Aid operations pick up pace in Philippines
- November 12th, 2013 -
(The Associate Press) - Relief operations in this typhoon-devastated region of the Philippines picked up pace Wednesday, but still only minimal amounts of water, food and medical supplies were making it to the hardest-hit areas.


Typhoon Haiyan aftermath brings growing desperation


Powerful typhoon slams PhilippinesAviation authorities said two more airports in the region had reopened, allowing for more aid flights.International agencies and militaries were also speeding up operations to get staff, supplies and equipment in place for what will be a major humanitarian mission.

The damaged airport on Tacloban, a coastal city of 220,000 almost completely destroyed by Friday's typhoon and coastal surge, has become the major hub for relief work. A doctor at a makeshift clinic here said supplies of antibiotics and anesthetics arrived Tuesday for the first time.

"Until then, patients had to endure the pain," said Dr. Victoriano Sambale.
As the desperation of typhoon survivors increased, eight people were crushed to death when thousands of people stormed a government rice warehouse, the National Food Authority said.
A spokesman for the agency said police and soldiers were helpless as looters carted away more than 100,000 sacks of rice. The eight were killed when a wall collapsed on them.
Meanwhile, thousands of victims jammed the damaged airport Tuesday, seeking to be evacuated.

"We need help. Nothing is happening. We haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon," pleaded a weeping Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old woman who failed to get a flight out of Tacloban for Manila, the capital. Her clothes were soaked from a pouring rain and tears streamed down her face.
Typhoon recovery: How you can help
The official toll from a national disaster agency rose to 1, 883 on Tuesday. President Benigno Aquino III told CNN in a televised interview that the toll could be closer to 2,000 or 2,500, lower than an earlier estimate from two officials on the ground who said they feared as many as 10,000 might be dead.
"The figure right now I have is about 2,000, but this might still get higher," Aquino told CNN.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama spoke to Aquino Tuesday morning.
Carney said the president has directed his administration "to mount a swift and coordinated response to save lives and provide assistance to alleviate suffering."

CBS News reported Tuesday evening that at least two Americans are among the dead. It also reported that about 100 U.S. Marines are already on the ground and as many as 2,000 more are expected. The aircraft carrier George Washington should arrive Thursday.

A team from Medecins Sans Frontieres, complete with medical supplies, arrived in Cebu island on Saturday looking for a flight to Tacloban, but hadn't left by Tuesday. A spokesman for the group said it was "difficult to tell" when it would be able to leave.


Typhoon Haiyan: Desperation grows in storm's aftermath

"We are in contact with the authorities, but the (Tacloban) airport is only for the Philippines military use," Lee Pik Kwan said in a telephone interview.

Reporting from Tacloban, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane said many bodies still lay uncollected on a side of the road, wrapped in cloth. Increasingly desperate survivors scavenged for food and children begged for water from any passing vehicle.
Doane added that Tacloban's airport was open but badly damaged. No power means the planes can't land at night, and aid workers are struggling to get supplies in. That didn't stop hundreds of survivors who rushed to the ruined airport looking for food. Others lined up hoping to be evacuated. By afternoon the line had stretched three miles long.
At the medics' intended destination, thousands of typhoon victims were trying to get out. They camped at the airport and ran onto the tarmac when planes came in, surging past a broken iron fence and a few soldiers and police trying to control them. Most didn't make it aboard.


Typhoon Haiyan: Massive humanitarian response underway


Reporter's firsthand account of Haiyan's power


Typhoon Haiyan first-hand account: "Everything was gone"

An Associated Press reporter drove through the town for around 4 miles Tuesday and saw more than 40 bodies. He saw no evidence of any organized delivery of food, water or medical supplies, though piles of aid have begun to arrive at the airport. Some people were lining up to get water from a hose, presumably from the city supply.
"There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities," U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila. "Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more."
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said relief goods were getting into the city, and the supply should increase in coming days now that the airport and a bridge to the island were open.
"We are not going to leave one person behind - one living person behind," he said. "We will help, no matter how difficult, no matter how inaccessible."

