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California gas prices spike after refinery problems [San Francisco Chronicle]

March 28– Mar. 28–Gas prices in California and the Bay Area have jumped following the temporary shutdown of the Valero refinery in Benicia.

The average price of gas in California was $3.54 per gallon on Wednesday — nearly a dollar higher than the national average of $2.67 per gallon, according to AAA. California gas prices saw a weekly increase of 17 cents a gallon.

The Valero refinery was temporarily shut down Sunday after an issue at the refinery caused the release of particles of petroleum coke, a byproduct of the oil-refining process.

That shutdown, along with problems at a Phillips 66 refinery in Carson (Los Angeles County), have caused gas prices in the state to spike, according to AAA Northern California spokesman Michael Blasky.

“The reason prices jump so quickly when one or two refineries have issues is California has more environmental regulations on fuel,” Blasky said. Gasoline in California has to get extra refining to meet extra environmental and quality regulations, but that means the state cannot easily import fuel when its refineries have problems.

Prices in the city of San Francisco averaged $3.79 per gallon Wednesday, according to AAA.

A fire broke out this month at a crude processing unit of the Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery in Carson, according to Phillips 66 spokesman Dennis Nuss. The unit remains shut while the company investigates and makes repairs, but the rest of the Carson and nearby Wilmington facilities are operating.

“We do not want to speculate on how long the crude unit will be down or what impact this would have on the market; however, we are working to ensure that we will meet our contractual supply obligations,” Nuss said.

Valero referred a request for comment to a notification it provided to the city of Benicia on Tuesday. The statement cited, in part, a problem with a flue gas scrubber on Saturday, which led to emissions of small particles and carbon monoxide. As the problem worsened, Valero decided to shut down the refinery’s processing units.

“When you have an unexpected refinery outage, it is cause for concern,” said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com. “It’s not so much that prices have gone up or will go up, it’s a question of how long they’ll be offline, and we have kind of an indefinite time.”

AAA has estimated that the refinery issues would cause a price increase of 15 to 25 cents per gallon in California.

“Because our market is so constrained and so isolated … as soon as you see reports of a production slowdown, that affects wholesale prices almost overnight,” Blasky said.

Gas prices are also rising nationally, as is typical during the lead-up to the summer travel season. But this week’s price spike in California is “definitely” related to the refineries’ production problems, Blasky said. Hawaii usually has higher gas prices than California, he added — but that’s not true this week.

The Valero refinery also had issues with a unit called the Fluid Coker on March 11, which led to dark plumes being emitted from the refinery.

Benicia residents weren’t satisfied with Valero’s response to the problem.

“There’s been a lot of talk on various social media sites and a lot of disappointment in the community about being exposed, and continuing the question of why did it take so long to shut the refinery down?” Mayor Elizabeth Patterson said. “The question seems simple on the face, that you had this emission going on for almost two weeks. … It wasn’t until it got worse during the weekend that it got shut down.”

Andrés Soto, a Benicia resident and the Richmond community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment, said he could see black smoke from the refinery for about a week before it was shut down, adding that Valero did not respond quickly enough.

“I am not aware of any safe levels of breathing in pet (petroleum) coke. I would challenge the refinery plant manager in that trail of steam and pet coke to take a deep breath and say he feels good,” Soto said. “The history of this refinery’s treatment of the people of Benicia is to keep them uninformed for as long as possible and then to tell them they know best, because, after all, they’re a ‘gold star refiner,’ which is what they always try to hide behind. But they definitely waited too long to notify people of the real risks.”

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued 12 violations to Valero in the past week for visible emissions and public nuisance. Eight were issued before Valero shut down the refinery, and four were issued after, according to agency public information officer Ralph Borrmann.

Sophia Kunthara is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: sophia.kunthara@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SophiaKunthara

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Trying to Build a Successful Small Business? Look Past Niches and Fill Gaps Instead

Filling gaps as a business growth strategy

Like the countless number of stars in the night sky or grains of sand on a beach, there are an infinite number of ways to build a small business. The challenge for you, the entrepreneur, is to identify the strategy that best fits your personality and company and follow it through to a successful conclusion.

One of the most popular and well-known strategies, of course, is to find an unfilled niche in the marketplace and make it your specialty. Many a well-known entrepreneur has followed this path to profits and success. It’s not the only strategy out there. Today, we’re going to look at another strategy you may want to pursue.

