13
Aug
10

Alabama Sues BP, Transocean, Halliburton over Gulf Oil Spill

NEWS
Alabama Sues BP, Transocean, Halliburton over Gulf Oil Spill
Alabama AG Sues BP, Transocean, Halliburton For “Catastrophic” Gulf Oil Spill

Friday, August 13, 2010

The U.S. state of Alabama is suing BP and Transocean for damages sustained from the Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

‘We are making this claim because we believe BP has inflicted catastrophic harm,’ said the state’s attorney general, Troy King.

‘We are suing them for the amount it will take to make Alabama whole.’

Mr. King did not name a figure.

Sky’s U.S. correspondent Robert Nisbet said: ‘This is particularly interesting within the state of Alabama because the state’s governor (Bob Riley) disagrees with the attorney general’s course of action. He wants to wait to see what compensation BP offers first.’

King defended his decision, arguing that it put the state in the strongest legal position.

Nisbet added: ‘Some 300 federal lawsuits have already been filed against BP and other companies involved in this spill in over 12 states – so a huge amount of legal complication and difficulty now facing BP.’
Louisiana sustained the most damage to its coastline and waters from the oil spill that began in April and was plugged with cement on July 15.

But oil also damaged the economies of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Alabama’s suit also names Anadarko Petroleum Corp, among others. ‘It is believed the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon was a blowout relating to the cementing work,’ according to the suit.

On the leak itself, meanwhile, National Incident Commander Thad Allen says they are still deciding when to resume work on the relief well.

Ambient pressure tests on the temporary, ‘static kill’, solution had been completed, he said, and those results suggest pressure is being maintained – although there is minor leakage from the flange.

However, they are concerned that proceeding with the ‘bottom kill’, the final cement plug using the relief well, could disrupt what they have done already and create increased pressure. More tests will be conducted.
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12
Aug
10

BP Agrees to Record $50.6 Million Fine for Texas City Blast

NEWS
BP Agrees to Record $50.6 Million Fine for Texas City Blast

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BP has agreed to pay a record $50.6 million fine related to the deadly 2005 blast at its Texas City refinery and spend $500 million on safety improvements, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The fine relates to BP’s repeated failure to meet safety standards both before and after the explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others.

BP has also been slapped with huge fines for the pollution released from the troubled facility.

Those fines pale in comparison to the billions the British energy giant is liable for in the wake of the massive oil spill unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico after a deadly explosion sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration initially fined BP a record $21 million after it determined that BP failed to protect its workers ahead of the 2005 blast.

The penalty was increased to $50.6 million in 2009 after inspections found that BP failed to correct significant safety deficiencies.

‘This agreement achieves our goal of protecting workers at the refinery and ensuring that critical safety upgrades are made as quickly as possible,’ said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

‘The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP’s disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day.’

The settlement does not impact ongoing litigation over the $30 million fine imposed for 439 new ‘willful violations’ discovered in the 2009 inspection.

‘It is perfectly within BP’s means to make that facility safe,’ OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab said in a conference call.

The settlement ‘commits them to a schedule to address those issues and it provides OSHA with an unprecedented level of oversight to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do,’ he added.
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12
Aug
10

Recovery still distant as GM turns a corner

NEWS
Recovery still distant as GM turns a corner
General Motors profits move past $1 billion

Thursday, August 12, 2010

••• General Motors said on Thursday its profits hit $1.3 billion in the second quarter, as the car company prepared to break free of U.S. government ownership by relisting on the stock exchange.

‘I am pleased with our progress on achieving our business objectives,’ said chief financial officer Chris Liddell, announcing the second consecutive quarter of growth.

The company erased a loss of $13 billion in the same period last year, as sales and revenues increased.

The firm saw stronger sales in North America in the quarter, even as sales in Europe floundered and market share around the world sank.

GM captured 15.4 percent of the U.S. market for cars versus 17.5 percent in the second quarter of last year, but elsewhere faired poorly.

GM’s executives have said that a public offering will come soon, a process that will help the U.S. government unwind its majority stake in the firm.

The U.S. Treasury Department still owns 61 percent of GM, which received $50 billion of U.S. government financing for its bankruptcy restructuring that led to mass layoffs, plant closures and billions of dollars in debt wiped out.

