Posts Tagged ‘President

13
Aug
10

Alabama Sues BP, Transocean, Halliburton over Gulf Oil Spill

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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

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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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12
Aug
10

Fed Effort to Aid Recovery Fails to Calm Investors

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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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10
Aug
10

Brazil seeks origin of oil slick lapping at beach

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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

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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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07
Aug
10

Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform

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Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform
President Obama Highlights Benefits to Seniors Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In his weekly address this week, President Obama highlighted a Medicare Trustees report noting the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing, which will help to preserve Medicare for generations to come. Additionally, America’s seniors are already seeing more benefits as a result of health reform, including a rebate to cover the cost of their prescriptions if they fall into the Medicare Part D drug coverage gap. In the coming years, as we continue to ramp up reform, we expect seniors to save in premiums and out of pocket costs. And the President will continue to make Medicare stronger to ensure our seniors have access to affordable and quality healthcare.

Forty-five years ago, we made a solemn compact as a nation that senior citizens would not go without the health care they need. This is the promise we made when Medicare was born. And it’s the responsibility of each generation to keep that promise.

That’s why a report issued this week by the Trustees who oversee Medicare was such good news. According to this report, the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing. Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare – the single longest extension in history – while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come.

We’ve made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse – not by changing seniors’ guaranteed benefits. In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time.

Seniors who fall into the “doughnut hole” – the gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage – are eligible right now for a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescriptions. Now, I know for people facing drug costs far higher than that, they need more help. That’s why we negotiated a better deal with the pharmaceutical companies for seniors. So starting next year, if you fall in the doughnut hole, you’ll get a 50-percent discount on the brand-name medicine you need. And in the coming years, this law will close the doughnut hole completely once and for all.

Already, we have put insurance companies on notice that we have the authority to review and reject unreasonable rate increases for Medicare Advantage plans. And we’ve made it clear to the insurers that we won’t hesitate to use this authority to protect seniors.

Beginning next year, preventive care – including annual physicals, wellness exams, and tests like mammograms – will be free for seniors as well. That will make it easier for folks to stay healthy. But it will also mean that doctors can catch things earlier, so treatment may be less invasive and less expensive.

And as reform ramps up in the coming years, we expect seniors to save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 each year in out of pocket costs, too.

This is possible in part through reforms that target waste and abuse and redirect those resources to where they’re supposed to go: our seniors. We’re already on track to cut improper payments in half – including money that goes to criminals who steal taxpayer dollars by setting up insurance scams and other frauds. And we won’t stop there. Because by preventing the loss of these tax dollars, we can both address the runaway costs of Medicare and improve the quality of care seniors receive – and we can crack down on those who prey on seniors and take advantage of people.

So we are no longer accepting business as usual. We’re making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time. And as a result, Medicare is stronger and more secure. That’s important. Because Medicare isn’t just a program. It’s a commitment to America’s seniors – that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford. As long as I am President, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep.
Thank you.

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• Source(s): The White House
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07
Aug
10

A New Supreme Court Justice

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A New Supreme Court Justice
Honoring Elena Kagan

Saturday, August 07, 2010

“This is a good day,” said the President this afternoon. And it was, especially for Elena Kagan, who was being congratulated on her on confirmation as the next Supreme Court Justice. He thanked the other Justices in attendance for coming, and thanked the Senate – in particular Judiciary Chairman Leahy – for their work in the process.

The President noted the bipartisanship in the final vote and recounted the broad support her nomination received across the ideological spectrum:

These folks may not agree on much, but they’ve all been impressed, as I have, by Elena’s formidable intellect and path-breaking career – as an acclaimed scholar and presidential advisor, as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School, and most recently as Solicitor General. They admire how, while she could easily have settled into a comfortable practice in corporate law, she chose instead to devote her life to public service. They appreciate her even-handedness and open-mindedness, and her excellent – and often irreverent – sense of humor.

These are traits that she happens to share with the last Solicitor General who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice – one for whom Elena clerked, and whom she considers one of her heroes – Justice Thurgood Marshall. And we are very proud to have Justice Marshall’s widow here today joining us. (Applause.)

In a tribute she wrote after Justice Marshall’s death, Elena recalled how she and her fellow clerks took turns standing guard when his casket lay in state at the Supreme Court – and how 20,000 people stood in a line that stretched around the block to pay their respects. They were people from every background and every walk of life: black, white, rich and poor, young and old. Many brought their children, hoping to impress upon them the lessons of Justice Marshall’s extraordinary life. Some left notes, some left flowers. One mourner left a worn slip opinion of Brown v. Board of Education.

It is, to this day, a moving reminder that the work of our highest Court shapes not just the character of our democracy, but the most fundamental aspects of our daily lives – how we work, how we worship, whether we can speak freely and live fully, whether those words put to paper more than two centuries ago will truly mean something for each of us in our time.

For her part, Kagan echoed the gratitude for those who worked so hard in the process, and gave a special note of thanks to her family:

Finally, I want to thank my family and friends. I have a lot of family here today – my brothers and sister-in-law, a nephew, a niece, aunts, uncles, cousins – and I have a great many friends here as well. You came from all over the country as soon as you heard the Senate had approved my nomination. And I’m moved and deeply grateful for your support.