Even the best and brightest entrepreneurs seldom achieve success all on their own. Somewhere along the line they had some kind of help or a business partnership that enabled them to overcome a difficult challenge or allowed them to make a breakthrough. Every company, no matter the size, has a gap they need assistance with in filling. One way to guide your small business to ultimate success is to identify that gap, make a partnership and contract to fill it.

Bill Gates is certainly one of the most successful small business entrepreneurs of all time. His company, Microsoft, has products found on virtually every computer and electronic device in the world. But as big as the company is today, it started quite small. What started it on the road to its current level of dominance is the strategy it used to get going. Gates didn’t start out with Windows 10 or MS Office. No, he started by filling larger organizations’ gaps. Gates built relationships with these larger computing companies, learned they had areas where they needed help, gained their trust and provided a valued service and expertise. In Gates’ particular case, it was providing software for computing giant IBM.

At the time, IBM was THE world’s computing giant. There was IBM, and then there was everyone else. To think that IBM had any kind of computing or programming need that they couldn’t fill on their own seemed laughable. Yet Gates took the chance, asked the questions and built the crucial trust-based relationships that enabled him and his fledgling Microsoft to be the company, would fill the gaps in IBM’s personal computer business. Without taking advantage of that opportunity and those relationships, the world of computing might look far different today.  

To achieve success, then, is to constantly be thinking of partnerships. Think of partnerships not that can just benefit you, but of partnerships where both sides can aid one another. Yes, Gates received valuable work, contacts and references he later turned into a multi-billion-dollar corporation. But Gates also learned things from IBM and, in turn, IBM learned some things from him. Their partnership was a two-way street. When you have a relationship and a partnership like that, no gap is too large to overcome. 

AG’s office can proceed with lawsuit against gas drillers [Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.]

March 26– Mar. 26–The state Attorney General’s office can proceed with a lawsuit filed on behalf of landowners it alleges were cheated out of royalties by two natural gras drillers, a state appeals court ruled.

In a 6-1 ruling, the state Commonwealth Court upheld a judge’s ruling that denied motions filed by Chesapeake Energy Inc. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. that sought to dismiss the case. The court did dismiss one of two counts that sought damages for violations of antitrust laws.

The lawsuit, filed in Bradford County Court in 2015, alleges Chesapeake and Anadarko violated Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by engaging in various unlawful conduct, including misrepresenting how much money landowners would receive for allowing the companies to extract natural gas beneath their properties through Marcellus Shale drilling.

The suit also alleges the companies violated antitrust laws by agreeing not to compete against each other, which reduced competition and allowed them to keep royalty payments artificially low.

The attorney general’s office was prompted to act after receiving complaints from landowners who say the companies improperly deducted post-production costs from their royalty checks. The fees were so high that landowners sometimes received nothing.

Attorneys for Chesapeake and Anadarko argued the unfair trade practices claim should be dismissed because the law protects only consumers who purchase goods. The landowners in essence sell the natural gas extracted from their properties to the companies, therefore the law does not apply to firms, they said.

Bradford County Senior Judge Kenneth D. Brown rejected the claims in 2017, finding that the law protects any type of trade or commerce, not just the purchase of goods.

The majority of the Commonwealth Court affirmed the ruling, finding that lease agreements fall under the trade and commerce protections of the unfair trade practices law.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Anne E. Covey said the majority’s ruling misconstrues the definition of trade and commerce in a manner that’s inconsistent with the legislature’s intent, which is to protect consumers.

“The majority holds that … a consumer protection statute intended to bolster consumers’ bargaining powers, can authorize legal action against a purchaser,” Covey said.

The majority opinion does overturn a portion of Brown’s ruling regarding the antitrust allegations. It dismissed one count that alleged the companies engaged in “market sharing agreements” to reduce competition, finding that type of activity is not covered under existing law. It let stand a claim the companies violated antitrust laws by engaging in unfair or deceptive practices, however.

Gordon Pennoyer, spokesman for Chesapeake, said it intends to ask the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the ruling.

Pennoyer noted Chesapeake has reached settlements resolving the “vast majority” of lawsuits landowners filed against it regarding royalty disputes. The attorney general’s case has interfered with those settlements, he said.

“Chesapeake will continue to pursue resolution of this matter with the attorney general so that our royalty owners can enjoy the benefits of those settlements and choose their royalty formula going forward,” he said in an email.

