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Briefs: Renewable energy changes could add 5,900 jobs

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007

Southwestern Pennsylvania could get nearly 5,900 jobs and nearly $1.1 billion in manufacturing investment made should Congress pass legislation that emphasizes renewable energy, a report projects. Statewide, a decade of adding 18,500 megawatts of renewable energy annually would mean nearly 43,000 manufacturing jobs created, according to "Pennsylvania's Road to Energy Independence," released Tuesday by the United Steelworkers, the Sierra Club and environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment. The report, based on a 2006 study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project, calls on Congress to pass an energy bill mandating that 15 percent of electricity be generated from wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. Jobs would come from manufacturers making components each energy source requires.

Merger goes public

Precision Therapeutics Inc., a South Side-based cancer diagnostic tool developer, plans to merge with publicly held Oracle Healthcare Acquisition Corp., of Greenwich, Conn., pending shareholder approval from both companies. Precision previously announced an initial public stock offering. Sean McDonald, Precision Therapeutics' CEO, will retain that post with the new company, to be known as Precision Therapeutics Corp., in Pittsburgh. When it filed stock offering papers in August, Precision intended to raise $80 million. After the merger, it is expected to have access to $120 million for research and development and other corporate purposes.

DOE grants hearings

The Department of Energy said it will grant new hearings related to its designation of a huge chunk of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states as energy-congested and requiring new power transmission lines. Its National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor encompasses 52 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, a decision that drew the ire of Gov. Ed Rendell and the state Public Utility Commission, which requested a Energy Department rehearing, and filed a federal lawsuit to stop the process. New transmission lines have been a hot topic in this region due to Allegheny Energy Inc.'s proposed $1.3 billion Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line.

Utility shutoff bill fails

Members of the state House Consumer Affairs Committee defeated a bill Tuesday that would have weakened parts of a three-year-old law that helps electric, gas and water utilities get tough with customers who don't pay their bills. After several amendments, the committee voted against the legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph Preston Jr., D-East Liberty, the committee chairman. Under the bill, utilities would have been able to charge a terminated customer a one-month deposit to have service restored, payable over 90 days, instead of the two-month payment up front.

Alcoa aids Pitt project

The Alcoa Foundation of Pittsburgh said Tuesday that it has made a $150,000 grant to the "Make It Right" project to build green affordable housing on a large scale to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Supporters of the large-scale redevelopment project, conceived by actor Brad Pitt and a group of experts in New Orleans, want to build 150 homes in the low-income neighborhood of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, the area hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and destroyed by flood.

Cognition sets up HQ

Cognition Therapeutics Inc. has relocated from San Francisco to Pittsburgh's South Side, following an investment of $200,000 in the company by the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. The company focuses on small molecule therapeutics that target the toxic proteins that cause a cognitive decline, associated with Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain diseases. The company, which will have three employees to start, has opened an administrative office in the greenhouse incubator at 2403 Sidney St., and its laboratory at the Pittsburgh Technology Center.

Laboratory planned

Developers started construction Tuesday of the previously announced $65 million Bridgeside Point II, a 150,000-square-foot building at the Pittsburgh Technology Center in South Oakland. Officials said it will provide laboratory space needed for local universities and medical centers. Based on discussions with potential users, the Ferchill Group, the Cleveland-based developer of the project, said the demand for such space could exceed more than 1 million square feet over the next three to five years. The lab space at the new building is expected to create up to 400 jobs, officials said.

Other business news:

• Average gasoline prices across Western Pennsylvania this week dropped 5.2 cents a gallon, AAA East Central reported, pegging the decrease on lower crude oil prices and diminishing gasoline demand. The weekly Fuel Gauge survey found the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline from a self-service pump was $3.107, down from a record $3.159 one week ago, but 78.7 cents a gallon more than the average $2.32 a gallon one year ago.

• Wesco International, Inc. said it acquired the assets of Monti Electric Supply, Inc., a Waveland, Miss., electrical distributor with annual sales of about $20 million. Monti Electric, with three branch locations, "will provide Wesco with a broader market position to benefit from the long-term hurricane-related reconstruction of the Gulf Coast region, said Stephen A. Van Oss, chief financial and administrative officer.

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