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U.S. Lakers' November Cargo Up 12 PCT

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters (“lakers”) carried 10 million tons of dry-bulk cargo in November, an increase of 2.4 percent compared to October, and an increase of 11.9 percent compared to a year ago.
The November float was also 3.8 percent above the month’s 5-year average. Iron ore cargos for the steel industry increased 14 percent compared to a year ago.  Limestone cargos for construction, steel production, and environmental applications jumped more than 20 percent, but coal was essentially unchanged from a year ago. Through November U.S.-flag cargos stand at 85 million tons, an increase of 4.6 percent compared to the same point in 2010.  Iron ore has increased 11 percent and limestone cargos are now 3 percent ahead of last year’s pace, but coal is down by 5.9 percent. Compared to the 5-year average for the January-November timeframe, U.S.-flag cargos are down 1.4 percent.
Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 56 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes that carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation....  Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo per year when high water offsets lack of adequate dredging.  These cargos generate more than 103,000 jobs with an average wage of $47,000 in the United States.
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U.S. Delays Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

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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House Unanimously Approves Pipeline Safety & Jobs Measure

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Washington, DC – The House of Representatives today unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to enhance the nation’s pipeline safety programs, ensure the reliable transportation of energy products throughout the nation, and provide greater regulatory certainty that will help businesses create jobs.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2845) was introduced in the House by Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL), and the legislation approved today is the result of the bipartisan, bicameral work of the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction.  The legislation now goes before the U.S. Senate for consideration.

“I applaud the passage of this important legislation by the full House of Representatives.  The overwhelming support this bill received today on the floor is a reflection of the bipartisan work that went into its development.  This legislation builds on our strong commitment to ensuring the continued safety of our nation’s pipeline system, strengthens current laws, fills the gaps in existing laws where necessary, and provides the regulatory certainty necessary for industry to make investments and create American jobs,” said Shuster.  “We have worked closely with our counterparts in the Senate and look forward to their prompt consideration of this measure.”

“Safety and jobs are our highest priorities, and this bipartisan measure will both strengthen federal pipeline safety programs and provide a common sense regulatory approach that will encourage – not stifle – job creation,” Mica said.  “This measure is supported by safety advocates and industry, and I urge the Senate to take this bill up as soon as possible.”

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 authorizes funding for programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2015.  PHMSA oversees safety programs for the 2.3 million miles of natural gas, petroleum, and other hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States.

This system of pipelines – the largest in the world – serves as the arteries of the nation’s energy infrastructure, enabling the safe, efficient and economical movement of extraordinary quantities of energy products to industry and consumers, literally fueling the U.S. economy.  Since 1986, the volume of energy products transported through pipelines has increased by one-third, yet the number of reportable incidents has decreased by 28 percent.  Government and industry have taken steps to improve pipeline safety, and the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act ensures that we continue the nation’s commitment to making this safe form of transportation even safer.
Summary of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011
  • Reauthorizes federal pipeline safety programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through FY 2015
  • Provides regulatory certainty necessary for pipeline owners and operators to plan infrastructure investments and create jobs
  • Improves pipeline transportation – the safest and most cost-effective means to transport natural gas and hazardous liquid products – by strengthening enforcement of current laws and filling gaps in existing law where necessary
  • Ensures a balanced regulatory approach to improving safety that applies cost benefit principles
  • Addresses National Transportation Safety Board recommendations resulting from recent pipeline incidents
  • Protects and preserves Congressional authority by ensuring certain key rulemakings are not finalized until Congress has an opportunity to act
  • Supported by both pipeline industry and safety advocates

Click here to view legislative text.
SOURCE: Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

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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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