সোমবার, ৫ আগস্ট, ২০১৩

Fort McMurray Evicts Oil Sands Companies that Helped it Grow

The Canadian town of Fort McMurray, population 76,000, is the?heart?of Alberta?s oil sands largesse?but the town is bursting at its seams with nowhere to expand because the land surrounding it is owned by oil companies.

The government?s answer to this is to?cancel all the leases?on 22,000 hectares of land surrounding Fort McMurray?effective immediately.

In an agreement announced on 26 July, the government promised lease-holders fair reimbursement, with the municipality purchasing the land from the province over the next five to 15 years.

This acreage is more than twice the size of Fort McMurray today, and the idea is to make the town two-thirds the size of Calgary.

For Fort McMurray?whose population is expected to double by 2030 thanks to the very oil sands industry is must now evict?it is a necessity. The town needs more housing and infrastructure, but has nowhere to put it.

?This lack of land has tied our hands when it comes to planning future development, but it?s also led to all sorts of challenges from sparse housing options, limited commercial retail entities and a non-existent space for social profit groups: churches, community halls, store fronts, just to name a few,? Mayor Melissa Blake?told reporters?on 26 July, when the decision was announced. ?Today that all changes.?

Oil sands companies have mixed feelings about the deal. Though the purchase of their leases will be based on fair market prices, some are not convinced they?ll be compensated for all the money they?ve spent developing oil sands here?just to lose their leases.

The most affected will be Value Creation Inc., which holds leases on the largest swathe of territory slated for Fort McMurray?s urban development. According to the Edmonton Journal, the company had planned to develop oil sands reserves here and then return the land to the Fort McMurray authorities?along with newly laid roads?in 10 years. But Fort McMurray can?t wait.

Value Creation says the decision, at least, removes any uncertainty about what is going to happen with these leases. Company advisor Rick Orman noting that the government had been stringing it along for four years while the company continued to spend money on development. Orman also questioned the need to expand Fort McMurray to such an extent, calling it ??excessive?.

Alberta Oilsands Inc. (AOS), however, is less wary. While it?s invested $50 million developing its Clearwater assets here since 2007, it?s getting all its money back, plus interest, and some potentially sweet replacement property thrown into the deal.

AOS CEO Binh Vu told Oilprice.com: ?While we are disappointed at not being able to move to production at Clearwater, with the malaise in the junior markets AOS is trading today at a market capitalization of only half of what the government remuneration will be based on our expenses at Clearwater and interest?so it will be a real boon for current shareholders and investors.?

Do companies having their leases cancelled have anything to worry about and should their shareholders be concerned? We don?t think so ? we copied the below from the Mines and Mineral Act which clearly states how companies will be compensated:

The Mineral Rights Compensation Regulation?(Alberta Regulation 317/2003) establishes the compensation payable by the Crown for cancelled agreements. Compensation includes at least the following:

1. Cost of acquiring the lease including annual license fees and application fees;
2. Wasted exploration and development expenditures;
3. Reclamation costs;
4. Interest of approximately 5 per cent (calculated as Alberta Treasury Branch prime plus 1 per cent).




Tags: Alberta, Fort McMurray, gas, oil

Source: http://mensnewsdaily.com/2013/07/30/fort-mcmurray-evicts-oil-sands-companies-that-helped-it-grow/

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Asus reveals ROG TYTAN G70 gaming desktop

DNP Asus reveals ROG TYTAN G70 gaming desktop

Didn't snag one of the ROG TYTAN G30s ASUS announced in June? Don't sweat it because the Taiwanese manufacturer has already one-upped itself, combining the transforming case of last year's TYTAN CG8890 with the G30's major features -- water-cooled Core i7-4770K, one-touch overclocking, multi-monitor and surround sound support. Just for good measure, an available Nvidia GTX780 can replace the '30's GTX 680. Sure, the G70 is Haswell-equipped, but that's not nearly as impressive as activating "Turbo Gear" on it is: Push a button and the system overclocks, then its side and top panels extend outward automatically, exposing the rig's 10 fans. How cool is that? As frosty as this tower's innards we'd imagine. If that wasn't enough to push you over the edge, it'll wirelessly charge any Qi-compatible devices you might have as well. This beast of a rig should be available soon at retailers near you, but ASUS hasn't provided pricing. We're guessing it's probably expensive -- call it a hunch.

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Via: PC Perspective

Source: Republic of Gamers

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2013/08/03/asus-rog-tytan-g70-gaming-desktop-reveal/?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=Feed_Classic&utm_campaign=Engadget

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Potential role of 'love hormone' oxytocin in brain function revealed

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Researchers have deciphered how oxytocin, acting as a neurohormone in the brain, not only reduces background noise, but more importantly, increases the strength of desired signals. These findings may be relevant to autism, which affects one in 88 children in the United States.