Attempts to reach John Christiansen, spokesman for Anadarko, were unsuccessful.

Contact the writer: tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseckerTT on Twitter

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Gas prices on the rise [The Cullman Times, Ala.]

March 26– Mar. 26–Higher gas prices are settling in for spring break week, along with another round of work along Interstate 65.

And near the end of summer, the new Alabama gas tax hike will pile on for the ride.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Alabama is $2.36 per gallon, which is up nearly 6 cents from last week and 23 cents from last month. The average price per gallon in Cullman County was $2.39.

Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said the higher price is directly linked to higher oil prices and refinery efforts to produce cleaner, more expensive gasoline.

GasBuddy price reports show the cheapest station in Alabama was priced at $2.10 per gallon Monday, while the most expensive was $2.78/, a difference of 68 cents per gallon. The cheapest price in the entire country Monday $1.12 per gallon, with the most expensive standing at $5.04.

The national average price of gasoline has risen 6.5 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $2.62 per gallon. The national average is up 22.2 cents per gallon from a month ago, yet stands 2.1 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.

Alabama’s gas tax hike begins Sept. 1, which will tack on an additional 6 cents. Whether gas prices will decline or continue to rise is uncertain. The tax will reach 10 cents in two years.

Revenue from the tax will go primarily to road and bridge projects. Each 1 cent increase is estimated to be worth $32 million in new revenue, with the complete 10-cent increase expected to raise more than $300 million.

“Excess inventory of winter gasoline paved the way for deep discounts in some states after the holidays, and now with the transition to cleaner, more expensive summer gasoline underway, supply has tightened, and those previous deep discounts have vaporized,” DeHaan said. “The news doesn’t get much better either: motorists can expect the jumps at the pump to continue into April, and perhaps even lasting up to Memorial Day, when the transition to summer gasoline and refinery maintenance have generally wrapped up.”

OPEC countries along with Russia have continued to limit output in an effort to boost prices, which have recently risen to a four-month high, just shy of $59 per barrel. Ongoing turmoil in Venezuela is also playing a role in rising oil prices, thanks to a near country-wide electricity outage that curbed the country’s ability to export crude oil, according to GasBuddy.

With prices ticking up, motorists will also see a new round of work along Interstate 65 this week.

The Alabama Department of Transportation reported there will be nighttime, single-lane closures on Interstate 65 northbound north of Exit 291 (Alabama 91 near Colony) in Cullman County beginning about 6 p.m. Wednesday for concrete placement.

Also, on Thursday, the contractor will be repairing asphalt between the Blount County line and Exit 305 (County Road 222 in Good Hope). Motorists can expect single-lane closures northbound and southbound during the day.

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(c)2019 The Cullman Times (Cullman, Ala.)

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Routine agenda for county [The Woodward News, Okla.]

March 23– Mar. 23–Woodward County Commissioners weekly meeting is scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m.

The short 16 item agenda includes monthly jail reports, transferring funds, financing quotes and opening of a sealed bid.

Commissioners will consider the county cash fund estimate of needs and request for appropriations for March.

Monthly reports for the months of December 2018, January and February 2019 will be considered for the county jail. Commissioners will discuss possibly transferring funds to sheriff’s accounts.

Financing quotes for two trucks from Brunker’s Truck Sales Inc. off of state contract for District 2 will be considered.

Due to non-usage, commissioners will also discuss possibly removing the pay phone from the front lobby of the courthouse.

A sealed six month bid for gyp rock will be opened.

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(c)2019 The Woodward News (Woodward, Okla.)

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GM to invest $300M, add 400 jobs to create new electric vehicle at Michigan plant [MLive.com, Walker, Mich.]

March 22– Mar. 22ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich. — General Motors will invest $300 million in its Orion Township assembly plant, a move that will create 400 new jobs in suburban Detroit.

The decision announced by the auto manufacturer on Friday was made to produce a new Chevrolet electric vehicle designed and engineered off an advanced version of the existing Chevrolet Bolt EV already produced at the plant.

“We are excited to bring these jobs and this investment to the U.S.,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra during an announcement at the plant with employees, elected officials and community leaders.

“This new Chevrolet electric vehicle is another positive step toward our commitment to an all-electric future. GM will continue to invest in our U.S. operations where we see opportunities for growth.”

Initially slated to be produced outside the United States, GM pivoted and brought production of the new vehicle to Michigan because the Orion plant currently builds the Bolt EV.

