Daily News - The Week of May 13 - 18, 2005

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Last Week's Daily News:

May 13, 2005

Senate Tweaking Energy Bill

The Senate will release its draft of the energy bill today. The House of Representatives approved its version of the energy legislation last month. President Bush wants Congress to send him a final energy plan by August 1, 2005.

The most controversial issue still facing legislators is whether to allow states to allow offshore drilling in the areas that are off-limits.

The Senate draft will not include any language that would open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. In March, the Senate voted by a simple margin to allow drilling in ANWR, and it is pursing the initiative through another separate bill.

The draft also leaves out protection for oil companies from product liability lawsuits over the gasoline additive MTBE. However, House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, insists that oil companies must be shielded from MTBE lawsuits. The battle over MTBE killed last year's energy bill.

The Senate and House will settle the differences between their respective versions in a joint conference, which will compromise the language for a final energy bill.

May 16, 2005

Port of Oakland Begins Scanning for Radiation

The Port of Oakland is the first port in the United States to begin scanning ocean containers for radioactive traces. The port system handles approximately 5,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) per day, and is the nation's fourth largest container port behind Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New York-Newark.

The Port of Oakland placed the $4 million radiation detectors, which were purchased with federal security funds, in its international terminals to prevent terrorists from smuggling radioactive materials into the nation. The Department of Homeland Security intends to radioactive monitors in all California ports by the end of the year.

May 17, 2005
Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund Will be Depleted by 2009

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a report warning that the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund will be depleted by 2009 to Congress.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 established the fund, ensuring there would be an ultimate insurer for oil spill recovery cost and damages, in case those responsible could not pay. There have been many cases, when a polluter could not be found, did not have the ability to pay or had limits to their liability. As of today, the expenditures from the fund are expected to rise significantly due to several large spills in recent years.

The 1989 "Exxon Valdez" spill in Alaska, highlighted there was no fund large enough to handle a spill of that magnitude. Until 1994, there was a five-cent per barrel tax on petroleum produced in and imported to the United States. Between the "per barrel tax" and the consolidation of various federal funds, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund held as much as $1 billion. In fiscal 2005, the fund has $842 million. The fund is being depleted by recurring costs, appropriations to various agencies, and the recent costs of several major oil spills. USCG say the fund will be insufficient to sustain all of the demands by 2007, and will be empty by 2009.

May 18, 2005

Missing Couple Presumed Overboard on Cruise Ship

The disappearance of an American couple during a Caribbean cruise is presumed to be a case of them falling overboard. The 71-year-old man and 67-year-old woman aboard the Carnival Destiny disappeared Thursday between the islands of Barbados and Aruba, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Omar Barrera.

"The only logical conclusion it that they somehow fell overboard," Barrera said.

Investigators found a few belongings, including a purse and sandals, out in the open on the third floor of the ship. There were no signs of suicide, and the two evidently were in good health with no serious personal problems. Two Coast Guard planes conducted an unsuccessful search. Passing ships were asked to be on the lookout.