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Michigan’s gas prices keep creeping toward $3 mark as Fourth of July moves in [, Walker, Mich.]

Jul. 3–Gas prices continue to rise in Michigan as thousands prepare to take to the road if they haven’t yet already on Wednesday, July 3.

As of 11:30 a.m., GasBuddy reports that the average cost for a self-serve gallon of gasoline is going for $2.88 in Michigan. This is about 14 cents higher than the national average, and represents an increase of about 5 cents in the last 24 hours.

The national average is up by 6 cents in the last week after six consecutive weeks of declining prices.

GasBuddy reports that the cheapest gas in the state can currently be found at $2.29 at two stations in Holland and one in Hamilton.

This spike in prices at the pumps comes after several warnings from GasBuddy and its head of petroleum analysis Patrick DeHaan.

“The stage was set for a nearly perfect holiday — gas prices hit their 7th straight weekly decline, oil prices had dropped as low as $51, every state had seen notable declines at the pump, it really couldn’t get a whole lot better as we approach July 4,” DeHaan wrote in a blog post.

“But then Iran attacked two oil tankers and shot down a U.S. drone and markets panicked, sending oil prices higher and now we’re suddenly under the threat of rising gas prices again amid escalating tensions with Iran and talks with China on trade, leading to higher gas prices just as millions hit the road to celebrate the holiday.”

AAA pointed to crude oil prices, supply, demand, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and organization within the Petroleum Exporting Countries as the cause for rising prices.

Jeanette Casselano, spokesperson with the auto club, added in a statement that prices could continue to rise throughout the month due to refinery interruptions.

“For the more than 41 million motorists hitting the road this week to celebrate the Independence Day holiday, they will find gas prices cheaper than Memorial Day weekend, but more expensive than they’ve been paying the last few weeks,” Casselano said in a AAA news release.

See below for a rundown of prices from around Michigan as of Wednesday morning, courtesy of AAA:


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State orders further study after Consumers Energy’s $25.5 million January fire [Citizen Patriot, Jackson, Mich.]

Jul. 3JACKSON, Mich.Consumers Energy has been ordered to take a deeper look into its procedures, in wake of the January fire at the Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in Macomb County that put the utility in danger of a natural gas shortage.

The Michigan Public Service Commission ordered Tuesday, July 2, that Consumers study its gas release methods and create a plan for future incidents, evaluate and make recommendations for incident management, file reports on the timeline of what’s happened at the compressor station and further detail costs of the incident.

Record-low temperatures across the state in late January led to record-high demand for natural gas. The Macomb County station where the fire occurred holds 64 percent of Consumers’ supply.

“We are reviewing the order from the MPSC and are already underway with modifications to our Ray Compressor Station ahead of the fall heating season,” Katie Carey, Consumers’ director of media relations, said in a statement. “We continue to work with the commission and other stakeholders on this issue.”

Consumers filed a report in April with initial findings from the incident. An automatic release of natural gas combined with high winds and hot equipment caused the fire at Consumers’ largest natural gas storage site.

The estimated total cost for the incident is $25.5 million, including $18 million for repairs to the facility and more than $7 million in emergency natural gas purchases.

Consumers’ net earnings in the first quarter was $213 million — which is $28 million shy of the first quarter earnings in 2018.


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R.I. gas prices up 3 cents, AAA says [Providence Journal]

Gas prices went up three cents in Rhode Island this week, the first increase since early May, AAA Northeast says.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $2.709 at self-service pumps in the Ocean State, according to AAA’s weekly survey.

AAA blames the increase on high crude-oil prices, strong demand and shrinking supply, along with the closing of a major Northeast refinery in Philadelphia.

“For the more than 41 million motorists hitting the road this week to celebrate the Independence Day holiday, they will find gas prices cheaper than Memorial Day weekend, but more expensive than they’ve been paying the last few weeks,” said Diana Imondi, AAA Northeast manager of public affairs & traffic safety. “It’s typical to see increases at the pump ahead of the holiday, but we may see prices continue to jump throughout the month due to refinery interruptions on the East Coast, increasing demand and fluctuations in crude oil price.”

A year ago at this time, the average price in Rhode Island was 22 cents higher, at $2.929.

The current price in Rhode Island is four cents higher than in Massachusetts, where the average is $2.679. The average price in Connecticut is $2.861. The national average for regular unleaded of $2.719.

AAA’s survey found a 44-cent range in price, from a low of $2.559 to a high of $2.999.

AAA also found the following prices for other grades of gasoline or types of fuel: $2.929 for midgrade unleaded; $3.139 for premium unleaded and $3.039 for diesel fuel.