Moving production to a U.S. manufacturing plant also supports the rules of origin provisions in the proposed United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement, according to a news release.

It’s the latest commitment GM has made in Michigan. GM is in the process of adding 1,000 jobs at the Flint Truck Assembly Plant and new investments at the Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant and Romulus Propulsion Plant.

It also recently revealed the all-new Cadillac CT5 to be produced at the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant.

In addition to the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Orion Assembly plant currently builds the Chevrolet Sonic and the Cruise AV test vehicles.

It currently employs about 880 hourly and 130 salaried employees. Including the new investment, GM has invested nearly $1 billion at Orion Assembly since 2009, according to the company.

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(c)2019 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

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Tired of Striking Out with Banks, Small Businesses Find Alternative Lenders’ Pitch More to Their Liking

Small Business Alternative Lenders

In baseball, a player who bats below .200 is said to be hitting below the Mendoza Line, so named for a light-hitting shortstop for the 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates. That means the batter makes an out more than eight out of every 10 at bats. Sounds pretty futile, doesn’t it?

Small businesses often face a Mendoza Line of their own each time they apply for a loan. Nationally, banks reject small business loan applications 80 percent of the time, on average. So, each time an entrepreneur walks into a bank seeking capital to start or expand his or her business, they might as well be poor Mendoza batting against fireballing Nolan Ryan. The results are going to be about the same – another frustrating effort often ending in failure.

Mendoza was just plain out of luck and out of baseball after a few lackluster seasons. There’s just not much of a market for players that can barely hit their weight. Small business owners, however, have found other options for their lending woes. Thanks in part to the power of the Internet, these entrepreneurs have discovered new funding sources ready to go to bat for them instead of tossing curveball after curveball their way.

Online lending has proven to be a home run for capital-hungry small businesses. In fact, it’s been such a hit that 2018 was the biggest year yet for online lenders. Unlike standard brick-and-mortar banks, online lenders have proven much more willing to lend needed money to startups or young businesses looking to grow. While banks may okay only 20 percent of small business loans, online lenders are approving three times that amount, earning many appreciative fans in the small business community. Another advantage in their favor over traditional banks is a more simplified application process and a faster review/approval.

Peer-to-peer lending offers entrepreneurs another funding alternative. Investopedia defines peer-to-peer lending as “a method of debt financing that enables individuals to borrow and lend money without the use of an official financial institution as an intermediary.” You may have heard peer-to-peer lending also called social lending or crowdfunding.

This method of funding works a little like on online dating service. Only in this case, it’s a business and investor that hook up, rather than two lonely hearts. A small business looking for money puts a profile of itself on a peer-to-peer online platform. Interested investors can view these profiles and assess whether they want to lend money. The investor can lend all or only part of what a business needs. If the small company only gets a portion of what it’s seeking, it can keep its profile active online for other potential investors. The small business and the investor(s) must agree on repayment plans and interest rates. And, of course, the online platform that brought the two (or more) parties together also gets a slice for providing the service. As you can imagine, however, it’s certainly much easier and quicker to obtain funding this way.

Since Mendoza seldom got on base, he wasn’t much of a base-stealing or scoring risk to opposing teams. But online lending and peer-to-peer lending do have risks which you should be aware of before trying them.

With online loans, fees and interest rates generally tend to be much higher than for traditional loans from a bank. Plus, there are often more fees attached to the online loan than loans from other sources.

Many online loans have set repayment provisions, and these provisions could wind up making the loan more of a hindrance down the road than a help. If you are expecting a traditional once-a-month payment plan, for example, you may be surprised to learn the online lender you’ve taken a loan from actually requires payment every week, or in the worst cases, even daily.

Finally, there is the security issue. News reports come out almost daily about online scams of all kinds. Just because someone has put up a website advertising online loans does not automatically mean it’s a legitimate firm. There’s the possibility it’s a fly-by-night outfit looking to steal your information and good name for their own nefarious uses or a lead gatherer who will then sell it to online lenders.

As for peer-to-peer lending, interest rates may prove problematic. These rates can often reach more than 30 percent, especially for companies the investors view as risky. After all, a peer-to-peer loan is an unsecured loan for the investor, which means no collateral for repayment should the borrower default. Investors want some assurance they won’t lose everything in case of default, and that’s accomplished partially through high interest rates.

