Associated Press
Policy   Oil

Analysis: Keystone vote signals start, not end, of partisan tussle

The plan by incoming majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell to approve the Keystone XL pipeline first in the Republican-led Senate in January sets up a likely veto fight with President Barack Obama.

Obama should be able to win that fight, if Senate Democrats who have voted against the project as recently as last month don't switch. Yet failure in its initial salvo would not mark the end of GOP attempts to approve the $8 billion project, according to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

In fact, January's gambit is shaping up to be just the first round of an ongoing battle.

US coal mines nearing record low in worker deaths

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Less than five years after an explosion fueled by excess coal dust killed 29 men deep inside a West Virginia underground mine, the nation's coal mines are on pace for an all-time low in work-related deaths.

Federal mine safety officials credit changes they've made since the Upper Big Branch disaster in April 2010. They point to their more aggressive use of team inspections at problem sites and other measures, which they say have fostered more responsible behavior below ground.

EPA coal ash standards a setback for environmental groups

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Six years ago, there was a massive spill of coal ash sludge in Tennessee. Three years later, tons of coal ash swept into Lake Michigan. Last February, there was another spill and gray sludge spewed into the Dan River in North Carolina.

With each disaster, environmentalists sounded alarms and called for the byproduct of burning coal to be treated as hazardous waste. On Friday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the first standards for the coal-burning waste, but they were hardly what environmental groups were hoping for.

The EPA ruled that the ash can be treated like regular garbage, meaning regulating the stuff will be left up to states and watchful citizens.

SKorea holds N-plant drills against cyber threats

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company said it began drills Monday against possible cyberattacks after online threats of attack against its plants.

State-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. said the two-day drills are meant to prepare workers in the event of hacking attacks aimed at disabling the plants' controlling systems.


Survey: US gasoline prices fall 25 cents per gallon

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average price of regular gasoline nationwide has dropped another 25 cents a gallon in the past two weeks, to $2.47.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that prices will likely keep falling.

Lundberg says the average price of regular gasoline is the lowest it's been in more than five years.


Saudi oil chief: No conspiracy behind oil prices

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia's oil chief on Sunday dismissed allegations that his kingdom conspired to bring down oil prices in order to harm other countries and told a summit of Arab energy leaders that he was confident the market would stabilize.

The kingdom, which is dependent on oil revenues, is able to weather lower oil prices due to large reserves built up over the years. Non-OPEC member Russia and other nations like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela need prices substantially above present levels to meet budget goals and want to drive prices up.


Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

MIAMI (AP) — One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

It's a prospect welcomed by Cubans desperate for economic growth yet deeply concerning for environmentalists and the tourism industry in the region.


Falling oil prices worry Algeria

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — With oil prices at their lowest in five years and showing few signs of hitting bottom, Algeria is feeling the pinch.

Though its problems are dwarfed by the impact on Russia for example, Algeria may have to rein back many of the policies it has held dear over many years. Generous subsidies, for one, may have to be scaled back despite the potential risk of social unrest in the North African country.

Rising anger as Nicaragua canal to break ground

RIO GRANDE, Nicaragua (AP) — As a conscripted soldier during the Contra War of the 1980s, Esteban Ruiz used to flee from battles because he didn't want to have to kill anyone. But now, as the 47-year-old farmer prepares to fight for his land, Ruiz insists, "I'm not going to run."

Ruiz's property on the banks of Nicaragua's Rio Grande sits in the path of a $50 billion transoceanic waterway set to break ground on Monday.

NY farmers lament lost opportunity for gas riches

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — While environmental groups are doing a victory dance over New York's decision to ban fracking, farmers such as apple grower David Johnson are grieving for dashed hopes and dreams.

"I'm devastated," Johnson said after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's health and environmental commissioners announced Wednesday that they were recommending a fracking ban. "I have concerns about how to continue this farm that's been in the family for 150 years."

As Air Force fixes nuke flaws, future debated

WASHINGTON (AP) — Faced with one of its biggest challenges in years — repairing a troubled nuclear missile corps — the Air Force has taken an important first step by admitting, after years of denial, that its problems run deep and wide.

Less certain is whether it will find all the right fixes, apply them fully and convince a doubting force of launch officers, security guards and other nuclear workers that their small and narrow career field is not a dead end.


USVI rejects bill to sell Hovensa oil refinery

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — Legislators in the U.S. Virgin Islands have rejected a proposal to sell the former Hovensa oil refinery in St. Croix.

Senators voted against an agreement that would have allowed a local company to buy the refinery that closed in early 2012 after years of weak demand and high operating costs. Atlantic Basin Refining Inc. had pledged to employ more than 700 workers and make more than $1.6 billion in fixed payments.

Year-end holiday publishing schedule for EnergyGuardian

As is tradition during the Christmas holiday week, EnergyGuardian will publish on a holiday schedule this week.

We will publish one edition at midday on Wednesday, Christmas Eve. There will be no newsletter on Christmas Day or on Friday, Dec. 26.

There will be no newsletter next week. Of course, we'll cover any breaking news with alerts, and then resume normal publishing on Monday, Jan. 5, 2014.

We wish you and your family the happiest and healthiest of holiday seasons and thank you for your support all year long.

Kingstone TVA plant/Appalachian Voices photo

EPA's new coal ash rule leaves greens fuming

The Obama administration on Friday moved to protect communities and natural resources near some 1,045 ash ponds and landfills at coal-fired power plants, but did not go as far as environmental groups hoped.

The action by the Environmental Protection Agency marks the first-ever federal standard on coal ash disposal. It comes after environmental groups sued the agency to finalize the the rule nearly six years after the Kingston, Tenn. spill that fouled tributaries of the Tennessee River with more than 1 billion gallons of ash-laden wastewater.


Obama: Keystone offers little benefit to consumers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama downplayed the benefits of building the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. He said it would not lower gasoline prices and argued more jobs would be created by repairing America's infrastructure.

He said the pipeline would mainly benefit Canadian oil companies that need to get Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico.


Arctic offshore drill company enters guilty pleas

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A drilling company has pleaded guilty to committing environmental and maritime crimes in Alaska's Arctic.

Bernie G. Wolford Jr., president of Noble Drilling U.S. LLC, appeared in federal court in Anchorage on Friday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors earlier this month.

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