FLOOD WARNINGS

Flood Warnings Until Further Notice

The Muskegon river at Croton Dam measures by reference markers at 13.1' and is forecast to crest at 13.3'.  Major flooding will continue.  The structural integrity of the Dam remains, which is very good news.  Remember, flood stage is 9.0'.  

FLOOD WARNINGS remain along the Rogue river below Rockford and the White river above Whitehall.  The White river has already crested and will begin falling.  The Rogue sits at 8.0', which is flood stage, and should rise to 8.3'.  

Stay with wwmt.com for the latest flooding updates!   

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Energy Independence

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 12:38 AM EDT
Energy Independence story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on the lakeshore just south of South Haven is drawing national scrutiny now that it's been shut down for the eighth time in two years.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the aging facility is a poster child for our nation's lack of a comprehensive long-term energy policy.

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I don't know about you, but I don't take much comfort in the fact that the 80-or-so gallons of radioactive waste that leaked into Lake Michigan two weeks ago was, as the Palisades people described it, "highly diluted."

After all, that plant has been shut down a lot over the years—not just recently. And the people at Palisades have had tons of practice at projecting peaceful, easy feelings in the face of one unsettling problem after another.

But what can we really expect from a plant that was built more than 40 years ago at a cost of $180-million dollars—and now holds the dubious distinction of being one of the NRC's four worst nuclear plants in the United States.

It has entered the patch, patch, patch phase of its life span and the NRC is now making rumblings about giving it just four more years before pulling the plug. And whatever happens, its not to be taken lightly.

The Palisades reactor provides 18 to 30 percent of the electricity used in West Michigan. Some 600 people work there.

The lives of thousands of people hang in the balance.

But the truth is, the United States remains uncertain of where its headed in this 13th year of the 21st century.

We've long backed away from building nuclear power plants. They're deemed too dangerous after what happened in Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima.

Not to mention, they're enormously expensive--$5 to $10 billion each now—and return on investment is slow, and therefore kind of unpopular. But they produce no greenhouse gasses.

France, for the record, has about 60 nuclear plants—gets 80 percent of its energy from them—the highest in the world; and 85 percent of the reactors are owned by the government.

According to surveys, the French love their reactors.

On the other hand, in the U.K., a number of reactors were so unprofitable they could not even be sold, so they were actually given away to companies who wound up needing government bailouts to stay afloat.

In Germany, reactors are slotted, for now, anyway, to be decommissioned completely in the next nine years.

And in China, meantime, they're building them like crazy.

But we in the United States have no policy, no direction, no national sense where we're headed.

It's true and exciting that with new ways of finding abundant oil and natural gas reserves, we are quickly reducing our dependence on the middle east.

But both enterprises are ecologically problematic. From the very real fear of spills to the still-unknown hazards of fracking.

It's also true that we're learning more and more about the renewable powers of sun, wind and waves.

But we have no policy.

Maybe that's the way it ought to be: where things are determined by a free market; where entrepreneurs chart our energy futures. Where what's profitable will work.

But I have long wondered why we can't muster our best and brightest—to assemble, agonize, analyze, argue and chart a new energy direction for this country: One with focus; one that appreciates our environment as a legacy for our children; one that makes efficient and affordable use of what we have.

I hear politicians talk ad nauseum about achieving the American dream in this the greatest country the world has ever known.

There are a number of components to making any dream come true—and among them, not the least of them—is reliable, affordable energy.

And without the kind of road map into the future that a comprehensive energy policy would provide, it's reasonable to fear that we will wind up with energy that, while profitable to some, will be for the rest of us neither reliable nor affordable.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.
Energy Independence
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Business News

Last Update on April 15, 2014 17:50 GMT

BUILDER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market is a bit better right now but remains relatively low for the third straight month, reflecting the impact of tight credit for home buyers and a shortage of workers and land.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index for April has edged up to 47 from 46 in March.

Readings below 50 mean builders view sales conditions as poor. The index had been above 50 from June through January. But builders recently have complained that they can't find enough workers or lots.

Builders expect sales to improve over the spring and summer. The index measuring their confidence in home sales over the next six months rose to 57, highest since January.

CONSUMER PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lower U.S. gasoline prices kept consumer inflation in check last month, helping offset higher costs for food and clothing.