Doctors in Tacloban said they were desperate for medicine. Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows, army and air force medics said they had treated around 1,000 people for cuts, bruises, lacerations and deep wounds.
"It's overwhelming," said Air Force Capt. Antonio Tamayo. "We need more medicine. We cannot give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none."

The longer survivors go without access to clean water, food, shelter and medical help, the greater chance of disease breaking out and people dying as a result of wounds sustained in the storm.

The official death toll from the disaster rose to 1,774 on Tuesday, though authorities have said they expect that to rise markedly. More than 9 million people have been affected across a large swath of the country, many of them made homeless.
Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 people on Leyte island, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.
The loss of life appears to be concentrated in Tacloban and surrounding areas, including a portion of Samar island that is separated from Leyte island by a strait. It is possible that other devastated areas are so isolated they have not yet been reached.

In Cebu, to the southwest, the Philippine air force has been sending three C-130s back and forth to Tacloban from dawn to dusk, and had delivered 400,000 pounds of relief supplies by Tuesday, Lt. Col. Marciano Jesus Guevara said. A lack of electricity in Tacloban means planes can't land there at night. Doane reported of one mother in Cebu whose home was gone and who wept over her dead child. "We want to go back home," she said, "but we can't. And I have no where to bury my child."
Guevara said the C-130s have transported nearly 3,000 civilians out of the disaster zone, and that the biggest problem in Tacloban is a lack of clean drinking water.
"Water is life," he said. "If you have water with no food, you'll survive."

Read Article... -- (The Associated Press)

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posted Nov 12, 2013, 11:36 PM by David Khorram   [ updated Nov 13, 2013, 3:38 AM ]

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Other News...

(Reuters) - New infantry-style tactics of concealment and ambush by armed park rangers are credited with turning the tide in the war against poachers of the endangered rhino on one front, in South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve.
The slaughter of rhinos - a creature regarded as an icon of African wildlife - for their horns to meet soaring demand in Asia has raised alarm bells among conservationists.
Since April, Madikwe rangers previously so under-equipped that they lacked even boots have been undergoing military training overseen by a former British special forces soldier.
They have been kitted out with state-of-the-art gear provided by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a charity that supports anti-poaching initiatives on the African continent. Read more...

If seagulls hadn't evolved to drink sea water, they would have died out or moved back to lake living long ago. Thankfully, evolution provided a special supra-orbital gland that scrubs the salt from the seagull's blood and expels it as an ultra-salty liquid from the nostrils.
Given a choice, seagulls will drink fresh water over salt water because processing the salt is an energy-intensive process. But in a pinch, and when they're far out at sea, they can lower their beaks to the sea to quench their thirst. Read more...

posted Nov 11, 2013, 3:36 PM by David Khorram   [ updated Nov 12, 2013, 10:22 AM by David Khorram ]

Love Yosemite? Leave it Alone
Yosemite National Park


By Ruth Brown

(NEWSER) – The National Park Service is under pressure to help protect and restore the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. The catch: those who love it most will be able to use it less. The Park Service wants to remove horse, bicycle, and raft rental facilities, as well as swimming pools and an ice rink, in order to reduce traffic and add 200 acres of meadows to the park. But the plan has divided park lovers, between those who think it goes too far and those who believe it doesn't go far enough, the New York Times reports.

Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district includes Yosemite, criticized the plan as pandering to "the most radical and nihilistic fringe of the environmental left," while the leader of Friends of Yosemite Valley believes it should have cut 30 or 40 more facilities. The head of Yosemite for Everyone wants to protect part of the river, but doesn't want to lose things like bike rentals. "We want the amenities and recreational activities that have been there for 150 years to continue," she says. But as an associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association points out, plenty of things that used to be enjoyed in the park aren't around anymore for the greater good—like park rangers feeding the bears.

Read Article

Arctic Temperatures Highest in at Least 44,000 Years
By Douglas Main
As ice caps like this one, nicknamed Sputnik, melt, they expose tiny plants that have been frozen there for millennia, giving clues to the past climate.

