Freedom Industries, company in W.Va. oil spill, under scrutiny

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — When state inspectors showed up unannounced at Freedom Industries to investigate a licorice odor wafting across West Virginia's capital city, company executive Dennis Farrell seemed to brush off any cause for concern.

But inspectors quickly found what was already contaminating the water for some 300,000 people: a chemical oozing from an above-ground tank and escaping through an old, cracked containment wall. A bag of absorbent material had been placed nearby and weighed down with a cinder block in a failed attempt to stop the flow.

"When they approached the tank, (Farrell) said they just discovered a leak," Jesse Adkins, the inspectors' supervisor, said.

Murkowski calls on Obama to OK Keystone and drop crude export ban

The Hill

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has written to President Obama urging him to support the Keystone XL pipeline and to lift the crude oil export ban, The Hill reports.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources photo

Republicans to press Interior nominees at second hearing

Two of President Barack Obama's nominees to top Interior Department posts will be called to testify again before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, delaying a plan by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to reorganize the department's management.

A committee aide to Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said a second hearing will be held on the nominations of Janice M. Schneider and Rhea Suh, at the request of committee Republicans, who remain unsatisfied with their responses to questions posed at their initial appearances.

Boehner: Need better enforcement of safety rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner is suggesting that the Obama administration needs to do a better job of enforcing safety regulations designed to protect the public against disasters like the chemical spill into West Virginia's drinking water supply.

The Ohio Republicans tells reporters there already are enough safety and health regulations on the books. He says the Obama administration should be doing more and that someone should be held accountable for the spill.

Congressional Republicans have sought to eliminate many federal regulations that the Ohio Republican says the GOP considers burdensome and cost jobs.

Last week's leak from a chemical storage facility into the Elk River tainted the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians. Government regulators considered it low risk and it got scant attention from them.

EPA's review of vehicle mpg ratings finds no new discrepancies

The Detroit News

Following settlement of a suit over auto mileage ratings, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said an audit found no new problems with published vehicle economy numbers, The Detroit News reports.

Flickr User Foo Conner

Manchin to propose tougher regs on chemical storage

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said Tuesday he will author legislation to force regulation of toxic chemicals as a result of the coal processing chemical spill in his state that left hundreds of thousands without drinking water.

"We're working on it now. It should be tied into the (Safe) Drinking Water Act," he told reporters in the Capitol. "We're looking at everything, there shouldn't be anything that goes unmonitored or un-inspected."

House Republicans advance bill to limit EPA power plant carbon regulations

National Journal

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy panel turned aside Democratic opposition to advance a bill that would tie the hands of the EPA in regulating carbon from power plants, National Journal reports.

Facility in W.Va spill flew under regulatory radar

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The facility whose chemical spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginia residents was barely scrutinized, flying largely under the radar of government regulators who viewed it as a low-risk operation — but in reality, a problem at a key holding wall went undetected and unreported at Freedom Industries Inc.

The chemicals stored at Freedom's facility near the Elk River are not considered hazardous enough by regulators to prompt routine inspections. On a normal day, it never created chemical waste that went into the environment. As a result, the chemical storage terminal was a low priority for regulators, who must pick and choose how to allocate scarce manpower when enforcing environmental laws.

"I think that the loophole that this facility fell into is because it was not a hazardous material, it flew under the radar," said Randy Huffman, cabinet secretary of West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection, which enforces environmental laws.

Interior Department photo

Schneider, Suh left off Senate Energy voting session

Two of President Barack Obama's Interior Department nominees will have to answer additional questions from skeptical Republicans and one key Democrat before getting a committee vote. 

The nominees are attorney Janice M. Schneider, named to be assistant secretary for lands and minerals management, and current Interior official Rhea S. Suh to be assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks.

They were the two Interior Department nominees awaiting votes in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who will not be considered at a planned business meeting on Thursday.


NTSB says nearly all derailed crude tankers punctured in Casselton fire

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday that all but two of the 20 crude oil tanker cars that derailed outside Casselton, N.D. in late December punctured and spilled crude, raising fresh questions about the safety of rail transport of oil from the Bakken Shale.

In a two-page preliminary report on the Dec. 30 accident, NTSB said the tankers spilled 400,000 gallons of crude oil, which led to a huge explosion and fire that forced the evacuation of the town of about 1,400. The board estimated damages at $6.1 million.


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