Dodge Starts Slow in November

The dollar value of total construction starts posted a monthly decline of 11% during November, according to McGraw Hill Construction's seasonally adjusted Dodge data, which was running at an annual rate of $525 billion. But on a year-to-date basis, total construction starts through the first 11 months of the year was $475 billion, which was 6% above the same period of 2012. Residential construction led the way with a 25% annual increase, followed by an 8% gain for non-residential building work. Non-building construction is still 15% behind 2012.

Insurance Company OffersDiscount for Anti-Theft Program

Liberty Mutual Insurance is offering incentives to customers on heavy-equipment insurance if they register their iron with the National Equipment Registry. Established in 2001, the NER is a service that catalogues and tracks heavy equipment to aid owners and law enforcement in theft recovery. Liberty Mutual is offering to waive up to $10,000 of the theft deductible on its heavy-equipment insurance policies if equipment owners sign up for NER's HELPtech program, which records equipment serial numbers and can provide detailed reports to law enforcement in the event of a theft. Liberty Mutual is one of 22 insurance companies that NER lists on its website as offering incentives for signing up.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, nearly 11,000 heavy-equipment thefts were reported in 2012, but only 20% were recovered.

Former EPA Official Jailed

John C. Beale, a former high-ranking Environmental Protection Agency official, was sentenced on Dec. 18 to 32 months in federal prison and a $1.3-million fine for fraudulently receiving almost $900,000 in pay and benefits for lengthy periods of time he wasn't at work. Beale, 65, pled guilty in September to committing fraud over the past decade at EPA, falsely telling his supervisors that he was a Central Intelligence Agency agent. EPA paid him for about two and a half years' worth of work when he wasn't actually on the job. Beale's excesses were detailed in two EPA Inspector General's Office reports, both released on Dec. 11.

At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle told Beale he had "put a stain on the entire federal workforce." An EPA spokeswoman says the agency has revamped its time-and-attendance and travel policies to help prevent fraud.

Canadian Panel Approves Job But With 209 Conditions

A report by Canada's Joint Review Panel supports development of the 728-mile Northern Gateway pipeline between Alberta and British Columbia. It comes with 209 conditions, however, including protection of marine mammals and caribou habitat and research into cleanup methods of heavy oil. Environmental groups have vowed to continue their opposition to the pipeline that, if approved, would ship 525,000 barrels of petroleum a day from Edmonton to a tanker terminal in Kitimat The final ruling rests with the Canadian federal government, which has 180 days to decide the pipeline's future.