 As ice caps like this one, nicknamed Sputnik, melt, they expose tiny plants that have been frozen there for millennia, giving clues to the past climate. Pin It As ice caps like this one, nicknamed Sputnik, melt, they expose tiny plants that have been frozen there for millennia, giving clues to the past climate. Plenty of studies have shown that the Arctic is warming and that the ice caps are melting, but how does it compare to the past, and how serious is it? New research shows that average summer temperatures in the Canadian Arctic over the last century are the highest in the last 44,000 years, and perhaps the highest in 120,000 years.

"The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is," Gifford Miller, a researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in a joint statement from the school and the publisher of the journal Geophysical Researcher Letters, in which the study by Miller and his colleagues was published online this week. "This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

The study is the first to show that current Arctic warmth exceeds peak heat there in the early Holocene, the name for the current geological period, which began about 11,700 years ago. During this "peak" Arctic warmth, solar radiation was about 9 percent greater than today, according to the study.

Miller and his colleagues gauged Arctic temperatures by looking at gas bubbles trapped in ice cores (cylinders drilled from the ice that show layers of snow laid down over time) taken from the region, which allows scientists to reconstruct past temperature and levels of precipitation. They paired this with radiocarbon dating of clumps of moss taken from a melting ice cap on Canada's Baffin Island. Their analysis shows that these plants have been trapped in the ice for at least 44,000 years, and perhaps as long as 120,000 years. Taken together, that data suggest temperatures in the region haven't been this high since perhaps as long as 120,000 years ago, according to the study.

The Arctic has been heating up for about a century, but the most significant warming didn't start until the 1970s, Miller said in the statement. "And it is really in the past 20 years that the warming signal from that region has been just stunning," he added. "All of Baffin Island is melting, and we expect all of the ice caps to eventually disappear, even if there is no additional warming."

Read Article

What's causing Nigeria's oil spills?

posted Nov 11, 2013, 3:25 PM by David Khorram   [ updated Nov 11, 2013, 3:32 PM ]

A report last week from Amnesty International said energy companies operating in the oil-richNiger Delta region weren't entirely up front about what's causing the "hundreds" of spills reported every year in the region. In a 66-page report, the rights group said oil companies, in particular Royal Dutch Shell, have made numerous claims about sabotage and oil theft that raise a series of questions. Now, lawmakers in OPEC member Nigeria 

Amnesty, in its report, said the hundreds of oil spills reported in Nigeria every year are ruining the environment and putting human lives at risk. It said spills in the Niger Delta are the result of pipeline corrosion, maintenance issues, equipment failure, sabotage and theft. (Related article: Eni Adjusts Profits Amid Africa Chaos)

"For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria, in particular Shell, have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage and theft of oil," the report said. "There is no legitimate basis for this claim."

Even i

f Shell is right, Amnesty's report said, it hasn't done much to ensure its infrastructure in the Niger Delta is protected from vandals. But the problem extends beyond just Shell, the organization said. A Nigerian subsidiary of Italian energy company Eni reported 471 spills in the Niger Delta, compared with the 138 from Shell from January to September. Eni's subsidiary also blames saboteurs, but Amnesty said there's "absolutely no information" to support their claims. 

Problems in Nigeria have cost Shell about 65,000 barrels per day in production. Shell in mid-October lifted force majeure on exports of Nigerian crude oil after repairs were made to a pipeline in the Niger Delta region. Shell said about 2,200 barrels spilled from the Trans Niger Pipeline in October, a spill partially blamed on a hole in the pipeline "drilled by unknown persons." The situation wasn't much better for ENI, which last month cut its production outlook in part because of problems in Nigeria. (Related article: China Hopes to Dominate Africa by Boosting Trade Via Indian Ocean) are mulling legislation that would tighten penalties for oil companies responsible for the spills. The cost, if passed, would be in the millions of dollars for the companies operating there.

Bakassi Returnees Decry Effects Of Oil Spill

posted Nov 4, 2013, 11:43 AM by David Khorram   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 5:54 PM by David Khorram ]

Bakassi returnees in Eket, Akwa Ibom, have decried the impact of the Nov. 19, 2012 oil spill from Idoho platform offshore, belonging to Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN).

