Posts Tagged ‘Business News

12
Aug
10

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

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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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03
Aug
10

BP Agrees to Sell Colombian Business to Ecopetrol and Talisman

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BP Agrees to Sell Colombian Business to Ecopetrol and Talisman

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

British oil giant BP says it will sell its Colombian business for a total of $1.9 billion.

The divestment is part of BP’s recently announced plans to sell off up to $30 billion of assets, as it struggles with the soaring cost of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

‘BP today announced that it has agreed to sell its oil and gas exploration, production and transportation business in Colombia to a consortium of Ecopetrol, Colombia’s national oil company (51 percent), and Talisman of Canada (49 percent),’ it said in a statement.
‘The two companies will pay BP a total of 1.9 billion dollars in cash… for 100 percent of the shares in BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited (BPXC), the wholly-owned BP subsidiary company that holds BP’s oil and gas exploration, production and transportation interests in Colombia.’

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory and other approvals, is expected to complete by the end of 2010.

News of the sell-off comes one week after BP’s vilified chief executive Tony Hayward resigned in the wake of a record second-quarter loss of $16.9 billion – the biggest quarterly loss in British corporate history.

Hayward will step down in October and hand over the reigns to American executive Bob Dudley.
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• Source(s): BP PLC
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23
Jul
10

Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

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Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

Friday, July 23, 2010

••• The world’s top mobile phone maker Nokia has reported a 40 percent plunge in second-quarter net profit to 227 million euros ($290 million) but maintained its earnings forecast for its key devices and services unit.

The Finnish company had slashed its second-quarter and full-year forecasts for its key devices and services unit last month, citing fierce competition.

From April to June, Nokia posted a net profit of 227 million euros ($290 million), down 40 percent from 380 million euros ($485.46 million) for the same quarter a year earlier.
Analyst expected a profit drop of 30 percent, according to estimates published in the Finnish press.

Nokia said its net sales were up 1.0 percent on a year-to-year basis to 10.0 billion euros ($2.77 billion), and that the sales in its devices and services unit were up 3.0 percent on a year-to-year basis, but down 2.0 year-to-year in constant currency.

Shares in company, which had recently plunged to their lowest level in 12 years, were up 1.43 percent to 7.09 euros on a Helsinki Stock Exchange up 0.9 percent shortly after the announcement.
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22
Jul
10

Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

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Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

Oil cap in Gulf to remain despite approaching storm

Thursday, July 22, 2010

••• The U.S. government has ordered certain ships working on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill back to port amid fears that a brewing storm could force a mass evacuation and derail efforts to plug BP’s runaway well.

A full-scale evacuation could delay by up to two weeks the final operation to plug BP’s runaway well, which has unleashed millions of barrels of crude on Gulf Coast shorelines in one of America’s worst ever environmental disasters.

‘Activities that are under way for storm preparedness include evacuating specialized vessels from the path of any severe weather to prevent damage and ensure that oil recovery operations can resume as soon as possible after a storm,’ a Coast Guard statement said on Thursday.

With no crews on site to monitor pressure inside the well, top U.S. official Admiral Thad Allen has warned that the cap that has prevented any toxic crude from entering the sea for the past week may have to be opened up again or even removed.

Storm warnings have been extended from the Caribbean around the Florida Keys to the Gulf Coast, but there has been no immediate order from BP or the U.S. government to suspend operations entirely and pull staff back to shore.

If the depression developing near the Bahamas, expected to become Tropical Storm Bonnie lateron Thursday, takes aim at Louisiana it will delay a so-called ‘static kill’ to seal the well with cement originally planned for this weekend.

Officials have warned it will take up to five days to get some of the biggest vessels, in particular the massive drilling platforms working on relief wells, back to port.

‘We’ve always said we need 120 hours in advance to be able to start redeploying them and then the total time off-scene would be anywhere between 10 and 14 days,’ Allen said on Wednesday.

As for what to do with the cap, this would be ‘a judgment call based on the risks,’ he said.

The first relief well was expected to intercept the damaged well as early as next week but if the storm hits that could be more like mid-August and any final operation to seal the well with cement might be delayed until September.

The storm threat was already delaying progress as work on the final casing of the relief well was suspended so a ‘storm packer’ plug could be fitted to stabilize it.

A full evacuation would be a huge blow for local residents. Tourism is in tatters and a vast swath of the Gulf has been closed to commercial and sport fishing since the BP-leased Deep water Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

As millions of barrels of crude spewed into the sea, the region was further hit by President Barack Obama’s decision to impose a moratorium on new deep sea drilling – a move fiercely opposed by local leaders and the oil industry.

Four of the world’s oil giants say they will create a $1 billion system to capture oil in case of another catastrophic spill.

Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Royal Dutch Shell will each contribute $250 million to create a non-profit group, the Marine Well Containment Company.

The new venture would design, build and operate a flexible system that could mobilise within 24 hours to siphon and contain 100,000 barrels of oil per day in depths of up to 1.86 miles, the companies said.

