- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007



Finances threaten trash transfer station

A garbage transfer station in Suffolk that opened two years ago is in financial trouble.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority says it is $300 million in debt and that the transfer station may be shut indefinitely.

The $4 million facility, which is about the size of an airplane hangar, accept tons of trash from city trucks, relays the waste into regional refuse trucks, then shuttles the loads to Portsmouth for incineration.

The agency estimates that closing the transfer station would save $300,000 a year, and said the station could reopen if waste-management conditions change.


Congressman pushes liquid coal fuel

Rep. Rick Boucher, Virginia Democrat, thinks liquid fuel derived from coal can help the U.S. break its dependence on foreign oil. As the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and air quality, he hopes to jump-start the process.

Mr. Boucher is renewing legislation he introduced last year that would provide price guarantees to investors to encourage construction of coal-to-liquids conversion plants.

An energy policy that reduces dependence on oil is necessary for economic and national security reasons, he said.

China and South Africa use motor fuel derived from coal, but no coal-to-liquids plants are operating in the U.S. More than a dozen are in the planning stages, according to the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech.

Mr. Boucher, whose district includes Virginia’s coal region, said the country has the largest coal reserves in the world.

The technology to convert coal into diesel fuel or gasoline has existed for decades. The Germans used liquefied coal during World War II after the Allies bombed their oil refineries.

Under Mr. Boucher’s legislation, the price guarantee for coal-to-liquids operations would be tied to the price of oil. Should the oil price fall below a set level, probably about $40 a barrel, the government would make a payment to the conversion operations. If the price of oil increased above a set level, probably $75 a barrel, the plant operators would pay the government.

It’s likely that neither the government nor coal-to-liquids operations would make payments, Mr. Boucher said, but he thinks the measure is needed to instill confidence in investors.


Damaging weed spreads to state

Agriculture officials say a towering, prolific weed has made its Virginia debut in Suffolk.

Palmer amaranth is a stalky plant that grows as high as 10 feet and produces as many as a half-million seeds a season. It also may be resistant to commonly used herbicides.

The Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk issued a warning to a group of cotton farmers meeting at the Airfield 4-H Center in Wakefield last week.

The weed can decimate crop yield once it takes over a field, the agency said. The herbicide Roundup seems to have controlled the first plants found in Suffolk, but officials fear that the plant is resistant to ALS, another common herbicide.

Fields in the Carolinas and Georgia have been plagued with the pesky weed for years.

A Roundup-resistant variety already has been found in Gates County, N.C., 20 miles from the Virginia line.


University assesses tuition costs

Radford University officials are considering new ways of charging tuition to reflect the varying costs of classes.

The average cost per credit hour is $71. The cost ranges from $54 in the College of Arts and Science to $108 in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

That means students in cheaper programs essentially are subsidizing those in more expensive programs, said Senior Vice Provost Will Stanton.

The university could either charge a one-time fee on declaring a major, establish different tuition rates among grade levels or increase rates for classes, such as those with labs, that cost more to deliver, Mr. Stanton said.

Radford is raising discussion about the issue as it prepares to announce a far-reaching plan for its future.



Small businesses hit hard by fire

Businesses in the Antietam Village Center in Frederick say a fire last week will cost them $50,000 to $400,000 in losses, not including the price of losing steady customers.

Many of the 13 stores in the strip mall are small companies.

Investors said catastrophes wreak havoc on a small business’s survival.

Quizno’s owner Wayne Strube sees major difficulties ahead. He opened the shop as an investment four years ago and is starting to wonder whether it’s worth it to try again.


Crews begin razing historic row homes

Demolition crews have begun work on a block of historic row homes in downtown Baltimore.

The homes on St. Paul Place stood for more than 180 years, but it took just minutes to reduce them to rubble Saturday.

They are being razed to make way for a $292 million expansion of Mercy Medical Center.

The city issued a demolition permit in December to tear down the homes after the City Council removed them from a list of “notable” properties.

In the early 1900s, blacks and whites lived side by side in the block. The executive director of Baltimore Heritage called it a real loss for the city’s black heritage.


Baltimore firefighter injured on the job

A Baltimore County firefighter was being treated for second-degree burns on his ear after battling a house fire Saturday in Catonsville.

The firefighter from Station 3 in Woodlawn was taken to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center, fire officials said.

The fire in the 600 block of North Bend Road began about 8 p.m. and was brought under control in about an hour.

More than 30 firefighters responded, and no other injuries were reported. The home’s two occupants escaped without injury. Division Chief Michael Robinson said they refused hospital treatment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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