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That's The Randle Report for Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Join us again tomorrow morning for all of the American South's business, economic development and political news in real time and in one place. Use the sort buttons or the search window above to find your favorite stories from yesterday, last week, last month or last year. Click on the headline to access Southern Business & Development magazine.
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U.S. Second-Quarter GDP Expands at 4.0% Rate
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, advanced at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.0% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast growth at a 3.0% pace for the quarter. An upturn in inventory building by businesses and an acceleration in consumer spending led the broad gains and offset a larger drag from increased imports. The solid improvement comes on the heels of a first quarter when the economy shrank at a 2.1% pace. While still the worst quarter of the recovery that began in mid-2009, the first-quarter figure reflects an upward revision from a previously estimated 2.9% contraction. Over the past year, the economy grew 2.4%—slightly ahead of the 2.3% average annual gain from recovery's start until the end of 2013, before an unusually cold winter socked the economy. The Wall Street Journal
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Electric Utilities Get No Jolt From Gadgets, Improving Economy
When customers of American Electric Power Co. started dialing back on power consumption in early 2009, company executives figured consumers and businesses were just pinching pennies because of the recession. Five years and an economic recovery later, electricity sales at the Columbus, Ohio-based power company still haven't rebounded to the peak reached in 2008. As a result, executives have had to abandon their century-old assumption that the use of electricity tracks overall economic conditions. "It's a new world for us," says Chief Executive Nick Akins. Utility executives across the country are reaching the same conclusion. Even though Americans are plugging in more gadgets than ever and the unemployment rate had dropped at one point to a level last reported in 2008, electricity sales are looking anemic for the seventh year in a row. The Wall Street Journal
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In GOP South, Pushback Against Obama Climate Rules
ATLANTA (AP) — In the Republican-heavy Southeast, critics said Tuesday that a plan by President Barack Obama's administration to cut pollution would raise electricity prices, result in job losses and may not significantly curtail the carbon emissions blamed for global warming. The criticism came as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held the first of two days of public hearings in Atlanta, Denver and Washington on the plan, which would force a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2030 from levels seen in 2005. Federal officials have never before tried to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Memphis Daily News
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Tennessee Gov. Haslam's letter baffles immigrant advocates
NASHVILLE — Immigrant advocates say they are baffled by a letter that Gov. Bill Haslam sent to President Barack Obama that says his administration should have been informed about the placement of 760 unaccompanied immigrant children in Tennessee. Haslam said in the letter released Friday that the Department of Health and Human Services did not directly tell Tennessee officials that unaccompanied minors had been released into the custody of sponsors living in the state. Instead, state officials learned of the minors through a posting on the department's website. Haslam said that practice was "unacceptable." The Tennessean reports immigrant and refugee advocates say unaccompanied minors routinely have been placed into Tennessee households with approved "sponsors" for years. Chattanooga Times Free Press
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Mississippi coast metro area among nation's highest for wage growth
OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi -- The Mississippi Gulf Coast is ranked third on a list of the metro areas with the highest year to year growth in average wages, according to 24/7 Wall St. The list, compiled by authors Alexander Kent and Alexander E.M. Hess, looked at one-year wage growth, average weekly wages, one-year unemployment change and one-year employment rate change. "Although there are many signs the economy is improving, average weekly wages in the United States remained stagnant throughout 2013," they wrote. "This was a notable change from a year earlier, when weekly wages rose 4.7 percent over the same period." Mississippi Press
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BP's second quarter profit jumps, but still wary of future expense of Gulf Coast oil spill
BP PLC saw its profits rise Tuesday on the account of its investments in Russian energy company Rosneft. BP reported $3.18 billion in replacement cost profit for the second quarter compared with $2.4 billion the same period last year. The British energy company's 20 percent stake in Rosneft was behind the large boost, profit from the joint venture jumping from $218 million to more than $1 billion year over year. But the company said it did not expect the same profits in the next quarter as the prospect of further sanctions against Russia loom. While the company has been active in U.S. energy production recently after an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill still hovers largely over its operations. Oil spill related activities cost the firm $280 million in the first half of 2014, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. AL.com
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BP sets aside $260 million for future oil spill legal costs
BP reported $260 million in charges related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill during the second quarter. The majority of the charge was money the British oil giant set aside for future court battles over the spill. BP provided an update Tuesday (July 29) on its oil spill spending in its second quarter earnings release in which the company reported $3.6 billion in profit for the quarter. BP says it has spent $43 billion total on charges related to the oil spill before taxes. BP put $20 billion into an oil spill trust fund a month after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010. The company said the trust has paid out $13.7 billion, leaving an aggregate remaining cash balance of $6.3 billion. The remaining money also includes qualified settlement funds that have yet to be spent. NOLA.com
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La. sees third straight year of rising industrial jobs
Louisiana has seen gains in industrial jobs for the third straight year, with manufacturers adding nearly 1,900 jobs from 2013 to 2014, according to a recent report. The 2014 Louisiana Manufacturers Register, a database issued by Manufacturers’ News Inc., said the 5,218 manufacturers in Louisiana have just over 200,000 employees. Oil and gas extraction saw a 6.3 percent employment gain, the largest for any industrial sector, according to the report. The 26,244 jobs in oil and gas extraction boosted its position to first in the state, above chemicals (25,892) and industrial machinery (25,223). American Press
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Axiall eyes Southwest La. plant for new ethane cracker
If Axiall executives have their way, they will build a new ethane cracker on land next to their Westlake plant. In an email to the American Press on Monday, Alan Chapple, spokesman for Axiall, said the company filed for a wetlands permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, specifying its Westlake plant “as the preferred location” for the proposed facility. The estimated $2 billion plant would produce about 2 billion tons of ethylene per year. “We currently are engaged in a front-end engineering and design study, which, when completed near the end of the year, should provide Axiall’s management team and board of directors with the information needed to decide whether to pursue this project at the appropriate time,” Chapple said. American Press
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