And all around me in this room, I feel the presence of my parents. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for their love and sacrifice and devotion. And although my parents didn’t live to see this day, what I can almost hear them saying – and I think I can hear Justice Marshall saying this to me right now as well – is that this appointment is not just an honor. Much more importantly, it is an obligation – an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.

Tomorrow, I will take two oaths to uphold this solemn obligation: one, to support and defend the Constitution; and the other, to administer justice without respect to persons, to the rich and poor alike.

Today, Mr. President, I will simply say to you and to everyone here and across the nation that I will work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and to serve this country I love as well as I am able.

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• Source(s): The White House
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05
Aug
10

BP begins to seal runaway well in Gulf of Mexico

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BP begins to seal runaway well in Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, August 5, 2010

BP has begun sealing its runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico with cement, one of the final steps to plug the gusher at the center of the worst U.S. environmental disaster on record.

Some 15 weeks after the well ruptured and 21 days after the flow was stemmed with a temporary cap, the massive slick which once stretched for hundreds of miles is rapidly disappearing from the Gulf.

But officials cautioned that a great deal of clean-up work remained and that the long-term impact of the disaster could be felt for years, even decades.

In a long-awaited breakthrough, BP brought the well under control on Wednesday after pumping heavy drilling fluid into the busted Macondo well for eight hours, forcing the oil back down into the reservoir miles beneath the seabed.

The British energy giant then began pumping cement at 09.15 CDT on Thursday after the procedure was approved by U.S. officials.

‘The aim of the procedure is to assist with the strategy to kill and isolate the well,’ BP said in a statement. ‘This procedure will complement the ongoing relief well operation.’

In giving the green light, spill response chief Thad Allen emphasised that the cementing should ‘in no way delay the completion of the relief well,’ expected to be finished in mid-August to seal the well permanently.
‘So, the long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end. And we are very pleased with that,’ U.S. President Barack Obama said. ‘Our recovery efforts, though, will continue. We have to reverse the damage that’s been done.’

It took 106 days to shut the well down in the wake of a devastating explosion on April 20 that killed 11 workers and sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig, unleashing a torrent of oil into the Gulf.

At 4.9 million barrels – or enough oil to fill 311 Olympic-sized swimming pools – the disaster is the biggest maritime spill on record.

It threatened the fish and wildlife-rich U.S. Gulf coast with environmental ruin and plunged residents of coastal communities into months of anguish over their livelihoods and the region’s future.

A government report released on Wednesday found that a third of the oil was captured or mitigated through burning, skimming, chemical dispersion and direct recovery from the wellhead.

Heat from the sun helped some of the chemicals in the crude evaporate. Waves and currents broke the slick up into smaller patches. Then the microbes which feed on natural oil seeping in the Gulf got to work, it said.

‘At least 50 percent of the oil that was released is now completely gone from the system,’ said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

‘And most of the remainder is degrading rapidly, or is being removed from the beaches.’
But Lubchenco was quick to stress that scientists will not be able to determine for a long time the full extent of the damage.

‘The oil that was released and has already impacted wildlife at the surface, young juvenile stages and eggs beneath the surface, will likely have very considerable impacts for years and possibly decades to come,’ she told reporters at the White House briefing.

The problem, she explained, is that oil is still toxic even when it has been broken down into very small droplets.

About 24 percent of the Gulf’s federal waters remain closed to fishing, and even when fishermen are able to fill their nets they fear consumers might not believe the seafood is safe to eat.

With tourists likely to avoid Gulf beaches for years and oil industry jobs under threat from Obama’s moratorium on new deep sea drilling permits, the future remains bleak for many coastal communities.

BP, meanwhile, is hoping to rebuild its shattered reputation but must also meet the claims of thousands of individuals and businesses whose livelihoods have been washed away, while a mammoth civil trial looms.

BP senior vice president Kent Wells expressed relief that 20 days after the flow of oil in the sea was stemmed with a temporary cap ‘it’s very difficult for us to find any oil anywhere on the surface.’

He refused, however, to declare victory until the well is permanently sealed.
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04
Aug
10

President Obama at AFL-CIO on the Economy: “Made In America”

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President Obama at AFL-CIO on the Economy: “Made In America”
Making the Right Choice for the Economy

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Speaking at the AFL-CIO Executive Council Meeting here in DC, the President thanked “all my brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO” who have worked so hard to help get America’s economy back on track. He spoke of the progress that’s been made, with millions of people at work now because of the Recovery Act, and the length left to go until the millions still out of work find their jobs.
As for his plans going forward, he summed it up in “three powerful words”:

Together, we’re jumpstarting a new American clean energy industry – an industry with the potential to generate perhaps millions of jobs building wind turbines and solar panels, and manufacturing the batteries for the cars of the future, building nuclear plants, developing clean coal technology. There are other countries that are fighting for those jobs, in China and India and in Germany and other parts of Europe. But the United States doesn’t play for second place. As long as I’m President, I’m going to keep fighting night and day to make sure that we win those jobs, that those are jobs that are created right here in the United States of America and that your members are put to work. (Applause.)