It’s main goal would be to prevent a spill as large as the one unleashed by BP’s busted Macondo well, which sits 1 mile below the surface and was estimated to have spewed up to 60,000 bpd into the sea.

The companies said the system could be up and running within 18 months.

If an upper estimate of over four million barrels is confirmed, the BP disaster would be the biggest accidental oil spill ever.
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20
Jul
10

Oil’s not well in Gulf as BP shares sink again

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Oil’s not well in Gulf as BP shares sink again

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

••• Shares of BP fell after it said the tab for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is nearing $4.05 billion while it monitors oil seeping near the ruptured well.

BP PLC’s shares lost $1.61, or 4.3 percent, at $35.49 in midday trading.

Investors remain worried about the mounting costs and whether the latest fix will hold until a relief well is in place, Argus Research analyst Phil Weiss said.

“If the well integrity is compromised, it makes the process more complicated,” he said.

The cost of dealing with the oil spill – almost $4 billion – equals about two-thirds of BP’s profit in the first three months of the year.
BP placed a cap on the well on Thursday, shutting off oil that had been gushing from it since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20 and then sank.

A seep detected in the sea floor near the well prompted new concern about whether the fix would hold.

The government is allowing BP to continue monitoring the site for new leaks, at least for now.

Key questions remain about BP’s liability, Credit Suisse analyst Kim Fustier said.

In a research note to clients on Monday, Fustier said yet to be determined is the total cost for liability and compensatory claims and how the liability costs will be distributed between BP and its partners.

If negligence is proven, another issue could be punitive damages, the analyst said.
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20
Jul
10

Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

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Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive and co-defendant in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges that the bank defrauded investors, on Monday asked the court to dismiss the case filed against him by the U.S. Regulators.

Tourre, whose emails about a collateralized debt obligation were at the heart of the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC’s complaint, denied that he made any materially misleading statements or omissions, or behaved wrongly in connection to complex mortgage-linked securities called collateralized debt obligations or CDO.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York Tourre “specifically denies he made any materially misleading statements or omissions or otherwise engaged in any actionable or wrongful conduct” stemming from the CDO known as Abacus.
Tourre also argued that neither he nor his employer had a “duty to disclose any allegedly omitted information” in the marketing and sale of the CDO.

In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the investment bank that it did not reveal that one of its clients, Paulson & Co, played a significant role in the selection of securities contained in the Abacus mortgage portfolio and which was later sold to investors.

Following the collapse of the housing market, the securities in that mortgage portfolio – Abacus – lost more than $1 billion.
Goldman said it was a “mistake” to state that the loans contained in the CDO had been selected by a third party without mentioning the role of Paulson & Co, a hedge fund that bet against the security.

Last week, in a settlement, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges brought in by the SEC. This is reportedly the largest ever for a financial institution and is less than the $1 billion fraud that the Commission alleged.

Tourre, who is the only Goldman Sachs executive named as a defendant in the SEC’s fraud lawsuit, has yet to settle with the regulator. Goldman also agreed to co-operate with the SEC in its case against Tourre.

Goldman Sachs declined $0.49 or 0.34 percent and closed Monday’s regular trading at $145.68. After hours, Goldman Sachs declined further $1.68 or 1.15 percent and traded at $144.00
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19
Jun
10

Stocks end higher for second week

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Stocks end higher for second week

Saturday, June 19, 2010

U.S. stocks ended the week more than two per cent higher amid optimism over the global economic recovery, but as Wall Street braced for a volatile week with a heavy dose of U.S. economic data.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 2.3 percent over the week to end Friday at 10,450.64 as traders digested a week of mixed economic data. Some stability in debt-stricken Europe buoyed confidence.

The tech-rich Nasdaq index climbed three per cent to 2,309.80 and the broad-market SP 500 index gained 2.4 percent at 1,117.51.

Trade was notably slower than the roller coaster session of previous weeks, analysts said.

‘Whether the slower action is the result of market participants taking a breather following the volatile activity over the last two months or the beginning of a summer lull remains to be seen,’ said analysts at Briefing.com.

One notable exception was New York-listed shares in British oil giant BP, which were hit hard following the company’s massive oil spill in the gulf and as its credit rating was slashed by top rating agencies.

BP’s shares fell 6.5 percent for the week, after trading close to 52-week lows in the middle of the week.

The focus of next week’s trade is sure to be a meeting of the Federal Reserve’s policy-making body on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Fed board is expected to vote to keep interest rates unchanged at virtually zero per cent as the economy continues to be dogged by unemployment concerns.

While no interest rate changes were expected, ‘the status of the extra measures the Fed has taken to address liquidity and the cost of capital will continue to be monitored,’ analysts at Charles Schwab Co said.

And other data will be scrutinised.

In the coming week, the market will grapple with existing home sales for May that are expected to show a jump as well as new home sales for the same month that many believe would slump.

The government will provide a final revision of the 2010 first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth, which is expected to remain unchanged at 3.0 percent.

‘All of those data releases have the potential to move the markets,’ analysts at Briefing.com cautioned clients in a note.

