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Remembering a Little Known Oil Spill with Out-Sized Impacts

Remembering a Little Known Oil Spill with Out-Sized Impacts

Ten years ago, there was an oil spill that you’ve probably never heard of. The spill wasn’t as large as the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, and it didn’t occur in an environment as pristine as Prince William Sound which was affected by the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989. But this event had a significant impact on future oil spill response, restoration and maritime accident prevention. 

Just outside of Philadelphia on November 26, 2004, an oil tanker called the Athos I unknowingly ripped its hull on an 18,000 pound anchor hidden on the river bottom. This released more than 263,000 gallons of heavy oil into an industrialized stretch of the Delaware River. That accident set into motion a coordinated federal, state and local response with NOAA playing a significant role providing scientific support to the responding agencies and the eventual restoration of the damaged coastline. 

Every oil spill has impacts and this one, despite being a fraction of the Deepwater Horizon release, severely affected the region’s economy and environment. Commercial traffic on this active shipping route was halted for more than a week, delaying over two hundred vessels. Claims paid to affected businesses topped $162.6 million. 

The nearby Salem Nuclear Power Plant was also affected. Because some oil sank to the river bottom it had the potential of clogging the power plant’s critical cooling water intake system. This required operators to shut down two reactors for 11 days, at a cost of $33.1 million. Scientists at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration were instrumental in estimating when the river was safe for the power plant to restart operations. 

The Athos incident also caused serious environmental effects. Almost 12,000 birds died as a result of the spill. Spilled oil washed up on 280 miles of shoreline, which included sensitive marshes, beaches, and mudflats. In addition, the spill affected nearly 42,000 recreational boating and fishing trips along the river. 

NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program, along with state and federal partners, tallied up environmental and recreational impacts and, in 2010, received $27.5 million from the National Pollution Funds Center. This money is being used for 10 restoration projects to benefit coastal communities and natural resources affected by the Athos oil spill. These projects are creating habitat for fish and wildlife, providing public access for recreation, increasing boater safety, and enhancing flood protection. To date, five projects have been completed, restoring 131 acres out of an eventual 332 acres of habitat. 

Secretary Pritzker Celebrates Female Entrepreneurs during Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

Secretary Pritzker Celebrates Female Entrepreneurs during Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker celebrated Women’s Entrepreneurship Day this week as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Marrakesh, Morocco. Secretary Pritzker helped lead the U.S. delegation to the Summit to demonstrate the U.S. government’s continued commitment to fostering entrepreneurship around the world. More than 3,000 entrepreneurs at all stages of business development, business leaders, mentors and high-level government officials gathered for the 5th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit. 

At last year’s GES in Malaysia, President Obama asked Secretary Pritzker to chair the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, and she convened the first-ever meeting of that group this past April. PAGE is made up of 11 well-known American entrepreneurs who are dedicating their time and resources to inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs in the U.S. and abroad. Three PAGE members joined the Secretary at this year’s GES, including Alexa von Tobel, Founder and CEO of Learnvest, Daphne Koller, Co-Founder and President of Coursera, and Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEOS of Chobani.  

In honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, Secretary Pritzker delivered the keynote address to approximately 300 women entrepreneurs. She discussed America’s leadership in empowering entrepreneurs at home and abroad and touted how a strong entrepreneurial society can lead to greater economic growth, stability and security, and a rising middle class. During her remarks, she also addressed the challenges that face women entrepreneurs today including lack of access to capital, training in vocational and technical skills, and access to information and technology. Structural obstacles also create enormous difficulties for women and men who want to grow a new business and Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of those obstacles. Secretary Pritzker discussed how female entrepreneurs all over the world need a change in culture to support their work. She expressed that countries need a strong educational system that produces students able to think broadly and creatively, and to accept and take risks while also stressing that countries need to have laws that make it easy for innovators to both start a company and wind it down. 

During her first day in Morocco, the Secretary also spoke with representatives from 80 American Chambers of Commerce headquartered throughout Africa, who were also gathered in Marrakesh for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. She discussed the Department’s Doing Business in Africa campaign, designed to leverage the power of the U.S. business community in Africa and encouraged U.S. trade promotion and investment to all regions of Africa. 

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Daphne Koller

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Daphne Koller

Daphne Koller began her career in education when she joined the Computer Science Department at Stanford University in September 1995. While she enjoyed teaching and leading research on probability theory and artificial intelligence, Koller thought about new ways that could engage more people in education – she wanted to share it with everyone, not just her students. 

In 2012, Koller and a fellow professor, Andrew Ng, started Coursera, a leading platform of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), to change education globally. Their vision was to provide universal access to the world’s best education.

As the co-founder and president of Coursera Inc., Koller has made all of her company’s online courses accessible for free. It gives both students and universities the opportunity to experiment with online education pedagogy and combine online course materials with on-campus learning experience.

“Education is the great motivator of people to achieve access to a better life,” she said. 

Koller is ranked among the CNBC’s NEXT List, which includes entrepreneurs and executives who are working on innovative solutions to global challenges. Time Magazine has recognized her as one of the “100 Most Influential People for 2012,” and Fast Company has named her a “creative leader” in the Most Creative People in Business 1000 list. 

With the advancement of technology, Koller is able to promote higher education to a new level. The company now offers over 800 online courses instructed by professors at 115 colleges and other institutions, including some of the Ivy Leagues schools – Yale University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University. Coursera now attracts more than 10 million users from every corner of the world. 

After two years of being a professor and running her company, Koller chose to devote all her time to Coursera. She considers entrepreneurship as the basis for prosperity and stability, and sees the PAGE initiative as a way to make this area available to everyone in the United States and other countries.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has expressed her admiration for Koller’s bold entrepreneurial decision to bring change to the world.  During the armchair discussion to mark the one-year anniversary of the “Open for Business Agenda,” a policy priorities framework that she laid out last year, Secretary Pritzker said, “A good idea is a good idea. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a 50 year-old, or 22 year-old or a 19 year-old.”

This week, Koller joined Secretary Pritzker at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco. She gave a presentation on innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, and discussed ways to empower entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into successful businesses, grow their ventures, and ultimately create jobs.