So the message I want to deliver to our competitors – and to those in Washington who’ve tried to block our progress at every step of the way – is that we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before, and at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words: Made in America. Made in America. (Applause.)

That’s why we’re finally enforcing our trade laws – in some cases for the very first time. That’s why we’re fighting for tax breaks for companies that invest here in the United States as opposed to companies that are investing overseas or that keep their profits offshore. Because it is my belief – and I know it’s the belief of this room – that there are no better workers than U.S. workers. There are no better workers than your members. (Applause.) And they are absolutely committed to making sure that America is on the rise again. And we are going to keep moving forward with them – not moving backwards but moving forward with them.

As we rebuild our economy, we’re going to rebuild America as well. Over the last 20 months, bulldozers and backhoes have been whirring in communities across the country, as construction crews from local companies repair roads and bridges, railways and ports. That was part of our plan, and it’s put hundreds of thousands of folks to work. But there’s a lot more to do to rebuild our infrastructure for the 21st century, and a lot more Americans who are ready and willing to do that work. So that, too, is an area where we’ve got to keep moving forward.


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04
Aug
10

BP says “static kill” operation at ruptured U.S. oil well

NEWS
BP says “static kill” operation at ruptured U.S. oil well
Obama says long battle in Gulf close to end
New Report: 74% of Oil in BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has been Contained or Mitigated

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

About three-quarters of the oil spilled from the ruptured BP well in the Gulf of Mexico has disappeared, a top U.S. official said Wednesday.

‘The scientists are telling us about 25 percent was not captured or evaporated or taken care of by mother nature,’ said Carol Browner, a top energy adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, on the ABC network’s Good Morning America program.

‘This is an initial assessment by our scientists in the government and outside the government. We think it’s important to make this available to the public. That’s what we’ll be doing today.’

Browner said the report to be released later on Wednesday was ‘encouraging’ but that more clean-up will be needed.

‘Mother nature will continue to break it down,’ she said.

‘But some of it may come onshore, as weathered tar balls. And those will be cleaned up. They can be cleaned up. And we will make sure they are cleaned up.’

An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 87 days after an explosion on a BP-leased offshore rig on April 20.

The leak was capped on July 15, and on Wednesday BP said it succeeded in controlling the pressure in the ruptured well through a procedure called a ‘static kill.’

The New York Times said the report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, indicated that fears that a huge underwater glob of oil would surface at some point to tar Gulf beaches looked increasingly unlikely.

‘There’s absolutely no evidence that there’s any significant concentration of oil that’s out there that we haven’t accounted for,’ Jane Lubchenco, head of the agency, was quoted as saying.

Today, a panel of government scientists released a report which said that the vast majority of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed much of which is in the process of being degraded. A significant amount of this is the direct result of the federal government’s aggressive response to the spill.

The chart below outlines the breakdown of what has happened to the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico since the oil spill began in April:

These interagency findings were generated using a scientific tool called the Oil Budget Calculator, which employs a combination of direct measurements and the best scientific estimates available. The calculator is based on 4.9 million barrels of oil released into the Gulf, the government’s latest estimates of the flow rate from Monday. More than 25 of the best government and independent scientists contributed to or reviewed the calculator and its calculation methods. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as academic scientists are continuing to work to refine these calculations.

While we welcome the news contained in this report, we continue to be extremely concerned about what this oil spill means for the health of the Gulf ecosystem and the millions of people who depend on the Gulf for their livelihoods and enjoyment. To that end, our response effort will continue until the well is killed, the oil is cleaned up and until all of the people are made whole again.

For more information about the ongoing Administration-wide response to BP Oil Spill, visit RestoreTheGulf.gov.
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04
Aug
10

MasterCard 2Q profit jumps 31 percent, tops view

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MasterCard 2Q profit jumps 31 percent, tops view

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

••• Anaemic consumer spending in the U.S. was offset by strong international growth to help boost MasterCard Inc’s second-quarter profit by 31 percent.

The gain topped Wall Street profit expectations, but fell short of the 38 percent leap in operating income posted by the company’s larger rival, Visa Inc., last week.

MasterCard shares slipped $1.76, to $200.70 in midday trading as the broader market sputtered.

MasterCard’s gains showed the Purchase, NY-based payment processor’s reliance on overseas use of its cards and networks. Worldwide purchasing volume rose eight per cent, while U.S. purchasing volume eked out a gain of less than 1 percent.

Worldwide, credit card use rose 10 percent, while debit card use leaped 29 percent.

Chief Financial Officer Martina Hund-Mejean said in an interview that card use was particularly strong in Latin America and Asia Pacific, which both saw double-digit growth rates.

‘Even in Europe,’ she said, alluding to the economic turmoil on the Continent in recent months. ‘We do not see any significant impact on our numbers in terms of the Europeans not spending.’

