Wednesday PM February 2nd, 2011

Apache evacuates non-essential personnel from Egypt…FERC investigating BP for alleged natural gas market manipulation…NOAA reopens 4200 square miles of Gulf of Mexico to shrimping…EPA sets drinking water standard for perchlorate

Houston-based Apache Corporation has pulled all its non-essential, expatriate personnel from Egypt. That follows a State Department recommendation for U.S. citizens to leave Egypt due to the ongoing political turmoil. Apache says its production of crude oil and natural gas in Egypt’s Western Desert is continuing uninterrupted. Apache is the largest oil and natural gas producer in the Western Desert and the second-largest producer in Egypt.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are investigating BP for alleged manipulation of the natural gas market. The company confirms the regulators are looking into BP entitiesâ�� trading in the next-day gas market at the Houston Ship Channel during October and November 2008. The FERC’s enforcing body is now mulling whether to pursue charges against BP, which was prosecuted on propane market manipulation charges in 2006. BP paid around $300 million to settle those charges.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is reopening a 4,200-square-mile area of the Gulf of Mexico near B-P’s blown out well to deep water shrimping. The fishing grounds off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were initially closed after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, but reopened temporarily. They were closed again November 24 after a commercial shrimper found tar balls in his net. NOAA says recent testing shows no oil or dispersant contamination in the area.

The Environmental Protection Agency is setting the first drinking water standard for perchlorate, a toxic rocket fuel ingredient linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women and children. EPA scientists said up to 16.6 million Americans could be exposed to unsafe levels. The chemical is in 153 water supplies in 26 states, based on monitoring from 2001 to 2005. Most of those water supplies are in California and Texas. The decision reverses a 2008 Bush Administration ruling that didn’t limit perchlorate in water. The agency will propose a standard within two years.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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