www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Frontier expands broadband service in South Hills http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM05/150309502 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM05/150309502 Thu, 5 Mar 2015 11:36:41 -0500 Frontier Communications has extended broadband service to scores of households in the South Hills area of Charleston.

The company said Thursday it has expanded service along the following roads the area: Bedford Road, Connell Road, Johnson Road, Mount Vernon Road and Woodvale Road.

"We want local residents to know that Frontier - unlike other providers - does not impose usage caps on customers," said Tammy Shingleton, Frontier's area general manager. "We are confident that local residents will recognize the great value and service we provide."

Residents can call 1-800-921-8101 to ask about service options. Businesses can call 1-877-501-5661 for information about the business-class packages the company offers.

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WSAZ, other stations to be offered in NBC app http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM05/150309503 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM05/150309503 Thu, 5 Mar 2015 11:34:58 -0500 Gray Television Inc., parent company of WSAZ-TV, has reached an agreement with NBCUniversal that will allow viewers to watch live local programming on their computers and smartphones.

The agreement will allow users who have pay-TV subscriptions with participating distributors to stream local broadcasts using NBC's TV Everywhere service. The arrangement had previously only been offered for local affiliates that were directly owned by NBC.

"Today's agreement with Gray Television will enable local viewers in Gray's 24 markets to watch those stations' NBC broadcasts live across multiple platforms, including on a computer, tablet or smartphone, both in and out of their homes," said Rhonda Brockmann, senior vice president of business affairs for NBC Affiliate Relations.

"We are excited to join NBC in its efforts to reach our viewers on digital and mobile devices," said Kevin Latek, senior vice president of business affairs for Gray Television. "Authenticated viewers in our communities will soon be able to watch their favorite local television stations and favorite local programming live on their desktops and on their mobile devices when they want, and where they want."

Gray Television owns 24 NBC affiliates, including WSAZ in the Charleston-Huntington market and WTAP in Parkersburg.

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Latest storm a boost to late-season skiing in W.Va. http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/ARTICLE/150309493 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/ARTICLE/150309493 Thu, 5 Mar 2015 13:07:42 -0500

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia's residents are tired of winter. The state's ski resorts are not.

The four major ski resorts - Canaan Valley, Snowshoe Mountain, Timberline and Winterplace - picked up a half-foot or more of snow on Thursday.

West Virginia Ski Areas Association spokesman Joe Stevens says it's a boost to late-season skiing in what's already been a strong year.

Stevens says the timing of the storm was good for the industry. Highway crews will be able to plow interstates and other roads leading to the resorts before skiers arrive for the weekend.

He says Thursdays are considered light check-in days at the resorts. If the storm had arrived on Friday, many skiers would have had travel problems since many come from out of state.

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Jim Love, owner of C&O Motors, dies at 85 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM01/150309500 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM01/150309500 Thu, 5 Mar 2015 12:17:54 -0500 Jim Love, 85, died at his home in St. Albans Wednesday. He had been in declining health for several years.

Love owned C&O Motors, the state's largest car dealership franchise. Many in the automotive industry knew Love to be one of the last of the old lions in the industry.

While he thrived on competition, and grew the dealership he purchased in 1966 exponentially, he was always willing to share his philosophies and expertise about the automotive industry with young dealers, industry friends said.

His friends remember him as a spiritual, detail oriented, private and persuasive person. He looked out for others and made charitable contributions without wanting recognition, they said.

Love was dedicated to his wife and the automotive industry, they said. He got his start in the industry at age 16 fixing cars at a service station on Charleston's West Side. He also loved racing cars, said Ruth Lemmon, president of the West Virginia Automobile and Truck Dealers Association.

She knew Love for 32 years.

"Whatever he set his mind to, he never wavered," Lemmon said.

Love was an automotive legend not just in West Virginia, but across the country, Lemmon said. C&O Motors is the nation's fifth-largest used car dealership.

Lemmon remembers Love as forward thinking, working bell to bell at the dealership and always thinking about the state's children in need. He also loved boats, Lemmon added.

He believed in hard work and treating customers fairly, Lemmon said.

His contributions to the state's industry can be found in the countless people Love took the time to train and have gone on to own their own dealerships, she said.

"He was my best friend, mentor, biggest fan and biggest critic," Lemmon said.

Gene Walker, executive manager at C&O Motors, worked with Love for 46 years and saw him as a father figure.

"There was no second place for him," Walker said. "He set the standard so high."

Even when his illness prohibited him from coming into the dealership to work, Love stayed in contact and received business updates over the phone, Walker said.

Walker remembers Love's work ethic and honesty. Those ideas are now second nature at the business, Walker said.

"He was a tough business man, but the easier guy to work for," Walker said. "He wasn't just a boss. He was always doing something for somebody."

