A Weak May Drops Total Starts 1% Below a Year Ago

New construction starts in May dropped 5% below the previous month, according to McGraw Hill Construction Dodge. The monthly decline dragged the dollar value of total construction starts through the first five months of this year 1% below the same period of 2013. However, all the year-to-year decline came from a 13% year-to-year drop in non-building construction. During the same five-month period, the dollar value of non-residential building starts was up 5%, while the residential building market rose 2%. In the non-building market, electric utility work plunged 35% for the year, while construction of other public works markets was down 8%, says Dodge.

Utility Wins Storage Cost Suit

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District has won a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in SMUD's claim against the Dept. of Energy for reimbursement of costs to store spent nuclear fuel. DOE was under contract to begin accepting the waste in 1998. The Appeals Court award of $53.2 million covers SMUD's cost from 1992 to 2003. The court ordered another hearing for a claim for 2004-2009 costs that was erroneously decided against SMUD, the appeals court said.

This is the latest in a long series of court decisions on DOE's failure to take spent fuel for disposal, says Jerry Stouck, a partner at Greenberg Traurig LLP, Washington, D.C. He provided ENR with a list of 82 such cases. "At least two-thirds of the cases have settled for pretty big numbers," he says, noting that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. won a settlement in 2012 for $266 million, plus ongoing payments for storage and maintenance costs. "DOE is paying for the cost of on-site storage," he says.

China Firm Wins $1B Israel Port, Largest E&C for Chinese There

Israel has awarded China Harbour Engineering a $1-billion contract to build an expanded port in the city of Ashdod, the country's first private port and the largest contract a Chinese contractor has won in that country. The firm beat out bids from two Israeli teams and from a joint venture of Israel's Solel Boneh Ltd with a unit of Belgium's Jan De Nul Group. China Harbour also bid against the other teams on a similarly-sized private port in Haifa, but can win only one of the projects under terms of the tender. The other bidders will now have to match the Chinese bid for the Haifa port. A final award is expected within weeks. Work on Ashdod is set to begin by year-end and take five to six years to complete.