Traders are expected to remain cautious even though stocks climbed nearly all of last week.

The stock market is expected to ‘continue to drift going into second quarter earnings season (July), moving up and down in tandem with the movement of the euro and headline news coming out of Europe and the Gulf of Mexico,’ said Frederic Dickson, chief market strategist with DA Davidson Co.
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12
Jun
10

BP Woes Spill into Markets

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BP Woes Spill into Markets

Saturday, June 12, 2010

BP shares rallied on Friday on bargain-hunting after recent sharp losses.

The gains came as British Prime Minister David Cameron threw his support behind a ‘financially strong’ BP in talks with its chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, while voicing frustration over the oil spill, his office said.

At the close of trade, the company’s share price soared 7.22 percent to 391.9 pence on London’s FTSE 100 shares index, which was 0.61 percent higher.

Despite the gains, the British oil giant’s share price has plunged by as much as 49 per cent, wiping tens of billions of dollars off its market value since the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22.

The accident, following a explosion that killed 11 people two days earlier, sparked an enormous oil spill from a leaking well head on the sea bed.

The disaster has seen huge amounts of oil wash up on the U.S. Gulf coastline, threatening precious wildlife and local communities, and provoking the wrath of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has demanded BP scrap its shareholder dividend.

‘We are considering all options on the dividend. But no decision has been made,’ BP chief executive Tony Hayward said on Friday.

The group is preparing to defer the payment of its next dividend, according to the BBC and The Times newspaper.

The Times, which cited people familiar with the situation, reported that the money would be held in an escrow account, held by a third party, until its liabilities from the disaster become clear.

The BBC said it understood BP was planning to suspend the dividend, with BP directors due to meet on Monday to discuss the payments.

The meeting ‘will be about when to suspend the payments, how long to suspend the payments, and what to do with the billions of dollars that would be saved and not paid to shareholders,’ BBC business editor Robert Peston said.

A BP spokesman declined to comment on the stories, but stressed that the company was considering all its options.

The company’s share price was meanwhile boosted after U.S. bank Goldman Sachs issued an upbeat outlook for embattled BP.

‘BP shares now have as much upside potential as the rest of the European integrated oil sector,’ Goldman said in a research note.

The stock had plunged on Thursday, striking a low of 330 pence, as investors fretted about the financial impact of the oil spill and the possible loss of the group’s shareholder dividend.

CMC Markets analyst James Hughes described Friday’s gains as an ‘inevitable bounce after the moves of the last few days’ but warned that the share price has further to fall.

Cameron will discuss BP’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill with Obama over the weekend amid fears of an anti-British backlash in the United States.

BP chairman Svanberg has been summoned to meet Obama at the White House next week, as several US media reported the Swede was being lined up as a ‘fall guy’ for the disaster.

Cameron, who is visiting Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, had a ‘constructive’ telephone conversation with Svanberg, a Downing Street spokesman said.

‘The prime minister explained that he was frustrated and concerned about the environmental damage caused by the leak but made clear his view that BP is an economically important company in the UK, US and other countries,’ he said.

Cameron said: ‘It is in everyone’s interests that BP continues to be a financially strong and stable company.’

Svanberg met with finance minister George Osborne and other senior officials in Downing Street on Friday.

After the talks, the Swede told ITN television: ‘I think we have done everything we can to try to fill the well, and we have said we would do everything expected from us in cleaning up the beach, taking care of all the claims and learn from this incident and make deepsea drilling an even safer place.’
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12
Jun
10

Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

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Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

Saturday, June 12, 2010

US securities regulators are hunting for fresh dirt on Goldman Sachs Group, hoping to bolster their lawsuit against the bank and perhaps force it to settle on terms more to the regulators’ liking.

Two months ago the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Wall Street’s most powerful bank with civil fraud in connection with a subprime mortgage-linked security.

The case hinges on whether Goldman misled investors when it marketed Abacus 2007, a mortgage-linked security that turned toxic during the mortgage crisis.

Now, the SEC is also looking at other collateralized debt obligations that turned toxic, including Hudson Mezzanine Funding, a source familiar with the investigation said on Thursday.

“You put a number of things together and then it becomes harder to defend against all of them,” said Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham University School of Law professor and a former federal prosecutor

“So you finally cry uncle and say, ‘Fine, I’ll settle.'”

The expanding investigation of Goldman’s CDOs comes as federal prosecutors probe some of the complex mortgage-linked transactions that Wall Street firms cobbled together and which helped spark the worst financial crisis in decades.

Even the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is getting into the act.

Reuters has learned the securities industry’s self-regulatory agency recently began its own investigation into whether Wall Street banks violated customary sales practices in hawking CDOs to institutional investors.

A document reviewed by Reuters reveals FINRA is looking into potential improprieties in the structuring of the deals and the relationship between the CDO underwriters and mortgage lenders.

Former Goldman customers also are putting pressure on the bank and its chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein.

Reuters previously reported that SEC lawyers had looked at the $1 billion Timberwolf deal before filing the Abacus lawsuit in April.