When looking for capital via online or alternative funding sources such as peer-to-peer lending, it’s best not to immediately swing for the fences. Do plenty of research beforehand. A good hitter studies that night’s starting pitcher looking for clues as to each pitch’s speed, movement and location before stepping up to the plate. Make sure you have a solid grasp of your true needs and of the risks and benefits of these non-traditional funding sources before pursuing a loan. You may find these choices a great resource for your business… or you may discover you’re better off taking your chances with a traditional bank. The one thing you don’t want to do is desperately flail away and make a costly out or error that will end your season and perhaps even your business.

A better play might be to consider another form of raising needed money for expanding a business, adding employees, buying new equipment and improving cash flow. This option is called invoice factoring. Invoice factoring allows you to “sell” your accounts receivable invoices to a factoring company. The factoring company pays you upfront for outstanding invoices, giving you the cash you need today to run your business, and eliminating the worry and hassle of slow pay collections. That’s now the invoice factoring company’s concern, leaving you free to run your business.

Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loan or fee-laden online loans and risky crowdfunding. Each of these sources require a long-term contract. Factoring, however, gives you the money you need when you need it with no long-term obligations. You can also get cash quicker through invoice factoring – usually within a day or two. If you would like to learn more about how invoice factoring works and how it can step up to the plate for your business, simply call toll-free 1-855-219-6008 or email clientsupport@chartercapitalusa.com. You may find it a great addition to your lineup.

Colorado Senate committee hears debate over sweeping oil and gas bill [The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)]

March 06– Mar. 6–Fatal explosions, poisoned wells and shriveled property values hinge on Colorado’s oil and gas industry, many testified before a state Senate committee Tuesday.

But that industry drives the state’s economy, creates jobs and donates money and time to Colorado businesses and nonprofits, many others noted.

Controversy and hours of debate stemmed from Senate Bill 181, which Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, presented to the Committee on Transportation and Energy before hearing testimony from hundreds of witnesses Tuesday.

The bill would tighten regulations, prioritize health and safety over business development and give local governments control of industry permits.

The oil and gas industry still could operate, “but not at the expense of people’s health and safety,” Fenberg said.

Erin Martinez said such regulations might have saved her husband and brother, who were killed in a 2017 explosion in Firestone sparked by natural gas leaking from a nearby pipeline.

“With proper regulations and inspections and pressure testing, this entire tragedy could have been avoided,” Martinez told the committee.

Under the bill, local governments could inspect oil and gas operations and impose fines for leaks, spills and emissions. The legislation also would mandate that a majority of property owners over a common-source energy supply must consent to drilling.

And the bill would redefine the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to place public health, safety and the environment above fostering or supporting the industry, which is the group’s current charge.

That change is important, as the commission has failed in its responsibilities, said Penny Weeber, a former resident of the Arapahoe Basin.

“I’ve seen my neighbor’s home become unlivable” because of noise from a nearby operation, Weeber said. “I’ve watched my neighbor Joel’s well become contaminated. COGCC is not protecting our water, it’s not protecting our health, and I urge you to make that change so that can happen.”

But many people in shirts proclaiming “I AM COLORADO OIL & GAS” gathered on the Capitol’s west steps to express displeasure with the bill.

Bradley Beck told the committee a working well sits in his Erie neighborhood, near a small park, and Encana Oil & Gas are “really good neighbors.” Beck said he rarely noticed the operation. “Once in a while, you can hear something. But hell, once in a while you can smell Greeley from my home, too.”

But another Erie resident said he and his two teenage daughters “are under siege. Erie is as much an oil field as it is a bedroom community.”

Local control is needed, and Fenberg’s measure is the right vehicle to provide it, said Brandy DeLange, legislative and policy advocate for the Colorado Municipal League.

Some local officials had a different perspective. Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said the bill could demolish the economy in her county, home to the vast majority of Colorado oil operations and much natural gas work as well. Jobs would be lost, she said.

But counties and communities don’t have to enact tighter rules, as they’re optional, said Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette.

Foote questioned industry proponents repeatedly as to how the bill would eliminate jobs. Some said tighter regulation would discourage companies from investing in the state and force others to leave. Others said fears of calamity are far overblown, and the industry would continue to profit.

The committee hadn’t voted as of press time, but even if the bill passed, two more committee hearings in the Senate and three in the House are likely, Fenberg said, so everyone will have ample opportunity to comment.

conrad.swanson@gazette.com

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North Dakota oil industry maturing, study shows [The Bismarck Tribune, N.D.]

