Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gulf awash in 27,000 abandoned gas and oil wells - More than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells remain in the Gulf of Mexico and no one's checking to see if they are leaking, reports an investigation by the Associated Press. The AP, calling the Gulf an "environmental minefield," says the oldest of these wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising questions about whether their seals remain intact. 3,500 wells are listed as "temporarily abandoned," without seals, with 1,000 of them remaining that way for more than a decade.
The Macondo well beneath BP's Deepwater Horizon rig was being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment when it blew April 20. Government data indicate BP alone has abandoned about 600 wells in the Gulf. There's ample reason for worry about all permanently and temporarily abandoned wells – history shows that at least on land, they often leak. Experts say such wells can repressurize, much like a dormant volcano can awaken. And years of exposure to sea water and underground pressure can cause cementing and piping to corrode and weaken. Oil company representatives insist that the seal on a correctly plugged offshore well will last virtually forever.
Officials at the U.S. Interior Department, which oversees the agency that regulates federal leases in the Gulf and elsewhere, did not answer repeated questions regarding why there are no inspections of abandoned wells.
State officials estimate that tens of thousands are badly sealed, either because they predate strict regulation or because the operating companies violated rules. Texas alone has plugged more than 21,000 abandoned wells to control pollution. Offshore, but in state waters, California has resealed scores of its abandoned wells since the 1980s. In deeper federal waters, though – despite the similarities in how such wells are constructed and how sealing procedures can fail – the official policy is out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
The General Accountability Office, which investigates for Congress, warned as early as 1994 that leaks from offshore abandoned wells could cause an "environmental disaster," killing fish, shellfish, mammals and plants. In a lengthy report, GAO pressed for inspections of abandonment jobs, but nothing came of the recommendation.
A GAO report in 1989 provided a foreboding prognosis about the health of the country's inland oil and gas wells. The watchdog agency quoted EPA data estimating that up to 17 percent of the nation's wells on land had been improperly plugged. If that percentage applies to offshore wells, there could be 4,600 badly plugged wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone.

**When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.**

This morning -

Yesterday -
7/7/10 -

California - A significant earthquake rocked the Inland region late Wednesday afternoon but appears to have done little damage. No one has been reported injured. The magnitude-5.4 quake struck at 4:53 p.m. and was centered 15 miles north-northwest of Borrego Springs, or 30 miles south of Palm Springs, in northeast San Diego County. No major damage had been reported. The Palm Springs Police Department reported a rock slide in the area of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway caused by the quake, but officers who responded found that no one had been injured and no damage had been done to the tram or its facilities. Some guests and employees of the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage were trapped for about an hour in elevators that stopped when the earthquake hit.
The quake was followed by numerous aftershocks, the largest of which so far has been a magnitude-3.3 that hit three minutes later. Four others measured 3.0. The earthquake was most likely related to the 7.2 magnitude El Mayor-Cucapah quake that hit southwest of Mexicali on Easter Sunday. "The stress and strain was changed during the 7.2 event and all the aftershocks we've had." Changes had been noted in the stress on the San Jacinto and Elsinore faults in the wake of the Baja quake. The Coyote Creek Fault, where Wednesday's quake was thought to be centered "is kind of an extension of those areas." But the Borrego Springs earthquake is not an aftershock. "It is a separate event. But to say that it would have happened without the main shock, it would be difficult to say that."
At a horse rescue ranch in Anza, the earthquake spooked 30 horses and other animals on the property. "They all jumped. Everything jumped. The dogs, the baby sheep, the horses. It was big enough to slosh water out of the horses' water buckets." A Borrego Springs resident said he heard the earthquake before he felt it. First there was a large pop, like something hit his home. Then came several hard jolts. "It felt like a train was on tracks running right by the house." The area has been hit by a few smaller earthquakes in recent days, but nothing like Wednesday's. (map)

Tropical depression 02 was 230 nmi ESE of Brownsville, Texas.

Tropical depression AL02 is forecast to strike the United States as a tropical storm at about 20:00 GMT today. (map)
Southern Texas could see as much as 5 to 7 inches of rain. Tides are expected to reach 2 1/2 to 3 feet above mean sea level.


MEXICO - Torrential rain pounded northern Mexico yesterday, triggering floods that closed a US-Mexico border bridge and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The HEAVIEST RAIN FOR SEVERAL DECADES has topped off reservoirs in the border states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, across from Texas, with officials diverting water into swollen rivers to avert major damage. After Hurricane Alex soaked the region last week with floods that killed at least 15 people in Nuevo Leon, a new storm dumped still more rain on waterlogged terrain. Some 40,000 homes have already been damaged in Coahuila. Some 3500 people were evacuated from their homes in Tamaulipas as several reservoirs spilled over, threatening rural communities with floods. Authorities have now evacuated some 22,000 people from the town of Anahuac, in Nuevo Leon, for fear that a nearby dam will overflow. In the town of Linares, Nuevo Leon, the town hall collapsed, in dramatic footage shown on television, as its foundations weakened under the persistent rain. More than 100,000 people remained without drinking water around the state following last week's storms, which caused flooding and chaos in the capital Monterrey. Alex also left a trail of overturned cars and mud-covered roads in its wake and caused an estimated $US800 million ($928.94 million) in property damage. The US National Weather Service has forecast heavy rains over southern Texas and northeast Mexico in the coming days.


NEW YORK - Manhattan Hits 100 Again As RECORD-BREAKING HEATWAVE Continues. Temperatures hit a record high of 100 degrees Wednesday, beating the daily record of 98 set in 1993. Tuesday's high of 103 degrees broke the city's July 6 record set in 1999. It was one of only seven times the temperature in Central Park has reached 103 or above since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1870. The heat was responsible for at least one death. A 46-year-old Queens woman died of heat-related causes. Her body temperature had reached 108 degrees.
PHILADELPHIA - A scorcher of a heat wave - the second in as many weeks - pushed temperatures up into RECORD-BREAKING TRIPLE DIGITS Tuesday and was blamed for a 92-year-old West Philadelphia woman's death. Temperatures peaked at 102 at 3:54 p.m. at Philadelphia International Airport, breaking the record of 98 set in 1999. It also hit 102 in Trenton and Atlantic City. Sporadic winds made it feel alternately like a convection oven or dragon's breath. An excessive heat warning for the region remained in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday, when the record of 98, set in 1994, was also expected to fall.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Temperatures crept into the triple digits across the Washington region again on Wednesday, the second day of RECORD-BREAKING, or near-record heat. By 3 p.m., Reagan National Airport had recorded 102 degrees -- the same as Tuesday's high temperature. It was the second consecutive day under a Heat Advisory, and the weather was taking a toll. At the Washington Monument, a woman was overcome by the high temperatures. First responders rushed her to the hospital. It was just one of the hundreds of heat-related calls that sparked a 50-percent increase in calls to D.C. Fire and EMS.


The 'other' flu strain - The World Health Organization confirmed the recent illness and death of an Indonesian woman from H5N1 avian influenza, pushing the global number of cases to 500. The woman's infection raises Indonesia's number of H5N1 cases to 166 and the number of deaths to 137, for an 83% case-fatality rate. The country has the world's highest number of cases and fatalities. Of the 500 global cases, 296 (59%) have been fatal.

Only 12% of UK hotline antiviral users had H1N1 - Almost 90% of the more than 1 million UK citizens who obtained antiviral drugs using Britain's pandemic flu hotline or Web site did not have novel H1N1 flu. Of 16,560 people who used the service and were tested, only 1,932 (12%) had H1N1. The country's Patients Association has raised issues about the system, and the country's independent review of its pandemic response last week called for a complete review of the service.