Source: http://feeds.sciencedaily.com/~r/sciencedaily/top_news/top_health/~3/tO_WQM1g22g/130804144527.htm

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Sen. Mitch McConnell fighting for his political life?

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ? the top Republican in the Senate ? faces a tea party challenge in the primary; then, if he survives, a promising young female Democrat in the general. This weekend, the Fancy Farm Picnic will test everyone.?

By Linda Feldmann,?Staff writer / August 2, 2013

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) and GOP leaders talk to reporters at the Capitol on Thursday, as Congress prepares to leave town for a five-week recess. Back home in Kentucky, Mr. McConnell faces a tea party primary challenge in the runup to the 2014 election.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP


It?s only just begun, but the reelection battle of Mitch McConnell ? the top Republican in the Senate ? is already shaping up to be the marquee race of the 2014 midterms. ?

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Start with the primary challenge Senator McConnell faces from Matt Bevin, a wealthy, tea-party-backed businessman, reportedly willing to spend his own money. If McConnell makes it past Mr. Bevin, he?s poised to face likely Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky?s secretary of state and member of a well-connected political family, in the general election.

Add to the mix McConnelll?s mediocre job approval ratings in the state ? only 45 percent in the latest poll, by the Republican firm Wenzel Strategies.

McConnell?s biggest liability may well be his leadership role in Washington. The Republican minority leader hasn?t been able to keep near-civil war from breaking out within his party. If there?s a government shutdown this fall, Republicans could come in for heavy public blame. Even if President Obama is deeply unpopular in Kentucky, Congress is worse off.

Two new polls show a race between McConnell and Secretary Grimes within the margin error, and on Friday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved the race to tossup.

?A lot of it has to do with McConnell,? says Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report. ?A lot has to do with frustration with Congress, and Democrats have done a pretty good job of blaming him for everything.?

McConnell?s biggest blow so far has been the primary challenge by Bevin. The five-term McConnell is an experienced politico ? he?s the longest-serving US?senator in Kentucky history ? and he put together an experienced reelection team early, including recruiting Kentucky tea party Sen. Rand Paul's campaign manager. He?s been raising money ever since Election Day 2012, and by mid-July reportedly had $9.6 million in the bank.

But none of that scared off Bevin, a partner in a Louisville hedge fund who blames McConnell for compromising with Democrats. So before McConnell can focus solely on beating Grimes, he has to fend off Bevin, and avoid becoming the latest member of the Washington GOP establishment to fall to a tea party challenge.

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/feeds/csm/~3/g5tfsNBzjyY/Sen.-Mitch-McConnell-fighting-for-his-political-life

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রবিবার, ৪ আগস্ট, ২০১৩

Northland College, City of Ashland Collaborate to Keep Beach Groomer

Northland College and the City of Ashland worked together to keep a beach groomer in the region. The Ashland City Council voted unanimously on a resolution to approve the equipment transfer from Northland College to the city.? This includes a beach groomer, dump truck and trailer.

ASHLAND, Wis. ? The beach groomer seen for the last two summers at three Ashland public beaches looks a lot like a Zamboni?but for sand and with only three wheels. Brought to this region with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the beach groomer has been aerating the region?s beaches in an effort to reduce bacteria and in turn, the number of beach closings.

With funding gone and faced with the possibility losing this beach groomer to Lake Michigan, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute (SOEI) at Northland College teamed with the City of Ashland and took action.

?It no longer made sense for SOEI and Northland College to keep the groomer ? but it was too good of a program to let go,? said SOEI Executive Director Mark Peterson. ?This is a win-win for everyone.?

The College worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and negotiated an agreement to allow for the groomer to remain and for the College to donate the groomer to the city.

The EPA agreed, and on Tuesday night (July 30) the Ashland City Council unanimously approved a resolution to approve the equipment transfer, which included the beach groomer, dump truck and trailer.

?In this economic environment that we all operate in, it takes relationships and cooperation with many stakeholder to benefit the community,? said Mayor Bill Whalen. ?Northland College continues to collaborate and support the city of Ashland and for that I thank them.?

Three of the City of Ashland?s beaches have been shown to have nonpoint impairments indicated by elevated E.coli counts.

In 2010, the Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership (CBAP), in conjunction with the SOEI and Northland College, received federal funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, implemented by the EPA, to provide E. coli testing and to target, reduce and remove beachfront contamination. The CBAP, formed in 2009, is comprised of 15 agencies, nonprofits and governments, including the SOEI, Northland College and City of Ashland.

