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William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers business news with a focus on energy issues and Florida utilities.

Phone: (813) 226-3432


Twitter: @Times_Levesque

  1. Aerospace and defense contractor Orbital ATK closing Clearwater facility


    Orbital ATK, a Virginia-based aerospace and defense firm, plans to close a Clearwater manufacturing facility by spring, a decision based at least in part on lessened U.S. defense spending, the company said Monday.

    The closure of the facility at 13133 34th St. N is expected to be completed by April and could result in up to 99 job losses, the company said. Employees were notified in July.

    The facility makes missile- and laser-warning systems for aircraft used by the U.S. military and other nations around the world. Orbital's Clearwater site also makes testing equipment for a variety of weapons systems....

  2. Allegiant Air aborts flight during takeoff at 138 mph


    It was a mechanical failure of an Allegiant Air jet at one of a flight's most-vulnerable moments — takeoff.

    Allegiant Flight 436 bound for Illinois was in its takeoff roll on Aug. 17 in Las Vegas traveling 138 mph when the nose of the aircraft prematurely rose from the runway. The pilot pushed the yoke, or control column, fully forward, yet the nose continued to rise.

    But the pilot apparently cut back on power to safely abort the takeoff and return to the gate. No injuries were reported....

    An Allegiant Air flight in Las Vegas had a runway problem at 138 mph, causing pilots to abort the flight. It’s the latest in a series of problems this summer for the discount airline, which makes up 95 percent of the traffic at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. 
 [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. PSC rejects call to focus on utilities' hedging losses


    Florida's investor-owned electric utilities have lost $6.1 billion in bad bets on the cost of fuel since 2002, a river of cash deep enough to build at least three natural gas power plants from scratch.

    But Florida regulators Thursday unanimously rejected a bid by the office representing customers before the Public Service Commission to have the agency make those bad bets a central issue in proceedings that help determine what Floridians pay for their electricity....

    Florida Power & Light has lost $4.1 billion to hedges since 2002, making up the majority of the $6.1 billion in losses from Florida utility companies to hedges. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2013)]
  4. Florida utilities' loss of $6.1 billion on bad fuel bets draws criticism


    If you consistently lost money at a Las Vegas casino year after year, some would argue you have a gambling problem and ought to stay away from the poker table.

    In the world of Florida's electric utilities, losses totaling billions of dollars in bets on the future price of fuel result in a far different conclusion.

    The utilities say the practice, which led to $6.1 billion in losses paid for by their customers, is a good thing for ratepayers and should continue....

  5. FPL's fracking investment is a money loser so far


    Florida Power & Light belittled critics who opposed its precedent-setting plan to charge customers for a $191 million natural gas investment in Oklahoma.

    "Flawed assumptions, contradictions and even invented facts pervade their arguments," FPL told state regulators on Dec. 12.

    Turns out the flawed assumptions might be FPL's own.

    The utility's prediction that the project would be a big money-saver took a body blow this month as FPL filed a report with state regulators forecasting $5.8 million in 2015 losses for its customers. Millions of dollars in projected first-year savings have vanished, the Aug. 14 report shows....

  6. FAA reviewing whether Allegiant Air filed safety reports on time


    The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it is reviewing whether Allegiant Air failed to timely file safety reports detailing mechanical difficulties causing two emergency landings at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport this summer.

    The airline filed the "Service Difficulty Reports" about the June 17 and July 3 emergency landings Tuesday. That came after the Tampa Bay Times repeatedly asked the FAA and Allegiant to either provide the reports or explain why they were missing....

    The FAA is reviewing whether Allegiant Air filed safety reports in a timely manner after a number of emergency landings at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport this summer.  [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  7. Allegiant Air flight runs low on fuel over closed airport, makes emergency landing


    An Allegiant Air flight ran dangerously low on fuel last week as it circled an airport in North Dakota that was actually closed so the Navy's Blue Angels could practice for a forthcoming air show.

    The pilot told the tower on Thursday that he didn't have enough fuel to make it to a back-up airport, so he was forced to declare an emergency to clear airspace for a landing at Fargo's Hector International Airport, according to a recording of air traffic between the pilot and tower available on the website

    An Allegiant Air flight had to make an emergency landing in North Dakota last week when it ran low on fuel while flying to an airport that was closed. It's the latest in a number of problems with Allegiant Air, including several emergency landings at St. Pete Clearwater International Airport. This photo was taken there in June. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  8. Utilities cry foul over efforts to end energy-efficiency payments by big business


    Floridians can expect higher electric rates, Florida utilities warn, if Wal-Mart and big business win regulatory approval on something that boils down to a simple argument.

