Former CEO to face charges in West Virginia mine blast

The former CEO who oversaw the West Virginia mine that exploded, killing 29 people, was indicted Thursday on federal charges related to a safety investigation that followed the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years.

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is accused of conspiring to violate safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch Mine and became the highest-ranking executive to face charges in the blast. The explosion and investigation led to the overhaul of the way the federal government oversees mine safety.

Long-term mortgage rates approach lows for the year

Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates edged lower this week, approaching their lows for the year. The benchmark 30-year loan rate hovered near 4 percent.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage slipped to 4.01 percent from 4.02 percent last week. The 30-year rate, which stood at 4.53 percent in January, now is close to its 52-week low of 3.92 percent.

Baker Hughes, Halliburton talk about potential merger

Oilfield-services provider Baker Hughes Inc. said Thursday it is in talks with rival Halliburton Co. about a potential merger.

The company said there was no guarantee that a deal would be done and offered no further details. Its statement came after The Wall Street Journal reported that Halliburton was in talks to buy Baker Hughes.

Companies challenge law banning GMO cultivation

Two agricultural companies sued Maui County on Thursday to challenge a new law banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms.

Monsanto Co. and a Dow Chemical Co. unit filed the lawsuit in federal court in Honolulu, asking a judge to immediately prevent the law from taking effect and to invalidate the measure.

“This local referendum interferes with and conflicts with long-established state and federal laws that support both the safety and lawful cultivation of GMO plants,” John Purcell, Monsanto Hawaii’s business and technology head, said in a statement.

—From news service reports