C&O Motors will carry on Love's legacy by continuing business the way Love taught them, Walker said.

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Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad to buy 1926 locomotive http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/ARTICLE/150309508 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/ARTICLE/150309508 Thu, 5 Mar 2015 10:41:40 -0500 ELKINS, W.Va. - The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad is acquiring a 1926 steam locomotive from the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

Railroad president John Smith told WBOY-TV that the locomotive operated in West Virginia for nearly five decades on the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad.

The railroad has reached an agreement to buy the locomotive from the museum. Smith said the railroad plans to restore the locomotive and hopes to return it to service.

The locomotive will be moved from North Carolina to Cass in the spring.

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Basketball tournament to generate revenue for Charleston http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM01/150309581 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM01/150309581 Thu, 5 Mar 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Matt Murphy Charleston tourism officials are excited about the opportunity a college basketball tournament this weekend can bring to the city.

Starting today, 16 men's and women's basketball teams from three states will converge on the Charleston Civic Center for the Mountain East Conference tournament.

Each team will bring its players, coaches, team support and spectators, many of whom will be staying downtown during the tournament period, which runs through Sunday.

Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau Vice President of Sales Tim Brady said the tournament is estimated to generate $1.2 million in revenue from the Civic Center and hotels alone. The financial impact is likely higher if restaurants and retail are included.

Last fall the Mountain East Conference announced a three-year agreement to hold the basketball tournament in Charleston beginning this year. The tournament was in Charleston last year but was only a one-year commitment.

Brady said the three-year pact allows the CVB "to invest a little more heavily in the event."

"We feel like we're investing in a production we're able to have for three years," he said.

For the local basketball enthusiast, the tournament marks the beginning of a series of basketball events in the city, including the Harlem Globetrotters and the state boys' and girls' basketball tournaments.

"March becomes a really great month if you're a basketball fan," Brady said. "Charleston becomes the center of the basketball universe for the state of West Virginia."

On the women's side, the Mountain East Conference tournament will include Shepherd University, Glenville State College, the University of Charleston, Notre Dame College, West Liberty University, the University of Virginia at Wise, Wheeling Jesuit University and Fairmont State University.

The men's tournament will feature the same schools, except Concord University instead of the University of Virginia at Wise.

Tickets for the tournament can be purchased at the Civic Center box office or through Ticketmaster.

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Group encourages state to study retirement plans http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM05/150309553 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM05/150309553 Wed, 4 Mar 2015 19:47:13 -0500 By Jared Hunt A group of retirement savings advocates is asking the Legislature to spend the next year studying a way for the state to expand options for people to save for retirement, even if their employer does not currently offer a plan.

The newly formed West Virginia Coalition for Retirement Options made a presentation to the Senate Economic Development Committee Wednesday about small business owners' need for help in giving their employees access to retirement plans. George Manahan, owner of the public relations firm The Manahan Group, is executive director of the organization.

He said the group was formed after legislation to establish a Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts system - which would have operated similar to the state's SMART529 college savings plan - failed during the 2014 legislative session. Manahan said that when the bill failed in 2014, then-Senate Finance Committee chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, challenged Manahan to produce more evidence of what small businesses thought of the plan.

A 2014 study by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found that nearly 47 percent of the state's private-sector workforce - roughly 287,000 people - did not have access to a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401k.

Manahan's firm surveyed 250 business owners and human resources directors at firms with 100 or fewer employees directors asking about their retirement programs or lack thereof. Only 40 percent offered their employees some type of retirement plan. Of those that offered plans, 36 percent offered a 401k or 403b savings plan, 24 percent offered an IRA or Roth IRA, while about 18 percent offered a simplified employee pension plan.

Among the firms that didn't offer employees a retirement plan, Manahan said employers cited three main obstacles to setting one up: time, money and options.

"They didn't feel that was a viable option for them either because it was too expensive to administer or required too much time," Manahan said.

He also said that many financial adviser firms rarely try to sell their products to businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Their main targets are businesses with 50 or more employees.

Kelly Stadelman, director of research at The Manahan Group, said the small business survey offered additional insights into small businesses' attitude toward retirement plans.

"Small business owners are concerned that either they or their employees with not have enough money to cover living expenses in retirement," Stadelman said.

The survey found 75 percent said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned while only 12 percent were not concerned.

About two-thirds of those surveyed, 63 percent, said they would support state legislation that would give companies the option of creating a Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts system, while just 20 percent said they would oppose such a plan.

John Roberts, executive director of Mountain Mission, said he sees this problem from two sides of the issue.

On one hand, his organization helps many retirees who have a hard time making ends meet. On the other hand, he heads an organization that's too small to offer a retirement plan for its employees.

"I can't afford to offer a retirement plan and take the time to administer and maintain it," Roberts said.

