Nation Briefs

New York

Gas drillers wrangle about limitations, bans

ALBANY, N.Y. – With all the restrictions in proposed state regulations and local bans, gas companies say about half of their lease holdings in the lucrative Marcellus Shale region in New York state will be off-limits or inaccessible to drilling if the state gives the green light to developers this year.

A coalition of environmental groups is pushing for a complete ban on shale-gas drilling, but the industry and landowners hoping to lease to drillers are working to lift some of restrictions and halt the movement toward local bans.

“Industry estimates that when you look at the cumulative effect of prohibitions and setbacks, 40 to 60 percent of their leasehold is effectively undevelopable,” said Tom West, an Albany lawyer representing gas companies.

The Marcellus is a gas-rich shale deposit thousands of feet underground in parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. It’s estimated to contain 84 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, enough to supply the nation’s gas-burning electrical plants for 11 years.

NYC spring art auctions abound in records

NEW YORK – By any estimation, New York City’s spring art auctions were a success. Record after record was set at Sotheby’s and Christie’s impressionist, modern and contemporary sales.

Experts say an expanding global market including buyers from Asia, the Middle East and South America accounted for the prices paid for works at the top end of the market.

They also point to the top quality of the artworks offered and a desire by knowledgeable collectors to own works by the most recognized artists.

Experts also say collectors feel safe about buying art in an economy of other uncertain investments.

The highest price paid during the two-week-long sales was for Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” It sold at Sotheby’s for nearly $120 million, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

Court clears way for sale of Ira Gershwin letters

NEW YORK – A New York memorabilia dealer has settled a lawsuit that had sought to block him from selling 135 letters written by lyricist Ira Gershwin.

The Daily News reports that the settlement between memorabilia dealer Gary Zimet and the daughter of Gershwin’s biographer was filed Friday in a Manhattan court.

The biographer’s daughter, Carla Jablonski, had asked the court to block Zimet from selling the letters to the Library of Congress for $325,000.

Jablonski said in her lawsuit that the letters must have been stolen from her apartment. She hadn’t accused Zimet of the theft.

California

State facing higher $16 billion shortfall

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s budget deficit has swelled to a projected $16 billion – much larger than had been predicted just months ago – and will force severe cuts to schools and public safety if voters fail to approve tax increases in November, Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday.

The Democratic governor said the shortfall grew from $9.2 billion in January in part because tax collections have not come in as high as expected and the economy isn’t growing as fast as hoped for. The deficit has also risen because lawsuits and federal requirements have blocked billions of dollars in state cuts.

Brown did not release details of the newly calculated deficit Saturday, but he is expected to lay out a revised spending plan Monday. The new plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 hinges in large part on voters approving higher taxes.

Associated Press