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WASHINGTON/Dems to cut back on energy bill

Conceding they can't find enough votes for the measure, Senate Democrats Thursday abandoned efforts to put together a comprehensive energy bill that would seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions, delivering a potentially fatal blow to a proposal Democrats have long touted and President Barack Obama campaigned on. Instead, Democrats will push for a more limited bill that would seek to increase liability costs that oil companies would pay following spills such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico and would create additional incentives for the development of natural gas vehicles and provide rebates to people who buy products that reduce home energy use. They did not release details of the proposal, but Senate Democrats said they expected to find GOP support and pass it in the next two weeks.

PENNSYLVANIA/Two killed in blast at zinc plant

A fire and explosion Thursday at a zinc smelting plant in western Pennsylvania killed two people and injured at least one, authorities said. A worker who initially had been reported missing was among the dead, Beaver County emergency dispatcher Kevin Joy said. The rest of the workforce at the Horsehead Corp. facility was accounted for. The explosion, which occurred around 4:30 p.m., involved a refinery column that produces zinc oxide, Horsehead spokesman Ali Alavi said. The facility has about 600 employees, he said. The names of the victims were not being released until the medical examiner confirmed their identities and family members were notified, Alavi said. An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion, he said. According to its website, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations with proposed penalties of $186,750 in January 2006. OSHA also issued 27 "serious citations" for alleged violations.

RHODE ISLAND/Proposed lobster fishing ban dies

A proposal to ban lobster fishing over a vast stretch of the East Coast was killed Thursday after lobstermen said it would do "almost biblical" damage to the industry. The board that advises the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on lobster rules voted instead to consider lesser reductions in the catch, or no new restrictions at all. The vote by the American Lobster Management Board came after lobstermen said a possible five-year ban on lobster fishing from south of Cape Cod, Mass., to North Carolina would destroy their businesses just as the species is rebounding. John German, a Long Island lobsterman, said he was relieved the moratorium was killed this year, but he said the industry can't survive any new cuts.

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