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Calif. files against S&P

(AP) -- California's attorney general has filed a lawsuit against debt rating agency Standard & Poor's, claiming it inflated its ratings of certain investments, costing the state's public pension funds and other investors billions of dollars.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.

It comes a day after the federal government filed a complaint against S&P's, accusing the company of fraud for giving high ratings to risky mortgage bonds that helped bring about the financial crisis.

It was the first enforcement action the federal government has taken against a major rating agency related to the financial crisis.

Rancho Cordova sues state

(AP) -- Another California city is suing the state Finance Department for refusing to return former redevelopment agency funds.

The Sacramento Bee said Rancho Cordova wants to recoup more than $6 million it loaned in recent years to its former redevelopment agency.

The Finance Department denied repayment and the city east of Sacramento has now sued.

Last week, the city of Galt, south of Sacramento, sued because of rejection of about $12 million in current and future payments for redevelopment work in the city's historic area.

The cities want the agreements with their one-time redevelopment agencies declared enforceable obligations.

Lawmakers recently dissolved redevelopment agencies and local governments were put in charge of winding them down.

The issue now is whether some of the money can be used to satisfy redevelopment debts.

Oyster farm to go

(AP) -- A federal judge on Monday denied a Northern California oyster farm's request to have its removal from Point Reyes National Seashore overturned, and ruled against allowing it to continue doing business in the park while its lawsuit is being heard in court.

The judge denied owner Kevin Lunny's request to void Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's refusal to renew the historic oyster farm's lease for another 10 years.

The rulings dealt a blow to the popular Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s last-ditch effort to remain in business beyond its March 15 eviction date.

Point Reyes National Seashore was added to the national parks system by Congress in 1962, and protects more than 80 miles of California coastline.

It is managed by the National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department.

Salazar, in denying Lunny's request to extend the lease, said the land should be returned to wilderness status as Congress decided in the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act.

He ordered Lunny to remove all of the farm's property from the pristine waters of the Drakes Estero.

Environmentalists and park officials said the oyster farm's motor boats and equipment threaten nearby harbor seals and polluted the otherwise clean waters.

Outlook upbeat

(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke said she has an upbeat view about the future for the U.S. economy in part because of a rebound in the housing market.

“I'm actually on the optimistic side” even though growth stalled during the fourth quarter, Duke said Tuesday. “If you look at the underlying thesis, the growth in consumer spending and some of the business growth, I think there is some momentum building, particularly in the area of housing.”

“We are seeing steady increases in house prices,” Duke said. “We are seeing improvements in new residential construction and also in household formation, which is the demand for houses.”

“The question really is how much of that momentum in housing, which I expect to continue, will spill over into better consumer confidence, better business confidence,” she said.

Solar rising

(Bloomberg) -- The United States will install more solar power in 2013 than wind energy for the first time as wind projects slump and cheap panels spur demand for photovoltaic systems, according to the head of Duke Energy Corp.'s renewable energy development unit.

The U.S. may install 3 gigawatts to 4 gigawatts of wind turbines this year, and solar installations will probably exceed that, said Gregory Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables (NYSE: DUK).

U.S. wind projects have come to a near-standstill this year after the scheduled Dec. 31 expiration of a federal tax credit.

Wolf anticipates more solar projects going into operation in 2013 than wind farms after panel prices fell more than 60 percent in the last two years.

U.S. wind installations reached an estimated 11.8 gigawatts in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The U.S. installed about 3.2 gigawatts of solar power last year and may reach 3.9 gigawatts this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Sitting in traffic

(AP) -- An annual study of national driving patterns shows that Americans spent 5.5 billion additional hours sitting in traffic in 2011.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute released a report Tuesday that found Americans are adapting to road congestion by allowing, on average, an hour to make a trip that would take 20 minutes without traffic.

The Urban Mobility Report also said clogged roads cost Americans $121 billion in time and fuel in 2011.

It also determined that the 10 most congested cities are Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, New York-Newark, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle.

The report is one of the tools used by experts to solve traffic problems.

But the institute advises that every community has unique challenges and require different, multi-faceted approaches to solving congestion.

Road rejected

(AP) -- The federal government has rejected a plan to build a road through an Alaska wildlife refuge to give a small Aleut village better access to medical care.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it won't approve a land exchange that would have allowed construction of a road through Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

The agency concluded a road could cause permanent damage to wetlands used by migratory birds, including some that are endangered.

The nearly thousand people who live in the village of King Cove want the 9-mile road to give medical patients a land link to nearby Cold Bay and its all-weather airport.

Muni insurer back

(Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett's municipal-bond insurer, which has shunned the market since 2009, returns this week backing part of a debt deal for a development around one of his company’s Nebraska Furniture Marts planned near Dallas.

Berkshire Hathaway Assurance Corp. will back a $106.9 million bond issue scheduled this week by entities tied to The Colony, according to bond documents.

The sale is one of several to finance land purchases and development that includes a furniture store about 27 miles north of Dallas.

It's the first deal backed by the insurance unit since November 2009, when it covered debt sold by Bexar County, home to San Antonio, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Entities tied to The Colony are selling bonds for a $1.5 billion mixed-use master-planned development on 433 acres that will be anchored by a Nebraska Furniture Mart enclosing almost 1.9 million square feet of space, according to the company.

Toronto sales

(Bloomberg) -- Sales of homes in the greater Toronto region fell 1.3 percent in January from a year earlier on fewer condominium purchases, according to the city's real estate board.

Realtors in Canada's largest city sold 4,375 units last month compared with 4,432 in January 2012, the Toronto Real Estate Board said.

The average selling price in January rose 4.3 percent from a year earlier to C$482,648 ($483,567).

Solar collaboration

(Bloomberg) -- Trina Solar Ltd., the third-largest maker of solar cells, agreed to collaborate with QBotix Inc. on power plants that use robotic tracking systems.

The companies plan to develop solar farms in the U.S. and other countries with QBotix's dual-axis tracking system, according to a statement Tuesday from Changzhou, China-based Trina (NYSE: TSL).

The QBotix technology is currently being tested in California, Arizona and Japan.

Saudi projects

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia's water and electricity ministry has approved almost $1 billion in spending for new water, sanitation and irrigation projects in the capital Riyadh.

Municipal authorities announced $960 million of projects connecting towns in the Riyadh area with a desalinated water transport system and expanding drinking water supplies in the capital by building a pumping station as well as designing water and sewage plants, according to the website statement.

Saudi Arabia spent $1.1 billion last year on 128 water and sanitation contracts in Riyadh, according to the statement.

The ministry has posted 89 projects around the kingdom this year on their official website.

Last month, Minister of Water and Electricity Abdullah Al-Hussayen said the government allocated $6.4 billion for water and sanitation projects in 2013.

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