GM’s drive for an IPO will be boosted by news that the firm’s revenues swelled to $33 billion in the second quarter, a third more than the same period last year.

GM as well as its U.S. competitors Ford and Chrysler were hard hit by the recession which struck the United States in December 2007, caused by a home mortgage meltdown.

Of the so-called Detroit Three car makers, Ford was the only one to avoid bankruptcy, managing to stay afloat thanks to massive loans it had obtained prior to the credit crunch and because it moved more quickly to revitalise its product portfolio.
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12
Aug
10

Fed Effort to Aid Recovery Fails to Calm Investors

NEWS
Fed Effort to Aid Recovery Fails to Calm Investors

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More worried about the recovery, the U.S. Federal Reserve has taken a small step to bolster the U.S. economy.

Wrapping up a one-day meeting, the Fed said it will use money from its investments in mortgage securities to buy government debt on a small scale. That could help nudge down long-term rates on mortgages and corporate debt, but wouldn’t have a dramatic impact on stimulating economic growth, economists say.

Perhaps more importantly, the largely symbolic action sends a signal that the Fed sees the recovery weakening and that it stands ready to take more aggressive action, if needed, to keep it on track.

Delivering a more downbeat assessment, the Fed now believes economic growth will be ‘more modest’ than it had anticipated at its late June meeting.

The Fed, citing ‘subdued’ inflation, said it would keep its target for a key interest rate at zero to 0.25 percent for an ‘extended period’.
Investors reacted positively to the statement. Stocks that were down sharply before the announcement made up some lost ground. The Dow Jones industrial average, down about 100 points just before the Fed decision, was down about 40 a short time later. However, the market was likely to fluctuate, as it usually does while investors pore over the Fed’s statement.

Treasury prices rose slightly as investors were pleased by the Fed’s plan to buy government debt, which would reduce the amount of Treasury securities in the market. The yield on the Treasury’s 10-year note, which moves in the opposite direction from its price, fell to 2.77 percent from 2.82 percent just before the announcement.

Economists doubt the Fed can turn around the economy on its own. Some believe additional help from Congress is needed. Others are sceptical that easier credit or even more government aid will persuade Americans to shop more and hire more. Yet others think some jobs – like in construction – will never return to pre-recession levels, as the economy makes a structural shift.
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11
Aug
10

Google Street View throws light on web privacy

NEWS
Google Street View throws light on web privacy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Google’s online map feature has become a flash point for people worried about the erosion of privacy in the Internet Age.

Street View images at Google Maps sparked controversy from the outset of the project three years ago.

Google dispatched cars and tricycles rigged with cameras and satellite positioning gear to take pictures of what one might see on streets around the world and synched the images to its free online mapping service.

Some people complained that faces could be recognised in pictures, raising the potential that people caught in compromising situations, perhaps stepping out of an adult video store, would have such moments memorialised online.

Others expressed fears that numbers from licence plates could be used to figure out who parks or lives on certain streets.

People were soon accusing Street View vehicles of straying onto private roads or yards to snap pictures in violation of the California-based internet giant’s policies.

Google adapted to ameliorate concerns. It began blurring faces and car licence plate numbers in images.

This year the Street View controversy rocketed to a new level with the revelation by Google that electronics in its picture-taking vehicles captured data from wireless internet systems not secured by passwords.

Google basically had access to unencrypted email, video downloads, web browsing or other digital information passing through wireless routers in homes or businesses as its Street View vans went by, said John Verdi, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

Google has apologised repeatedly for what it called an accidental data grab, but authorities in more than a dozen countries are investigating whether the company broke privacy laws.

South Korean police on Tuesday searched the offices of Google Korea as part of its probe, an officer said.

Police seized computer hard discs and other material. After analysing the material they plan to summon the company’s staff for questioning.

Efforts by governments to get the Street View data threaten to multiply damage to people’s privacy even if Google is true to its word that it has done nothing with the information.

‘Simply handing over the data to governments can be a very bad idea,’ said Electronic Frontier Foundation international rights director Katitza Rodriguez.

‘In some cases, the remedy can be worse than the disease.’

Countries could use the pretext of investigating Street View to mine Google data in ways that ‘might create risky situations for human rights activists, dissidents, or bloggers fighting for their rights,’ she added.

Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle theorised that Google might have intended to map locations of open wireless ‘hot spots’ as a potential service to users.

