- - Thursday, January 19, 2012


Exxon reaches $1.6M settlement over spill

BILLINGS | A state official says Exxon Mobil has agreed to $1.6 million in penalties to settle water-pollution violations from a major oil pipeline break that fouled dozens of miles of shoreline along Montana’s scenic Yellowstone River.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality director Richard Opper said Thursday that the penalty marks the largest in the agency’s history.

Mr. Opper says the oil giant will pay $300,000 in cash and spend $1.3 million on future environmental projects. Exxon will reimburse more than $760,000 in emergency-response costs racked up by state agencies.

Exxon is also increasing its estimate on how much crude spilled in the July 1 accident to 1,509 barrels or about 63,400 gallons. That’s a 50 percent increase over earlier estimates.


GM retakes global title of top-selling automaker

DETROIT | General Motors sold slightly more than 9 million cars and trucks worldwide last year to reclaim the title of the world’s top-selling automaker.

The company says it sold 9.03 million vehicles last year, up 7.6 percent from 2010.

That beat Toyota, which took the crown away from GM in 2008. Toyota sold 7.9 million vehicles last year. The March earthquake in Japan cut Toyota’s factory production and hurt its sales.

Germany’s Volkswagen took second place with a record 8.156 million sales in 2011. That was up 14 percent over 2010.

Before 2008, GM had held the title for more than seven decades.

The title doesn’t mean much to GM’s bottom line. But it’s an example of how far the company has come since it nearly collapsed in financial ruin in 2009.


Grower linked to listeria fined over migrant housing

DENVER | A Colorado cantaloupe grower that was implicated following an outbreak of listeria that killed 30 people last year was fined by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday for failing to provide safe migrant-worker housing.

The federal agency said grower Eric Jensen rented migrant workers unsanitary, overcrowded rooms at a motel he owns. Inspectors said many rooms lacked beds, laundry facilities and smoke detectors. Mr. Jensen faces $4,250 in civil penalties. The fine was not linked to the listeria outbreak.

“Profiting at the expense of vulnerable workers is not just inhumane, it’s illegal,” said Chad Frasier, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Denver.

Mr. Jensen said Thursday the fine was unwarranted. He said he didn’t know the people who rented the rooms for a month were migrant workers.

“It was closed at the time, and they wanted to rent it,” Mr. Jensen said. He said he didn’t know he had to verify their employment.

The outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe last fall was the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years. Thirty people died, 146 people were sickened and one woman suffered a miscarriage after eating tainted cantaloupe, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration said in October that pools of dirty water on the floor and old, hard-to-clean equipment at Holly, Colo.-based Jensen Farms probably were to blame.


Salaried workers at Ford to get raises, bonuses

DEARBORN | Ford Motor Co. is showing confidence in its turnaround and the U.S. economy by giving pay raises and bonuses to 20,000 white-collar workers, mainly in the U.S. and Canada.

Workers got letters from President of the Americas Mark Fields last week saying they’ll get 2.7 percent base-pay increases on April 1. They’ll also get bonuses this year based on their individual performances, spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.

Ford made $6.6 billion in the first three quarters of last year. It will report fourth-quarter earnings later this month. The company’s U.S. sales rose 11 percent last year. It has made a huge turnaround since 2006, when it lost $12.6 billion and had to borrow more than $20 billion to stay in business.

Salaried workers didn’t get pay raises last year, but many were granted performance bonuses. They got only merit pay in 2010 and no raises or bonuses were given in 2009, Ms. Evans said.

The raises are necessary to keep Ford’s pay competitive with other Fortune 100 companies, Ms. Evans said. Each year, Ford studies pay at competitors and other companies, she said.

Ford also raised its matching contribution to the salaried employees’ 401(k) retirement plan. The company now pays 60 cents for every dollar an employee contributes, up to 5 percent of their salary. This year, the contribution will rise to 80 cents, Ms. Evans said.

She would not say how much the raises, bonuses and additional contributions will cost the company.

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