In addition to the testing, during the summers of 2011 and 2012, the SOEI staff and Northland College students worked cooperatively with the City of Ashland to coordinate weekly beach cleanups that included grooming the top four inches of beach sand on historically impaired beaches?Maslowski, Kreher and Bayview?to reduce bacterial density.

The grant ended at the end of last summer and the SOEI and the city have since been working on the transfer. ?I?m delighted the city has the opportunity to continue the partnership? and thankful to the College for the gift of the pick-up truck, trailer and beach groomer,? Whalen said.

The city will begin operating the groomer starting August 16. Under EPA rules, the city is not allowed to profit from the groomer however, they may loan it to other governmental or non-profit agencies.

Source: http://northernwi.wdio.com/news/environment/68582-northland-college-city-ashland-collaborate-keep-beach-groomer

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শনিবার, ৩ আগস্ট, ২০১৩

Texas running out of execution drug

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Justice said that the state's stock of pentobarbital, the barbiturate used for the death penalty, has nearly run out.

The state will have to find an alternative whether "another provider for the pentobarbital, or other options that would involve other drugs besides pentobarbital," he said.

Pentobarbital is an anesthetic used to euthanize animals.

The spokesman said that two executions scheduled for September will take place and that a solution should be found by that time. He said the state plans to continue with lethal injections.

Texas has executed 503 people since the death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976. A total of 1,342 people have been executed in the country since then.

Texas has already put to death 11 of the 22 people executed in the US in 2013, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Edited by Bonnie Malkin

Source: http://telegraph.feedsportal.com/c/32726/f/569079/s/2f7e9822/sc/11/l/0L0Stelegraph0O0Cnews0Cworldnews0Cnorthamerica0Cusa0C10A220A1880CTexas0Erunning0Eout0Eof0Eexecution0Edrug0Bhtml/story01.htm

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Oil companies frack in waters off California

Companies prospecting for oil off California's coast have used hydraulic fracturing on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed, and now regulators are investigating whether the practice should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review.

While debate has raged in the U.S. over fracking on land, prompting efforts to ban or severely restrict it, offshore fracking has occurred with little attention in sensitive coastal waters where for decades new oil leases have been prohibited.

Hundreds of pages of federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press and advocacy groups through the Freedom of Information Act show regulators have permitted fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and have recently approved a new project.

The targets are the vast oil fields in the Santa Barbara Channel, site of a 1969 spill that spewed more than 3 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, spoiled miles of beaches and killed thousands of birds and other wildlife. The disaster prompted a moratorium on new drill leases and inspired federal clean water laws and the modern environmental movement.

Companies are doing the offshore fracking?which involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and chemicals into undersea shale and sand formations?to stimulate old existing wells into new oil production.

Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation's clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP.

Fracking fluids can comprise hundreds of chemicals?some known and others that aren't since they are protected as trade secrets. Some of these chemicals are toxins to fish larvae and crustaceans, bottom dwellers most at risk from drilling activities, according to government health disclosure documents detailing some of the fluids used off California's shore.

Marine scientists, petroleum engineers and regulatory officials interviewed by the AP could point to no studies that have been performed on the effects of fracking fluids on the marine environment. Research regarding traditional offshore oil exploration has found that drilling fluids can cause reproductive harm to some marine creatures.

"This is a significant data gap, and we need to know what the impacts are before offshore fracking becomes widespread," said Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia who studies the effects of oil spills in the ocean environment.

The EPA and the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement or BSEE, conduct some routine inspections during fracking projects, but any spills or leaks are largely left to the oil companies to report.

In a statement to the AP, the EPA defended its oversight of offshore fracking, saying its system ensures the practice does not pollute the environment in a way that would endanger human health. Oil companies must obtain permits for wastewater and storm water discharges from production platforms that "ensure all fluids used in the drilling and production process will not adversely impact water quality," the statement said.

Oil companies also maintain that much of the fracking fluid is treated before being discharged into the sea. Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said fracking in general is safe and has "never been associated with any risk or harm to the environment" in over six decades in California.

California coastal regulators said they were unaware until recently that offshore fracking was even occurring, and are now asking oil companies proposing new offshore drilling projects if they will be fracking.

Because the area of concern is located more than three miles (about 5 kilometers) off the state's shoreline, federal regulators have jurisdiction over these offshore exploration efforts. However, the state can reject a permit in federal waters if the work endangers water quality.

"It wasn't on our radar before, and now it is," said Alison Dettmer, a deputy director at the California Coastal Commission.