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Suncor oil refinery operators hit by Colorado health department for emitting toxic gas [The Denver Post]

Jul. 1–3

Colorado health officials have taken a first step toward penalizing operators of the Suncor oil refinery north of Denver for polluting metro air with hydrogen cyanide, a toxic gas — and the state may toughen its overall enforcement.

No decision has been made on Suncor’s request for a permit adjustment to allow more hydrogen cyanide. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment director Jill Hunsaker Ryan on Sunday indicated her agency’s in no hurry to approve that.

“The department has not granted the refinery any change in its HCN (hydrogen cyanide) permit and no change is imminent,” Hunsaker Ryan said in an emailed response to Denver Post queries.

“More broadly, as a department, we are reviewing our enforcement policies and strategies to make sure we are maximizing compliance with new and amended regulations toward attaining ozone standards, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the public’s health,” Hunsaker Ryan said.

Gov. Jared Polis has prioritized improving air quality.

CDPHE air pollution control officials last week issued Suncor a compliance advisory, a formal notice that under the state’s current approach initiates enforcement for emitting hydrogen cyanide at a level of 14.1 tons per year. That level of pollution, detected in a company test and reported to the CDPHE in July 2018, exceeded the existing permit that limits hydrogen cyanide pollution to a level of 12.8 tons a year.

Separately last week, Colorado air pollution control officials finalized a legal settlement agreement with Suncor for a previous air pollution violation in 2017. Suncor consented to a compliance order for the company to pay penalties of $26,800 for violations and $142,100 in “administrative” penalties.

Rather than pay the money, CDPHE agreed to let Suncor hire a group called Groundwork Denver to perform CDPHE-approved projects worth $113,680, state officials said. The projects are designed to increase energy efficiency for people in low-income housing and try to increase access to fresh local food.

The fines and projects were imposed under existing enforcement policies, Garry Kaufman, the air pollution control division director, said in a statement sent to the Post.

The household energy efficiency work “will immediately benefit residents near the refinery,” Kaufman said, calling it an important step in carrying out CDPHE’s commitment to “ensure environmental equity.”

Suncor has a history of violating Colorado’s pollution limits.

The Denver Post reported in May that the oil refinery north of Denver, which emits more than 800,000 tons of air pollution a year, broke a 12.8-ton limit for hydrogen cyanide, an invisible toxic gas. Neither Suncor nor state health officials alerted nearby residents or county emergency managers after the July test found elevated hydrogen cyanide emissions.

A byproduct of processing crude oil at the nation’s 135 refineries, hydrogen cyanide can be deadly. It is a colorless gas that smells faintly of almonds. In concentrated form, it’s what the Nazis used to exterminate prisoners in death camps during World War II and it has been used in the United States for death-penalty executions.

Exposure at high levels leads to rapid breathing, followed by convulsions, loss of consciousness and death, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Low-level exposure causes trouble breathing, chest pain, vomiting, headaches and enlargement of the thyroid gland. Scientists don’t know about the cumulative impacts on people who inhale multiple pollutants.

In Denver, people in the lower-income neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria and Swansea have suffered from asthma, cancer and heart-lung ailments — possibly related to air pollution.

The Suncor oil refinery ranks among the state’s largest polluters. It releases 886,000 tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases annually, along with 24 tons of sulfur dioxide, 12.5 tons of hydrogen sulfide, 25 tons of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds, 4 tons of carbon monoxide, 49 tons of nitrogen oxide and 55 tons of particulates, state and federal data show.

Some pollutants are regulated but hydrogen cyanide is not. State health officials say specifying the gas in a permit gives some control.

Suncor has asked the CDPHE to raise its hydrogen-cyanide permit limit upward to 19.9 tons a year, giving a greater buffer.

No direct measuring of hydrogen cyanide or exposure studies have been done.

Health officials said that the hydrogen cyanide at current levels is safe.

“Even with the emissions violation, the levels of HCN (hydrogen cyanide) are well below levels that would effect human health and do not pose a health risk,” Hunsaker Ryan said.

“We take the emissions violation very seriously. It is why, in the absence of a federal standard, the department created the permit limit in the first place.”


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News wins award for investigating deadly home explosions linked to Atmos gas lines [The Dallas Morning News]

A team of journalists from The Dallas Morning News has won one of the most prestigious national awards for business reporting for an investigation into Atmos Energy and a series of deadly natural- gas explosions in North Texas homes.

The series, titled “Time Bomb: How Atmos Energy’s Natural Gas Keeps Blowing Up Texas Homes,” received a Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished business and financial journalism in the local category.