The spokesman of the returnees, Mr Friday Udohuyo, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Eket that the oil spill destroyed aquatic life on the shore line of the communities.

Udohuyo said the oil spill affected the source of livelihood of the fishermen operating under the aegis of Bakassi Returnees in Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom.

He said the oil spill ravaged their fishing pots, gears, boats and nets, adding that it caused untold hardship to their members.

He decried the development, pointing out that their members borrowed money to buy the fishing equipment.

``We can no longer feed our family again, our children cannot go to schools and our drinking water and farmland have been polluted.

``Since then we are suffering, live has become so difficult for us and there is no money at all,’’ he said.

He said the hazard cause by the oil spill affected the health of members, adding that many of their children were suffering from malaria and typhoid.

Udohuyo said several appeals to the oil company had not produced any positive result, stressing that the group demanded N732 million as compensation from ExxonMobil.

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Oil spill

How do you clean up an oil spill... oil spill clean up

posted Sep 12, 2013, 2:32 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 5:54 PM by David Khorram ]

No two oil spills are the same because of the variation in oil types, locations, and weather conditions involved. However, broadly speaking, there are four main methods of response.

(1) Leave the oil alone so that it breaks down by natural means. If there is no possibility of the oil polluting coastal regions or marine industries, the best method is to leave it to disperse by natural means. A combination of wind, sun, current, and wave action will rapidly disperse and evaporate most oils. Light oils will disperse more quickly than heavy oils.

(2) Contain the spill with booms and collect it from the water surface using skimmer equipment. Spilt oil floats on water and initially forms a slick that is a few millimeters thick. There are various types of booms that can be used either to surround and isolate a slick, or to block the passage of a slick to vulnerable areas such as the intake of a desalination plant or fish-farm pens or other sensitive locations. Boom types vary from inflatable neoprene tubes to solid, but buoyant material. Most rise up about a meter above the water line. Some are designed to sit flush on tidal flats while others are applicable to deeper water and have skirts which hang down about a meter below the waterline. Skimmers float across the top of the slick contained within the boom and suck or scoop the oil into storage tanks on nearby vessels or on the shore. However, booms and skimmers are less effective when deployed in high winds and high seas.

(3) Use dispersants to break up the oil and speed its natural biodegradation. Dispersants act by reducing the surface tension that stops oil and water from mixing. Small droplets of oil are then formed, which helps promote rapid dilution of the oil by water movements. The formation of droplets also increases the oil surface area, thus increasing the exposure to natural evaporation and bacterial action. Dispersants are most effective when used within an hour or two of the initial spill. However, they are not appropriate for all oils and all locations. Successful dispersion of oil through the water column can affect marine organisms like deep-water corals and sea grass. It can also cause oil to be temporarily accumulated by subtidal seafood. Decisions on whether or not to use dispersants to combat an oil spill must be made in each individual case. The decision will take into account the time since the spill, the weather conditions, the particular environment involved, and the type of oil that has been spilt.

(4) Introduce biological agents to the spill to hasten biodegradation. Most of the components of oil washed up along a shoreline can be broken down by bacteria and other microorganisms into harmless substances such as fatty acids and carbon dioxide. This action is called biodegradation. The natural process can be speeded up by the addition of fertilizing nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which stimulate growth of the microorganisms concerned. However the effectiveness of this technique depends on factors such as whether the ground treated has sand or pebbles and whether the fertilizer is water soluble or applied in pellet or liquid form.

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YouTube Video

NOAA Identifies Lurking Environmental Threats...oil spill environmental

posted Sep 12, 2013, 2:21 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 5:59 PM by David Khorram ]

A new NOAA report that examines national oil pollution threat from shipwrecks has been presented to the U.S. Coast Guard. With as many as 20,000 recorded shipwrecks in NOAA’s database, the May 2013 report finds that just 36 sunken vessels scattered across the U.S. seafloor could pose an oil pollution threat to the nation’s coastal marine resources. Of those, 17 were recommended for further assessment and potential removal of both fuel oil and oil cargo. Based on vessel contents, condition, environmental sensitivity, and other factors, NOAA has determined that six vessels are high priority for a Most Probable (10%) discharge, and 36 are high priority for a Worst Case Discharge (Table ES-1).

