Texas sues EPA over permit plan

WASHINGTON - Texas sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday over the agency's plan to take control of the state's carbon-emission rules, saying the EPA was overreaching its proper authority in relations with the state.

The EPA this month said it would directly issue greenhouse-gas permits to Texas industries starting in January after the state refused to comply with new federal regulations. Texas filed a petition with the federal appeals court in Washington asking that it block the agency's move, arguing that the EPA did not give adequate notice or allow for comments on its proposed takeover.

The EPA has said that emissions in Texas are too high and too toxic. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. - Inquirer wire services

Vegas hotel settles drug-selling case

LAS VEGAS - The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas has agreed to pay $650,000 to settle a complaint from state gambling regulators that security guards and VIP hosts sold cocaine and ecstasy pills to patrons and let them use private nightclub bathrooms for sex and drugs.

The hotel agreed Wednesday to pay the settlement without admitting or denying allegations, avoiding a hearing before Nevada regulators who have the power to revoke the casino's gambling license. The hotel acknowledged in the Nevada Gaming Control Board settlement that regulators could have proved their case at a regulatory hearing.

Joseph Magliarditi, the hotel's chief executive, said in a statement that the hotel took the issues seriously and had made changes to address and resolve them.

The investigations centered on the now-closed Body English nightclub and Vanity, a nightclub built in the Hard Rock's newest hotel tower. The casino-hotel is owned separately from the restaurant chain with the same name. - AP

Storm pummels Western states

BELLEMONT, Ariz. - A winter storm pummeled the Western United States with fierce wind gusts, heavy rain, and up to 2 feet of snow Thursday, closing freeways, and dumping a snowy mix of precipitation on the edges of Phoenix.

Officials closed a road into Yosemite National Park in California after a rock the size of a dump truck tumbled onto the road, and strong winds created snow dunes on roofs, yards, and streets across mountainous areas of Arizona.

Snow and ice forced an hours-long closure of I-40 and I-17, the two major thoroughfares in northern Arizona, stranding motorists south of Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. Phoenix was bracing for freezing overnight temperatures, a rarity in the desert city. - AP

Elsewhere:

Grizzly-bear deaths neared record levels for the region around Yellowstone National Park in 2010, but government biologists said the population remained robust enough to withstand the heavy losses. About 75 of the protected animals were killed or removed from the wild, a study team found. The deaths were attributed primarily to grizzlies pushing into inhabited areas.