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Blasting for quakes

(AP) -- A report to state regulators opposes a plan to use sonic blasts to conduct earthquake surveys in the waters off of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The staff report to the California Coastal Commission say the blasts could cause disturbances among some 7,000 whales, porpoises and other marine animals near the Central California coastal plant.

The commission is expected to vote next week on a request by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to use air guns that would create strong sound waves to map fault zones in a 130-square-mile area.

PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said the utility is committed to safe testing and similar tests conducted around the world haven't had any longtime impacts on marine life.
Converging streams

(AP) -- A study of mountain streams in the West over the past 60 years finds the hottest temperatures of summer and the lowest water levels of fall are converging.

The authors say the convergence gives salmon less time to recover from the stress of warm water before the stress of low water hits -- 20 to 30 days less time.

The study was based on stream flow records between 1950 and 2010 from 22 sites in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Montana and Idaho.

Researchers from Oregon State University, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey cited other research indicating climate change is behind the convergence, producing lower snowpacks in winter and earlier snowmelt in spring.

The study appears in the journal Hydrobiologia.

Tower maker closed

(AP) -- Wind tower manufacturer DMI Industries Inc. in North Dakota has shut down.

West Fargo Bank's economic development director said the future of the DMI plant isn't known because officials with the Texas-based company that recently bought the plant aren't immediately revealing their plans.

Parent Otter Tail Corp. (Nasdaq: OTTR) is selling DMI plants in West Fargo; Tulsa, Okla.; and Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, to Dallas-based Trinity Industries (NYSE: TRN) for $20 million.

The deal and the pending shutdown were announced earlier this fall. The West Fargo DMI plant that closed employed 216 people.

Inflated prices

(AP) -- A Utah man has been sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for his role in a multimillion-dollar scheme to sell property in a Hurricane subdivision at inflated prices.

Raymond Morris of South Weber, Utah, was sentenced Monday in federal court in Charleston, S.C., for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

Federal prosecutors said six defendants were sentenced in the scheme that reaped nearly $2 million in lost equity from defrauded lenders in less than two years.

Court records show Morris and another defendant, Michael Hurd of Salt Lake City, were involved in the scheme with Deborah L. Joyce of Hurricane.

Joyce was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison. Hurd was sentenced to two years and three months.

German solar

(Bloomberg) -- SAG Solarstrom AG, a German solar power developer, plans to build a 2-megawatt photovoltaic pilot plant in Chile and is looking at larger projects in the country.

SAG Solarstrom will sell electricity from the facility, expected to begin operating in the first quarter, to the unidentified farm that owns the land, the Freiburg, Germany-based company said Tuesday.

The project, which will also sell power on the spot market, will be in Coquimbo, a region 300 miles north of Santiago.

Solar irradiation, a measure of sunshine intensity, in Coquimbo is more than twice the level it is in Germany, the company said.

BASF divesting

(Bloomberg) -- BASF SE said it plans to divest a business making wall components as Chief Executive Officer Kurt Bock extends a revamp of construction related businesses.

Wall Systems generated sales in the “mid double-digit million euro range,” it said.

The world's biggest chemical maker is in the midst of finding a buyer for an artificial turf business, another operation that Bock deemed peripheral to the main chemicals and materials focus.

“Our Wall Systems business in Germany posted significant growth over the last few years,” said Tilman Krauch, head of BASF's construction chemicals operation. “Nevertheless, there are only limited synergies with other BASFfields of activity that we can make use of. A new owner will be better able to drive the business.”

Housing bids

(AP) -- Israel said it is pushing forward with construction of more than 1,200 new homes in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The government announced late Monday that it was accepting bids from contractors to build the homes in two Jewish enclaves in east Jerusalem, Ramot and Pisgat Zeev.

It also reopened bidding for 72 homes in Ariel, deep inside the West Bank.

Anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now accused the government of issuing the tenders when the world's attention is on the American presidential election. The projects were all originally announced months ago.

Laos to begin dam

(Bloomberg) -- Laos will start construction this week on a $3.6 billion hydropower dam on the Mekong River that has been delayed for 18 months amid opposition from downstream countries and activist groups.

Bangkok-based Ch. Karnchang Pcl, PTT Pcl and Electricity Generating Pcl are among major shareholders of Xayaburi Power Co., the dam's operator.

The hydropower plant is the first among eight that Laos plans to build on the Mekong to expand Southeast Asia's smallest economy by selling electricity to neighboring countries.

Danish bubble

(Bloomberg) -- Denmark is at risk of sinking into a recession as house price declines undermine consumer demand, the International Monetary Fund said.

The government of Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt needs to stand ready to support the ailing economy should further signs of weakening materialize, Thomas Dorsey, the IMF's mission chief, said Monday.

Denmark is struggling to surface from a burst housing bubble that has claimed more than 12 regional banks since 2008 and undermined consumer confidence.

Property prices, which have declined about 25 percent since their 2007 peak, will probably continue to fall until 2014, the government-backed Economic Council said this month.

Swiss 'risk zone'

(Bloomberg) -- The UBS Swiss Real Estate Bubble Index entered the “risk zone” for the first time since 1991, putting pressure on the Swiss National Bank to take measures to curb the country's property boom.

The index rose to 1.02 point in the three months through September from 0.82 point in the previous quarter, UBS AG (NYSE: UBS) said Monday. A reading above 1 indicates “risk.”

“Although population growth continues to favor price increases, the high price level is increasingly being supported by demand for real estate as an investment as well as by the low interest rates,” said Matthias Holzhey and Claudio Saputelli, UBS economists.

Laotian highway

(Bloomberg) -- Giant Consolidated Ltd. will build a $5 billion railway across Laos that will connect Southeast Asia's smallest economy to Vietnam, according to a statement from Malaysia’s trade-promotion agency.

Construction of the 137-mile electrified track will start next May and is expected to be completed by 2018, according to an agency statement.

Giant is linked to TMK Holdings Sdn., according to the statement, which didn't give details.

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