U.S. credit card use edged down 1.5 percent, continuing a two-year decline, but showing the smallest drop since the third quarter of 2008.

Debit card use edged up less than 1 percent. That reflects more frequent use of debit cards, but was held down by MasterCard’s loss of several debit card deals with banks, most notably the former Washington Mutual, which was bought by JPMorgan Chase in 2008. Hund-Mejean said US debit growth was closer to 20 percent if the banks winding down their MasterCard programs are stripped out.

U.S. spending, particularly with credit cards, picked up in April but was less robust later in the quarter, Hund-Mejean said. ‘People still feel a little careful and cautious, and I think that’s what we saw in May and June,’ she said.

Analysts noted the growth compared with a weak quarter last year. Thomas McCrohan from Janney Capital Marketssaid it is hard to read into the results to say whether they indicate any real improvement in the economy. But there was ‘nothing alarming’ in the results.

‘There’s nothing that would support a double dip’ of the recession, McCrohan said.

The number of transactions MasterCard handled was basically flat at 5.6 billion. Cross-border volume jumped 15.2 percent.

Net income rose to $458 million, or $3.49 per share, compared with $349 million, or $2.67 per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $1.37 billion from $1.28 billion in the 2009 second quarter. MasterCard said the revenue increase reflected the higher cross-border volumes, higher gross dollar volume of the transactions it processed and the impact of price increases of 4 percent.

Wall Street expected earnings of $3.33 per share on revenue of $1.38 billion.

Total operating expences dropped 10 percent to $648 million. The decrease was led by a drop in severance and compensation costs as a result of layoffs in 2009.

President and CEO Ajay Banga said it is too early to tell what results MasterCard will feel from the limits on debit card fees included in the financial overhaul bill signed by President Barack Obama last month.

‘I know that everybody is eager to fully understand the impact on our business, but the truth is we just have to wait for the (Federal Reserve) to develop the regulations, and for our customers to react, before we will know the full implications both for the industry and for our company,’ he said during a conference call.

Banga noted there are a number of options for implementing the new rules, and quipped that MasterCard benefits in this case from having a smaller market share of U.S. debit than Visa.

Regardless of the new regulations, Banga said he doesn’t see the shift from cash and checks to electronic payments slowing down. He spoke enthusiastically about a number of pilot projects and overseas ventures MasterCard has to expand its network beyond card payments. Deals the company struck on mobile payments in Latin America, money transfer services in China and contactless payments in the U.S. position MasterCard for continued growth as the payments market evolves, he said.

David Parker, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets, said it will be a few years before ‘electronic wallets’ are a reality, and there are some challenges in terms of customer and merchant adoption, but it is clear the market is moving in that direction.

MasterCard’s investments in this area could help it overcome its disadvantage in debit cards.

‘I think there is an opportunity there with mobile commerce,’ he said.
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03
Aug
10

BP gears up to plug ‘world’s biggest’ oil spill

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BP gears up to plug ‘world’s biggest’ oil spill
A deadly addiction: figures confirm BP spill is biggest in history

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The U.S. government says BP’s ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico gushed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil, making it the largest accidental spill ever.

‘Overall, the scientific teams estimate that approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil have been released from the well,’ the joint response command that includes BP and the U.S. government said in a statement describing the new estimate.

‘Not all of this oil and gas flowed into the ocean; containment activities conducted by BP under US direction captured approximately 800,000 barrels of oil prior to the capping of the well,’ they said.

The 4.9 million barrels is at the upper end of an earlier official estimate, which said that between 3 million and 5.3 million barrels had spewed from the well between April 20, when the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, and July 15, when a cap placed over the wellhead was finally sealed.

The refined estimates ‘are the most accurate to date and have an uncertainty of plus or minus 10 per cent’, according to the statement.

The 4.1 million uncontained barrels estimated to have spewed into the water make the spill the biggest accidental oil disaster in the history of the petroleum industry, and second only to the intentional release of crude by Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War.

The previous largest accidental spill was a 1979 disaster – also in the Gulf of Mexico – in which 3.3 million barrels gushed from the Ixtoc-1 well after an explosion on a rig operated by Mexican state oil company Pemex.
The BP spill revision was based on ‘new pressure readings, data and analysis’ of oil reservoir modeling studied by teams comprised of federal and independent U.S. scientists, including a Department of Energy team of scientists led by President Barack Obama’s energy secretary, Steven Chu, the statement said.

‘The revised estimates are part of this administration’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that we have the most accurate information possible,’ Chu said.

When the well first ruptured, ‘62,000 barrels of oil per day were leaking from the well’, beyond the 35,000 to 60,000 barrels most recently estimated by U.S. authorities, but the flow rate decreased to 53,000 barrels per day just before the well was capped, the statement said.

‘As a result of depletion of the hydrocarbon reservoir, the daily flow rate decreased over the 87 days prior to the well’s closure,’ according to the statement.

The new figures are based in part on analysis of high-resolution videos taken by remotely operated underwater vehicles, acoustic technologies, measurements of oil collected by vessels on the surface, and readings of pressure measurements inside the containment cap.