He warned that if the state can't get more people involved in saving for their retirement, then that will mean organizations like his, which rely on funding from the state Department of Health and Human Resources, will be in more demand in the future.

"I know many people plan on Social Security for the main portion of their retirement, but the truth is almost all of the seniors we serve cannot make it on Social Security alone," Roberts said. "In time, without a doubt, the DHHR budget will have to be increased because when these seniors retire, they won't be able to make ends meet."

Manahan said other states have already adopted small business retirement programs.

Illinois lawmakers recently approved a Secure Choice Savings Program that automatically deducts 3 percent of an employee's paycheck and deposits it into an IRA. Employees have the option of opting out of that program if they want. Kentucky lawmakers are looking into a similar system in that state.

Manahan said he's not asking lawmakers to adopt an Illinois-style system, but rather investigate to see what the best option would be in this state.

The Senate Economic Development Committee unanimously adopted a resolution that would require lawmakers to study that matter during interim meetings later this year. That resolution will have to be approved by the full Senate in order to be studied during interim meetings, though lawmakers from both parties seemed interested in supporting the idea.

"One of the best ways the state of West Virginia can experience economic development is if our seniors, who are our largest demographic, have more money to spend," said Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone. "I think it's extremely prudent that this committee study this issue."

Members of the state AARP, which has been advocating for the Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts system, attended Wednesday's presentation and said they would support the interim study.

"We're delighted the Senate Economic Development Committee has decided to study this issue," said state director Gaylene Miller. "We know it's a problem that's not going to go away and we looking forward to working with them."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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Legal experts debate merits of open and obvious bill http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM02/150309552 DM02 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM02/150309552 Wed, 4 Mar 2015 19:47:28 -0500 By Andrea Lannom If a hazard is clearly visible but someone is injured by it, should that person be able to sue over it?

West Virginia legislators wrestled with that issue this session, voting to change state law to revert back to what it was before a 2013 state Supreme Court decision. With many other high-profile issues being considered by the Legislature, this one hasn't gotten a lot of attention.

Under Senate Bill 13, which is awaiting signature from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the owner or lessee of a property doesn't owe a "duty of care" to protect others from dangers that are "open, obvious, reasonably apparent or as well known to the person injured as they are to the owner or occupant."

The bill said a judge will decide the nature, severity or lack of violations of any statute relating to a cause of action.

Reaction is split down familiar lines as defense attorneys and plaintiffs attorneys assess the bill dealing with "open and obvious" hazards.

Defense attorneys say people have the responsibility to look out for and avoid open and obvious hazards instead of blaming a property owner for an injury sustained from such.

Plaintiffs lawyers argue it gives a pass to the owner to not fix a dangerous condition - especially if it violates safety codes - and not everyone may be able to determine what is open and obvious.

James Crockett Jr., an attorney with Spilman Thomas & Battle, said he thinks this is a good bill.

"The classic example is someone went under a farmer's fence and whether there is a bull or they ride around on a tractor in the dark, it's always put in terms of the trespasser," Crockett said. "It covers trespassers, but it would cover anyone ... who uncovers an open and obvious hazard and gets themselves hurt by not staying away from it - like a hole where you can't see the bottom and a person says you have to have a fence around the hole to keep the person from jumping in it. The Legislature says, 'I don't think so.'"

However, the West Virginia Association for Justice said in an emailed statement that it is "disappointed" with the bill.

"When someone gets hurt because a property owner has violated state or local building codes, there should not be immunity," Anthony Majestro, president of the association, said. "While it provides discretion to the judge on whether the law applies, this is not a gray area. If you break the law and someone gets hurt, you are responsible."

Crockett explained open and obvious was the law before the 2013 West Virginia Supreme Court decision in Hersh v. E-T Enterprises.

In this case, Walter Hersh alleged he sustained a severe head injury in October 2009 when he fell down the stairs of the parking lot of a Martinsburg shopping plaza. Hersh cited a local ordinance that required the owners to install handrails, saying the lack of a handrail contributed to or caused his injury.

However, defendants argued the lack of a handrail was an open and obvious hazard. One of the owners testified that he removed the handrails because skateboarders were riding down them and causing them to lean dangerously, according to the opinion.

In the opinion, justices said the open and obvious doctrine in liability negligence actions was abolished and left it up to the jury to apportion fault if someone confronted an open and obvious hazard.

"In the ordinary premises liability case against the owner or possessor of the premises, the finder of fact may consider whether a plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable self-protective care when encountering an open and obvious hazard on the premises," the opinion said.

Justices said if the owner isn't negligent, then the he or she isn't liable for a person's injuries on the property, however.

Tom Cady, a West Virginia University College of Law professor, said justices made the right decision in Hersh and said the bill reinstates a bad law.

Much of the debate is on who should determine what's considered open and obvious - the judge, or the jury.

