RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers have approved legislation they say makes the state the nation’s first to address decades of toxic water pollution from residue left behind by coal-burning electricity plants.
The General Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation addressing the problem unmasked six months ago when a coal ash spill from a Duke Energy plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge. The measure goes to Gov. Pat McCrory before becoming law.
Environmentalists said the legislation improved on earlier efforts, but didn’t go far enough.
Lawmakers said the measure would reverse a Superior Court judge’s ruling that Duke must take “immediate action” to eliminate groundwater contamination that crosses onto a neighboring property. Environmental attorney Frank Holleman says that will allow Duke to study the problem indefinitely before starting cleanup.
FORMER GOVERNOR TRIAL
Ex-governor testifies at corruption his trial
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Gov. Bob McDonnell is telling jurors that the former CEO of a dietary supplements maker did not get any special treatment from his administration.
McDonnell testified that Star Scientific Inc. founder Jonnie Williams got little more than routine access.
The onetime rising Republican star began his much-anticipated testimony Wednesday. He and his wife, Maureen, are accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s products.
Williams testified for the prosecution under immunity. He said he showered the McDonnells with gifts and loans to entice them to help him gain acceptance and state-backed research for his company’s tobacco-based anti-inflammatory, Anatabloc.
The former governor’s lawyers have suggested that Maureen McDonnell acted largely on her own to promote the product.
SUPREME COURT-GAY MARRIAGE-VIRGINIA
High court blocks same-sex unions in Virginia
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is delaying the start of same-sex marriage in Virginia.
The court on Wednesday granted a request from a county clerk in northern Virginia to block same-sex marriages across the state while the issue is being appealed to the Supreme Court. The court provided no explanation for its order.
Without court intervention, same-sex couples would have been allowed to wed as of Thursday.
In January, the justices issued an order putting same-sex unions on hold in Utah while the federal appeals court in Denver was hearing the case. That court upheld the decision striking down Utah’s gay marriage ban, but delayed its decision from taking effect pending appeal to the Supreme Court.
Most other federal court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage also have been put on hold.
BUSH-ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE
George W. Bush takes ice bucket challenge
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) — Former President George W. Bush took the ice bucket challenge then nominated former President Bill Clinton to do it next.
The challenge has caught on with notable figures participating in the campaign to raise money for the fight against ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In a video posted Wednesday on Bush’s Facebook page, he says: “To you all who challenged me, I do not think it’s presidential for me to be splashed with ice water, so I’m simply going to write you a check.”
The video, taken in Kennebunkport, Maine, then shows a smiling Laura Bush dousing him. She says: “That check is from me — I didn’t want to ruin my hairstyle.”
Also in Maine this week, author Stephen King took the challenge, and then challenged John Grisham.
Police investigate inmate’s death at Virginia jail
(Information in the following story is from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com)
ORANGE, Va. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of an inmate at the Central Virginia Regional Jail.
Orange County Sheriff Mark Amos tells The Daily Progress that deputies arrested Shawn Christopher Berry on Aug. 7 on outstanding felony warrants in Prince William County, the city of Fairfax and Maryland.
Virginia State Police Sgt. F.L. Tyler says Berry died two days later at the jail. Tyler announced the investigation Tuesday in a news release.
The newspaper says Berry was wanted in Fairfax on charges of working as a contractor without a license and financial exploitation of a mentally incapacitated person. He was charged in Prince William County with failing to appear in court, and faced drug charges in Maryland.
Metro pays $4.2 million to settle lawsuit
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington area’s Metro transit authority has paid $4.2 million to settle a lawsuit that accused it of awarding a no-bid technology contract.
The U.S. Attorney’s office announced the settlement on Wednesday.
A former Metro employee filed the lawsuit under the False Claims Act. Metro was accused of awarding a $14 million contract using federal grant money to Virginia-based Metaformers, Inc., without competitive bidding.
The whistleblower, Shahiq Khwaja, will receive a nearly $1 million share of the settlement. Khwaja also received $390,000 to settle an unrelated wrongful-termination claim against Metro.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen says the settlement shows that agencies will be held accountable if they don’t honor the integrity of the contracting process.
DULLES TOLL ROAD-LANES
Toll lanes to be converted on Dulles road
CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) — Drivers who don’t have E-ZPass will soon have fewer toll lanes to choose from in the Dulles Toll Road.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the road, announced Wednesday that it will convert 19 lanes into “E-ZPass only” lanes. The unattended lanes had previously accepted cash from drivers who had exact change.
The project will begin on Sept. 2. The lanes will be converted one at a time, with each conversion taking 2-to-4 weeks.
The airports authority says the project will ease congestion and enhance convenience for drivers. Each toll plaza will still have one full-service lane where drivers can pay with cash and get change.
RG3’s ungraceful slide remains hot Redskins topic
Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden is both understanding and a little perplexed by Robert Griffin III’s inability to execute a graceful slide.
Gruden said Wednesday that Griffin “needs to be a bit more fluid” when it comes to sliding, even though that can be tough to do in open field when players are flying around. The coach even suggested he might eventually have to order up some sort of sliding training for the franchise quarterback.
Sliding remained the hot topic at Redskins Park two days after Griffin took some big hits and pulled off an inelegant slide in a preseason win over the Cleveland Browns.
Asked if the topic is overblown, Gruden said: “It is an issue if he gets injured. It’s not an issue if he doesn’t.”
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