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POSTED April 16, 2013 8:13 p.m.

INTERNAL REPORT: CPUC SAFETY CULTURE IS LAX: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A consultant's confidential report on the California Public Utilities Commission makes sharp criticisms of its executive director and finds the agency's safety culture severely lacking.

The informal survey of commission staff by Business Advantage Consulting highlights employees' concerns that the CPUC doesn't prioritize safety and has a cozy relationship with the utilities it regulates.

In an official response, the CPUC says it hired the consultants to help the agency with a "process of culture change."

The commission says it plans to use the findings to develop strategies for greater accountability. The CPUC has come under fire for lax oversight since the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

Executive director Paul Clanon and other leaders will answer questions about the confidential report on Wednesday at an Assembly Budget Committee hearing in Sacramento.

CONSERVATIVE GROUP SUES CALIF. OVER CAP-AND-TRADE: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A conservative group is suing California over the state's system of limiting greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources by putting a price on carbon.

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed suit Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court, arguing the state's so-called cap-and-trade system is an illegal tax.

Cap-and-trade is a key part of the California's global warming law, AB 32, and sets a limit on the carbon that can be released from industrial polluters.

The system issues permits for each ton of carbon, which are sold at auction.

PLF argues that if the court finds that AB 32 authorized the auctions, then the entire law should be found unconstitutional as an illegal tax.

A separate California Chamber of Commerce lawsuit is seeking to invalidate just cap-and-trade as an illegal tax.

LOWER FISHING LIMITS REJECTED  BY SF JUDGE: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge has rebuffed an environmental group's request to require the government to lower its catch limits on sardines, mackerel and other fish off the California coast.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said it was too late to challenge the rules the National Marine Fisheries Service had established in 2000 and reaffirmed in 2010.

The organization, Oceana, claimed that the plan approved by the agency was based on flawed data and allowed fishing at levels that would deplete offshore populations of several species, including seabirds and whales.

Chen did order the fisheries service to reconsider its catch levels for one species, the northern anchovy. He said the agency had reopened discussion on the anchovy in 2010 but failed to determine the limits needed to protect the fish.

ELDERLY DAVIS COUPLE FOUND SLAIN AT HOME : DAVIS  (AP) — Police in Northern California are looking for leads in the stabbing deaths of a longtime attorney and his wife.

Davis police Lt. Paul Doroshov says police discovered the bodies of 87-year-old Oliver Northup and his wife, 76-year-old Claudia Maupin, at their home on Sunday night. Police had gone there after family members requested a welfare check.

There were signs of forced entry, but the house had not been ransacked.

Investigators could not say whether the couple had been burglarized.

Northup in later years practiced criminal appellate law and gave seminars at the public defender's office. Friends say they can't think of any reason anyone would want to hurt him.

The homicides were the first in Davis since 2011.

HOSTAGE STANDOFF ENDS AT SO. CAL POPCORN FACTORY: EL SEGUNDO (AP) — Police say an executive held at gunpoint at a Southern California gourmet popcorn company has been freed and a company employee is under arrest.

El Segundo police Capt. Bob Turnbull says the standoff at the Popcornopolis distribution center ended after about three hours Tuesday.

It started when a woman walked into an office with a handgun and took the company's chief financial officer hostage. Their names have not been released.

The woman told other employees to leave the building as police officers, including a SWAT team, surrounded the building.

Turnbull says crisis negotiators convinced the woman to surrender.

The executive was not hurt.

Investigators are trying to determine the woman's motivation.

 

LEAD AMMO BAN GAINS TRACTION IN CALIF. ASSEMBLY: SACRAMENTO (AP) — A bill that would make California the only state in the nation to ban lead ammunition for hunting has sailed through the state Assembly's Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

The bill by Democrat Anthony Rendon of Lakewood passed the committee on Tuesday despite opposition from sporting enthusiasts who said it would be tantamount to a ban on hunting.

It has been sought by wildlife protection groups concerned about lead poisoning deaths in carrion scavengers such as condors and eagles. Rendon said the bill also would protect children who eat game.

Lead is a neurotoxin outlawed in gasoline, paint and children's toys.

Hunting and gun rights groups said there is no science proving that humans have been poisoned and ammunition made of stronger metals could be banned by the federal officials as armor-piercing.

OXNARD OFFICIALS FINED $8,500 OVER GIFTS: OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Two Oxnard finance officials have been fined a total of $8,500 by state regulators for breaking gift reporting rules.

The Ventura County Star reports Chief Financial Officer Jim Cameron will pay $6,500 and Financial Services Manager Mike More will pay $2,000 for the violations.

An investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission found Cameron failed to report lunches, dinners and drinks paid for by bond firm E.J. De La Rosa & Co. He also underreported tickets to a Dodgers game and a Broadway show.

The commission said More failed to report gifts from De La Rosa and the Ojai Valley Inn.

Both men agreed to pay the fines.

RIVERSIDE SETTLES WATER FUND SUIT FOR $10 MILLION: RIVERSIDE (AP) — The city of Riverside will pay $10 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed it improperly raided a water fund to help pay for day-to-day services.

The Press-Enterprise says the city last month negotiated a settlement with two residents who sued over 16 years of money transfers from the city utility's water fund to the general fund.

The lawsuit argued that the annual funding transfer violated a 1996 law requiring voter approval of most taxes and fees and restricts how they can be spent.

Under the settlement, Riverside will repay $10 million to the water fun and put a measure on the June ballot asking voters whether to permit the transfers to continue.

REGULATORS SEEK FINE AFTER DISNEYLAND ACCIDENT: ANAHEIM (AP) — State regulators want to fine Disney nearly $235,000 for violating safety regulations after a worker was injured at the Space Mountain ride.

The Orange County Register says fines are being proposed by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The penalties stem from a November accident when a contract worker slipped and suffered broken bones while cleaning the exterior of Space Mountain at Disneyland.

The agency says Disneyland Resort willfully violated safety regulations. Disney says it hasn't decided whether to appeal the penalties.

Three rides were closed over the weekend as the company reviewed its safety protocols. Two of them — Space Mountain and Soarin' Over California in Disney California Adventure — remain closed.

 

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