Aug 8, 2012

The blaze at Chevron's Richmond refinery could push gasoline prices higher, as supplies tighten and motorists scramble for fill-ups.


From the LAT's Ronald D. White and Maria La Ganga: "California gasoline prices could surge at least 35 cents a gallon this week as fire damage is assessed at the huge Chevron Corp. refinery here, raising fresh concerns about the toll on consumers coping with a tepid economic recovery."

"It could get very ugly, very fast," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for the price-watch websites run by GasBuddy.com."

"A long-term shutdown could be extremely expensive for drivers, he said. He pointed to a February blaze at a BP refinery in Washington state that left the plant out of commission until May and caused Pacific Northwest gasoline prices to increase about 70 cents to $4.40 a gallon."

The ever-quotable Rep. Pete Stark, a Democrat running for reelection in the East Bay in the toughest fight of his political career, unloaded on a long-time supporter who called Stark out of courtesy to let him know he was supporting Stark's opponent.


From Shane Goldmacher in the National Journal: "Alberto Torrico, the former majority leader of the California Assembly, told National Journal on Tuesday that Stark, 80, exploded in anger when he called to inform him he was backing Stark's Democratic opponent, 31-year old Dublin city councilman Eric Swalwell."


"Probably, for the next five, ten minutes he lit into me. I don't think I said more than three words," said Torrico, a Democrat who said he has supported Stark for the last decade.

After "calling me a turncoat," Torrico said that Stark "questioned my mental health. He asked me if I was well, if I was ill. He said that he was concerned for the safety of my children, that maybe he should send a social worker to my house to check on their safety because I'm clearly ill."


"Stark's alleged remarks to Torrico are only the latest in a string of erratic missteps that have left the veteran lawmaker in trouble as he fights for reelection in a new district and under new election rules in California that have allowed two Democrats to advance to the November general election. Earlier this year, Stark accused Swalwell of taking bribes in a debate and accused a local columnist of donating to his opponent."


A new study detailing the impact of tribal gaming in California shows the casinos bring billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state.


From Jim Miller in the Press Enterprise: "California’s Indian-gaming industry pumps $7.5 billion annually into the state’s economy and supports more than 52,000 jobs, according to a tribal-commissioned study meant to showcase the contributions of their casinos."


"The report, which is being released Wednesday, Aug. 8, has been in the works for more than a year. Tribal leaders say it is not tied to any campaign or legislative effort by the industry, one of the state’s most influential political participants. Officials plan to highlight the study’s findings in TV ads and community outreach."


"The study is the first detailed analysis of the Indian casino industry’s economic footprint since California voters legalized Las Vegas-style gambling on tribal land more than a decade ago. Many tribes that entered into casino agreements with the state back then have to renegotiate deals that expire in 2020."


Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards, who got embroiled in a flap a while back for bagging a mountain lion on a subsidized Idaho hunt, could be ousted from the commission.


From the Mercury News' Paul Rogers: "Six months after one of California's top wildlife officials faced a fury after shooting a mountain lion in Idaho, fellow commissioners are expected Wednesday to remove Dan Richards as president of the state Fish and Game Commission."


"But the unabashed hunting enthusiast isn't going down without a fight."


"This originates from the enviro-terrorists being threatened by me," Richards said in one of his first interviews since his mountain lion hunt enraged environmentalists. "They see a guy who is paying attention to the issues, and who calls them out on the crap they throw out. Their involvement is important but by and large it's a farce, and I'm not afraid to call it that."


Questions continue to be raised about the safety of the under-construction Bay Bridge, following news reports in the Bee of fudged inspection data at Caltrans.


From Lisa Vorderbrueggen at the Contra Costa Times: "A third wave of news reports about doctored concrete tests on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge and other state bridges is generating sharp scrutiny but no major safety worries so far from Caltrans' legislatively mandated construction oversight partners."


"We are watching the situation closely," said Jim Ghielmetti, vice chairman of the California Transportation Commission and president of Pleasanton-based Signature Homes. "We would be foolish not to. But there is a peer review panel looking at it and in reality, these large projects are so over-engineered that safety is unlikely to be an issue."


"Despite Ghielmetti's confidence, the state commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission -- both of which share financial oversight of seismic work on bridges -- have asked a lot of questions of Caltrans since November when a Sacramento Bee investigation revealed that a rogue state inspector faked test results during the construction of the new Benicia-Martinez bridge."


And from our "We Are Not Alone" file comes word that the number of breweries in the United States is at a 125-year high, testimony indeed of the eternal influence of Nero Wolfe.


"Not since Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print and the Eiffel Tower began to rise over Paris have Americans had so many breweries from which to choose."


"The total number of U.S. breweries as of June stood at 2,126, an increase of 350 additional breweries from June 2011 and the most since 1887, according to figures released today by the Boulder-based Brewers Association."


"That growth includes a flood of new breweries that have opened this year in Colorado, from small-town watering holes to neighborhood tap roomsand start-ups with national aspirations."


"The BA also reported a staggering 1,252 breweries in planning today, compared to 725 a year ago."


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