‘Government scientists will continue to analyse data and may in time be able to further refine this estimate,’ the statement said.
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02
Aug
10

BP begins ‘static kill’ operation in bid to finally seal Gulf of Mexico oil well

NEWS
BP begins ‘static kill’ operation in bid to finally seal Gulf of Mexico oil well
The key lesson of the BP oil spill? Don’t panic spiked’s prediction that this was not ‘the worst environmental disaster’ in U.S. history has been proven right.

Monday, August 02, 2010

BP will know within hours on Tuesday whether its attempt to plug the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico has worked.

Company engineers are preparing to pump heavy drilling mud and cement into the well in a procedure known as “static kill”.

Retired coast guard admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. official overseeing the federal spill response, said that the operation would begin either Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

A week later, mud and cement will be pumped in from below, via a relief well that has been dug deep into the earth, to seal the leak permanently.

Oil has stopped gushing from the well for the past two weeks after a temporary cap was placed on top of it. BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on 20 April, causing what is thought to be the U.S.’s worst environmental disaster in history.
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02
Aug
10

Doug Suttles happy to eat Gulf seafood

NEWS
Doug Suttles happy to eat Gulf seafood
BP executive ‘absolutely’ would eat Gulf seafood

Monday, August 02, 2010

Earth

One of BP’s top executives said that not only would he eat Gulf seafood, but he would feed it to his family too. While many fear that the unprecedented amount of chemical dispersants, such as Corexit, in the water has turned it into a toxic soup, more water has been opened.
Fears run high, but many in the seafood industry give a different point of view. While acknowledging the amount of toxic chemicals (over 1 million gallons of Corexit) is unprecedented and unlike anything ever seen before; the rigorous testing by the EPA, NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife fisheries have caused some to conclude that seafood is safer than it has ever been.
Water tests, air quality samples and soil tests have been conducted regularly and the data is used to determine which federal and state waters would be closed or opened. With the high amount of testing, some feel the seafood is the safest it’s been.
Others disagree. They want to know exactly what is being tested. What byproducts result from Corexit and oil and are they being tested in the seafood?
Though NOAA has opened more federal waters and people are returning to beaches, there are many who will not eat Gulf Coast seafood, regardless of what Doug Suttles chooses to feed his family.
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02
Aug
10

Final efforts to permanently seal BP oil well in Gulf of Mexico begin soon

NEWS
Final efforts to permanently seal BP oil well in Gulf of Mexico begin soon
Static kill could start Monday, Allen says

Monday, August 02, 2010

After months of uncertainty and frustration, crews are ramping up efforts to permanently seal the ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well as early as Monday night.

The operation is one of two bids to definitively ‘kill’ the damaged well, which has spewed noxious crude into the sea since April, devastating fragile habitats and bringing financial ruin to many residents along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

BP officials in recent days said they hoped the ‘static kill’ operation would take place on Tuesday, but on Sunday the U.S. point man for the spill response, Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, said it ‘could start as early as Monday night, depending on final testing of the mud injection systems’.

If successful, the ‘static kill’ will allow crews to plug the well from above with cement, but the procedure is untested and similar to a previous ‘kill’ attempt that failed at the end of May.

Still, 104 days into the spill, Americans are desperate for a sign that the leak will soon be permanently capped, allowing the full focus of BP and government officials in the region to shift to clean-up operations and repairing the economic damage caused by the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

Somewhere between three million to 5.3 million barrels leaked into the Gulf between April 20 and July 15, when a cap placed over the wellhead was sealed, fully containing the flow of oil for the first time.

Locals are eager to see the well plugged for good, but there are fears that a successful kill operation will prompt a mass exodus of officials brought into the region to respond to the crisis.

Crews have already begun collecting some of the millions of feet of protective boom after skimming vessels said they were having difficulty finding spilled crude on the sea surface anymore.

But the president of Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana told CNN it was too early to scale back those operations.

‘The oil is out there,’ Billy Nungesser insisted, saying that he had ordered his parish sheriff to stop 12 trucks carrying boom from leaving the area.

BP, which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and sparking the spill, has sought to reassure residents it will remain engaged and work to restore the area.

‘We’ve had some good news on the oil … but that doesn’t mean we’re done. We’ll be here for years,’ said Bob Dudley, an American chosen to replace the gaffe-prone Briton Tony Hayward as BP’s chief executive, as the energy giant tries to salvage what is left of its reputation.

Many fishermen whose grounds were closed in the wake of the spill due to food safety concerns have found work assisting the clean-up effort, but face an uncertain future.

They could soon lose their jobs again as there is less oil to mop up and there are no guarantees they will be able to return to fish soon in Gulf waters that could be contaminated for months or even years to come.

Documents released by Congress on Saturday detailing the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf added to concerns about the long-term effects for the region.

‘BP carpet-bombed the ocean with these chemicals, and the Coast Guard allowed them to do it,’ said Democratic Representative Edward Markey, chairman of the House energy and environment subcommittee.
BP and the U.S. response team have said more than 1.8 million gallons of dispersants have been used to break up the oil, but Markey said studies show the amount could be far higher.