"West Virginia law is adequate enough with duty of due care without an added exception and comparative negligence, which evaluates the conduct of a person who may have entered upon the land and saw an open and obvious danger encountered it," Cady said. "It's up to a jury to decide the percentage of a person's fault, not a judge, as a matter of law, to determine 'aha, that's open and obvious.'"

Cady said juries are perfectly capable of deciding these issues.

"What it does is allows a person to try a case to a jury as opposed to a summary disposition by the judge," he said. "Those are magic words. It allows a plaintiff to get a jury to evaluate his conduct, not a judge, because we believe in jury trials and not judge trials."

However, Crockett said judges are well-equipped to decide what constitutes an open and obvious hazard.

"Judges do this for a living. They bring all this knowledge to the law and use common sense to determine for himself whether something was open and obvious. Hopefully, if it's obvious, it will be, well, obvious," he said, later noting it would be on a case by case basis.

Majestro said he is concerned about the effect on safety regulations.

"State and local building codes, fire codes and other safety regulations exist for a reason - to keep us safe," he said. "A century ago, accidents occurred in workplaces, schools, apartment buildings, homes because no safety codes existed. There were accidents, and people died. It's been said that behind every one of those codes and regulations are 100 bodies. Those codes keep us safe, and protect us from serious injury or death."

Crockett said it comes down to personal responsibility and that the bill assigns responsibility for open and obvious hazards.

"First off, if it's open and obvious and there was no rail at all, or the rail was made out of flaming gasoline, we're only talking about open and obvious," he said. "You have to stick your hand in the fire. ... If the Legislature has a statute, the court decides how to apply the doctrine. It's entirely up to the court to figure out."

Parween Mascari, state Chamber of Commerce attorney, agreed, saying it's about personal responsibility. She said she thinks the bill will be good for businesses and property owners.

"I think creating a new duty for property owners is something that would cause their insurance premiums to rise and also it almost rewards people for being careless," she said. "And that's why that exception has always existed. People really pay attention to what's going on around them and have personal responsibility."

Majestro said the Legislature should have considered other issues such as whether everyone would be able to determine an open and obvious hazard and the effect on property values.

"First, not everyone is capable of fully understanding the risks that a hazard may pose," Majestro said. "Children, the mentally and physically-challenged and seniors may not understand the dangers. They are going to be far more vulnerable than the rest of us - and if your child or elderly parent is hurt, there's nothing you will be able to do."

Majestro said the bill could cause property values to decrease.

"Think about it," he said. "No one is going to be required to keep up their property," he said. "Dilapidated and dangerous property conditions will be a real threat to public safety and will pull all property values in the area down in the gutter with them."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.

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Jared Hunt column: Think about that retirement future http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM05/150309554 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM05/150309554 Wed, 4 Mar 2015 19:46:55 -0500 I dedicate today's column to a stubborn co-worker who refuses to take advantage of our company's 401k plan.

Former Daily Mail editor Nanya Friend, in addition to being an outstanding journalist, was a tireless advocate for getting her young employees to take seriously saving for a potential retirement.

In my early years at the Daily Mail, I didn't quite take seriously her admonishments to participate in the company plan.

"I can't afford to," I - burdened with student loan and unnecessary credit card debt - would say repeatedly.

"You can't afford not to," she'd quickly retort.

She eventually wore me down. As the years have progressed, I've not only learned that she was right, I've taken up the mantle of "Office 401k Evangelist" as part of unofficial job requirements.

On Wednesday, the West Virginia Coalition for Retirement Options asked the state Senate Economic Development Committee to study the best way to roll out a statewide system that would encourage more small businesses to offer retirement savings plans to their employees.

A recent study by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found that nearly half of the state's private-sector employees (about 287,000) do not have a retirement plan - either a 401k, IRA or pension - offered at work. What's also a bit distressing is that another 62,167 work for firms that have retirement plans, but they don't participate (likely because they don't want to, but also because they're not yet eligible).

It's to those 62,000 - including my aforementioned co-worker - to which I speak: You must begin taking seriously your retirement savings.

Recently, the national Center for a Secure Retirement surveyed 300 retirees aged 55 to 75 about the advice they would give younger workers who might be considering retirement. A whopping 93 percent said they'd tell those younger workers, "Start saving early." Eighty-four percent encouraged workers to take advantage of the retirement savings plans at work.

For those who will say what I used to say - "I can't afford it." - I now ask, do you do a monthly budget? Because until you go through and study and compare your monthly income to monthly expenses, you really can't say if you can afford or not afford anything.

This was the key to helping me get on the 401k track at work. Once I started budgeting and really analyzing my regular expenses, I found places where I cut money and stash it into the 401k.

And there's a funny thing people who divert cash to their 401k start saying: "You really don't miss it." Once you start abiding by your budget and the 401k contributions come out of your paycheck, most people find ways to adjust and continue living within their means.