Cary Aspinwall accepted the award Thursday in New York City on behalf of her co-authors Holly K. Hacker and Allan James Vestal.

“‘Time Bomb’ is the kind of public service journalism communities depend on — deeply researched, illuminating and extremely important, given that lives are at stake,” said Mike Wilson, editor of The News. “We were honored to do the work and we’re pleased that it has been recognized.”

“Time Bomb” competed with three other finalists for the award: investigative pieces from the Los Angeles Times, the Tampa Bay Times and a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times.

The News investigation was published after 12-year-old Linda “Michellita” Rogers died in a natural-gas explosion at her home in February 2018. That prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to sign into law a bill by state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) requiring natural gas pipeline operators to remove dangerous, leak-prone cast-iron pipes by the end of 2021.

In the two-part investigation, reporters explored how Atmos had neglected its aging infrastructure, shifted the blame for explosions and confidentially settled lawsuits when it couldn’t do so.

Gerald Loeb, a founding partner of the brokerage firm E.F. Hutton & Co., established his namesake awards in 1957, and the University of California, Los Angeles, began administering them in 1973. The recognition is intended to “encourage and support reporting on business and finance that would inform and protect the private investor and the general public,” according to its website.

Thursday’s award banquet took place at the Capitale in New York, where journalists from around the world gathered to recognize the contributions of business journalists.


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Enbridge wins Wisconsin Supreme Court battle over oil pipeline insurance [The Wisconsin State Journal]

Jun. 28The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled Dane County cannot require a Canadian pipeline company to carry special insurance.

In a 4-1 decision — with two liberal justices, Rebecca Dallet and Shirley Abrahamson, abstaining — the court reversed an appeals court decision, striking insurance clauses the county included in a permit allowing Enbridge Energy to triple the volume of crude oil moving through a Wisconsin pipeline.

The conservative majority — Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and Justices Annette Ziegler, Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly — ruled the 2015 permit must stand without insurance requirements the Legislature barred during the permitting process, rejecting arguments from the county and a group of landowners who said the county should have a chance to reconsider the permit application.

In 2017, Enbridge completed a $1.5 billion upgrade to its Line 61, which cuts across Wisconsin from Superior to the Illinois border, including a 12-mile stretch in northeastern Dane County.

As part of the project, the company needed a conditional-use permit to build a pumping station, which Dane County granted on the condition that Enbridge carry extra spill insurance.

But state lawmakers intervened on behalf of the company, passing a law that banned counties from requiring special insurance if an interstate pipeline operator carries comprehensive general liability insurance that includes coverage for “sudden and accidental pollution liability.”

The county ultimately kept the insurance conditions, but added language signaling that the law made them unenforceable.

The case has been tied up in the courts ever since, with Enbridge seeking to strike the insurance requirement, the county fighting for local powers and a group of pipeline neighbors seeking an injunction to enforce the permit conditions who assert the company has never provided proof it is insured for sudden and accidental pollution liability.

“The Zoning Committee had authority to attach conditions to the (permit) to ensure compliance with Dane County’s zoning ordinances and standards,” Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote in the majority opinion, “but not conditions violative of Wisconsin law.”

The county has an obligation to ensure its standards are met and the authority to include conditions, the court wrote, but neither preclude a judge from striking unlawful conditions.

The court also rejected the landowners’ argument that Enbridge failed to show it carried insurance as well as their assertion that Enbridge must “maintain” insurance in perpetuity — saying the law simply required that they had the insurance when the permit was granted.

“We decline to add words to the statute, as the Landowner’s argument would necessitate,” the court stated.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, saying the majority misinterpreted certain key terms.

Enbridge did not demonstrate that it ‘carries’ insurance that includes ‘sudden and accidental’ coverage,” she wrote. “The condition precedent to trigger the preemptive provisions of (the statutes) are therefore not fulfilled.”

Upstream delays

The 42-inch pipe went into operation in 2009 and is one of three Enbridge lines carrying Canadian tar sands oil from Superior to a terminal in Illinois.

In 2014, Enbridge sought a conditional-use permit for a new pumping station in the town of Medina as part of the project to triple capacity to 1.2 million barrels per day.

The county’s Zoning and Land Regulations committee granted the permit but said Enbridge must carry a $25 million environmental liability policy to cover cleanup in the event of a spill like the one in 2010 that caused $1.2 billion in damage when an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Enbridge appealed, but before the county could reconsider, Republican lawmakers passed a last-minute budget provision barring additional insurance requirements.

