Elkins: EPA should weigh rules to curb local natural gas leaks

The Environmental Protection Agency's voluntary program to reduce leaks of the potent greenhouse gas methane from natural gas systems has had limited success in cutting emissions from aging local distribution systems, and officials should consider direct regulation, its internal watchdog reported Friday.

EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. said in the report that the Natural Gas STAR program has been held back by factors at the distribution stage, including market disincentives for companies to fix leaks that are costing consumers an estimated $192 million annually.

The problems have the potential to undercut President Barack Obama's climate action plan, which seeks to curb methane as well as carbon dioxide.

US plans wide seismic testing of sea floor

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The federal government is planning to use sound blasting to conduct research on the ocean floor along most of the East Coast, using technology similar to that which spawned a court battle between environmentalists and researchers in New Jersey this summer.

The U.S. Geological Survey plans this summer and next to map the outer limits of the continental shelf, and also study underwater landslides that would help predict where and when tsunamis might occur. But environmentalists say it could cause the same type of marine life damage they fought unsuccessfully to prevent this month off the coast of New Jersey.

Oil

Oil rises just above $102 a barrel

The price of oil traded around $102 a barrel on Friday, nearly unchanged, as worries over supplies and geopolitical tensions eased.

Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery rose 2 cents to $102.09 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the Nymex contract had dropped $1.05 to close at $102.07.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose $1.32 to $108.39 on the ICE Futures exchange in London Friday.

Oil

US rig count up 12 to 1,883

HOUSTON (AP) — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose 12 this week to 1,883.

The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,562 rigs were exploring for oil and 318 for gas. Three were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs.

House Ethics panel investigating Whitfield, Rush

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Ethics Committee said Friday that it is looking into potential ethics violations by two congressmen, Reps. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

The bipartisan panel acknowledged the separate inquiries in terse statements that said nothing about why the lawmakers were being examined. The committee said it will announce its actions on both investigations by Nov. 10.

Obama to attend UN climate summit in September

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will attend a United Nations summit on climate change in September.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited heads of state and other leaders to the Sept. 23 summit in New York. The U.N. says the goal is to spur governments, industry and civil groups to make new commitments to addressing climate change.

Oil

Energy offerings among IPOs scheduled to debut next week

NEW YORK (AP) — The following is a list of initial public offerings planned for the coming week. Sources include Renaissance Capital, Greenwich, CT (www.renaissancecapital.com) and SEC filings.

Week of July 28:

Transocean Partners LLC - Aberdeen, U.K., 17.5 million common units, priced $19 to $21, managed by Morgan Stanley, Barclays, and Citigroup. Proposed NYSE symbol RIGP. Business: LLC formed by Transocean to own three deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

New photos show wandering wolf OR-7 has 3 pups

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — New photos show that Oregon's famous wandering wolf, OR-7, has at least three pups that he and a mate are raising in the Cascade Range of southern Oregon.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson said Friday that the photos taken July 12 by an automatic camera in a remote section of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest show two gray pups.

Combined with one black pup Stephenson observed outside the pack's den in June, that makes at least three.

EnergyGuardian Photo

LCV takes on Chamber over 'desperate' attack on Obama climate plan

A top environmental group is hitting out in defense of President Barack Obama's move to cut carbon from existing power plants, running $250,000 worth of television ads in four cities. The ads attack a critical economic impact study issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before the plan was revealed.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said the ads target what he called the chamber's "incredibly false report" about the potential impacts of carbon limits on power plants, which came out days before the rule was proposed in June by the Environmental Protection Agency.

A spokesman for the chamber shot back late Thursday, however, accusing the league of taking its study out of context.

Bankrupt Energy Future to auction stake in Oncor

DALLAS (AP) — Bankrupt power giant Energy Future Holdings terminated its restructuring agreement and announced plans to auction its stake in the profitable power transmission business Oncor Electric Delivery Co., according to a filing Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company and its creditors "believe that the (restructuring agreement) has provided significant benefit," including obtaining billions of dollars in new financing, the filing said.

Oil

Oil price slips below $102 a barrel

The price of oil slipped below $102 a barrel on Friday, falling for a second day after spiking on lower U.S. inventories and tensions in the Ukraine and the Middle East.

Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery was down 10 cents to $101.97 at 0555 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.05 to close at $102.07 a barrel on Thursday.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 13 cents to $107.20 in trading on the ICE exchange in London.

War College to investigate Walsh plagiarism allegations

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Army War College says a group of faculty will investigate whether Montana Democratic Sen. John Walsh plagiarized a research project he submitted in 2007.

The college posted a statement on its website Thursday that says it determined there was reasonable cause to refer the case to the school's academic review board.

Walsh will be allowed to submit material to the review board and attend its initial hearing.

Little sunlight as Obama raises super PAC dollars

WASHINGTON (AP) — For years President Barack Obama railed against the surge of unlimited spending flowing into American political campaigns, arguing that average voters were being shut out of a secretive system that lets special interests bankroll elections.

Now as Obama enthusiastically raises money for Democratic super PACs, he's embracing some of the same secretive elements of that system, drawing charges of hypocrisy from good-governance advocates who say the public deserves to know what Obama's saying and to whom he's saying it when donors pay for a few minutes with the president.

Deadly fungus spreads in Everglades, killing trees

MIAMI (AP) — A fungus carried by an invasive beetle from southeast Asia is felling trees across the Everglades, and experts have not found a way to stop the blight from spreading.

Then there's a bigger problem — the damage may be leaving Florida's fragile wetlands open to even more of an incursion from exotic plants threatening to choke the unique Everglades and undermine billions of dollars' worth of restoration projects.

EnergyGuardian Photo

DOE nominee Sherwood-Randall sails through hearing, faces wait

Senate Energy and Natural Resources chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., on Thursday held out hope that she can bring up conservation and wildfire suppression bills for votes by the panel before Congress leaves town next week for its August recess.

But Landrieu also acknowledged she won't be able to hold a vote on President Barack Obama's nominee for the No. 2 job at the Energy Department, who appeared before the panel on Thursday, until September at the earliest.

Senate hopefuls risk 'oppo-research' revelations

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's one thing to be Montana's lieutenant governor. It's another to be a U.S. Senate candidate in one of the states that will determine which party controls that 100-member chamber.

As Sen. John Walsh of Montana learned this week, one difference is the huge amount of resources poured into "opposition research," to flyspeck a candidate's history of comments, business dealings, legal actions, romances, health, writings and countless other items in search of a flaw that might cripple his or her campaign.

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