Also, I know many people worry about the fluctuations and gyrations in the market. I hear you, things like the crash of 2008 are still fresh in people's minds. But hey, have you looked at the Dow lately? It's nearly three times what it was at the very bottom of its financial crisis lows. Even the Nasdaq just climbed back to near its dot-com bubble peak.

Contributing columnist and financial adviser John Burdette - also a wonderful advocate for getting people to save early - recently wrote about the importance of viewing markets in a long-term fashion, as they've consistently been proven to be the best return on investments.

"It has been a consistent fact that the market has never fallen and failed to achieve new highs given a long enough time frame," Burdette wrote. "When viewed from this perspective, the rewards have proven extremely reliable."

So please, for my sake, for Nanya's sake, for John's sake, put aside your doubts and give some honest thought to preparing for a healthy retirement.

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Appalachian Power outage alerts keep customers informed http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/ARTICLE/150309643 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/ARTICLE/150309643 Wed, 4 Mar 2015 10:03:05 -0500 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - With some weather extremes in the forecast, Appalachian Power is rolling out a new alert system for customers. The new system notifies customers by text message or email when their home or business is affected by a power outage. Customers enrolled in outage alerts will receive a notification when power failures have been reported in their area. They'll continue to get updates as Appalachian Power crews determine the outage cause and predict when power is expected to be restored.

By visiting www.AppalachianPower.com and logging into their account, customers can enroll in power outage alerts. They can also modify their specific notification preferences.

Appalachian Power has approximately 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.

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Oil glut creates storage crisis http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/ARTICLE/150309699 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/ARTICLE/150309699 Wed, 4 Mar 2015 00:01:00 -0500

By JONATHAN FAHEYA

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - The U.S. has so much crude that it is running out of places to put it, and that could drive oil and gasoline prices even lower in the coming months.

For the past seven weeks, the United States has been producing and importing an average of 1 million more barrels of oil every day than it is consuming. That extra crude is flowing into storage tanks, especially at the country's main trading hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, pushing U.S. supplies to their highest point in at least 80 years, the Energy Department reported last week.

If this keeps up, storage tanks could approach their operational limits, known in the industry as "tank tops," by mid-April and send the price of crude - and probably gasoline, too - plummeting.

"The fact of the matter is we are running out of storage capacity in the U.S.," Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Citibank, said at a recent symposium at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Morse has suggested oil could fall all the way to $20 a barrel from the current $50. At that rock-bottom price, oil companies, faced with mounting losses, would stop pumping oil until the glut eased. Gasoline prices would fall along with crude, though lower refinery production, because of seasonal factors and unexpected outages, could prevent a sharp decline.

The national average price of gasoline is $2.44 a gallon. That's $1.02 cheaper than last year at this time, but up 37 cents over the past month.

Other analysts agree that crude is poised to fall sharply - if not all the way to $20 - because it continues to flood into storage for a number of reasons:

n U.S. oil production continues to rise. Companies are cutting back on new drilling, but that won't reduce supplies until later this year.

n The new oil being produced is light, sweet crude, which is a type many U.S. refineries are not designed to process. Oil companies can't just get rid of it by sending it abroad, because crude exports are restricted by federal law.

n Foreign oil continues to flow into the U.S., both because of economic weakness in other countries and to feed refineries designed to process heavy, sour crude.

n This is the slowest time of year for gasoline demand, so refiners typically reduce or stop production to perform maintenance. As refiners process less crude, supplies build up.

n Oil investors are making money buying and storing oil because of the difference between the current price of oil and the price for delivery in far-off months. An investor can buy oil at $50 today and enter into a contract to sell it for $59 in December, locking in a profit even after paying for storage during those months.

The delivery point for most of the oil traded in the U.S. is Cushing, a city of about 8,000 people halfway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa at an intersection of several pipelines. The city is dotted with tanks that can, in theory, hold 85 million barrels of oil, according to the Energy Department, though some of those tanks are used for blending or feeding pipelines, not for storing oil.

The market data provider Genscape, which flies helicopters equipped with infrared cameras and other technology over Cushing twice a week to measure storage levels, estimates Cushing is two-thirds full.

Hillary Stevenson, who manages storage, pipeline and refinery monitoring for Genscape, says Cushing could be full by mid-April. Supplies are increasing at "the highest rate we have ever seen at Cushing," she says.

Full tanks - or super-low prices - are not a sure thing. New storage is under construction at Cushing, and there are large storage terminals near Houston, in St. James, Louisiana, and elsewhere around the country that will probably begin to take in more oil as prices fall far enough to cover the cost of transporting the oil.

Also, drillers are cutting back fast because oil prices have plummeted from $107 a barrel in June. And demand is showing signs of rising.