NOAA’s Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project identifies the location and nature of potential sources of oil pollution. Knowing where these vessels are helps oil response planning efforts and may help in the investigation of mystery spills--sightings of oil where a source is not immediately known. In 2010, Congress appropriated $1 million for NOAA to develop a list of the most significant potentially polluting wrecks in U.S. waters, specifically addressing ecological and socio-economic resources at risk. Those funds were not intended for oil or vessel removal. NOAA maintains the internal Resources and UnderSea Threats (RUST) database of as many as 30,000 sites of sunken material. Initial screening of these shipwrecks revealed 573 that could pose substantial pollution risks. This includes vessels built after 1891, when U.S. vessels began using fuel oil; vessels over 1,000 gross tons and built of steel, and tank vessels. Additional research narrowed that number to 107.

To prioritize and determine which vessels are candidates for further evaluation, NOAA used a series of risk factors to assess the likelihood of oil remaining onboard, and the potential environmental impact if that oil spills. NOAA used risk factors to assess physical integrity and pollution potential as well as other factors that may impact potential removal operations. Risk factors included: total oil volume on board; oil type; if the wreck was reported to have been cleared as a hazard to navigation or demolished; if significant amount of oil was lost during the casualty; and the nature of the casualty that would reduce the amount of oil onboard. Factors impacting operations were wreck orientation on seafloor; depth; visual or remote sensing confirmation of conditions; other hazardous materials onboard; if munitions were onboard; and if the wreck is of historic significance and will require special handling. Each factor was also assigned a data quality rating. At the end of the evaluation, each vessel was given an overall vessel risk score of High, Medium, or Low. After this third level of screening, 87 wrecks remained on the priority list. 
Oil discharges from shipwrecks are typically in the “Most Probable” category or smaller. Funding for any assessment or recovery operations determined to be necessary is dependent on unique circumstances for the wreck. If a wreck still has an identifiable owner, that owner is responsible for the cost of cleanup. If no responsible party exists, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund would likely be accessed. Selecting any vessel for proactive response requires further analysis including spill trajectory studies and monitoring or oil removal feasibility studies. While the salvage industry and oil spill response organizations have demonstrated great advancements in underwater oil removal technologies, in many cases the best alternative may not be removal of oil, but rather to monitor the wreck and plan for potential spills. The cost of removing oil from a wreck varies widely, depending on conditions and as depicted in Table 4-4.  

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Compliance deadline for EPA oil spill prevention rule fast approaching

posted Sep 12, 2013, 10:55 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 5:57 PM by David Khorram ]

The National Corn Growers Association reminds farmers that the compliance date for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure rule is May 10, 2013.

By that time, farmers subject to the rule must prepare and implement an SPCC plan. Farmers who already have such a plan in place must maintain that plan.

The SPCC rule regulates farms that meet all three of the following criteria:

• The farm stores, transfers, uses or consumes oil or oil products, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, adjuvant oil, crop oil, vegetable oil or animal fat;

• The farm stores more than 1,320 U.S. gallons of the aforementioned products in above ground containers or more than 42,000 U.S. gallons in completely buried containers;

• The farm could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.

A farmer must only count containers of oil that have a storage capacity of 55 U.S. gallons or more.

Milk and milk product containers and associated piping and appurtenances; home heating oil tanks at single family homes; pesticide containers used to mix and load formulations; and pesticide application equipment are exempted from the SPCC rule.

Farmers who do not have a plan should prepare one and implement it by the May 10 deadline.

If a farm has a storage capacity of more than 10,000 gallons or has had an oil spill, the plan may need to have the plan certified by a Professional Engineer.

