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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The state of Missouri faces the loss of nearly $70 million this year in tobacco settlement payments due to a unique pricing advantage enjoyed by some cigarette companies.
 
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Missouri is the only state which signed a landmark settlement agreement more than 15 years ago to not eliminate a loophole allowing small cigarette manufacturers and retailers to avoid making escrow payments. The payments are required of companies that didn't sign the settlement.
 
State lawmakers have refused requests by two Missouri attorney generals over the past 12 years to neutralize the pricing advantage. And a federal arbitration panel found that Gov. Jay Nixon neglected to file lawsuits against the smaller tobacco companies to force them to pay into the escrow fund when he was attorney general.
 
Missouri could also lose tens of millions in tobacco money each year for at least seven years.
Monday, 17 February 2014 12:40
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   CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - The Chicago-area family of a missing Southern Illinois University student is offering a reward for information in the 19-year-old sophmore's disappearance.
   Authorities say Pravin Varughese has been missing since Wednesday. His family says they are offering a $15,000 reward. His sister, Priya Varughese, says family members "just want him home." She says her brother, a cousin and a roommate were at a party the night he disappeared.
   Carbondale Police Sgt. Rich Brunner says officers have searched for Pravin Varughese using dogs and by air. He says the searches have covered much of the SIU campus and city. Brunner says friends and police handed out flyers Sunday. Vigils also have been planned.
    Vaughese and his family are from the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove. He was studying criminal justice.
Monday, 17 February 2014 10:44
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Average retail gasoline prices in St. Louis have risen 3.8 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.19 a gallon on Sunday.
This is according to GasBuddy.com's daily survey of nearly one thousand gas outlets in St. Louis. This compares with the national average that has increased 5.0 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.34 a gallon.
Gas prices in St. Louis yesterday were 53 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago, but 13 cents per gallon higher than a month ago.
The national average has increased 6 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 34 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.
 
Monday, 17 February 2014 10:34
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   Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to follow through on its own proposal to reduce amounts of ethanol that must be blended with gasoline.  
   The EPA wants to reduce by billions of gallons the amount of biofuels required in gasoline sold in America.  The agency says the additive is less necessary with more fuel-efficient engines and lower fuel demand.
   Governor Quinn says lowering the requirement could hurt farmers growing renewable fuel crops, like corn.  His office says Illinois' ethanol industry is one of the nation's largest.  
   Critics say ethanol isn't as environmentally friendly as advertised.  The pressure to grow more crops for ethanol has led to planting in areas that might otherwise be set aside for conservation.  Critics also say diverting crops for fuel has contributed to rising food prices.  
   But ethanol advocates say its essential to American energy independance.
 
Monday, 17 February 2014 08:28
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