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February 18, 2014 | By David Zucchino
DURHAM, N.C. -- State regulators in North Carolina have ordered DukeĀ  Energy to contain a newly discovered leak of coal ash from a second storm-water pipe at a storage basin on the Dan River, where an earlier ruptured pipe released a massive coal ash spill on Feb. 2. The action came as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported finding up to 70 miles of the river bottom coated with coal ash 5 feet thick in some places. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, under fire from environmental groups who have accused the agency of trying to protect Duke, said Tuesday that it had discovered elevated levels of arsenic from the second pipe.
February 16, 2014 | By David G. Savage
WASHINGTON - Companies that make generic drugs, the medications most Americans buy, are fighting to kill a proposed federal regulation that would require them for the first time to warn patients of all the known health risks of each drug they sell. The proposed rule change by the Food and Drug Administration "would be nothing short of catastrophic," said Ralph G. Neas, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Assn., an industry trade group. It could raise healthcare costs and "create dangerous confusion" for doctors and patients, he said.
February 12, 2014 | By Emily Alpert Reyes
When Max Wong first "outed" herself to her neighbors, she wondered when the police would be knocking on her door. Until then, she had kept her passion a secret. But Wong said most of her Mount Washington neighbors were simply puzzled. Beekeeping? Illegal? In Los Angeles? "It's the yummiest way of breaking the law," said Wong, one of the backyard beekeepers who is pushing for Los Angeles to allow apiaries in residential zones. In a city so proud of its orange trees and urban greenery, "beekeeping should never have been illegal," she said.
February 11, 2014 | By David Zucchino
RALEIGH, N.C. - State regulators in North Carolina have asked a judge to delay what environmentalists claim is a sweetheart deal with Duke Energy designed to protect the nation's largest electrical utility from heavy fines for allowing coal ash into the state's rivers. The move came a week after a massive spill dumped up to 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River from a Duke Energy containment basin at a shuttered coal-fired plant in Eden, N.C. Duke and state regulators have downplayed the severity of the spill.
February 7, 2014 | By David Helvarg
Californians used to call it earthquake weather, the unseasonably warm, dry, blue-sky days that pushed deep into this year's rainy season. Now we just call it drought. Unfortunately, the state's water resources are at critically low levels (12% of normal Sierra Nevada snowpack for this time of year) and the crisis is unlikely to go away soon or for long. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey predicts that with changing patterns of rain and snow we will see more frequent and intense droughts and flash flooding in California's future.
February 7, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
In an effort to cut costs, many insurers in the new state health insurance exchanges are offering plans with "narrow networks" that include fewer doctors and hospitals - particularly the costlier ones with famous names, such as Cedars-Sinai. The trade-off has sparked complaints from some policyholders who've had trouble seeing their favorite doctor or, in some cases, any doctor in the right specialty. Although regulators have to address those issues, narrow networks can actually be a good thing for patients if done the right way. Insurers started limiting their customers' choice of providers long before the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, steering patients to preferred doctors and hospitals through restrictive HMOs or more inclusive - and popular - PPOs.
February 6, 2014 | By Marc Lifsher
SACRAMENTO - Ride-sharing company Lyft is improving its insurance coverage for drivers and passengers after state regulators complained that there could be holes in the coverage that Lyft and its competitors provide. Critics questioned whether the policy goes far enough to fully protect people involved in accidents. Lyft announced this week that it's giving drivers the option of getting collision insurance to repair damage to their cars. It's also offering protection against being hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver to its basic, $1-million commercial liability coverage.
February 6, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
In the new world of the sharing economy, companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have made a compelling case that government shouldn't treat them the same way it treats conventional service providers. They're not taxi companies; instead, they empower people to act as part-time limo drivers. But regulators still have to make sure that the public is protected when something goes wrong. A recent fatal accident involving a driver who used Uber highlights gaps in the insurance coverage that ride-sharing services, their drivers and state regulators can't ignore.
February 5, 2014 | By Marc Lifsher and Salvador Rodriguez
SACRAMENTO - A deadly accident involving a California ride-sharing driver has brought to light a potential downside to this new high-tech carpooling: Who pays when something goes wrong? Companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have long insisted that the insurance they provide their drivers is sufficient to cover accidents. But a recent tragedy shows the murky legal terrain in which these new taxi-like services operate. On New Year's Eve, an Uber driver struck and killed a 6-year-old girl who was crossing a San Francisco street with her family.
February 3, 2014 | By Jerry Hirsch
Cars of the future will know when they're about to get hit - and how to speak up about it. U.S. auto safety regulators on Monday took the first steps toward mandating that automakers build cars that talk to one another. They would speak in short-range radio signals, trading messages that would prevent accidents on a broad scale, according to the Transportation Department. The most advanced cars today can already spot trouble ahead. They use sensors to detect cars or fixed objects ahead, and alert drivers - or, in some cases, even slam on the brakes.
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