Government documents including permits and internal emails from the BSEE reveal that fracking off the shores of California is more widespread than previously known. While new oil leases are banned, companies can still drill from 23 grandfathered-in platforms in waters where endangered blue and humpback whales and other marine mammals often congregate.

In March, a privately held oil and gas company received permission from the agency to frack some 10 miles (16 kilometers) off the Ventura County coast. The job by DCOR LLC involves using the existing wellbore of an old well to drill a new well. Three so-called "mini-fracks" will be done in an attempt to release oil locked within sand and rocks in the Upper Repetto formation.

Only a month before the application was approved, however, an official with the BSEE voiced concerns about the company's proposed frack and whether the operation would discharge chemicals into the ocean.

"We have an operator proposing to use 'hydraulic stimulation' (which has not been done very often here) and I'm trying to run through the list of potential concerns," Kenneth Seeley, the BSEE's regional environmental officer for the Pacific, wrote in a Feb. 12 email to colleagues. "The operator says their produced water is Superclean! but the way they responded to my questions kind of made me think this was worth following up on."

BSEE officials approved DCOR's application on March 7. The agency told the AP that DCOR's job would use far less fracking fluid than an onshore operation.

"For comparison, well stimulation offshore typically uses 2 percent of the liquids and 7 percent of the sand that is used routinely for onshore hydraulic fracturing," the BSEE said in a statement.

Oil industry estimates show that at least half of the chemical-laced water used in fracking remains in the environment after an operation. Environmental groups say as much as 80 percent of the fluids can be left behind. The rest gets pumped back up to the oil platform, and is piped or barged back to shore for treatment. Companies can also pump the fluids into an old well reservoir to discard it.

DCOR, which did not respond to requests for comment, is not the first company to try to tap more oil from California's offshore reserves, nor is the project the most extensive offshore frack here in recent years.

In January 2010, oil and gas company Venoco Inc. set out to improve the production of one of its old wells with what federal drilling records show was the largest offshore fracking operation attempted in federal waters off California's coast. The target: the Monterey Shale, a vast formation that extends from California's Central Valley farmlands to offshore and could ultimately comprise two-thirds of the nation's shale oil reserves.

Six different fracks were completed during the project, during which engineers funneled a mix of about 300,000 pounds of fracking fluids, sand and seawater 4,500 feet beneath the seabed, according to BSEE documents.

Venoco's attempt only mildly increased production, according to the documents. Venoco declined to comment.

Despite greenlighting offshore fracking projects for years, federal and state regulators now are trying to learn more about the extent of fracking in the Pacific even as officials and marine scientists scramble to weigh the environmental effects.

In January, Jaron Ming, the Pacific regional director of the BSEE, told employees in an email that there had been heightened interest in offshore fracking from within the agency and the public.

"For that reason, I am asking you to pay close attention to any (drilling applications) that we receive and let me know if you believe any of them would be considered a 'frac job.'"

That same month, BSEE estimated in internal emails that only two such jobs had occurred off California in the past two decades. But weeks later, as the agency worked to respond to public requests about fracking offshore, emails show it had found 12 such instances of offshore fracking.

BSEE said it cannot be sure just how often fracking has been allowed without going through every single well file.

Brian Segee, a staff attorney at the Environmental Defense Center, said the uncertainty makes him skeptical about the actual number of offshore fracks. The Santa Barbara-based environmental law firm, which formed in the wake of the 1969 oil spill, is calling for a moratorium on future fracking in the Pacific until the potential environmental effects are studied.

Most fracking efforts off California have yielded mixed results. The first time Venoco fracked offshore in the 1990s, it had limited success. Chevron's one try failed. Out of Nuevo Energy's nine attempts, only one was considered very successful, according to company and BSEE records.

The practice has been more fruitful in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, where it's more common and the porous nature of the geologic formation makes it easier to extract oil, according to regulators and oil industry experts. Still, oil companies surveyed by federal regulators said they haven't ruled out fracking projects in the Pacific in the future.

As fracking technology evolves and companies seek to wring production from old offshore wells, drilling experts caution that strict safety precautions and planning are needed.

Working in the open ocean, "you have to be a lot more careful to avoid any spillage," said Mukul Sharma, a professor of petroleum engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

David Pritchard, a Texas petroleum engineer who has been working in offshore drilling for 45 years, said offshore fracking "no doubt adds complexity and risk."

One concern is that the high pressure fracking mixture in some jobs might break the rock seal around an old well bore, allowing oil to escape, added another expert, Tulane University petroleum engineering professor Eric Smith.

"I'd say it (offshore fracking) is safe," Smith said, "but nothing's a sure thing in this world."

Explore further: Study finds fracking chemicals didn't spread

Source: http://phys.org/news294757073.html

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