The SEC’s interest in the $2 billion Hudson CDO was first reported by the Financial Times.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin, during a hearing in April of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, raised Abacus, Timberwolf and Hudson while questioning a cast of past and present Goldman employees, including Blankfein.

In a Senate floor speech in May introducing legislation to curb conflicts of interest in Wall Street deals, Levin zeroed in on Hudson Mezzanine 2006-1.

“When Goldman first sold the securities to its clients, more than 70 percent of Hudson Mezzanine had AAA ratings,” he said. “But … within 18 months Hudson was downgraded to junk status, and Goldman cashed in at the expense of its clients.”

The Hudson deal closed in November 2006 and went into liquidation in May 2008.

The myriad investigations, coupled with the Timberwolf litigation, could create a tipping point at which Blankfein and other Goldman executives decide they have no choice but to reach some sort of comprehensive settlement, according to legal experts.

“Will there be more stuff? At this point, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me,” said White.

At the least, the SEC could be looking to bolster its Abacus case, which some saw as weak. SEC commissioners voted to bring the lawsuit in a split decision.

Fordham’s McAvoy said the SEC’s strategy could be to strengthen the initial case by adding new material from other deals.

“A lot of folks don’t think the initial case is as strong as the SEC made it out to be,” McAvoy said.

Goldman shares are down more than 25 percent since the SEC filed its lawsuit on April 16. The shares were off 2.4 percent to $133.49 in Thursday morning trading.
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12
Jun
10

U.S. stocks recover from heavy losses

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U.S. stocks recover from heavy losses

Saturday, June 12, 2010

U.S. stocks have clawed back from losses to close with modest gains as reports on consumers’ outlook and retail spending sent mixed signals about the health of the economic recovery.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.62 points (0.38 percent) to 10,211.15 in closing trades.

The Nasdaq index climbed 24.89 points (1.12 percent) to 2,243.60 and the broad-market SP 500 index advanced 4.76 points (0.44 percent) to a provisional 1,091.60.

Stocks initially opened lower after a disappointing May retail sales report but clawed back losses after a private survey showed a stronger-than-expected rise in consumer sentiment in June helping to allay recovery concerns.
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10
Jun
10

Actor Kevin Costner presents “a partial solution” to Gulf oil spill

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Actor Kevin Costner presents “a partial solution” to Gulf oil spill

Thursday, June 10, 2010

••• Hollywood star Kevin Costner has urged Congress to consider a technology he invested more than $20 million in that could be used to separate oil from water in the disastrous Gulf of Mexico spill.

‘I know there must be question why I am here, I want to assure every one in the room that it’s not because I heard a voice in the cornfield,’ Costner joked, referring to his role in the film The Field of Dreams, in which he played a farmer who heard voices telling him to build a ballpark in his corn field.

Costner, star of the post-apocalyptic classic Waterworld, said he was deeply affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and that convinced him to use personal resources to develop technologies to help people and the environment.

‘Today that technology (CINC) is the most effective and efficient tool for cleaning up oil spills that you have probably never heard of,’ he explained.
‘I envisioned the machine as a safety device, compact and portable enough that it could be deployed on a small craft and rugged enough to operate reliably in rough seas.’

Costner said oil giant BP, struggling with the worst ever U.S. oil spill, was interested in the technology.

‘Our machine is the right machine for the moment,’ said Costner. After successful tests, ‘BP is now moving to place initial orders (of) these machines and they acknowledged they do the job.’
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09
Jun
10

Senate hearing disrupted as woman pours liquid on self

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Senate hearing disrupted as woman pours liquid on self

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

••• A Senate hearing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was disrupted on Wednesday as a protester poured an oily-looking liquid on herself before being arrested.

‘This is what it feels like to have oil dumped on you,’ the woman, identified as Diane Wilson, said in comments addressed to Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Wilson issued a statement issued later saying she is a fourth generation shrimper from the Gulf and that her protest was directed against Murkowski for supporting the oil industry and opposing measures such as lifting the liability cap on oil firms in offshore spills.

Wilson opened a jar and poured a dark, oily-looking substance on her head at the hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, before being taken away by Capitol police. Committee staff said later the jar contained syrup.

‘With this BP disaster, I am seeing the destruction of my community and I am outraged,’ Wilson said in her statement.

‘I am also seeing elected representatives like Senator Lisa Murkowski blocking BP from being legally responsible to pay for this catastrophe.’

At the hearing, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico will continue ‘in a safe way’ in the wake of the massive Deepwater Horizon accident.

Salazar told the committee that a range of new regulations implemented following the accident at the BP-operated well would protect against new spills.

‘Offshore drilling will continue… it has to be done in a safe way,’ he told the panel.

Salazar, who heads the agency that oversees oil leasing and management of federal lands, highlighted tougher safety rules imposed this week for offshore drilling and the reorganisation of the Minerals Management Service, the division which has been criticised for being too cozy with the oil industry.

But he said the rules would not halt all offshore drilling despite the six-month moratorium on new deepwater wells ordered by President Barack Obama last month.