‘Telling people where they can get on the internet for free while they are out and about sounds to me like a typical Google thing to do,’ Enderle said. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me.’

Identity thieves might view a roster of open wireless zones the way burglars might look at a list of homes left unlocked, according to the analyst.

Google said it would allow Germans to block out their homes on Street View ahead of its launch in the country this year but privacy watchdogs were still not happy.

‘Google Street View is a great tool, for instance, for tourists to scope out the location that he or she wants to visit,’ Rodriguez said.

‘However, Google’s technology is too invasive, and goes too far. We expect some degree of anonymity while we are walking on the streets.’
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10
Aug
10

Brazil seeks origin of oil slick lapping at beach

NEWS
Brazil seeks origin of oil slick lapping at beach

Monday, August 10, 2010

Earth A large oil slick reached beaches along the Atlantic Ocean in the Lakes Region in the north of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, local media reported early Monday.

The origin of the oil was not immediately known, and naval inspection technicians took samples of the water and the sand to determine if the fuel comes from a ship or an offshore platform. The relevant tests, however, could take up to 20 days.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil producer, said it’s not responsible for an oil spill that appeared on five of the country’s beaches.
Petrobras, as the oil producer is known, is assisting Brazil’s Navy with clean-up efforts, a spokesman, who declined to be named because of the Rio de Janeiro-based company’s policy, said today in a telephone interview. Petrobras did a flyover and wasn’t able to spot any oil slick, he said.

Oil washed up today at five beaches, said a spokeswoman at the Rio de Janeiro state government environment agency. Petrobras is helping to investigate the spill’s origin, said the spokeswoman in a telephone interview. She can’t be named under internal policy.

The size of the spill hasn’t been determined yet, she said.

The affected beaches are near Cabo Frio, about 93 miles east of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The leak in Rio comes after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva strongly criticized the oil giant BP over the disaster caused by its well in the Gulf of Mexico. He said such a disaster would never happen in Brazil. According to Lula, the technology used by Brazil’s state-operated oil company Petrobras is superior to that which is used in the United States.
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09
Aug
10

BP Prepares for Final Drilling Phase

NEWS
BP Prepares for Final Drilling Phase

Monday, August 9, 2010

BP today advanced on what it hopes is the final lap towards permanently killing the source of the world’s worst offshore oil spill and kicked off a $20 billion compensation fund with a first $3 billion deposit.

A relief well being drilled by BP is on track to start this week to provide a definitive “bottom kill” shutdown of the crippled Gulf of Mexico well, unless an approaching weather system disrupts the timing, the top U.S. oil spill response chief said.

The biggest environmental response operation ever launched in the United States passed a critical milestone last week by subduing the blown-out deep-water well with injections of heavy drilling mud, followed by a cement seal.

BP’s Macondo well, 1 mile down in the Gulf of Mexico, had been provisionally capped on July 15th after spewing an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, soiling marshlands, fisheries and tourist beaches along several hundreds of miles of the Gulf Coast.

But the relief well is regarded as the final solution to plug the well 2.5 miles beneath the seabed.

“They are closing in on the last 30-40 feet . . . it’s ongoing and going in segments,” response chief retired Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen said in an update on the relief well. “We expect that sometime before the end of the week we will be able to . . . commence the kill,” he told a conference call.
As the deep-water engineering operation progressed, BP said it was also moving to fulfill its public commitments to compensate for economic damage caused by the spill.

Mr. Allen said the spill response authorities were closely watching a tropical weather system moving east over the Florida peninsula, which forecasters see crossing in a few days near BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill site.

He said that depending on its strength and direction, this system could affect the timing of the relief well “bottom kill” operation. Forecasters were giving this disturbance a 30 percent chance of strengthening into a tropical cyclone.

Elsewhere, BP said it had made an initial deposit of $3 billion into a $20 billion escrow fund.

The chief executive of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, Bob Dudley, said the $3 billion initial contribution to the escrow fund was intended to back up the company’s repeated pledge to “make good” economic losses caused by the spill to Gulf Coast fishermen, tourism operators and home owners.

“Establishing this trust and making the initial deposit ahead of schedule further demonstrates our commitment to making it right in the Gulf Coast,” Mr. Dudley said in a statement.

The U.S. Justice Department confirmed the contribution, saying it had completed negotiations with BP on the fund.
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