Tuesday PM January 15th, 2008

Worker dies from injuries at BP Texas City refinery mishap...Citigroup cuts dividends and announces 4,200 job cuts...Governor blasts plan to raise federal gasoline taxes...

A man has died from injuries he suffered on the job at the BP refinery in Texas City. BP issued a press release saying the man was injured near the refinery's ultracracker process unit about 4 p.m. Monday. BP has begun an investigation into the accident and has notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Houston Chronicle reported in a story on its Web site Monday. The victim's name has not been released. He died after being taken to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Citigroup is cutting its dividend after dismal fourth-quarter earnings news. Not only is Citigroup cutting its dividend—it's cutting some 4,200 jobs--as it writes down the value of its portfolio by more than $18 billion dollars, the result of bad bets on the mortgage industry. The nation's largest bank has received a $12.5 billion investment from outside investors, including nearly $7 billion from the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation. The investment adds to the $7.5 billion that Citi got in November from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in exchange for a 4.9 percent stake in the company.

You could be paying even more for gasoline, under a new plan to raise money to fix roadways. A special commission is calling for hiking federal gasoline taxes up to 40 cents per gallon over five years. The two-year study by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission is the first to recommend broad changes after the devastating bridge collapse in Minneapolis last August. It warns that urgent action is needed to avoid future disasters. Governor Rick Perry is criticizing the recommendation, adding that the commission is encouraging states to follow suit and simultaneously raise their own gas taxes at an even higher rate. Drivers now pay 18.4 cents per gallon in federal gasoline taxes. The report says other sources of funding could come from tolls, peak-hour "congestion pricing'' on highways, freight fees and ticket taxes for passenger rail improvements.

Houston-based Luby's announced a preliminary count shows shareholders re-elected four members of its board. Shareholders in the cafeteria chain apparently turned back a challenge by a New York hedge fund that claimed the incumbents okayed sweetheart stock deals for executives. Final results won't be known for several days. Jeff Smith with Ramius Capital Group said his firm might push for another proxy fight next year. Longtime shareholder Marvin Rich of Houston says he supported the current directors and management, including CEO Christopher Pappas and CEO Harris Oappas. Before the meeting, the company announced that the Pappases would support a move to make each of the ten directors stand for election every year instead of serving staggered terms. A majority of shareholders had voted for such a change several times in recent years.

Texas Department of Transportation officials began a month-long series of town hall meetings last night with a hearing in Texarkana. The forums address a proposed 4,000-mile network of superhighway toll roads that could be the biggest construction project the state's ever seen. The Texarkana session was the first of a scheduled series of 11 town hall sessions over the next four weeks concerning the Trans-Texas Corridor. The forum has moved to Carthage and will move on to Lufkin on Thursday. All are communities that would be directly affected by a major leg of the superhighway along the Interstate 69 route long sought by east Texas officials. Governor Rick Perry first proposed the TTC six years ago. While embraced by many, it's being fought by some who describe it as unneeded and improper. If completed as much as 50 years from now, the TTC could crisscross the state with up to a quarter-mile-wide stretch of toll roads, rail line and pipeline and utility lines. Cost of the project has been estimated at approaching $200 billion. It also could require the state acquire nearly 600,000 acres of private land, much of from farmers and ranchers.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding two public hearings on February 5th to discuss applications for two new nuclear reactors for the South Texas Project. Two meetings are scheduled for that day at the Bay City Civic Center. The Houston Chronicle reports the meeting will be transcribed, with staff providing follow-up answers later on the agency's Web site.

Tags: News


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