‘The importance of the jobs is very much on the mind of the president and on my mind as well,’ Salazar said.

He told Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana that the administration would ask BP to pay salaries of oil sector workers whose jobs have been suspended by the drilling ban.

According to committee figures, the Gulf of Mexico has some 3,600 wells or drilling operations and 700 of them are at depths of around 1 mile like the Deepwater Horizon.

Salazar confirmed that BP was capturing around 15,000 barrels a day from a new device placed on the wellhead, but was unable to estimate how much was still leaking.

‘It is important for us to have the right number. We’ll get that right number,’ he said.

‘Our goal is get zero pollution from this well. Nothing is being spared to bring this problem under control.’
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06
Jun
10

Oil Spill Spread Around 200-Mile Radius

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Oil Spill Spread Around 200-Mile Radius

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Earth

••• The oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico has spread around a 200-mile radius from a fractured well, but has broken into thousands of small spills, a top U.S. official says.

‘This spill is just aggregated over a 200-mile radius around the wellbore, where it’s leaking right now, and it’s not a monolithic spill,’ Admiral Thad Allen, in charge of the U.S. operation against the leak, said on Sunday.
‘It is literally hundreds of thousands of smaller spills,’ he told ABC News television This Week program, adding that the ribbons of oil floating in the Gulf complicate the offshore fight to stop the leak from hitting the coastline.

‘It’s an insidious war, because it’s attacking, you know, four states one at a time, and it comes from different directions depending on the weather,’ Allen said.
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• Source(s): ABC (‘This Week’ anchor Jake Tapper) & U.S. Coast Guard
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05
Jun
10

Sky buys Virgin Media TV channels for $231 million

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Sky buys Virgin Media TV channels for $231 million

Saturday, June 5, 2010

British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) has bought Virgin Media Television, the current owner of seven TV channels including Living and Bravo.

Sky, the owner of Sky News, is paying $231 million (£160 million) in cash under the deal, which also sees it acquire the channels Challenge, Challenge Jackpot and Virgin1, the latter of which will be rebranded.

The purchase expands Sky’s portfolio of basic pay TV channels and means it does not have to pay carriage fees to offer the Virgin Media Television (VMtv) channels to its customers.

Meanwhile, Virgin Media will be given the option of carrying any of Sky’s basic HD channels, Sky Sports HD 1 and Sky Sports HD 2, and all Sky Movies HD channels for an incremental wholesale fee.

It will also make Sky’s basic and premium channels available to subscribers through its on-demand TV service.

VMtv said its seven channels – which span pay and free-to-air television – reach more than 24 million adult viewers every month.
Living is the third most popular pay TV channel in the U.K., and is the self-styled home of ‘guilty pleasures and trashy glamour’.

It offers a variety of popular programmes including Four Weddings and America’s Next Top Model in its schedules.

Virgin Media said the sale of VMtv would allow it to focus on providing subscribers with ‘super-fast’ cable TV and broadband provision.

Meanwhile BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch described the acquisition as ‘an attractive investment opportunity’ that offered strategic and financial benefits.

‘We are pleased that, through commercial negotiation, we have been able to ensure wide distribution of our channels to a growing pay TV universe,’ he said.

Virgin launched Virgin1 in October 2007 although channels such as Living and Bravo came from the former ntl/Telewest business.

This in turn merged with Virgin Mobile in 2007 and was then rebranded as Virgin Media.
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• Source(s): British Sky Broadcasting / News Corporation
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05
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Speaking from Louisiana on the Oil Spill

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Weekly Address: Speaking from Louisiana on the Oil Spill
President Obama Outlines Administration Response Efforts to the BP Oil Spill from Grand Isle, LA

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama underscored his commitment to helping the people of the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild from the BP oil spill that has threatened their livelihoods. On Friday, the President heard from local residents and small business owners about the hardships that they are facing as a result of this catastrophe. The Administration has mobilized the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country to clean up the BP oil spill. Additionally, the federal government is working to ensure that BP and other companies are held accountable for damages and that aggressive new standards are put into place to avoid a disaster in the future.

I’m speaking to you from Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana, one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle’s Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.

Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed, along the north side of Grand Isle, has likely been destroyed by the spill. Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he’s earned his living during shrimping season – working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year round. But today, the waters where he’s spent his years are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he’ll be able to return to the life he built. “You can put a price on a lost season,” he’s said. “But not a lost heritage.”

The effects of the spill reach beyond the shoreline. I also spoke with Patti Rigaud. For 30 years, she’s owned a small convenience store – a store opened by her father. She depends on the sales generated by tourism each summer. But this year, most of the boats that would line these docks are nowhere to be seen. Dudley Gaspard, who owns the Sand Dollar Marina and Hotel, has been hit hard as well. Normally, this time of year, rooms are filling up and tackle is flying off the shelves. But he too has been devastated by the decline in tourism and the suspension of fishing in the waters off the Louisiana Coast.