‘The validity of those numbers are now in question,’ he said.

Admiral Allen addressed the concerns on Sunday, insisting to reporters that he was ‘satisfied that dispersants were only used when needed’, and that it was the U.S. government on-scene coordinator’s decision to use dispersants and not BP’s.

Meanwhile on Sunday engineers were carrying out final tests to ensure the integrity of the wellhead, BP said.

Once the static kill is underway, engineers will pump heavy drilling fluid called ‘mud’ into the cap in a bid to push the oil back down into the well reservoir.

If that works, crews will then seal the well from the top with cement.

Then, as early as next weekend, BP plans to begin a ‘bottom kill’ by intercepting the damaged well deep below the seabed with a nearly completed relief well.

Engineers plan to first drill into the pipe to check the ‘static kill’ has worked before cementing in the outer well bore and blocking the oil reservoir once and for all.
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01
Aug
10

U.S. Owners Of BP Stations Seek Rebranding

NEWS
U.S. Owners Of BP Stations Seek Rebranding

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Earth BP is reportedly facing pressure to rename its U.S. petrol stations under their old Amoco brand as the backlash in America shows no sign of easing.

The distributors who control most of BP’s U.S. forecourts are pushing the group to revert back to the traditional American Amoco branding for fear of further sales pain following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

BP shed the Amoco brand shortly after merging with the U.S. oil group in 1998, but the 475 distributors believe its revival across petrol stations could help bring customers back.

They are reportedly seeing sales fall by up to 40 percent in the worst hit sites as Americans shun the BP brand.

The firm’s petrol stations in the U.S. are also said to be suffering growing instances of vandalism and protests.

John Kleine, executive director of the BP Amoco Marketers Association, which represents U.S. distributors, told The Sunday Telegraph in Britain: ‘They (the distributors) are interested in where the brand is going and want it to be returned to its premier place.’
He added: ‘Those fires have been fueled in the last week by a former Amoco executive (Bob Dudley) being named to assume the role of chief executive.’

A separate report also suggested BP may be forced to wind down its operations in the Gulf of Mexico after American lawmakers passed a bill that could halve its production there.

The Gulf accounts for 10 percent of BP’s global production, but the legal move proposed freezing the firm out of new drilling leases for seven years.

BP last week confirmed Mr. Dudley would take over from under-fire boss Tony Hayward in October as it revealed a $32.2 billion blow from the spill.

The group is understood to be preparing to ‘static kill’ the leaking well this week.

The well erupted when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

BP was not immediately available for comment.
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31
Jul
10

Engineers prepare to seal ruptured oil well

NEWS
Engineers prepare to seal ruptured oil well

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Earth

••• Engineers are preparing a plan to permanently seal a damaged Gulf of Mexico well, despite delays to the process caused by debris left behind by a recent tropical storm.

As the work continues, incoming BP boss Bob Dudley has vowed his company will not abandon residents affected by the spill after the well is finally sealed.

BP hopes to drown the well in an operation dubbed a ‘static kill’ in which mud and cement will be injected down into the ruptured wellhead via a cap installed on July 15.

Dudley said on Friday the operation had been pushed back a day, saying ‘we are hopeful by Tuesday the static kill will have been performed’.

The U.S. pointman on the crisis, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, said on Friday the delay was needed to allow engineers to clear debris from the damaged wellhead caused by Tropical Storm Bonnie, which briefly halted spill operations.

But BP senior vice president Kent Wells said the company was confident the static kill would proceed successfully.

A cap in place for two weeks has shown no sign of leaks, ‘giving us more confidence that this well has integrity’, which is a positive sign for the operation, Wells said at a technical briefing on Friday.

Wells said BP hopes the static kill will be able to overcome the flow of oil, but that a second sealing method – via an intercept through a relief well – will go ahead afterwards regardless.

BP said the relief well is likely to intersect the existing well deep below the ocean floor within eight to 10 days, allowing the second sealing process – a bottom kill – by the end of August.

Making his first trip to the region since being named to replace outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward, Dudley said on Friday the firm’s focus will shift to long-term recovery for the region now the spill is being contained.

‘We’ve had some good news on the oil… but that doesn’t mean we’re done,’ Dudley told reporters in Mississippi, one of the five states hit by the massive oil spill.

‘We’ll be here for years,’ he said, as BP announced a $100 million charitable fund to aid unemployed rig workers who are experiencing economic hardship due to the US government’s ongoing moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Dudley will take over as BP’s chief executive on October 1, when Hayward, who was widely criticised for his handling of the crisis, hands over the reins.

With the focus now moving towards mitigating the long-term impact of the worst-ever US oil spill, Dudley said there will be signs that the operation is changing.
Miles of protective boom will be withdrawn from coastlines, and fewer clean-up crews in hazmat suits will be seen on beaches as oil stops washing ashore.

‘So you’ll probably see that kind of a pullback. But commitment, absolutely no pullback,’ he pledged.

It remains unknown just how much oil has spilled into the Gulf since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April, killing 11 workers. Best estimates put the amount at between three and 5.3 million barrels.