While the Energy Department reported another enormous rise in crude stocks last week, up 8.4 million barrels from the week earlier, it also reported that diesel and gasoline supplies fell more than expected. That leads some to conclude that demand for crude will soon pick up, easing the glut somewhat.

But many analysts believe oil prices will fall through the spring, before summer drivers start to relieve the glut.

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AT&T expands LTE coverage in Coal Fork http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309678 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309678 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 22:33:05 -0500 AT&T has upgraded an additional mobile Internet cell site in Coal Fork to expand 4G LTE coverage near the intersection of Springfield and Campbells Creek drives.

The upgrade was part of the company's three-year Project VIP network improvement plan. The new cell site is part of AT&T's ongoing effort to expand coverage and investment in the Kanawha Valley.

Matt Ballard, president and CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance, said the expansion was welcome news for the region.

"A strong high-speed mobile broadband network is critical for business, economic development and for the overall quality of life in our community," Ballard said.

"Our goal is for our customers to have an extraordinary experience, and they'll be able to download, upload, stream and game faster than ever before on our 4G LTE network," said J. Michael Schweder, president of AT&T Mid-Atlantic. "As part of the Kanawha County community, we're always looking for new opportunities to provide enhanced coverage, and our investment in the local wireless network is another way we're accomplishing that."

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W.Va. budget officials forecast up to $80 million shortfall http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309679 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309679 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 22:32:55 -0500 By Jared Hunt With revenue collections remaining stagnant, West Virginia budget officials now think the state will finish its current budget year with between a $60 million to $80 million deficit.

The state collected nearly $221.7 million for the General Revenue Fund during February, about $5.4 million short of estimates for the month. The monthly shortfall pushed the running deficit for the current budget year, which began July 1, to nearly $47.6 million.

Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow said the only way that gap could close on its own would be if revenue for the remaining four months of the budget year comes in at at least 9.7 percent greater than last year's collections, which he said was unlikely. Collections so far this budget year are running only about 2 percent greater than last year's collections.

Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss said that if current trends continue, the state would likely face a year-end budget deficit between $60 million to $80 million.

February's revenue figures would have seen a surplus had the state not made a one-time transfer to shore up the fund used to pay annual tax refunds.

Personal income tax revenue amounted to $40.4 million during the month, more than $22 million short of the forecast of $62.6 million.

But Muchow noted that shortfall was due to a special transfer of $31.5 million of collections to the state's Income Tax Refund Reserve Account, which is used to help pay refunds during the tax filing season. Had it not been for the transfer, personal income tax collections would have come in at $71.9 million, beating expectations.

Muchow said revenue officials were concerned they wouldn't be able to pay all tax returns in a timely fashion if revenue remains tight and refunds payments are greater than forecast. He said last year the state had budgeted to pay out $122.7 million in personal income tax refunds during the final four months of the budget year and ended up paying out $130.9 million.

He said with the transfer the state's tax refund reserve account has a balance of $42.5 million. That, combined with revenue from collections in the next few months, should be enough to pay out all looming refunds.

"We expect to fully expend all $42.5 million between now and end of June," Muchow said.

Severance tax collections, which had also been running short for the year due to declines in energy prices, actually beat expectations in February. The $53.4 million in collections topped estimates of $39.9 million for the month.

However, Muchow warned that part of the reason revenue exceeded expectations was because the state saw less than expected carry-over of February payments during the first few days of March. As a result, the state now expects this month's severance tax collections to fall behind forecasts.

"We will have a hard time to meeting March estimates for severance taxes," Muchow said.

A similar effect is expected for the State Road Fund, which saw revenue beat estimates by $17.3 million in February. About $15 million of that was due to greater than expected motor fuel tax collections.

Muchow said that surplus wasn't due to the fact that more people were driving, but rather because the state saw less than expected carry-over of February payments into March. He said like severance taxes, the March collections for fuel taxes will have a harder time beating expectations.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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Energy firm secures new financing agreement http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309722 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309722 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 17:18:02 -0500 Energy Services of America, the parent company of C.J. Hughes Construction Company and Nitro Electric Company, entered into a $10 million revolving line of credit financing arrangement with United Bank, Inc., effective Feb. 27.

The arrangement is in addition to a previous $8.8 million refinancing agreement reached between the company, United Bank, and Summit Community Bank in January 2014 and replaces a $5 million revolving line of credit negotiated between the company and United Bank last May.

Company president Douglas Reynolds, who also represents Cabell County as a Democrat in the state House of Delegates, said that while the firm had strong cash flow during its 2014 fiscal year, the new line of credit would help it operate at a greater capacity during 2015.

"Last fiscal year, we were still burdened with our prior financial struggles and lost time and bidding opportunities early in calendar year 2014," Reynolds said. "A concentrated effort was made during fiscal year 2014 to rebuild relationships with prior clients, forge relationships with new clients, and to service our existing clients with the quality they have come to expect.

