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U.S. Delays Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

By JOHN M. BRODER and DAN FROSCH
Published: November 10, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, under sharp pressure from officials in Nebraska and restive environmental activists, announced Thursday that it would review the route of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, effectively delaying any decision about its fate until after the 2012 election. The State Department said in a statement that it was ordering a review of alternate routes to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which would have been put at risk by a rupture of the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.

The move is the latest in a series of administration decisions pushing back thorny environmental matters beyond next November’s presidential election to try to avoid the heat from opposing interests — business lobbies or environmental and health advocates — and to find a political middle ground. President Obama delayed a review of the nation’s smog standard until 2013, pushed back offshore oil lease sales in the Arctic until at least 2015 and blocked new regulations for coal ash from power plants.

The proposed project by a Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, similarly put the president in a political vise, squeezed between the demand for a secure source of oil and the thousands of jobs the project will bring, and the loud agitation of environmental advocates who threatened to withhold electoral support next year if he approved it.

Mr. Obama said in an interview with an Omaha television station last week that he would make the ultimate decision about the pipeline, but sought to portray Thursday’s announcement as solely a State Department matter and not the result of political calculation.

“I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal,” the president said in a statement. “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”

He said he remained committed to a politically balanced diet of increased domestic oil and gas production combined with incentives for the development of carbon-free alternatives.

While environmental groups welcomed their temporary victory on the pipeline project, some expressed skepticism about the president’s motives. Glenn Hurowitz, an environmental activist and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, said the delay could leave the final decision in the hands of Mr. Obama’s Republican successor.

“This decision just puts off a green light for the tar sands by a year,” Mr. Hurowitz said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why I’m a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist’s vote a year’s delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no.”

Oil industry officials, some unions and the Canadian government said they were disappointed because the action delays what they call the economic benefits of the $7 billion project.

Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said of the president’s decision, “This is all about politics and keeping a radical constituency, opposed to any and all oil and gas development, in the president’s camp in 2012. Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers.”

Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, said, “While we are disappointed with the delay, we remain hopeful the project will be decided on its merits and eventually approved.”

TransCanada said that it would work with the State Department to find a new route, but warned that delay could kill the project, and with it tens of thousands of construction and related jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues.

“If Keystone XL dies,” said Russell K. Girling, the company’s chief executive, “Americans will still wake up the next morning and continue to import 10 million barrels of oil from repressive nations without the benefit of thousands of jobs and long-term energy security.”

The Sand Hills region has a high concentration of wetlands, a sensitive ecosystem and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater that could be endangered by an oil spill. The State Department, which is responsible for approving transboundary pipelines, said that it expected that the review could be completed early in 2013.

Public officials and citizens in Nebraska have been vocal about the proposed pipeline route, not only because of fears about the Sand Hills region but because it will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source of drinking water for the Great Plains. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican, has been pushing for the pipeline to be rerouted and recently called a special legislative session to focus on Keystone XL.

“I am pleased that Nebraskans have been heard,” Mr. Heineman said in a telephone interview. “We’ve tried to make it very clear that we support the pipeline but oppose the route over the Ogallala Aquifer,” Mr. Heineman said, adding he was not expecting the State Department’s decision. “I hope we can find a common-sense solution, change the route and begin construction of the pipeline.”

The pipeline’s opponents in Nebraska hailed the decision as a pivotal victory, at least for now.

“This is a game changer for our state,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, a citizens’ advocacy group that has been leading efforts to block the pipeline. “We’ve been fighting this every day and night for almost two years.”

Kerri-Ann Jones in the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said the agency’s decision to look for alternative routes was sparked by the significant outcry from Nebraska residents and officials.

“What we’re hearing from the public and from comments across the nation is the concerns about it going through this fragile landscape,” she said of the proposed pipeline. “We’ve heard this loud and clear.”

Ms. Jones said that the previous environmental review of Keystone XL had not considered routes around the Sand Hills region in Nebraska, but rather routes that circumvented the state completely. New alternative routes for Keystone XL would still pass through Nebraska, but would seek to avoid or minimize any effect on the Sand Hills, she said.

The State Department’s inspector general announced on Monday that he was looking into charges of a conflict of interest and improper political influence in the preparation of the project’s environmental impact statement. Some have faulted the department for assigning the study to a company with financial ties to TransCanada.

Opponents of the project have organized two large protests outside the White House, including one on Sunday in which several thousand protesters encircled the mansion demanding that the president kill the pipeline. Earlier this year more than a thousand protesters were arrested in large demonstrations across from the White House.

John M. Broder reported from Washington and Dan Frosch from Denver; Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa.

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Rena’s Oil is Removed–Now What About All Those Containers?

Salvage crews working tirelessly for the past six weeks on the grounded Rena cargo ship have successfully pumped the remaining oil from the ship (1,454-tons), averting further environmental devastation to the marine ecosystem.  Although it is a monumental moment in the salvage operation on the Astrolabe Reef, the teams now have to contend with the removal of countless containers still aboard the listing ship, as well as attempting to retrieve containers that have littered the sea.

New Zealand officials have hailed the work of the salvage teams after all but a trace of oil were removed from Rena since October 5.  While the oil spill was very substantial, officials had feared for the worst during the heavy seas that blasted against the cracking, listing ship.  The 47,000-ton Rena has miraculously managed to stay intact, and the salvors pumped tons of fuel off the ship since the initial spill which heavily polluted beaches and damaged local wildlife.  They pumped the heavy fuel oil from Rena’s tanks onto an adjoining tanker, moving all of the oil away from potential spillage.  It is a true triumph of determination from the salvage teams to remove the oil and prevent further damage amid the heavy weather conditions and high danger mission.

