Monday PM September 17th, 2007

New York AG investigates Dynegy, four other energy companies over plans for coal-fired power plants...State Land Board considering bid proposals in sale of state-owned land...Power restored in southeast Texas after Hurricane Humberto...

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating five major energy companies to determine if plans to create coal-fired power plants present an undisclosed financial risk to investors. Cuomo has sent subpoenas seeking internal documents to Houston-based Dynegy, as well as AES, Dominion Resources, Peabody Energy and Xcel Energy. He's using the Martin Act, the same state securities law that Governor Eliot Spitzer used to investigate corruption on Wall Street. The Attorney General's Office is suggesting the companies could take a financial hit if federal lawmakers tighten controls on coal-fired plants that emit pollutants scientists have linked to global warming. The office is questioning whether investors had been adequately informed about the potential risk of developing plants that might hurt the environment.

The State Land Board is set to consider six bid proposals for more than 9,200 acres of state-owned wilderness property in west Texas. The bids range from $10,500 to $652,000, according to documents obtained by the San Antonio Express-News. The top two bidders say in their proposals that they would allow either no public access or only tightly controlled visits to the Christmas Mountains near Big Bend National Park. Conservation groups have opposed selling the land, which they argue was donated to the state so it would be protected for public use. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson declined to comment on the bid proposals, which state officials will consider Tuesday. Patterson has defended the sale, arguing that the land office can't manage the land and that state and federal parks agencies have declined to take over the property.

Electricity is back on for all the southeast Texas people left in the dark by Hurricane Humberto. Entergy Texas officials said the power was restored late Sunday night to the Bolivar Peninsula, east of Galveston, where Humberto crashed ashore last week at High Island with 85 mph winds before slipping to the northeast into Louisiana. Almost 120,000 Entergy customers were without power at the height of the outages, primarily in Galveston, Jefferson and Orange Counties. Nearly 3,000 utility workers were brought in to help with the electric recovery efforts. One death was blamed on the storm, which made landfall before dawn Thursday as the eighth named storm of this hurricane season. Shell's Motiva refinery in Port Arthur has restored most of the power to the facility and production is being re-started.

Saddam Hussein told Houston oilman Oscar Wyatt in 1995 that Iraq's friends had dwindled so that he could count them on one hand, according to testimony at his New York trial. Wyatt is accused of funneling millions of dollars to Saddam's regime to get Iraqi permission to buy Iraqi crude under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. He's charged with fraud, conspiracy and violating U.S. sanctions.

A European court rebuked Microsoft, denying most of its appeal of a record fine in an antitrust action. It's seen as a resoundingly firm victory for the European Union that will solidify the bloc's role as a major global regulator. The European court of first instance dismissed the software giant's appeal against an EU antitrust order that ordered it to share communications code with rivals and sell a copy of Windows without Media Player. It also upheld a $613 million fine. That's the largest ever levied by EU regulators. The EU court ruled the European Commission was correct in concluding that Microsoft was guilty of monopoly abuse in trying to use its power over desktop computers to muscle into server software. Microsoft says it won't comment until after lawyers read the ruling. It has two months to appeal.

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