"This fiscal year, we are already seeing opportunities that did not exist before," he said. "In the past week alone, we have been successful in receiving awards on $10 million of transmission pipeline projects."

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State picks Federated Investors to manage money market funds http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309723 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309723 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 17:17:27 -0500 The West Virginia Board of Treasury Investments has selected Federated Investors Inc. subsidiary Federated Investment Counseling to manage the state's $1.2 billion money market pool.

The company will be responsible for investing state and local government operating funds, with the objective of maintaining sufficient liquidity while providing returns that beat the rate of inflation.

"Federated emerged with the strongest of the 12 proposals submitted by investment managers seeking to administer West Virginia's money market pool," state Treasurer John Perdue said in a press release. "The evaluation committee's selection was based upon technical evaluation of all proposals, oral presentations and site visits to the three finalists."

Federated Investors is one of the largest investment managers in the U.S., managing $362.9 billion in assets as of Dec. 31. The company also manages the state investment pools for Florida, Massachusetts and Texas.

"Federated has a longstanding history of working with state treasurers to deliver customized investment solutions, and we are honored that West Virginia has selected Federated to manage its money market pool," said J. Christopher Donahue, the company's president and CEO.

The transition to Federated is expected to be completed during the first quarter of this year.

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Freedom Industries bankruptcy case heading toward finish line http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM02/150309721 DM02 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM02/150309721 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 17:26:52 -0500 By Andrea Lannom Attorneys are looking at ways to bring the Freedom Industries bankruptcy case to conclusion, first and foremost by dealing with obligations under a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection remediation program and selling the Etowah River property. Tuesday's hearing in federal bankruptcy court was packed with attorneys representing companies and individuals involved in the case. Attorneys gave an update to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson about the case and discussed how the limited cash remaining should be used, mentioning Freedom's participation in a remediation program and divvying up insurance proceeds among creditors and spill claimants.

Mark Freedlander, an attorney representing Freedom in the bankruptcy case, said there are several parts to address in this case. Pearson said it's the toughest Chapter 11 case he's been involved in, noting there is a "lack of trust and understanding" since hundreds of thousands of people were affected by the chemical spill.

"The scrutiny has been unparalleled as it should be," he said.

Pearson also mentioned the number of legal professionals in this case, talking about getting fee applications from 60 legal professionals.

"I've never seen a case so staffed completely," he said.

Freedlander said the number of legal professionals in the case is "unfortunate."

"It's a relatively small case in assets but ... it has big case complexity," he said.

The biggest thing Freedom must address, attorneys said, is environmental compliance. Last Friday, the DEP approved Freedom's application, accepting it into its Division of Land Restoration Voluntary Remediation Program.

"This does not mean that Freedom's remediation undertakings are complete," a Feb. 27 status report stated. "Instead, acceptance into the (program) means that Freedom and the WVDEP will negotiate a definitive agreement that outlines the requirements for Freedom to obtain a certificate of completion from WVDEP. Receipt of this certificate of completion is the ultimate goal of Freedom - obtaining what amounts to a clean bill of environmental health from WVDEP."

In the 30 day window starting from when it was accepted in the program, Freedom has to get an agreement drafted. In that time, the company's chief restructuring officer Mark Welch will try to find someone to purchase the Etowah River terminal, the last physical asset in the estate.

Money from the sale could be paid into the bankruptcy estate or used to pay obligations under the program that Freedom would have used from the proposed environmental escrow account, which would deal with expenses associated with the program.

According to the status report, the company has discussed the sale of the property with several entities and has no fewer than three possible buyers. The status report said none of the possible purchasers have a connection to Freedom or its executives.

According to the status report, since Freedom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a little more than a year ago, it has spent no less than $10.5 million on environmental compliance, testing and remediation. Welch estimated in the report that in order to complete its environmental obligations, the maximum amount it will need to spend is $450,000. This work will include capping the MCHM portion of the facility, monitoring the property and ongoing water collection and testing, the report said.

Pearson also told attorneys to speed up negotiations with spill claimants, or those who filed claims in bankruptcy court claiming out-of-pocket damages from the chemical leak.

Spill claimants fall into three main categories - people who filed claims for disturbance or out-of-pocket costs, businesses claiming lost profits and a hybrid of the two.

According to court documents, Freedom's estate has $1.5 million in cash and $3.2 million in post-petition payables for legal and environmental services. There are 3,800 of these spill claims totaling $200 million.

In an earlier order, Pearson noted 1,213 of the claims are less than $600, 344 are for $5,000 or less, 1,058 are for $10,000, 72 for $15,000 and the remaining 516 claims are for $20,000 or more. There is one claim for $100 million.

Pearson asked attorneys if they have discussed with spill claimants whether they could come up with "more realistic amounts." Ronald Gold, who represents the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, said he has talked with attorneys and spill claimants about the total funds available for distribution in the case. He said a vast majority of business interruption claims have all their documentation.