If a farm has total on-farm storage capacity between 1,320 and 10,000 gallons in above ground containers, no container with greater than 5,000 gallon capacity, and has a good spill history, the farmer may prepare and self-certify his or her own plan.

The plan must include the contents and locations of oil containers at the farm, the procedures and methods used to prevent spills, measures installed to prevent the oil from reaching waters in the event of a spill, measures to be used in the event of a spill and a list of emergency contacts and first responders if a spill occurs.

Plans must be kept up to date, especially if modifications are made, and must be reviewed every five years.

If a farm meets the above criteria and is subject to the SPCC rule, it is important to review additional information and seek assistance if needed. The EPA website which offers this information can be accessed . Notably, it also includes links to templates for plans.

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YouTube Video

Riggs Eckelberry: Stop Big Oil from killing cleantech -- oil spill environmental

posted Sep 12, 2013, 10:35 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Sep 12, 2013, 10:55 AM ]

AS the Gulf oil spill continues to spread onto our shores causing untold damage, two Texas oil companies are spending millions on a ballot measure for November that will overturn California's clean energy and clean air standards.

That's quite ironic, because Big Oil itself knows that the days of petroleum are numbered. By the Petroleum Institute's own estimate, there are perhaps 20 more "good" years of supply. Two decades is not a long time for a trillion-dollar industry - and they know it.

That's why oil companies are heavy investors in the advanced biofuel, algae. This organism made petroleum in the first place, and now it stands to become the New Petroleum; the only biofuel able to realistically fuel our existing fleets or cars, trucks, airplanes and ships. Oil companies are moving fast to help this industry scale up as a beneficial source of clean energy.

Why then are they seeking to derail a law that will help accelerate the transition to this cleaner fuel? Simply put, the opposition by some oil operators to AB 32, our state's clean energy law, is nothing more than a delaying tactic to maximize their profits until we run out of oil.

Why should we oppose their ballot initiative? Because clean technology is California's newest boom industry, like the aerospace and high tech industries that literally built our modern state into the powerhouse that it is today.

AB 32 is creating the market certainty needed for investment, research and development of inventions like ours, as well as jobs. Since its passage, clean tech venture capital in California has skyrocketed, with investments of more than $6.5billion. As the economy slowed between 2007 and 2008, total employment fell by 1 percent, but clean tech jobs continued to grow 5 percent. That's something we need to reinforce, not cut back.

But if we suspend AB 32, as Big Oil wants, all of that potential will be put on hold. Why should we help Big Oil maximize profits? We don't charge them a dime for drilling in sometimes sensitive areas like the Santa Barbara Channel. And the heavy metals and pollution from petroleum create a toxic environment for us and our children.

We have to increase our support for clean energy, not cut it back. Because we can't just talk the talk; we have to walk the walk, too.

Imagine a state that promotes its clean tech industry to the rest of the world, but doesn't itself implement the most basic reforms to its own energy. What message does that send?

I love California, and we have great talent here. But until AB 32 is fully implemented, no one is purchasing the cleaner fuels here. As a result companies like mine, are doing research in state, but producing the fuels where consumers are located. My own company, OriginOil, has found its first major customer ... in Australia! So they get the jobs and the cleaner air. That sends a message.

Join me in strongly opposing the oil industry's efforts to overturn AB 32 in November. And make a new future for California and, someday, the world.

posted from :

Shell Niger Delta Oil Spill: Company To Negotiate Compensation And Cleanup With Nigerians

posted Sep 12, 2013, 9:36 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 5:58 PM by David Khorram ]

LAGOS, Nigeria — Shell officials on Monday began talks in Nigeria's southern city of Port Harcourt with representatives for the Bodo community on compensation and cleanup five years after one of the worst oil spills in Nigeria's history.

Some experts say two oil spills that started in 2008 led to the largest loss of a mangrove habitat ever caused by an oil spill, affecting about 30,000 people in the Niger Delta area since then, according to London-based law firm Leigh Day.

"These people, since 2008 they are living on a creek of oil. You step out of the front door you see oil, breathe in oil and toxic fumes," said lawyer Daniel Leader of Leigh Day, an international and human rights firm that is representing about 15,000 people from the community that filed a lawsuit in 2012.

