered the evacuation Monday of this town and 11 others along the raging Sava River, but Bratislava Pavlovic won’t budge, even as water rising six feet in an hour lapped outside her third-floor apartment.

"I grew up in this town," the 58-year-old postal worker said. "I was born and raised here."

The worst rainfall in more than a century has flooded large swathes of Bosnia and Serbia, threatening Serbia’s main power plant and unleashing landslides that have swept away homes and unearthed land mines left over from the region’s war, along with warning signs pinpointing their locations.

At least 35 people have died and tens of thousands have been forced to flee their homes.

In Obrenovac, shop windows were shattered and children’s bicycles, bedding, chairs and car tires were scattered in the streets. Dogs abandoned by their owners roamed about in packs as security forces distributed drinking water and food to the few remaining residents.

Wind, trains among reminders for Oklahoma students, teachers who faced deadly twister’s fury

MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- Ten-year-old Kai Heuangpraseuth will return to a new Plaza Towers Elementary in the fall, built on the same spot where seven of the boy’s schoolmates died last year after a top-scale tornado reduced it to a pile of rubble.

Christopher Legg will not be there, but his mother says perhaps her son’s death will hurt a little less if last May’s tragedy in Moore helps lead to safer schools.

One year after the deadly tornado carved a 17-mile path through the heart of this Oklahoma City suburb and killed 24 people, deep scars remain -- especially for families who lost loved ones and children traumatized after riding out the fearsome storm inside two elementary schools.

Neither Plaza Towers nor nearby Briarwood Elementary had an underground shelter or tornado safe room, so when the tornado bore down, with winds speed exceeding 200 mph, the students huddled into hallways or crammed into bathrooms or closets. Most of the child victims died after a massive wall collapsed and suffocated them.

Kai, who was plucked from the school’s rubble by a police officer in a moment captured by an Associated Press photographer, is excited about the new school, but still troubled by bad weather and certain loud sounds.

Judge strikes down Oregon’s gay marriage ban, marking 13th consecutive win for advocates

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A federal judge threw out Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban Monday, marking the 13th legal victory for gay marriage advocates since the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned part of a federal ban.

State officials earlier refused to defend Oregon’s voter-approved ban, and said they’d be prepared to carry out same-sex marriages almost immediately if the judge struck it down.

The National Organization for Marriage sought to argue in favor of the ban. But both U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in Eugene and a federal appeals court rejected its attempts to intervene.

Jubilant couples rushed to tie the knot following Monday’s ruling, including some who stood in line at the Portland county building for hours to get a marriage license.

"It’s the final step to be truly a family," said Patty Reagan, who took the day off to wed partner Kelly. "Everyone else takes for granted that they have this right."

Sailing official wants independent water testing for Olympic sailing venue in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Sailing’s governing body may conduct independent water-quality tests in Rio de Janeiro’s polluted Guanabara Bay, the sailing venue for the 2016 Olympics and the site of Rio’s first test event in 2 1/2 months.

Any hope Brazil would be able to clean up the sewage-filled bay soon was quashed in a document obtained by The Associated Press over the weekend.

In a May 7 letter to sports minister Aldo Rebelo, Rio’s state environment secretary Carlos Francisco Portinho acknowledged in a best-case scenario that pollution flowing into the bay could be cut to "over 50 percent" -- well below the promised reduction of 80 percent.

Alastair Fox, head of competitions for the international sailing federation, told the AP the body is likely to test on its own, hoping to allay athletes’ health concerns.

The tests could also push Rio organizers to move more quickly on the problem.

Revolt by rogue general against Islamists splits Libya’s militias, risking fight for power

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- A revolt by a renegade general against Islamists who dominate Libya’s politics threatened to spiral into an outright battle for power that could fragment the North African nation as the country’s numerous armed militias on Monday started to line up behind the rival camps.

Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who lived for years in exile in the United States during the rule of autocrat Moammar Gadhafi, touts himself as a nationalist who is waging a war against terrorism to save Libya from Islamic extremists. His loyalists and allies in the past days attacked Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi and on Sunday stormed the Islamist-led parliament in Tripoli.

Hifter’s opponents accuse him of seeking to grab power, acting on behalf of former regime figures in exile by orchestrating an Egyptian-style military overthrow of Islamists that would wreck already struggling attempts at democracy.

Since Gadhafi’s ouster and death in a 2011 civil war, Libya has been in chaos. The central government has almost no authority. The military and police, shattered during the civil war, have never recovered and remain in disarray. Filling the void are hundreds of militias around the country. Many of them are locally based, rooted in specific cities or neighborhoods. Others are based on ethnic allegiances. Others have embraced al-Qaida-inspired extremism.

The country has held several elections, including ones that created a new parliament. But administrations have been paralyzed by the competition between Islamist parties and their rivals, each of which are backed by militias. Islamist lawmakers who dominate parliament removed the Western-backed prime minister earlier this year and named an Islamist-leaning figure Ahmed Maiteg to replace him in a vote their opponents say was illegal.

Credit Suisse charged in U.S.
tax evasion case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department has charged Credit Suisse AG with helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes through offshore accounts, and a person familiar with the matter says the European bank has agreed to pay about $2.6 billion in penalties.

The charge was filed Monday in a criminal information, which is a charging document that can only be filed with a defendant’s consent and which typically signals a guilty plea.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the guilty plea had not yet been announced.

The penalty resolves a yearslong criminal investigation into allegations that the bank recruited U.S. clients to open Swiss accounts, helped them conceal the accounts from the Internal Revenue Service and enabled misconduct by bank employees.