Right now, there is no approved settlement with the company's insurance provider. In the most recent proposed agreement, attorneys asked the judge to approve a deal for AIG to pay $3.2 million into Freedom's bankruptcy estate.

Former Company President Gary Southern's attorney filed an objection to the proposed settlement, seeking to have his defense costs paid from the insurance policy.

Several attorneys representing people claiming injury from the spill in civil lawsuits also spoke in Tuesday's hearing, seeking to get the bankruptcy case resolved so they can move forward with the lawsuits.

Attorneys explained the cases against West Virginia American Water Company are stayed as well because the water company removed cases from Kanawha County Circuit Court to federal court, where the judge put cases on hold pending resolution from the bankruptcy case.

"Our clients are damaged every week this case is before the court. They are in limbo," said Marvin Masters, who represents some of the people claiming injury from the chemical spill.

Pearson also took up and denied a motion by Freedom's former environmental consultant. Civil & Environmental Consultants initially oversaw the cleanup of Freedom Industries and alleged the bankruptcy judge treated it unfairly in its request for fees, especially compared to the payout to Freedom's newer environmental consultant.

Last July, Freedom asked the bankruptcy judge to approve the hiring of Arcadis US Inc as its new environmental consultant following two overflow incidents.

The company sought an injunction preventing Freedom from releasing funds until the court completely reviewed and ruled on fee applications. Pearson said there were problems with its applications which drew objections, and encouraged the company to negotiate with Freedom.

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.

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Energy firm secures new financing agreement http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309727 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/DM05/150309727 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 16:53:36 -0500 Energy Services of America, the parent company of C.J. Hughes Construction Company and Nitro Electric Company, entered into a $10 million revolving line of credit financing arrangement with United Bank, Inc., effective Feb. 27.

The arrangement is in addition to a previous $8.8 million refinancing agreement reached between the company, United Bank, and Summit Community Bank in January 2014 and replaces a $5 million revolving line of credit negotiated between the company and United Bank last May.

Company president Douglas Reynolds, who also represents Cabell County as a Democrat in the state House of Delegates, said that while the firm had strong cash flow during its 2014 fiscal year, the new line of credit would help it operate at a greater capacity during 2015.

"Last fiscal year, we were still burdened with our prior financial struggles and lost time and bidding opportunities early in calendar year 2014," Reynolds said. "A concentrated effort was made during fiscal year 2014 to rebuild relationships with prior clients, forge relationships with new clients, and to service our existing clients with the quality they have come to expect.

"This fiscal year, we are already seeing opportunities that did not exist before," he said. "In the past week alone, we have been successful in receiving awards on $10 million of transmission pipeline projects."

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Appalachian Power, Wheeling Power seek rate increase http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309768 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309768 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 11:31:17 -0500 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power are asking regulators to approve a request that would increase customers' bills by 4 percent or more.

The filing with the West Virginia Public Service Commission seeks reimbursement of past and continuing costs of fuel and purchased power. The companies are seeking a $61.5 million increase for the difference between the amount currently being collected and projected expenditures through the next annual filing period.

If approved, the rates would kick in on July 1.

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W.Va. utility to invest $225 million on infrastructure http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309770 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309770 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 11:30:52 -0500 FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - FirstEnergy Corp. expects to spend about $225 million this year on distribution and transmission infrastructure projects in Mon Power's 34-county service area.

About $97 million is earmarked for transmission-related projects. One project involves a new 138-kilovolt transmission line that will support the natural gas industry and enhance electric service reliability for nearly 13,000 Mon Power customers in the Clarksburg and Salem areas. That's a $38 million project.

More than $25 million will be spent to provide electrical service to new residential and commercial customers in north-central West Virginia, specifically the Interstate-79 corridor and Parkersburg region.

The utility will also inspect about 75,000 distribution poles and replace about 250 poles at an expected cost of more than $800,000.

Mon Power serves about 385,000 customers in 34 West Virginia counties.

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Justice says coal operations buyback includes liabilities http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309772 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150303/ARTICLE/150309772 Tue, 3 Mar 2015 11:30:27 -0500 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Billionaire Jim Justice says his buyback of coal mining operations in West Virginia includes some big liabilities.

Justice completed the $5 million acquisition of Bluestone Inc. from Russian mining and metals company Mechel OAO last month. He had sold Bluestone's mining operations to Mechel in 2009 for $436 million in cash and more than $83 million in preferred shares.

Justice tells The Charleston Gazette that he assumed responsibility for the company's reclamation costs. He says there's also a pension liability, worth tens of millions of dollars, and taxes Mechel owed to counties where the mines operated.

West Virginia Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman says the mining operations' reclamation costs could be up to $60 million.

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