Wednesday PM November 7th, 2007
by: Ed Mayberry, November 7, 2007 12:11:00 am
The U.S. Coast Guard and other responders are monitoring an offshore crude oil pipeline release about four miles offshore of McFaddin Beach. Two oil response boats are on the scene of the spill, which happened Monday, and two others are helping to provide continuous operations. Shoreline assessment teams observed a light sheen on shore about two-and-a-half miles west of the Sabine Pass Jetties and east of Sea Rim State Park. The pipeline is leaking from two locations, with the Coast Guard estimating that about 2,000 gallons of oil have been discharged. Divers have been working to repair the pipeline.
The Energy Department says U.S. oil supplies fell last week for the third straight week. News of sliding inventories has been one factor sending prices toward $100 per barrel. Stockpiles of gasoline also dropped, defying analyst estimates calling for a slight increase. At the pump, AAA and the Oil Price Information Service say gas prices rose nearly two cents overnight to more than $3.04 a gallon for regular-grade.
The federal government is giving Harris County $20 million to help cover the costs of dealing with evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, sending several hundred thousand Louisiana evacuees and others to Texas--mainly the Houston area. Rita made landfall the next month in southeast Texas. Harris County Commissioners voted to accept the funding. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allotted $429 million across Texas to help cover the costs of Katrina relief. Authorities say as many of 100,000 evacuees remain in the Houston area--and about one-third of those are still on the assistance rolls.
The state's delayed for three months the sale of the Christmas Mountains in west Texas. The State School Land Board decided on the delay to give the National Park Service a chance to make an offer for the land. The decision comes a day after two private bidders agreed to give the federal parks service 90 days to meet or exceed the winning bid. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson had said Monday that the winning bid would have to allow hunting, which the Parks Service prohibits on its land. The National Park Service sent a letter to the Texas General Land Office last month saying it may be interested in acquiring the 9,300-acre tract located northwest of Big Bend. The Park Service had asked that the sale be postponed until it had time to finish evaluating the property.
Embattled Consumer Product Safety Commission head Nancy Nord has vigorously defended her enforcement record. She spoke to a House panel, facing Democratic complaints that a slow product recall policy forces parents to play “toybox roulette.'' Nord said she supports additional money to bolster the troubled regulatory agency, calling a proposed House bill doubling its budget “a win for consumers.'' Nord also told the panel that she did no wrong by accepting three free trips worth thousands of dollars from industry groups, saying it had been common agency practice with approval from CPSP attorneys. Nord, who has said she won't resign, says it's important for CPSC and Congress to work together to fix problems as the busy holiday shopping season approaches.
America's biggest automaker says it lost $39 billion in the third quarter. General Motors attributes the net loss to an accounting shift involving deferred tax credits. The loss ends three straight profitable quarters for GM. The bulk of the whopping loss is chalked up to a so-called valuation allowance against deferred tax assets in the U.S., Canada and Germany. But some of it is blamed on mortgage losses for the carmakers' former financial arm, GMAC. A valuation allowance is taken when the future benefit of the deferred tax assets is less likely to be realized. Without the special circumstances, the company's loss would have been about $1.6 billion. The company reported record global sales for the quarter of 2.39 million cars and trucks.
Despite a 64 percent drop in third-quarter earnings, Anadarko Petroleum's top executive says the company's a leaner and on target to meet its 2007 production guidance. Anadarko Chairman and CEO Jim Hackett says the company's also on target to increase output by five to nine percent next year. Anadarko's one of the nation's largest independent exploration and production companies. Like others in the industry, the company was hurt by higher exploration costs and lower production and natural gas prices. The company's footprint is also smaller than it was a year ago, soon after it bought Kerr McGee and Western Gas Resources for more than $22 billion. But since then, much of Anadarko's focus has been on reshaping its portfolio by selling assets in the United States to reduce debt. The company's completed asset sales totaling $12.7 billion, and it's portfolio is now geared toward natural gas.