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Bad flange may be cause of BP fire

A spokesman says a fire at BP’s Cherry Point refinery might have been caused by a leaky flange connection.

However, BP spokesman Scott Dean said Monday the information filed with the Coast Guard’s National Response Center is very preliminary and the cause remains under investigation.

It remains unclear how long the refinery would be out of service as a result of the fire on Friday. The company is trying to supply customers from existing stocks or other sources.

The refinery can process 230,000 barrels of crude oil a day. It produces 20 percent of Washington’s gasoline and the majority of aviation fuel for the Sea-Tac, Portland and Vancouver, B.C., airports.

The dramatic blaze created towering flames and a thick plume of black smoke that was visible for miles.


House Democrats to unveil budget

House Ways and Means Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, is scheduled to release the House Democrats’ proposed budget at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Hunter has said he would not release a budget unless he was confident of having enough votes to pass it. His job got a bit easier last week with unexpected news of nearly $400 million in additional revenue.

That carved a big chunk out of a budget shortfall that was earlier estimated at roughly $1.5 billion and now rests at around $1.1 billion if you use the governor’s numbers. The size of the shortfall depends in part on how much lawmakers decide to leave in reserve. Gov. Chris Gregoire wants to leave $600 million. Others want to leave less.

Senate Democrats are expected to release their budget proposal next week, and then both chambers and the governor will hash out a compromise. The session is scheduled to end March 8.


Motorcyclist dies after I-5 crash

The Washington State Patrol is investigating a motorcycle crash about 4 a.m. Monday that killed 23-year-old Timothy Wettack, of Mercer Island.

Trooper Julie Startup says he was taking the southbound Interstate 5 ramp to eastbound Interstate 90 when he hit the barrier. The cycle stayed on the ramp but Wettack was ejected over the barrier and fell about 100 feet to the shoulder of I-5 below.

Startup says he was alive when emergency responders arrived but died about an hour later at Harborview Medical Center.


Thefts point to koi-pond builder

First, the burglar took a pond filter, then, a pump in another break-in.

After a $400 koi disappeared over the weekend from the Tsugawa Nursery in Woodland, it was pretty clear a water gardener had turned bad.

The daughter of the owners, Karen Tsugawa, told Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputies she believes someone is building a pond with stolen parts and fish.

The Daily News reports the nursery has been selling exotic plants and fish for more than 30 years, and this is the first time it has been hit by a rash of burglaries.

Seattle Times staff and news services