"October 13 News: “Horrible” New Zealand Oil Spill Closes Beaches"
Other stories below: U.S. to impose sanctions on BP, Gulf spill contractors; NASA Launches New Climate & Weather Satellite; Clean Energy Investment Rises 16%.
Several beaches on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island were closed to the public from Thursday and operations at the Port of Tauranga will be suspended overnight, after oil and containers from a damaged cargo vessel washed ashore, with concerns that things might get worse as salvage efforts remain fraught with danger.
“It is really horrible. I really didn’t think it would affect us. It’s awful,” said Cathy Lake, 40, a resident of Tauranga. “I just don’t know how it could have happened.”
The MV Rena cargo vessel struck the Astrolabe Reef Oct. 5 on its way to Tauranga, and oil leaks were detected soon after. Salvagers moved in the following day and began pumping oil to a bunker barge late Sunday, but bad weather hampered the operation.
A stress fracture to the hull of the 21-year old vessel, which triggered fears the boat may break in two, is making efforts to remove about 1,000 tons of oil and more than 1,000 containers off the boat difficult.
“The best-case scenario is we get everything off (the boat), but what’s the reality? It’s incredibly dangerous, it’s incredibly complex and we have to make sure it’s a safe environment for the people working,” said Maritime New Zealand’s manager of salvage operations, Bruce Anderson.
The House Natural Resources Committee will delve deeply into the 2010 BP oil spill at a hearing that includes federal investigators that probed the disaster and officials from the three main companies involved.
The hearing comes a day after the Interior Department formally notified the companies that they allegedly violated offshore drilling safety rules.
The committee will hear from the co-chairmen of the joint Interior Department-U.S. Coast Guard investigative team that spent roughly a year — with subpoenas and everything — probing the causes of the disaster that killed 11 people and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
But this week the committee added witnesses that will really make it interesting: Representatives from BP, Deepwater Horizon drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd., and Halliburton, which performed the cement work on BP’s Macondo well that blew out.
The U.S. offshore drilling regulator on Wednesday formally issued sanctions against BP and the major contractors involved in the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and spewed more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The newly formed Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement filed 15 “incidents of noncompliance” (INCs) to the companies. It did not release details of how much the companies may face in fines.
By law, the companies face fines of up to $35,000 a day, per incident for the violations.
In its final report on the accident issued last month the Interior Department outlined infractions committed by the companies.
BP, owner of the ruptured Macondo well, received the lion’s share of the sanctions, with seven notices for violations ranging from failure to protect health and property to failing to keep the well under control at all times.
NASA is soon launching a new satellite that will help computers predict future environmental conditions and produce more accurate weather forecasts and warnings.
The National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, slated for launch on Oct. 27, is the first mission designed to collect critical data to improve weather forecasts and increase understanding of climate change.
The data will be useful for emergency responders in anticipating, monitoring and reacting to many types of natural disasters.
Using data from instruments, including four new state-of-the-art sensors, scientists will be able to correlate the 30 key data records that have previously been collected by several Earth-observing satellites, such as ozone layer, land and sea ice coverage and atmospheric temperatures, to understand and predict changes in global climate.
China Gas Holdings Ltd , a natural gas distributor, expects its annual gas sales volume to almost double by 2015 and gas prices to increase, a company executive said.
Sales volume was expected to rise to 10 billion cubic metres in 2015 from 5.2 billion this year, Joint Managing Director Eric Leung told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
The growth would be driven by the completion of China’s new west-to-east natural gas pipeline, gas pipelines linking China with Kazakhstan and Myanmar, and several liquefied natural gas receiving terminals along China’s coast, he said.
Leung also said he expected China to increase natural gas prices around the end of the year, narrowing the price gap with gasoline and diesel.
“The price of natural gas for vehicle use is only half that of gasoline and diesel. Chinese prices for natural gas face upward pressure,” he said.
New investment in clean energy rose 16 percent in the third quarter to $45.4 billion, driven by a surge in wind and solar plant financings even amid Europe’s debt turmoil, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.
Asset finance of utility-scale renewable-energy projects jumped to a record $41.8 billion in the quarter, led by offshore wind deals, the London-based researcher said today in a statement.
Mergers and acquisitions surged 59 percent year-on-year, even as the European financial crisis unfolded and clean energy share prices slid, the data show.