National Briefs: Wind energy off Md. coast – Pittsburgh Post

July 4, 2014 by  
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Interior plans to auction about 80,000 acres off the Maryland coast for commercial wind-energy development.

The competitive lease sale is scheduled for Aug. 19, according to an e-mailed statement Tuesday. Sixteen companies are expected to submit bids for an area where turbines may produce enough electricity for 300,000 homes.

There are no offshore wind farms in U.S. waters and the Interior Department is seeking to encourage development. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has awarded five commercial- scale leases for offshore wind projects in the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia. The competitive sales have raised more than $5 million across almost 278,000 acres of federal water.

BOEM expects to hold additional auctions for areas offshore Massachusetts and New Jersey later this year, according to the statement.

Craft reaches orbit

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — NASA’s new spacecraft to sniff carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere reached orbit Wednesday after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The $468 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission had to be put off when Tuesday’s launching attempt was halted with 46 seconds left in the countdown. Technicians spent the day replacing a defective valve in the system that sprays water beneath the rocket during liftoff.

Over the next 10 days, flight controllers will check out the spacecraft, and will then nudge it over three weeks into its final destination, 438 miles up in an orbit passing over the North and South Poles, where it will take its position at the front of a parade of other earth-observing spacecraft. 

The observatory carries a single instrument, which will measure carbon dioxide levels by looking at the intensity of colors of sunlight bouncing off the Earth (carbon dioxide absorbs certain colors, but not others).

Bureau criticized

WASHINGTON — A government watchdog criticized the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s controversial headquarters renovation, whose price tag has risen to an estimated $216 million, saying there was not a “sound business case” for the project because the agency never analyzed other options.

The inspector general’s report, released Wednesday, said bureau officials have been “unable to locate any documentation of the decision to fully renovate the building.” The bureau also failed to follow its own guidelines for approval by an internal investment review board because an analysis of alternatives to the project was not completed, the report said.

WSJ layoffs

NEW YORK — The Wall Street Journal has cut between 20 and 40 staff members in recent weeks, according to people with knowledge of the matter, as part of a re-evaluation of its newsroom that came at the end of its financial year.

Some of those laid off were informed at the end of last week, the final days of the newspaper’s fiscal year. The layoffs have not been announced to the newsroom staff, according to two people with knowledge of the cuts.

Dow Jones, the Journal’s parent company, declined to answer specific questions on the layoffs or confirm the details, but provided a statement saying it had been evaluating the newsroom “to target areas for growth and deploy our resources globally.”

As a result, Dow Jones said, “we will be eliminating certain positions.” 

Those laid off are said to include veteran reporters and editors.

— Compiled from news services

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