The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March, after scant 0.1 percent increases the previous two months. Prices have risen just 1.5 percent year over year. That remains well below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target for inflation.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices increased 0.2 percent in March and 1.7 percent in the past year.

Prices at the gas pump tumbled 1.7 percent in March, lowering costs for the entire energy category.

But food prices jumped 0.4 percent, led by increases in eggs, milk, butter, oranges, pork chops, ground beef and poultry. Prices for clothing, used cars and cable television also rose.

EARNINGS

J&J profit up 8 percent on sales jump; Coca-Cola profit dips, but more drinks sold

UNDATED (AP) -- Johnson & Johnson says its first-quarter profit rose 8 percent.

The world's biggest maker of health care products easily beat Wall Street expectations and raised its earnings outlook. J&J's report credits restrained costs and a big jump in prescription drug sales for its gains. Its stock is up more than 1 percent.

Coca-Cola says its first-quarter profit fell nearly 8 percent despite selling more drinks worldwide.

Soda sales actually fell for the first time in a decade, but the drop was offset by stronger sales of non-carbonated drinks, such as juice. Still, a stronger dollar hurt profits.

Excluding one-time items, Coca-Cola's net income totaled 44 cents per share, matching Wall Street expectations. Coca-Cola shares are up more than 3 percent.

EPA-EMISSIONS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court has upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's emission standards for hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The new regulations are designed to clean the air of toxins such as mercury, lead and arsenic, which contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

In its ruling, the court rejected state and industry challenges to the rules. Industry groups argue it would cost billions of dollars annually to comply with the new rules and the EPA overstates their benefits.

When the rules were brought forward three years ago, there were no limits on how much mercury or other toxic pollutants could be released from a power plant's smokestacks.

The EPA calls the decision "a victory for public health and the environment," adding that the new standards will "prevent heart and asthma attacks" and slash emissions that can impair children's ability to learn.

PAP SMEAR DEBATE-FDA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A high-tech screening tool for cervical cancer is facing pushback from more than a dozen patient groups, who warn that the genetic test could displace a simpler, cheaper and more established mainstay of women's health: the Pap smear.

The new test comes from Roche and uses DNA to detect the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which that causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. While such technology has been available for years, Roche now wants the FDA to approve its test as a first-choice option for cervical cancer screening, bypassing the decades-old Pap smear.

But a number of women's groups warn that moving to a DNA-only testing model would be a "radical shift" in medical practice that could lead to confusion, higher costs and overtreatment in some women.

YELLEN-BANKS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says recent initiatives by the Fed and other regulators to help banks make it through periods of financial stress are important, but they may still need to be strengthened.

Yellen believes current rules governing how much capital banks must hold in case of losses do not address all threats. She said that the Federal Reserve staff is actively considering what additional measures may be needed.

Bank regulators need to focus on this area, Yellen says, since bank runs generated at shaky firms were the primary engine that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

Yellen's comments Tuesday came in an address delivered by video to a financial markets conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve's regional bank in Atlanta.

EUROPE-FINANCIAL CRISIS

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union Parliament has completed the biggest overhaul of the bloc's financial system since the introduction of the euro currency.

Lawmakers in Strasbourg today passed laws aimed at minimizing the risk and cost posed by failing banks. They signed off on the establishment of a European authority to unwind or restructure failing banks as well as new rules designed to prevent any further bailouts with taxpayer money.

The EU Parliament also passed legislation that protects all deposits of up to 100,000 euros ($138,000) in case of bank failures across the 28-nation bloc.

The EU Commissioner in charge of financial market reform says the new rules "put an end to the era of massive bailouts and ensure taxpayers will no longer foot the bill when banks face difficulties."

During the global financial crisis, European governments pumped more than $800 billion into ailing banks.

IRS-PRIVATE COLLECTORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A public employees union is fighting a bipartisan effort in Congress to force the Internal Revenue Service to hire private contractors to collect some delinquent taxes.

The IRS stopped using private tax collectors in 2009 after determining that agency employees could do a better job.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill two weeks ago that included an amendment requiring the IRS to revive the program. The amendment was offered by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. It was accepted without opposition.

The amendment was attached to a bill that extends several dozen tax breaks that expired at the start of the year.

The National Treasury Employees Union said the program failed in the past and should not be forced on the IRS.

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