    Namely, big business knows best how to spend its money on energy efficiency, not the utilities.

    A highly technical but consequential regulatory battle opened last week at a hearing by the Florida Public Service Commission that once again puts energy efficiency on the front burner. Wal-Mart and others want the PSC to allow big business to opt out of mandatory payments for utility energy-efficiency programs they don't use if they already invest in energy conservation on their own....

  9. Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke steps down to become chief operating officer of the NFL


    TAMPA — Tod Leiweke said that hockey was his first love when Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik lured him away from the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in 2010 to come rebuild the bay area's failing hockey franchise as its new CEO.

    Now pro football has wooed Leiweke back.

    The Lightning CEO resigned Friday to take on one of the top jobs in the National Football League: chief operating officer, a position last held by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell himself in 2006....

    Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke resigned on Friday to become the new chief operating officer of the National Football League. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times (2011)]
  10. St. Petersburg's C1 Bank raises its minimum wage to $15


    As protesters in 30 cities this week marked the third anniversary of the last increase of the federal minimum wage, St. Petersburg-based C1 Bank confirmed Thursday that it is hiking its minimum "living wage" from $14 to $15 per hour starting Oct. 1.

    That's more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25, and far higher than Florida's $8.05.

    The community bank with 31 Florida branches, one of the fastest-growing banks in the nation with $1.6 billion in assets, first established a living wage in April. That generated national publicity for C1 and helped focus attention on low teller pay in an industry that pays top executives multimillion-dollar bonuses and salaries....

  11. Walmart seeks to opt out of state energy conservation costs


    TAMPA — A Floridian who spends a miserly $100 a month on electricity is essentially treated the same as a mega-corporation whose utility bill is $1 million when it comes to the cost of energy efficiency.

    They both pay a proportional share of the cost of their utility's energy-conservation programs.

    But the Florida Public Service Commission is scheduled to open a hearing today on a proposal by Walmart and a group of big commercial energy users seeking to opt out of mandatory payments to fund conservation programs offered by the state's investor-owned utilities....

  12. TECO Energy, parent of Tampa Electric, says it may put itself up for sale


    TAMPA — The parent of the Tampa Electric Co. and Peoples Gas said Thursday that it is exploring a potential sale, an announcement that provided an immediate boost to the company's stock.

    A sale of TECO Energy would affect its 700,000 customers who are mostly in Hillsborough and Polk counties, in addition to 350,000 Peoples Gas Systems customers throughout Tampa Bay and Florida.

    TECO released a terse statement late in the afternoon confirming it is considering a sale, a response to a report about a potential sale by the news website, SparkSpread....

    Service areas of electric utilities in Florida. [Times]
  13. Equipment problem leads to noise complaints at St. Pete-Clearwater airport


    Malfunctioning navigational equipment at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is forcing many aircraft to fly over neighborhoods north of the airport rather than Old Tampa Bay, and airport officials said Wednesday the timing of a fix isn't known.

    Airport director Thomas Jewsbury said at a meeting of the airport's noise-abatement task force that a navigational aid used by pilots and maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration was taken off line in late March because of technical problems....

  14. Problems continue for Allegiant as airline reports third emergency landing in a month at St. Pete-Clearwater


    For the third time in a month, an Allegiant Air flight has been forced to make an emergency landing at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

    But this time, the airline confirmed, passengers didn't know.

    Allegiant Flight 977 left Asheville, N.C., on Friday, bound for Punta Gorda, but was forced to divert to St. Pete-Clearwater because of bad weather, the airline said.

    But before the MD-83 aircraft landed, pilots declared an emergency after an "indicator light" pointed to a possible "maintenance issue" on the aircraft, Allegiant said Saturday....

    Passenger aircraft with Allegiant Air's fleet are parked on the tarmac at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  15. New Haley VA director had controversial reign at Mississippi VA hospital


    TAMPA — Three years ago, Department of Veterans Affairs manager Joe D. Battle got the unenviable job of turning around the Jackson, Miss., VA hospital, a facility critics called a dysfunctional mess.

    The hospital didn't have enough doctors, and two patient deaths were blamed on inadequate staffing. A radiologist was accused of failing to properly read thousands of images. Veterans were assigned to "ghost clinics" without seeing doctors....

    Joe D. Battle was appointed as the director of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.