January 2, 2013

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Drilling Rig Grounded in Gulf of Alaska

Officials fear possible spill

Severe weather has impeded the salvage of a large drilling rig that ran aground on an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, highlighting conservationists' concerns about drilling in isolated and environmentally sensitive waters.

The Kulluk, a Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig, was being towed to Seattle for maintenance when it became separated from its towing vessel south of Kodiak Island and ran aground Monday night. Winds of up to 80 miles per hour and 50-foot waves hindered yesterday's salvage attempts. It is carrying an estimated 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel and another 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid.

Federal on-scene response coordinator Captain Paul Mehler told reporters that there is currently “no sign of a release of any product.” The Coast Guard has nonetheless mobilized for an emergency spill response as a precautionary measure.

The area is home to two endangered species, as well as seals, salmon, and sea lions.

U.S. Representative Steve Markey (D-Mass.) expressed his concern over the incident, saying “oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies.”

Via Anchorage Daily News


Aconcagua     Photo: Beatriz Moisset

Two Climbers Die on Aconcagua

Succumbed to altitude sickness

Two Americans died on the highest mountain in the Americas over the weekend due to complications from altitude sickness. Eric Nourse and David Reinhart were climbing Aconcagua, a 22,841-foot peak near Mendoza, Argentina, via the Polish Glacier Direct route when Reinhart became ill at about 22,000 feet. Nourse set out to find a way down, but died in high camp after going to sleep in his tent. "We carried our gear up the mountain, and after a little catnap [Eric] would carry it back down," said brother Greg Nourse, who accompanied the pair on the climb. "He was never concerned about dying." On Tuesday, porters found Reinhart's body 150 feet above the camp where he had stayed.

Via Denver Post


Snowmass at sunrise.     Photo: Courtesy of Snowmass

Aspen Investigating Patroller's Death

Killed in an avalanche

A Snowmass ski patroller was killed in an avalanche on Sunday while skiing alone in the closed Ship's Prow Glades. Aspen Skiing Co. officials said that Patsy Hileman, a 26-year Snowmass patroller, triggered a small slide that swept her over a cliff, where she was found dead 40 minutes later. The out-of-bounds area known as Hanging Valley Wall had a weak base covered by a slab of heavy snow, and it's unclear why Hileman was there alone. “At this point we have no knowledge of Patsy's intentions, and we will not speculate on this matter,” spokesman Jeff Hanle said in the statement. “We can confirm that we have located only one set of tracks going into the area.”

Via Aspen Daily News


    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

House Delays Sandy Relief Bill

$60 billion blocked by Speaker

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives expressed consternation after the House failed to vote on a $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill Tuesday night. Representatives from both parties were quick to voice criticism of Speaker John Boehner, who halted the vote. While the bill will be reintroduced when the new congress elected in November is sworn in, it will have to be considered and passed all over again, further delaying aid for New York and New Jersey residents whose homes were destroyed in the October storm.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was especially vocal, tweeting: “When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night.” New York Representative Peter King (R) expressed similar sentiment. “Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds,” he said. “Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans.”

The 113th Congress will convene for the first time at noon on Thursday.

Via Global Post