There is not much time to celebrate, though, as the salvage teams are planning their next mission: removing the cargo containers.  A crane barge is being brought into position to begin the complicated task of the precarious containers.  Maritime New Zealand projects that the risky operation will take several months, during which the Rena could still face a break up.  MNZ said that if they are able to remove 6 containers per day from the Rena, it will take 7 months to recover all cargo.

Head of the salvage unit, Arthur Jobard, told the Guardian that the teams are taking this time to make sure all equipment and systems are ready and working efficiently before commencing the operation, in addition to waiting on calm weather to make the crane operating less dangerous.  Jobard stated that once the testing has been successfully completed, the salvors will lower men down in a cage to ready the containers for removal.

Even though the mission is not close to over, New Zealand rejoices over the salvage work that has been achieved, and as their affected beaches are slighted to open later in the week due to successful shore cleanups. 

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Alaska Awards Crowley Environmental Contract

Crowley's Ocean Rangers Have Protected Alaska's Environment Since 2008.

The State of Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) has announced that it has awarded a contract to Crowley Maritime Corporation to continue administering the State of Alaska's Ocean Ranger Program, effective November 2011. The contract directs Crowley to recruit, hire, train and organize the logistics of placing Ocean Rangers on board cruise ships each season to act as independent observers and to assure compliance with federal and state environmental health, sanitation and safety requirements. Potential non-compliant observations are reported to ADEC for corrective action. Ocean Rangers are required as part of a law adopted by the citizens of Alaska in a 2006 ballot measure.

"We are very pleased to continue working with ADEC to help protect Alaska's pristine waterways," said Crowley's Todd Busch, senior vice president and general manager of technical services. "Managing the Ocean Rangers program for ADEC is very relevant for us as it is in alignment with Crowley's corporate values as they relate to environmental stewardship. We take pride in continuing this important work to protect the people and environment of Alaska."  Crowley and ADEC have worked together since 2008 to build the program into what it is today, and ADEC relies on Crowley to implement the program and develop the Ocean Ranger training, guidebook, manuals, reports and more. Today Crowley recruits, deploys and schedules the rangers, supplying them with all necessary communication tools and outfitting needs for on-board reporting, as well as providing travel, IT and payroll support.

Crowley is accepting resumes from qualified, licensed third assistant engineers or higher rating. Preference will be given to qualified Alaska residents and applicants must either be existing AMO members or make application for membership prior to assignment. To work as an Ocean Ranger, candidates will be required to attend and complete a mandatory certification program. In addition to passing both a knowledge based and practical proficiency exam, candidates must complete on-the-job training.

Since 1953, Crowley has provided various marine, petroleum distribution, and energy support services in Alaska - from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska and both coastal and inland communities including those along the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers - and today has offices and operations throughout the state with more than 650 employees. The company has consistently provided unique solutions to Alaska's logistics and marine transportation challenges and played an important role in Alaska's business development and in protecting its environment.

With a storage capacity of more than 39 million gallons, Crowley is strongly positioned as a leader in the Alaska fuel industry, providing transportation, distribution and sales of petroleum products to more than 280 communities across Alaska. Crowley supports the energy industry on the North Slope with summer sealifts of large production modules and various marine transportation services. At the southern terminus of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, Crowley provides tanker escort and docking services in Valdez Harbor and Prince William Sound for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company's Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, utilizing some of the most technologically advanced and powerful tugboats in the world. Crowley also provides tanker assist and escort services at Tesoro Alaska Company's Nikiski refinery in Cook Inlet. More about Crowley: www.crowleyalaska.com

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EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge

Release Date: 11/08/2011
Contact Information: Latisha Petteway (News Media Only), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 202-564-3191, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of its Apps for the Environment challenge, which encouraged new and innovative uses of EPA’s data to create apps that address environmental and public health issues. Developers from across the country created apps with information about everything from energy efficient light bulbs to local air quality. A few even developed games to help people learn environmental facts.

“Innovators from across the country have used information to help people protect our health and the environment,” said Malcolm Jackson, EPA’s Chief Information Officer. “The winners of the Apps for the Environment challenge demonstrate that it’s possible to transform data from EPA and elsewhere into applications that people can use.”

The five winners are:

·    Winner, Best Overall App: Light Bulb Finder by Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund of EcoHatchery, Milwaukee, Wis.
·    Runner Up, Best Overall App: Hootroot by Matthew Kling of Brighter Planet, Shelburne, Vt.
·    Winner, Best Student App: EarthFriend by Ali Hasan and Will Fry of Differential Apps and Fry Development Company, Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, N.C. and J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C..
·    Runner Up, Best Student App: Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping by Robert Sabie, Jr. of Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.
·    Popular Choice Award: CG Search by Suresh Ganesan of Cognizant Technology Solutions, South Plainfield, N.J.

Winners will demonstrate their submissions at the Apps for the Environment forum today in Arlington, Va. The forum will include panels on business, technology, and government initiatives, breakout sessions by EPA’s program offices, upcoming developer challenges and future directions about environmental applications.

All contestants will retain intellectual property rights over their submissions, though winners agree that their submissions will be available on the EPA website for free use and download by the public for a period of one year following the announcement of the winners.

More information about the winners and other submissions: http://appsfortheenvironment.challenge.gov/submissions

More information about EPA’s Apps for the Environment forum: http://www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.html

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