Their stories are familiar to many in Grand Isle and throughout the Gulf region. Often families have been here for generations, earning a living, and making a life, that’s tied to the water – that’s tied to the magnificent coasts and natural bounty of this place. Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It’s upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. They’ve been through tough times before. It’s about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.

These folks work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe – one that’s not their fault and that’s beyond their control – their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong. And what I told these men and women – and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster – is that I’m going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole.

That’s why from the beginning, we’ve mobilized on every front to contain and clean up this spill. I’ve authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guard troops to aid in the response. More than 20,000 people are currently working around the clock to protect waters and coastlines. We’ve convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. More than 1,900 vessels are in the Gulf assisting in the clean up. More than 4.3 million feet of boom have been deployed with another 2.9 million feet of boom available – enough to stretch over 1,300 miles. And 17 staging areas are in place across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to rapidly defend sensitive shorelines. In short, this is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.

We’ve also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they pay every single dime owed to the people along the Gulf Coast. The Small Business Administration has stepped in to help businesses by approving loans and allowing deferrals of existing loan payments. And this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we’re putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I’ve appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate –laws will be changed. If oversight was lacking – it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken – those responsible will be brought to justice.

Now, over the last few days BP has placed a cap over the well, and it appears they’re making progress in trying to pump oil to the surface to keep it from leaking into the water. But as has been the case since the beginning of this crisis, we are prepared for the worst, even as we hope that BP’s efforts bring better news than we’ve received before. We also know that regardless of the outcome of this attempt, there will still to be some spillage until the relief wells are completed. And there will continue to be a massive cleanup ahead of us.

So we will continue to leverage every resource at our disposal to protect coastlines, to clean up the oil, to hold BP and other companies accountable for damages, to begin to restore the bounty and beauty of this region – and to aid the hardworking people of the Gulf as they rebuild their businesses and communities. And I want to urge all Americans to do what you can as well – including visiting this area. The vast majority of beaches are pristine and open for business.

These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. But what we have also seen these past few weeks is that – even in the face of adversity – the men and women of the Gulf have displayed incredible determination. They have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe the people of this region is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience of all the people I’ve met along the Gulf Coast. That is our mission. And it’s one we will fulfill.

Thank you.

• Source(s): The White House
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04
Jun
10

BP caps one of leaks from rig

NEWS
BP caps one of leaks from rig

Friday, June 4, 2010

Earth

••• In the first breakthrough in its labourious bid to curb the worst U.S. spill in history, BP says a cap placed on a ruptured pipe is working and should capture most of the oil.

The news came on Friday as U.S. President Barack Obama was heading back to the stricken Gulf of Mexico region for his third visit since an explosion tore through the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig more than six weeks ago.

Remote-controlled submarines grappled the cap into place over a sawn-off riser pipe nearly 1.6km below the surface late on Thursday, in the latest of several attempts to contain the oil belching into the Gulf.

Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the U.S. government response to the spill, said the upside-down funnel-like container was already collecting about 1,000 barrels a day of oil.

But he cautioned this was a rough estimate.

‘Production is slowly moving up. It’s around 1,000 barrels a day right now,’ said Allen.

A live video feed showed clouds of oil still gushing from the pipe, making it hard to determine how much progress was being made.

Government scientists have estimated that 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day are pouring from the pipe.

‘I’m pretty confident this is going to work,’ said BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles, speaking on ABC.

‘It probably won’t capture all of the flow. But it should capture the vast majority.’

The containment device has four vent valves on the top to prevent the formation of hydrates, which doomed an earlier attempt at containing the flow.

Workers are ‘slowly closing the vents and increasing the flow of oil,’ Allen said.

BP on Thursday sliced off the fractured well pipe with a pair of giant shears after a diamond-blade saw got stuck. But they left a jagged edge, meaning the cap will be a looser fit than had been hoped.

Obama meanwhile is set to return to the Gulf Coast, amid mounting anger at the disaster with at least 20 million gallons of crude spewing into the sea since the drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.

The scale of the disaster forced Obama to postpone a trip to Australia and Indonesia for the second time in a clear sign that the catastrophe is forcing changes in the president’s crowded political agenda.

Shocking images of pelicans and seabirds writhing in oil along the Louisiana coast broadcast on U.S. television networks and splashed on the front pages of newspapers underscored the rising environmental costs.

Some 60 birds were on Thursday found to have been coated with oil when the leak hit the Queen Bess Island Rookery.

Of the affected birds, 41 were pelicans, Louisiana’s state bird, US officials said.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward warned in a call with investors that the cost of the spill would be ‘severe,’ but would not estimate the final price tag.

Obama has been increasingly criticised for appearing disengaged from the public outrage and showing no emotion at BP’s repeated failure to stem the leak.

‘I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people, but that is not what I was hired to do – my job is to solve this problem,’ Obama told CNN on Thursday, adding he was ‘furious at this entire situation’.

But he acknowledged the response from BP had not been as much as he would have liked.

‘What I haven’t seen as much as I’d like is the kind of rapid response’ on BP’s part, he said.