Allen said a team of experts is carrying out an ‘oil budget’ to calculate how much was released, how much was captured and how much has evaporated, adding he hopes the report will be released in the coming days.

‘It’s something we ultimately need to know,’ Allen said.

In another encouraging sign, the NOAA said southern Florida and the U.S. eastern seaboard is not likely to experience any effects from the remaining surface oil, as had been feared, as the ‘oil continues to degrade and is hundreds of miles away from the loop current’.

With the leak capped, ‘the light sheen remaining on the Gulf’s surface will continue to biodegrade and disperse but will not travel far’, said Jane Lubchenco, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief.
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31
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business

NEWS
Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business
President Obama Hails Successes of the Restructuring of the Auto Industry, Calls on GOP Leaders to Stop Blocking Aid for Small Businesses

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama praised the successes of the auto industry restructuring. When his administration decided to invest in the American car companies, some said such a move was bound to fail. But since GM and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest growth in 10 years – and for the first time since 2004, all three companies are operating at a profit. The President also called on Republican leaders in the Senate to stop blocking a vote on a bill helping small businesses. Even though this bill will help the recovery, and has been endorsed by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, the Republican Senate leadership continues to hold it hostage to politics by denying an up-or-down vote on the bill.

Hello everyone. I’m speaking to you from the GM auto plant here in Detroit, Michigan, where a hopeful story is unfolding in a place that’s been one of the hardest hit in America.

In the twelve months before I took office, American auto companies lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sales plunged 40 percent. Liquidation was a very real possibility. Years of papering over tough problems and failing to adapt to changing times – combined with a vicious economic crisis – brought an industry that’s been the symbol of our manufacturing might for a century to the brink of collapse.

We didn’t have many good options. On one hand, we could have continued the practice of handing out billions of taxpayer dollars to the auto industry with no real strings attached. On the other hand, we could have walked away and allowed two major auto companies to go out of business – which could have wiped out one million American jobs.

I refused to let that happen. So we came up with a third way. We said to the auto companies – if you’re willing to make the hard decisions necessary to adapt and compete in the 21st century, we’ll make a one-time investment in your future.

Of course, if some folks had their way, none of this would be happening at all. This plant might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington who argued that standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.” They said we should just walk away and let these jobs go.

Today, the men and women in this plant are proving these cynics wrong. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, our auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest period of job growth in more than ten years. For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit. Sales have begun to rebound. And plants like this that wouldn’t have existed if all of us didn’t act are now operating maximum capacity.

What’s more, thanks to our investments, a lot of these auto companies are reinventing themselves to meet the demands of a new age. At this plant, they’re hard at work building the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow – cars like the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt that can run 40 miles before taking a sip of gasoline. Throughout Michigan, an advanced battery industry is taking root that will power clean electric cars – an industry that produced only 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries last year, but will now be able to produce as much as 40 percent in a little over five years. That’s real progress.

There’s no doubt that we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before folks here and across the country can feel whole again. But what’s important is that we’re finally beginning to see some of the tough decisions we made pay off. And if we had listened to the cynics and the naysayers – if we had simply done what the politics of the moment required – none of this progress would have happened.

Still, even as these icons of American industry are being reborn, we also need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s small businessmen and women, as well – particularly since they’re the ones who create most of the new jobs in this country.

As we work to rebuild our economy, I can’t imagine anything more common-sense than giving additional tax breaks and badly-needed lending assistance to America’s small business owners so they can grow and hire. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Small Business Jobs Act – a bill that has been praised as being good for small businesses by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. It’s a bill that includes provision after provision authored by both Democrats and Republicans. But yesterday, the Republican leaders in the Senate once again used parliamentary procedures to block it. Understand, a majority of Senators support the plan. It’s just that the Republican leaders in the Senate won’t even allow it to come up for a vote.

That isn’t right. And I’m calling on the Republican leaders in the Senate to stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics, and allow an up-or-down vote on this small business jobs bill.

At a time when America is just starting to move forward again, we can’t afford the do-nothing policies and partisan maneuvering that will only take us backward. I won’t stand here and pretend everything’s wonderful. I know that times are tough. But what I also know is that we’ve made it through tough times before. And we’ll make it through again. The men and women hard at work in this plant make me absolutely confident of that.

So to all the naysayers out there, I say this: Don’t ever bet against the American people. Because we don’t take the easy way out. That’s not how we deal with challenge. That’s not how we build this country into the greatest economic power the world has ever known. We did it by summoning the courage to persevere, and adapt, and push this country forward, inch by inch. That’s the spirit I see in this plant today, and as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I will keep fighting alongside you until we reach a better day.
Thanks.

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30
Jul
10

President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers

NEWS
President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers
President Obama hails auto bailout as good news in Michigan

Friday, July 30, 2010

Today the President was in Detroit visiting workers at a Chrysler plant and a GM plant that have not only survived, but found success after critics looking to score political points claimed there was no hope for them. For those critics the President offered a lesson: “Don’t bet against the American worker.”

