Power sector, refineries vigilant as Joaquin turns East

The electric and refining sectors are making preparations to minimize any potential outages from the possibility of ruinous flooding—fueled in part by the approach of Hurricane Joaquin—over the weekend. The hurricane is expected to miss the East Coast, but the Energy Information Administration says energy infrastructure may still be at risk. 

In a Friday analysis, EIA warned that high winds, flooding and heavy rains could take a toll on power transmission and refining capabilities as Joaquin's impact couples with a storm system already stalled over much of the eastern seaboard. The National Hurricane Center anticipates heavy rain and flooding along the East Coast even though Joaquin looks to be taking a track significantly offshore.

“Portions of 11 states along the East Coast have already experienced heavy rainfall and, in some cases, flooding prior to Hurricane Joaquin, all from an on-land storm system moving through the region,” EIA said. “Hurricane Joaquin could amplify these effects, even if the storm does not make landfall.”

Court upholds $236M verdict in Exxon Mobil pollution case

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire's highest court upheld a record $236 million judgment Friday against Exxon Mobil for its use of a gasoline additive that contaminated groundwater in the state.

A jury reached the verdict in April 2013 after finding the company liable in a long-running lawsuit over contamination by the chemical MTBE. Lasting nearly four months, the trial was the longest and resulted in the largest jury award in New Hampshire history.

Regulators: Safety, welding problems at offshore wind farm

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The nation's first offshore wind farm has experienced safety and welding problems, and regulators are closely monitoring construction, according to the regulatory agency that issued a permit for the work.

Deepwater Wind is building a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island and began construction in July. Inspection reports about the initial weeks of construction identified "numerous" health and safety issues.

Christie urges people to confront dune holdouts at shore

SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is urging residents to confront property owners who have helped block a plan to erect protective sand dunes in areas hit hard by Superstorm Sandy three years ago.

Christie spoke about the dune holdouts at a Friday news conference to discuss possible effects from Hurricane Joaquin.


US rig count declines by 29 to 809, oil rigs down to 614

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. this week declined by 29 to 809, according to oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc.

Houston-based Baker Hughes said Friday that 614 rigs were seeking oil and 195 explored for natural gas. A year ago, with oil prices about double the prices now, 1,922 rigs were active.


US hiring slowed in September, drillers cutting jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers cut back sharply on hiring in September and added fewer jobs in July and August than previously thought — a sour note for a labor market that had been steadily improving.

The economy added just 142,000 jobs last month, depressed by job cuts by manufacturers and oil drillers. The unemployment rate remained 5.1 percent, but only because many Americans have stopped looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed. The proportion of adults either with a job or looking for one is at a 38-year low.


Shell, Total get first foreign gas stations in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state TV is reporting that Royal Dutch Shell and France's Total will be the first foreign companies to be allowed to operate gasoline stations inside Iran.

The Press TV English-language channel quotes the head of Iran's filling stations union, Bijan Haj Mohammadreza, as saying 100 new licenses have been issued to each company.

Environmentalist Zac Goldsmith to run for mayor of London

LONDON (AP) — The contest for London mayor will pit a former Labour government minister against a wealthy Conservative environmentalist.

The Conservatives said Friday that party members had chosen Zac Goldsmith in an online primary to fight the May 5 election against Labour's Sadiq Khan.

Congress, greens step up pressure for Volkswagen probe

Congress and environmentalists are pressing for a strong response to Volkswagen's alleged use of technology to evade Clean Air Act emissions tests. A House subcommittee has called the company's U.S. chief to testify at a hearing, and the Center for Biological Diversity is seeking overhauled vehicle testing and tougher penalties for violations.

An Environmental Protection Agency investigation alleged that Volkswagen used “defeat devices” in its diesel-powered vehicles to evade emissions standards. The technology allegedly activated emissions controls during testing, but in driving scenarios, the vehicles would emit up to 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxide, EPA said.

Senate panel votes to lift 40-year-old US ban on oil exports

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Banking Committee endorsed a bill Thursday to lift the four-decade-old ban on crude oil exports, the latest sign of congressional support for legislation that President Barack Obama opposes.

The banking panel endorsed the bill, 13-9, on a largely party-line vote. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota sponsored the bill and was the only Democrat to support it.

US pipeline agency fines Exxon subsidiary $2.6 million

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Federal regulators announced Thursday they are assessing a $2.6 million civil penalty against ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. for a 2013 oil spill in Arkansas.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released its final report on the Pegasus pipeline leak that spilled roughly 3,190 barrels of oil near Mayflower and Lake Conway about 20 miles north of Little Rock in March 2013. The agency, which is under the U.S. Department of Transportation, said in its order that the company violated regulations involving the line's integrity, operation and maintenance.

Feds: Proposed pipeline rules could have prevented accidents

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — New federal rules proposed for pipelines that carry oil and other hazardous liquids could have prevented more than 200 accidents since 2010, including a Michigan rupture that ranks as the costliest onshore spill in U.S. history, federal officials said.

The U.S. Transportation Department proposal announced Thursday covers more than 200,000 miles of hazardous liquids pipelines that crisscross the nation — a network that expanded rapidly over the past decade as domestic oil production increased.

EPA missed its best chance to catch VW cheating

CHICAGO (AP) — More than a decade ago, the Environmental Protection Agency helped develop a technology that ultimately was used by an independent laboratory to catch Volkswagen's elaborate cheating on car emissions tests. But EPA used the technology primarily to test trucks rather than passenger cars because such heavy equipment was a much bigger polluter.

That decision meant that the regulator missed its best chance to foil the German carmaker's deception early on. The portable emissions measurement systems that EPA pioneered might have subjected VW diesel cars to on-road tests and discovered they were spewing up to 40 times the allowable levels of key pollutant nitrogen oxide under normal driving conditions.

California to conduct its own Volkswagen investigation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is dropping out of a multistate investigation to conduct its own probe into Volkswagen's admission that it rigged diesel emissions technology to pass U.S. smog tests.

An official with the state's Department of Justice said Thursday that California is no longer participating in the investigation by more than two dozen attorneys general.

Hawaii, EPA and Navy agree to plan to address tank leaks

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Hawaii state Department of Health on Thursday said they finalized a deal with the Navy to better prevent and detect leaks from 20 giant fuel storage tanks near Pearl Harbor.

The 70-year-old underground tanks are built into the side of a mountain atop a large aquifer critical to Honolulu's water supply. The tanks provide fuel to U.S. military ships and aircraft, serving as a strategically important "gas stop" between the U.S. West Coast and the western Pacific.

India ties carbon pledge to environmentalist Gandhi

NEW DELHI (AP) — India submitted its climate pledge to the United Nations Thursday, the last major economy to do so, citing an intended link to prominent historical environmental figure Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said India held its submission back so it could coordinate its filing with the Indian holiday celebrating Gandhi's birthday on Friday.

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