March 06– Mar. 6–A new economic impact study shows North Dakota’s oil industry is maturing, with more long-term jobs to maintain production and fewer temporary workers.

The oil industry had a $32.6 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2017, according to the study by North Dakota State University researchers.

Dean Bangsund, research scientist with NDSU’s Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, highlighted some of his most recent findings at the state Capitol on Tuesday.

Bangsund and his colleague, Nancy Hodur of NDSU’s Center for Social Research, had said during the Bakken boom that communities should expect a shift in their workforce. They projected that North Dakota would have fewer drilling and hydraulic fracturing jobs filled by temporary workers and more jobs in production, transportation and processing of oil and gas.

In 2015, the numbers of temporary and long-term workers were about equal for the first time. From 2016 to 2018, the long-term workers became the largest sector, the study shows.

“This has probably happened faster than we thought,” Bangsund said Tuesday during an Energy Day event organized by the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

The industry also has made improvements with technology as the Bakken development has matured, increasing efficiency and requiring fewer workers, he said.

“We’re accomplishing more with less labor than we did a few years ago,” Bangsund said.

The shift to a more permanent workforce has led to increased birth rates and growing school enrollment numbers in western North Dakota, said Shawn Wenko, economic development director for Williston.

“More families are now coming to the area; they’re calling Williston home,” Wenko said.

The number of oil industry employees peaked in 2014 with nearly 63,000 workers, according to figures from Job Service North Dakota.

The steep drop in oil prices caused the workforce numbers to decline, hitting a low in 2016 of about 30,000 oil industry workers, the study showed. In 2018, the oil industry workforce number was estimated at 35,800, based on preliminary numbers.

The study showed that the state’s overall employment numbers mirrored the trend with the oil industry.

“The petroleum industry has such a large presence in the state, when employment goes up and down, the state’s employment goes up and down, almost in sync,” Bangsund said.

NDSU has now produced seven similar studies, funded by the North Dakota Petroleum Council, of the economic effect of the oil industry on the state. The industry’s impact on the state peaked in 2013 at $43.6 billion, the studies show.

North Dakota has seen “huge swings” in the economic impact from the oil industry since 2011, with ups and downs of $8 billion to $10 billion every two years, Bangsund said.

“That is a tremendous drop for any state economy to absorb,” he said.

About 300 people attended Energy Day on Tuesday, which included presentations on other oil industry advancements in the state.

At the beginning of Bakken development, the industry was recovering about 3 percent to 5 percent of the oil underground, said Blu Hulsey, senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Continental Resources.

Now, Continental Resources estimates it recovers 15 percent to 20 percent of the oil and continues to advance technology to increase that even more, Hulsey said.

The company also has reduced the time to drill a Bakken well from 33 days to 12 days, Hulsey said.

“It’s becoming faster and more efficient every year,” he said.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council did not host a social for legislators on Tuesday, a change from previous Energy Day events due to Measure 1, said Ron Ness, president of the industry group.

The organization is taking a “zero tolerance” approach to spending money on legislative events until new ethics rules are certain, Ness said.

The group held a social at Stonehome Brewing Company, but specified that it was a “no host” event and people had to pay their own way. Lunch was provided Tuesday by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

“It’s changed substantially since Measure 1, which is unfortunate because that was a great chance for them to all get to meet and interact with their legislators from across the state,” Ness said.

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Bill would set lower pressure standards for trains carrying oil [The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.]

March 05– Mar. 5OLYMPIA — Trains carrying crude oil through Spokane and the rest of the state to Washington refineries would have to keep it under lower pressure under a bill supporters say will reduce the chance of catastrophic accidents.

On a 27-20 vote, the Senate sent to the House a bill that Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, called “an active step in reducing the threat” of Bakken oil. That crude oil is carried on trains that pass through downtown Spokane in sight of Lewis and Clark High School, hospitals, medical buildings and senior living facilities, he said.

The bill requires the oil in the tanks be loaded, unloaded and stored with vapor pressure below 9 pounds per square inch. The standard was set because in a Canadian derailment, the only tank of crude oil that didn’t explode was at 9 psi.

But critics of the bill argued lowering vapor pressure does not lower volatility, and the vapor is collected, processed and marketed at refineries at Anacortes. Restricting Bakken crude on trains would mean more oil tankers bringing the oil into the Puget Sound to deliver to refineries, they said.

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