Although Royal Dutch Shell has admitted responsibility for the two spills, the impact has been disputed and will be the main focus of negotiations in Port Harcourt.

Royal Dutch Shell said a joint investigation team estimated 4,100 barrels were lost in the two spills. That estimate is based on the initial investigations by representatives from the company and the local community, spokesman Jonathan French told The Associated Press.

"Having said all that, it doesn't matter how much was spilled because the compensation will be based on the financial loss that people have suffered because of the spill in the lagoon," he said. "And that is a matter of dispute between us and the claimant."

Leigh Day said that 15,000 fishermen and 31,000 inhabitants of 35 villages were affected in and around the Bodo lagoon and its associated waterways. The law firm says independent experts estimate between 500,000 and 600,000 barrels were spilled, devastating the environment that sits amid 90 square kilometers (35 square miles) of mangroves, swamps and channels.

"The majority of its inhabitants are subsistence fishermen and farmers. Until the two 2008 spills Bodo was a relatively prosperous town based on fishing," the firm said in a statement. The spills have destroyed the fishing industry and environment there, it said.

"Those communities are still having water shipped into them. But it's patchy, and we fear many of those communities are drinking from poisoned wells," Leader, the Leigh Day lawyer, said.

But Shell says such estimates are high.

"What we need to establish precisely, or nearly precisely, is how many people were materially affected by the spill," said French, the Shell spokesman. The final figure, he said, would be determined in part by the company's contention that it did not have access to the area to clean it up. It will also be determined by how much of the spill had to do with the company's operations versus any excess spills caused by criminal activity, he said. Shell blames most of the spills in the region on militant attacks or thieves tapping into pipelines to steal crude oil, which ends up on the black market.

Nigeria, one of the top crude oil suppliers to the United States, requires companies to promptly clean up oil spills but the policy is not enforced.

The villages are part of a region of Nigeria's Niger Delta known as Ogoniland. Crude production in Ogoniland stopped in 1993, but pipelines and flow stations operated by a Shell subsidiary and the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. still run through villages and fields.

Leader said that talks with Shell will "highlight the plight of the people and the environmental disaster in the Niger delta, and will add pressure on Shell to clean up."

Both parties have said they hope to reach an agreement by the end of the week.

Neither side would discuss possible settlement figures. Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that the company is thought to be offering about $20 million in compensation while the villagers seek $200 million.

Shell's local subsidiary remains the top foreign oil producer in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta, a region of mangroves and swamps about the size of Portugal that is the backbone of crude production in the country.

Local communities remain largely hostile to Shell and other oil firms because of environmental damage. Some environmentalists say as much as 550 million gallons of oil have been poured into the delta during Shell's roughly 50 years of production in Nigeria.

The United Nations has recommended that the oil industry and Nigeria's government set up a fund, with an initial injection of $1 billion, to begin what could be a 30-year cleanup and restoration project in the oil-stained region.

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Arkansas Times Turns to Crowdfunding for Mayflower Coverage..oil spill solutions

posted Sep 11, 2013, 5:22 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 6:01 PM by David Khorram ]

Last week, the Arkansas Times announced it was collaborating with InsideClimate News of Brooklyn to deliver a definitive investigative report on the ExxonMobil oil spill in Mayflower.

Only problem: The publications say they don’t have the money to dedicate to the project. So they’ve turned to crowdfunding.

“This is a tremendously important story — and it’s been significantly under-reported,” Times Editor Lindsey Millar said on the paper’s blog. “Why? Small outlets like the Times can’t afford to devote a staffer to the story full time.”

InsideClimate News reported a similar situation.

If the two pubs reach their goal of about $25,000, they will send out Times contributor (and former Arkansas Business staff writer) Sam Eifling and InsideClimate writer Elizabeth McGowan to spend several months on the story.

The project is being funded through, a nonprofit website that focuses on environmental issues. As of Wednesday last week, the project had raised $7,715 of $26,535 needed. It has a three-month time limit.

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