During the two years since the economy took its hard downward turn, millions of Americans have had to fight with everything they had to stay afloat, to keep food on the table, to keep their businesses in business – and nowhere has that been more true than in Detroit.

The President has also been fighting alongside America’s workers – from the Recovery Act that’s saved or created about 3 million jobs, to the fight today over small business lending – and of course for the workers in Detroit and across America who contribute to the decades-old craft of American cars. When political opponents said that helping the American auto industry survive was a lost cause, and tried to turn public frustration against the President, he stepped in and made the hard choices anyway. There couldn’t necessarily be a life raft for everybody, but he was not going to let a million American jobs fall by the wayside simply because it opened him up for cheap political attacks.
And as the report released yesterday made clear, that investment is paying off: “In the year before GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry shed 334,000 jobs. In the year since, auto industry employment has increased by 55,000 jobs. This is the fastest year-over-year growth in auto employment since 1999.” Not only that, but with a boost from the Recovery Act’s investments in the clean energy economy, the industry has turned toward the future in ways many thought they never could. A quick look at the interactive map released yesterday gives a glimpse of how America can move back to the front of the pack in the coming generation of fuel efficient and electric vehicles.

In his visit to the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant, speaking to workers who have had to fight just to keep working, it was clear the President felt in a bit of a fighting mood himself:

The President: Investments like those mean jobs for American workers to do what they’ve always done: build great products and sell them around the world.

So the bottom line is this – we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re beginning to see some of these tough decisions pay off. We are moving forward.

I want you to remember, though, if some folks had their way, none of this would have been happening. I just want to point that out. Right? I mean this – this plant – this plant and your jobs might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington – they were saying – oh, standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One of them called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.”

Audience: Boo!

The President: They said – they said we should just walk way and let those jobs go.

Audience: Boo!

The President: I wish they were standing here today. (Applause.) I wish they could see what I’m seeing in this plant and talk to the workers who are here taking pride in building a world-class vehicle. I don’t think they’d be willing to look you in the eye and say that you were a bad investment. They might just come around if they were standing here and admit that by standing by a great American industry and the good people who work for it, that we did the right thing. It’s hard for them to say that. You know, they like admitting when I do the right thing. (Laughter.) But they might have had to admit it. And I want all of you to know, I will bet on the American worker any day of the week! (Applause.)

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30
Jul
10

Fishermen fear for livelihoods as Gulf focus shifts

NEWS
Fishermen fear for livelihoods as Gulf focus shifts

Friday, July 30, 2010

••• U.S. officials sought on Thursday to reassure fishermen they will not lose out in the next phase of the Gulf of Mexico oil clean-up, while legal wranglings began for the BP trial of the decade.

As final preparations were put in place for operations next week to permanently kill the well, U.S. spill chief Thad Allen convened a meeting of parish presidents in New Orleans to discuss how best to safeguard local jobs going forward.

With less oil floating in the Gulf, there are fears BP might scrap its ‘Vessels of Opportunity’ program which employs more than 1500 boats, providing desperate fishermen with vital skimming and boom-laying work.

‘If BP uses the capping of the well as an excuse to minimize its clean-up operations, then shame on them,’ said Captain Mike Frenette, whose five boats in Venice, Louisiana missed an entire summer’s fishing due to the disaster.

Frenette had to apply four times before getting two of his five boats onto the program, which pays between $600 and $3500 a day, depending on the size of the boat.
‘The paperwork kept getting lost,’ he said. ‘And all that our Vessels of Opportunity work is doing is counting against our compensation claim. We’re not making any money, here, we’re just trying to keep our heads above water.’

A large portion of the Gulf waters remain closed to commercial and recreational fishing and with lingering doubts about seafood safety, fishermen could effectively end up losing their jobs for a second time.

‘The fishermen have missed a year, and we don’t know what the impact is going to be next year, or the year after that,’ said Marty O’Connell, an environmental scientist at the University of New Orleans.

Clean-up crews are collecting samples of fish and shrimp at depths of between 30 and 360 feet to test them for contaminants, but it will take years to fully know the impact of the oil disaster on Gulf fisheries.

Allen pledged earlier this week to keep as many ‘Vessels of Opportunity’ as possible, hoping they could be redeployed to test for any underwater plumes.
A massive task also lies ahead in picking up some 3 797 miles of protective boom laid to protect Gulf shores from the once-giant slick that has now diminished to just a few patches of light sheen.

Ahead of the meeting with Allen, Saint Tammany parish president Kevin Davis, said he was against reducing any oil-fighting resources for the time being.

‘Although the well is capped, we cannot let down our guard until we are absolutely certain that no oil lingers under our waters,’ he said.

Meanwhile, BP lawyers were set to come face-to-face on Thursday with victims of the spill during a first court hearing into the case, which is likely to become the trial of the decade.

The hearings in Boise, Idaho, will examine whether complaints submitted by some 200 plaintiffs can be consolidated.

A decision is expected around two weeks after the hearing, but the session will give trial lawyers a test run for the arguments they will make during what could be years-long legal proceedings.
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