Spreading in oily ribbons, the slick is now threatening Alabama, Mississippi and Florida after contaminating more than 125 miles of Louisiana coastline.
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03
Jun
10

Stocks show small gains

NEWS
Stocks show small gains

Thursday, June 3, 2010

U.S. stocks eked out minor gains on Thursday as investors mulled mixed signals on the U.S. economic recovery ahead of a highly awaited May jobs report.

After opening with modest gains, the major indices slid lower but clawed their way back to close in positive territory.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose a scant 4.99 points (0.05 percent) to 10,254.07 at the market close, extending Wednesday’s sharp rally.

The tech-rich Nasdaq index outperformed, up 21.96 points (0.96 percent) at 2,303.03, while the broad-market SP 500 index advanced 4.37 points (0.40 percent) to a provisional 1,102.75.

‘Investors appear cautious ahead of tomorrow’s key jobs report,’ said Scott Marcouiller at Wells Fargo Advisors.

Most analysts expected the Labor Department on Friday would report 500,000 nonfarm jobs were created last month, up from 290,000 in April, and the unemployment rate slipped a notch to 9.8 percent from 9.9 percent.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
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03
Jun
10

BP maneuvers cap toward pipe’s jagged top

NEWS
BP maneuvers cap toward pipe’s jagged top

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Earth

••• BP has successfully cut an underwater well pipe using hydraulic shears and will now work to place a containment cap over the leak, the senior U.S. official overseeing the response says.

‘For the first time in a couple of days I have some good news for you – we just cut the riser pipe off the lower marine package,’ Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told reporters on Thursday, calling the operation ‘a significant step forward’.

So far, BP has met failure at every turn in its attempts to stem the flow of oil from the spewing well 1600 metres down in the Gulf.

About 20 million gallons of crude have gushed into the sea since April, after an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon rig, killing 11 workers and sending the platform sinking to the sea floor.

Shears were used to cut off the pipe at the top of the blow-out preventer stack after an attempt to saw off the riser with a precision diamond saw failed on Wednesday when the saw got stuck in the pipe.

‘We don’t have as clean a cut but we do have a cut now… The challenge now is to seat that containment cap over it,’ Allen said.
Once the containment cap is set and sealed, oil will be sucked up a riser pipe from the unit to a drillship on the surface.

Because the cut is irregular, a ‘very, very solid seal’ will be placed around the containment cap to reduce the amount of oil that could leak out of the device once it is set up, Allen said.

‘This is an irregular cut, so it will be a little more challenging to get the seal all around,’ said Allen.

The flow of oil from the pipe was expected to increase between the time the pipe was cut and the cap is placed over the leaking well head, but Allen had no immediate information on whether the flow had increased.

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02
Jun
10

More trouble on the horizon for BP as oil moves towards Florida

NEWS
More trouble on the horizon for BP as oil moves towards Florida

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Earth

••• BP’s latest effort to stem the oil spewing from a ruptured well 1 mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico hit a setback when a saw snagged while cutting a riser pipe, officials said Wednesday.

The diamond wire saw being used to cleanly cut off a ruptured riser pipe at the top of a failed blow-out preventer ‘has become stuck’, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told reporters.

‘Anybody that’s ever used a saw knows every once in a while it will bind up. That’s kind of what’s happening here,’ Allen said.

The operation to cut off the leaking riser pipe and then cap it with a replacement unit for the top half of a large valve, known as the blow-out preventer (BOP) stack, is being carried out remotely using underwater robots.
A first cut was successfully made in the leaking pipe overnight, and Allen said he expected the saw would be extracted, or that a new saw would be sent down to the wrecked well head later on Wednesday.

Once the riser pipe has been cut off, a ‘cap’ will be lowered over the top of the well head to contain the oil, which will be siphoned up to a drill ship on the surface through a riser extending from the top of the containment unit.

Every attempt so far to plug the leak has failed, and BP has stressed this latest attempt will not stop the flow of oil but only stem it until two relief wells have been drilled. The drill wells are expected to be finished in August.

At least 40 million gallons of oil are estimated to have gushed into the Gulf since the April 20 explosion that sent the Deepwater Horizon rig sinking to the seabed 56 miles off the Louisiana coast.
The U.S. Coast Guard revealed yesterday that oil from the BP spill had touched barrier islands in both Mississippi and Alabama for the first time.

“Now the threat is shifting to Mississippi and Alabama,” Admiral Thad Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed. Meanwhile, officials said a thin sheen of oil had been spotted just nine miles off the beaches of Pensacola, one of the most popular resort towns in the Florida Panhandle.

The movement of the slick towards tourist areas will further fuel anger in the region at BP. It has now embarked on the placement of a “top-hat” dome over the broken well opening. Engineers hope that if it can be placed neatly, about 80 percent of the leaking oil can be funnelled to tankers above.
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01
Jun
10

Obama Pledges Criminal Inquiry Into Gulf Oil Spill

NEWS
Obama Pledges Criminal Inquiry Into Gulf Oil Spill

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Promising ‘justice’ for victims of the Gulf Coast disaster, the president moves forward with an investigative panel. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.’s visit to the region raises the possibility of criminal charges.

