September 16th, 2010
10:15 AM ET

More questions raised about California gas pipeline

Dan Simon

(CNN) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the White House to make a federal disaster declaration in the aftermath of last week's pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno, California, his office said Wednesday.

"This event has destroyed and caused serious damages to homes, infrastructure, and other public facilities in San Mateo County," Schwarzenegger said in a letter to President Obama. "The response and recovery costs for this event are estimated at nearly $10.4 million."

A disaster declaration from the White House would free federal funds to cover those costs.

The request came as a consumer watchdog group said pipeline owner Pacific Gas & Electric had planned in 2009 to replace a section of its gas pipeline just a couple of miles from the section that exploded, but never spent the $5 million in rate increases to do the work.

TURN [The Utility Reform Network] also said the utility asked for another $5 million for the same project in 2009 - the year it should have completed the work it hasn't even started - saying it wouldn't be completed until 2013.

"The money was spent on what they call higher priority work," said TURN senior attorney Mike Florio.

Full story

Filed under: 360º Follow • T1
September 16th, 2010
10:13 AM ET

Letters to the President: #605 'What kind of party is this?'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Republicans are in some turmoil and I thought that presented an opportunity to the White House. Apparently not, because now President Obama’s party appears to be quaking and shaking over this tax issue. So that’s what I’m writing about in my daily letter to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Dear Mr. President,

Oh how the worm turns! Here I was giving you suggestions on how to drive a wedge between Republicans at this critical election time and suddenly we get word of a revolt in your own ranks; Democrats openly opposing your plan for the Bush tax cuts!

Sometimes I wonder if you sit up nights, sleepless over your team’s tendency to fight in the huddle. (I, on the other hand, sit up nights wondering what would have happened if I’d pursued my dream of being a professional ventriloquist.) Seriously, you get a political gift from the gods just when you feared your party was about to be steamrolled: The GOP fumbles, starts staggering around, befuddled by the Tea Party, scrapping over what to do. You’re sending in plays to capitalize on the misstep, and whoops, there goes your team running up the tunnel!

I can just imagine the phone calls. “Nancy? Harry? What the hell is going on over there? I have a recipe for a cheese sandwich. Do you think maybe you can get that right?”

I’m being too harsh, I know. You don’t get to call all the shots, and your fellow Dems all have their own concerns. But don’t you all periodically sit down and discuss the power of “we”? Remember it was “Yes, WE can!” It was not “Yes, me and you…and maybe you…can…I guess. Possibly next Thursday or Friday. Not sure when…”

September 16th, 2010
10:10 AM ET
September 16th, 2010
10:10 AM ET

ProPublica: Gulf Spill Paymaster Defends Progress While Weighing Changes


Kenneth Feinberg, the independent paymaster who took over managing Gulf spill damage claims from BP just over three weeks ago, has faced growing frustration from many claimants who have yet to see a check.

Although his Gulf Coast Claims Facility has approved payments of more than $150 million to date, participants in our BP Claims Project have reported delays, technical glitches and a lack of transparency in the review process for their claims.

We spoke with Feinberg on Tuesday about some of the most widespread problems we’ve been hearing about from claimants, as well as some of our own questions about how his operation works. Feinberg said he was considering creating an ombudsman to increase transparency for claimants, and his spokeswoman Amy Weiss later provided us with more comprehensive claims data (PDF) that showed that nearly a quarter of applications have been found to have insufficient documentation to be processed.

We’ve divided our conversation with Feinberg into the main subjects that we covered.

Read more on ProPublica's site

Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill
September 16th, 2010
09:50 AM ET
September 16th, 2010
09:35 AM ET

O'Donnell to address major conservative conference

Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director

Washington (CNN) – The newest rock star on the right will speak Friday in front of a national gathering of conservative activists.

Fresh off her upset victory over longtime moderate Republican Rep. Mike Castle in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell will speak Friday in the nation's Capitol at the fifth annual Values Voters Summit.

"We are pleased to announce that Christine O'Donnell will join us to speak at the Values Voters Summit. We applaud her for valiantly defending faith, family and freedom throughout this campaign," says Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which organizes the yearly conference of social conservative activists.

"Christine O'Donnell has spoken out on behalf of the average person in her state who has been burdened by excessive tax and regulatory policies. She has tapped into the deep-seated mistrust that voters have toward big government," added Perkins.

Full story on the CNN Political Ticker

Filed under: 360° Radar
September 16th, 2010
09:30 AM ET
September 16th, 2010
09:20 AM ET
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