International business briefs: Soviet oil spill, US fuel waiver, Chinese recycling office, New EPA facilities, NASA weather forecast

A tropical typhoon has grounded a ship just off the coast of Sakhalin, spilling over 200 metric tonnes of fuel oil. The oil and diesel contaminated approximately 5km of coastline, including the waters of two seaports in the city of Kholmsk, city beaches, and the coastal Primorsky Boulevard just 300 metres from local residences. The air is filled with oil fumes. Sakhalin Energy's entire oil spill response fleet - one charter vessel - is currently located on the northeast coast of the island, more than 600km from the site of the tragedy. A survey by local environmental officials to the south and north of the city showed no further oil contamination. Seabirds have left the Kholmsk region, and the entire city is blanketed with smothering oil fumes. It is hard to breathe along Primorsky Boulevard. Health and safety officials from Sakhalin Energy recommend that residents keep their distance from the shoreline in order to avoid being overcome by the fumes.

To ease Florida’s fuel supply concerns in the wake of the recent hurricanes, the US Environmental Protection Agency (epa) has allowed the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel statewide to exceed federal requirements. Last week as Hurricane Frances approached, the EPA temporarily allowed Florida fuel suppliers to sell motor vehicle diesel fuel exceeding the sulfur content standard for highway use under the Clean Air Act (CAA). That waiver will now run until 15 September. The agency also relaxed the requirements on certain areas of the state to sell gasoline meeting a strict vapor standard during high-ozone season.

Valient Recycling Ltd, the recycling and waste management subsidiary of Producer Responsibility scheme Valpak, has announced it has opened a representative office in China. The company introduced its new office at Valpak’s annual Reprocessor Conference in Leicester on last week.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing 19 new facilities from 11 states and Puerto Rico for membership in the National Environmental Performance Track Program. Performance Track rewards facilities that voluntarily exceed regulatory requirements, implement systems for improving environmental management, work with their communities and set three-year goals for improvements in environmental performance.

And finally, climate experts at NASA believe they have found a way of forecasting droughts and floods months in advance according to a report by New Scientist magazine. It states that forecasting more than a week ahead had previously proved impossible because the earth’s atmosphere is so unpredictable. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland has alledgedy located a series of “hotspots” in the middle of continents where changes in the moisture content in soils could possibly signal droughts or floods before they come.

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