U.S. President Barack Obama has held his first meeting with the leaders of an independent commission investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and he says the panel will examine the disaster and its causes thoroughly to ensure that the United States never faces such a catastrophe again.

Obama spoke in the Rose Garden after the meeting and pledged that necessary changes will be made.

The president says that if laws are insufficient, they will be changed. He says that if government oversight was not tough enough, that will change, too. And Obama said if laws were broken, those who were responsible will be brought to justice.

Obama says the leaders of the commission have his support to follow the facts wherever they lead.

Good morning, everybody. I just met with these gentlemen, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida and former EPA Administrator, Bill Reilly. They will lead the National Commission on the BP oil spill in the Gulf, which is now the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history. Their job, along with the other members of the commission, will be to thoroughly examine the spill and its causes, so that we never face such a catastrophe again.At the same time, we’re continuing our efforts on all fronts to contain the damage from this disaster and extend to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. We’ve already mounted the largest cleanup effort in the nation’s history, and continue to monitor – minute to minute – the efforts to halt or capture the flow of oil from the wrecked BP well. Until the well is stopped, we’ll multiply our efforts to meet the growing threat and to address the widespread and unbelievably painful losses experienced by the people along the Gulf Coast. What’s being threatened – what’s being lost – isn’t just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure.

vThere are now more than 20,000 men and women in the region working around the clock to contain and clean up the oil. We’ve authorized more than 17,000 National Guard members to respond across four states. More than 1,700 vessels are currently aiding in the response. And we’ll ensure that any and all responsible means of containing this leak are pursued as we await the completion of the two relief wells. I’ve also directed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Admiral Thad Allen, who is the National Incident Commander, to triple the manpower in those places where oil has hit shore or is within 24 hours of impact.

The economic response continues as well. We’ve ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they deliver. The Small Business Administration has stepped in to help businesses by approving loans and allowing deferrals of existing loan payments. We’ve stationed doctors and scientists across the region to look out for people’s health and monitor any ill effects felt by cleanup workers and residents. And we will absolutely continue to hold BP and any other responsible parties accountable for financial losses borne by the people in the region.

But our responsibility doesn’t end there. We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again. If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change. If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region.

When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took office, for example, he found a Minerals and Management Services agency that had been plagued by corruption for years – corruption that was underscored by a recent Inspector General’s report that uncovered appalling activity that took place before last year. Secretary Salazar immediately took steps to clean up that corruption. But this oil spill has made clear that more reforms are needed. For years, there’s been a far too cozy relationship between oil companies and the agencies that regulate them. That’s why we’ve decided to separate the people who permit offshore leases, who collect revenues, and who regulate the safety of drilling.

In addition, we’ve placed a six-month moratorium on drilling new deepwater oil and gas wells in the Outer Continental Shelf. And now that a 30-day safety and environmental review is complete, we’re making a series of changes. The review recommended aggressive new operating standards and requirements for offshore energy companies, which we will put in place. And I’ve also called on Congress to pass a bill to provide critical resources to respond to this spill and better prepare us for any spills in the future.

Now, all that has to do with dealing with the crisis at hand. But it’s critical that we take a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how our government oversees those operations. That’s why I signed an executive order establishing this national commission. And I’m extraordinarily pleased that Bob Graham and Bill Reilly have agreed to be its co-chairs.

Bob served two terms as Florida’s governor, represented Florida in the Senate for almost two decades. And during that time he earned a reputation as a champion of the environment, leading the most extensive environmental protection effort in the state’s history. Bill is chairman emeritus of the board of the World Wildlife Fund, and is also deeply knowledgeable of the oil and gas industry. He also was EPA Administrator during the first Bush administration, serving during the Exxon Valdez disaster.

So I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or judgment to this task. I personally want to thank both of them for taking on this arduous assignment – for demonstrating a great sense of duty to this country.

Very soon I’ll appoint five other distinguished Americans, including leaders in science and engineering, to join them. And they’ll work alongside other ongoing reviews, including an independent examination by the National Academy of Engineers. And I’ve authorized the commission to hold public hearings and to request information from government, from non-for-profit organizations, and from experts in the oil and gas industry both at home and abroad, as well as from relevant companies – including BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and others.

I just said in our meeting: In doing this work, they have my full support to follow the facts wherever they may lead – without fear or favor. And I’m directing them to report back in six months with options for how we can prevent and mitigate the impact of any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

As a result of this disaster, lives have been lost. Businesses have been decimated. Communities that had already known great hardship now face the specter of sudden and painful economic dislocations. Untold damage is being done to the environment – damage that could last for decades. We owe all those who’ve been harmed, as well as future generations, a full and vigorous accounting of the events that led to what has now become the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Only then can we be assured that deepwater drilling can take place safely. Only then can we accept further development of these resources as we transition to a clean energy economy. Only then can we be confident that we’ve done what’s necessary to prevent history from repeating itself.

Thank you very much, everybody.

• Source(s): The White House
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