Bridgestone agrees to pay $425 million criminal fine

The Justice Department says Bridgestone Corp. has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $425 million criminal fine in a conspiracy to fix prices of automotive rubber parts.

According to a one-count felony charge, Bridgestone participated in allocating sales, rigging bids and raising prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts sold to car manufacturers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The Justice Department said Tokyo-based Bridgestone has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing auto parts investigations. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

Bridgestone sold the parts to Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Isuzu Motors Ltd.

Crude oil price slips 2 cents but natural gas futures soar

The price of oil barely budged Thursday but natural gas futures soared.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery slipped 2 cents to $100.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. U.S. economic indicators were mostly downbeat on Thursday, suggesting weak demand.

Natural gas futures jumped 40 cents, or 8 percent, to $5.22 per 1,000 cubic feet. The Energy Department said supplies fell by 237 billion cubic feet last week.

Maker of vehicle tag readers suing Utah over privacy law

The surveillance industry is fighting back. A company that makes automated license plate readers sued Utah’s government Thursday over a new law there intended to protect drivers’ privacy.

Digital Recognition Network Inc. of Fort Worth, which makes license-plate readers that rapidly scan the tags of passing vehicles, argues that a new state ban on license-plate scanning by private companies infringes on its free-speech rights to collect and disseminate the information it captures, and has effectively put it out of business there.

Republican state Sen. Todd Weiler, who sponsored the new law, said his proposal gained momentum after legislators discovered police were gathering widespread data from mobile license-plate readers. He said those cameras can be useful, such as recovering stolen cars, but he worried about the privacy implications when organizations store that data.

Appeals court clears path for compensation in BP spill

A federal appeals court has cleared the way for thousands of workers to be compensated for medical treatment for exposure to crude oil or chemical dispersants during the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ action Tuesday involves a settlement approved by a federal judge in January 2013 between BP, workers and some coastal residents who said they were injured or sickened during the spill cleanup.

— From news service reports