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After the floods, a deluge of worry about oil

WELD COUNTY, Colo. —

There are about 20,000 oil and gas wells across Weld County, and about 1,900 of them had to be closed off - “shut in” in industry parlance — as the floodwaters coursed down from the mountains and spread out across the plains, inundating entire communities.

Images of toppled oil tanks and dark sheens on the water created impressions of an environmental calamity, but state officials say the damage appears to be limited. About 37,380 gallons have spilled so far — an amount, energy officials point out, that would fill up about five percent of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Energy officials say that no wells failed during the floods, and that they responded quickly to minimize any spills or contamination from broken pipes or damaged storage tanks. They say they laid out floating booms to absorb and contain oil slicks, and have vacuumed up spilled oil products and removed contaminated soil for testing.

—Jack Healy, The New York Times

McDonald’s moves toward a healthier menu

Under pressure to provide healthier meals, McDonald’s announced Thursday that it would no longer market some of its less nutritional options to children and said it also planned to include offerings of fruits and vegetables in many of its adult menu combinations.

It plans to make the changes to its menu in 20 of the company’s largest markets, which account for more than 85 percent of its overall sales, including overseas. But it will take three years or more to put them into place in about half the restaurants in those markets, and the remainder may not have the changes until 2020.

The offerings, which were announced in conjunction with the Clinton Foundation’s campaigns to reduce childhood obesity, are part of McDonald’s efforts to compete for health-conscious customers by featuring food choices that are lower in fat, salt or sugar content than its more traditional burger-and-fries options.

Although it has added salads, fruits and cut raw vegetables to its menu in recent years, the chain has experienced flat sales across much of its business in the United States and Europe, and forecast this summer that little would alter the company’s financial picture anytime soon. The millennial generation, a key demographic that is being wooed by fast-casual restaurants like Panera Bread and Chipotle, in particular has not become a loyal patron of McDonald’s.

—Stephanie Strom, The New York Times

Nine auto parts makers plead guilty to fixing prices

Nine Japanese automotive suppliers pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy and agreed to pay $740 million in criminal fines for fixing the price of auto parts sold in the United States and abroad.

Thursday’s pleas were the latest in what the Justice Department said is its largest criminal antitrust investigation, involving more than a dozen separate conspiracies, 30 kinds of parts and sales to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, as well as the U.S. subsidiaries of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

“These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “In total, more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the illegal conduct.”

The parts included seatbelts, radiators, windshield wipers and air-conditioning systems, Holder said.

Two former executives — an American and a Japanese national — also pleaded guilty Thursday for their involvement in the scheme, in which executives met in-person and colluded on the phone to rig bids, fix prices and allocate the supply of parts, the Justice Department said.

So far in the investigation, 20 companies and 21 executives have been charged. Each company has pleaded guilty or agreed to do so, the Justice Department said. Together, they have agreed to pay more than $1.6 billion in criminal fines.

—Jaclyn Trop, The New York Times

Mayor deems entire city government ‘essential’ to avoid shutdown

WASHINGTON —

But Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Wednesday declared all of the district’s government operations “essential” and told the White House that all employees would continue to work even if Congress could not reach an agreement on the spending bill by Monday, the end of the fiscal year.

“It is ridiculous,” Gray said in a statement, that the district “cannot spend its residents’ own local tax dollars to provide them the services they’ve paid for without congressional approval.”

It is unclear, however, whether residents could expect the continuation of trash collection or the operation of libraries and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The district’s attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan, told the local radio station WAMU on Tuesday that such a plan to keep the city’s government open could violate the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits spending money that has not been appropriated by Congress.

—Andrew Siddons, The New York Times