Biz briefs

50 stimulus-funded SRS hires begin work


The U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday that the first 50 employees hired with Savannah River Site's Recovery Act funding began work this week.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, SRS -- which is scheduled to receive $1.6 billion -- will continue to add staff over the coming months to accelerate the decommissioning of facilities and cleanup of contaminated areas.

Additional information on job opportunities and DOE's Office of Environmental Management and the Savannah River Site can be found at or Recovery Act information for SRS can be found at

New bill would phase out use of mercury

A bill that would require phasing out of mercury-based technology at four chlorine factories -- including the Olin Corp. plant in Augusta -- was introduced Thursday by Rep. Dan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

If passed, it would require elimination of the mercury-cell process of manufacturing chlorine within two years. In addition to the Olin plant in Augusta, the legislation would affect an Olin plant in Charleston, Tenn.; a PPG Industries facility in Natrium, W.Va.; and the Ashta Chemicals plant in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Plants like the one in Augusta make chlorine by pumping saltwater through a "cell" of mercury to create a chemical reaction. The process causes mercury to be released into the environment, where it can accumulate in fish and be passed to humans.

GM plans temporary closures at 13 plants

DETROIT --- General Motors Corp. said Thursday that it will temporarily close 13 assembly plants in the U.S. and Mexico -- some for more than two months -- laying off more than 26,000 workers to pare back inventory.

The closures, which will start in May, vary by factory from as short as three weeks to as long as 11, including the normal two-week July shutdown to change from one model year to the next.

More than 26,000 hourly and salaried employees will be laid off at the affected plants, plus others at engine, transmission and parts stamping factories.

Top officials pressured bank CEO, Cuomo says

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- New York's attorney general said Thursday top government officials pressured Bank of America Corp. CEO Ken Lewis to complete the bank's purchase of Merrill Lynch, threatening his job.

Mr. Lewis also testified that he had been advised by the officials, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, not to disclose details of Merrill Lynch's financial position, according to New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

In a letter sent Thursday to Congressional leaders and federal regulators, Mr. Cuomo said the chief executive testified in February that Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke threatened to oust Bank of America's management if it tried to back out of buying Merrill Lynch.

Spokespeople for both the Fed and Mr. Paulson denied late Thursday they put pressure on Mr. Lewis to get the deal done and to not disclose his concerns about Merrill Lynch's finances.