Consumers Energy OK'd to raise natural gas rates by 7.6 pct.

LANSING (AP) — Michigan utility Consumers Energy has received regulatory approval to increase natural gas rates by 7.6 percent.

The state Public Service Commission approved the $143.5 million hike Thursday. The panel says an average residential customer will pay an additional $5.48 a month, starting in October.

The increase is less than the $229 million hike sought by the Jackson-based utility, which provides natural gas service to 4.1 million people. Regulators lowered the size of the rate increase in part by accounting for the 2017 federal corporate tax cut.

Also Thursday, the commission approved tax cut-related refunds for Consumers Energy electric customers. A residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours a month will pay 68 cents less beginning in October.

Postal worker charged in thefts from Muskegon County mail

MUSKEGON (AP) — Authorities say a United States Postal Service worker in Muskegon County stole cash and other valuable contents from mail deliveries earlier this year.

A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Andrew M. Chopp Jr. with theft, WOOD-TV reported.

Federal authorities say that Chopp from March until May stole from letters, packages, bags and other mail in Muskegon County.

Chopp faces up to five years in prison and three years of probation if he's convicted. He also could have to pay restitution and up to $250,000 in fines.

Judge blocks deal to bar LGBT discrimination in adoptions

LANSING (AP) — A federal judge says Michigan cannot stop faith-based adoption agencies that have state contracts from refusing to put children in LGBT homes for religious reasons.

District Judge Robert Jonker issued a preliminary injunction Thursday. He says Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel's position targets the religious beliefs of St. Vincent Catholic Charities, and such agencies can continue working with the state while a lawsuit is litigated.

In March, Nessel and the American Civil Liberties of Michigan announced a settlement to resolve a suit filed by lesbian couples who alleged they had been turned away. Nessel says such denials are illegal discrimination.

Jonker said past statements by Nessel "raise a strong inference of a hostility toward a religious viewpoint." Nessel's office said she hadn't reviewed the ruling or determined next steps.

Southwestern Michigan police chief dies in vehicle crash

NASHVILLE (AP) — A southwestern Michigan police chief has died after crashing his vehicle into a tree.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Sgt. Craig Schmaltz said 59-year-old Nashville Police Chief Chris Allen Koster died in the crash at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Richland Township.

Investigators said Koster's vehicle went off a road and struck a tree. No other passengers were in Koster's vehicle at the time of the crash, and police said alcohol isn't believed to have been a factor.

Nashville is a village of about 1,600 people in Barry County.

Nashville Village President Mike Kenyon said Koster was police chief for about five years. Kenyon told WILX-TV the crash appeared to happen while Koster was driving to work.

2 wolf pups at zoo died of mosquito-borne virus; deer had it

BATTLE CREEK (AP) — Two Mexican gray wolf pups at a Michigan zoo have died of a rare mosquito-borne virus as health officials work to curb the spread of the virus in people and animals.

Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek says results this week confirm the pups that died in early September were killed by Eastern equine encephalitis. Separately, in Kent County, a necropsy revealed that a dead deer also had it. The virus was also found in a Newaygo County horse.

The state health department says the virus has been confirmed in humans or animals in at least 13 Michigan counties. Three people have died.

The department is encouraging officials in affected counties to consider postponing or rescheduling evening outdoor events until there's a hard frost. Aerial spraying is being considered.

Army medic from Michigan dies during overseas training

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — An Army medic posted at a Colorado base has died during a training competition in South Korea.

The Gazette reports 32-year-old Staff Sgt. Kelly L. Richards died Wednesday while competing for an Expert Field Medical Badge at Camp Casey.

The Army did not release details of Richards' death at the American base 40 miles north of Seoul. The death was not considered suspicious.

An Army statement said Richards was posted to the 3rd Brigade Combat team at Fort Carson, Colorado. The native of Grayling, Michigan, was a 14-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army says competition for the badge includes physical fitness trials and tests of medical knowledge and soldiers' skills.

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