The county ultimately kept the insurance language, which Enbridge challenged in court. Meanwhile, a group of neighboring landowners filed their own case asking the court to enforce the insurance condition.

While the expansion work is completed, upstream permitting delays have so far limited the flow to about 990,000 barrels per day.

Earlier this month a Minnesota appeals court reversed a decision by state regulators who last year had approved an environmental review for Enbridge’s proposed replacement of its aging Line 3, which links up to Line 61 in Superior. Enbridge had earlier announced a year-long delay of that multibillion-dollar project because of permitting issues.

‘Critical infrastructure’

Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said the company was pleased with the decision.

“The Waterloo pump station is critical infrastructure for the state of Wisconsin and for the region, helping to ensure a reliable source of energy for decades to come,” Smith said.

David Gault, assistant corporation counsel for Dane County, said the case stems from “a really badly written law” that was anonymously slipped into the budget specifically to benefit Enbridge. He questioned the court’s interpretation that the law doesn’t require a pipeline operator to maintain insurance.

“It is inconceivable that the legislature did not intend to impose an ongoing insurance requirement on pipeline operators,” Gault said. “The Wisconsin Legislature and Supreme Court have effectively given pipeline operators permission to operate in Wisconsin with no insurance.”

Noting that Enbridge’s attorney said the company is willing to provide proof of insurance, Gault suggested that the zoning committee request it once a year.

More reaction

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which filed a court brief siding with Enbridge, praised the decision.

“Businesses need to be able to operate in Wisconsin with the understanding that local governments will follow the law and operate within their authority,” said Scott Manley, WMC’s vice president of government relations. “In this case, Dane County blatantly ignored state law in an attempt to stop a commercial project it disagreed with.”

Patricia Hammel, who represented the landowners, said the conservative justices who control the court are beholden to the state’s business lobby.

“Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court again ignored established precedent and the plain meaning of words to reach a 4-1 result favoring a multinational oil corporation,” Hammel said. “This is an activist court and the majority will do as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce directs.”


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Democrats bash Trump on GM plant shutdowns [The Detroit News]

Jun. 27–In their first presidential primary debate, Democratic candidates on Wednesday bashed President Donald Trump’s pledge to protect manufacturing jobs after the tentative closure of three auto plants in Ohio and layoffs in Michigan.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents Ohio in Congress, recalled at the Miami debate that Trump had told residents of Youngstown not to sell their homes.

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“And in his administration, just in the last two years, we lost 4,000 jobs at a General Motors facility that rippled throughout our community,” Ryan said.

General Motors got a tax cut. General Motors got a bailout. And then they have the audacity to move a new car that they’re going to produce to Mexico.”

The Lordstown plant built the Chevrolet Cruze compact car and employed more than 1,400 plant workers and thousands more indirect jobs in the surrounding area of northeast Ohio, a key swing state in presidential elections.

The traditionally Democratic Trumbull County where Lordstown is located voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

But northeast Ohio has faced declining wages for 40 years as automakers shipped jobs overseas, said Ryan, who made a campaign stop at a Grand Rapids dinner earlier this year.

“I’ve had family members that have had to unbolt a machine from the factory floor, put it in a box, and ship it to China,” he said.

GM has been on the defensive since November when the company announced a global restructuring that includes stopping production at five North American plants.

The Detroit automaker has since promised it would be able to offer new positions to a majority of the 2,800 affected U.S. hourly workers, announced new plant investments and created 1,800 jobs.

GM also has touted its plan to sell its shuttered Lordstown plant to the electric-truck maker Workhorse Group Inc.

Trump has continued to pressure GM on Lordstown on Twitter and in public appearances in Ohio. He seemed pleased with the potential sale of the factory, calling it “great news for Ohio.”

But the United Auto Workers has said it would prefer GM restart the factory and commit to producing a vehicle there.

Ryan stressed the need to ready the industry for an electric future.

“We need an industrial policy saying, we’re going to dominate building electric vehicles,” Ryan added. “There’s going to be 30 million made in the next 10 years. I want half of the made in the United States.”

Asked if jobs are coming back under Trump, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pivoted to a critique of American industrial policy that she says allows “giant corporations” to do whatever they want.

“Giant corporations have exactly one loyalty, and that is to profit, and if they can save a nickel moving a job to Mexico or Asia or Canada, they are going to do that,” said Warren, who held town halls in Detroit and Lansing earlier in June.

She pitched a plan to invest in “green energy” and advanced technology and then “sell it around the world.”

Other debate participants were former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

“Tonight’s debate might as well have included the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus because these Democrat candidates are running to be president of Fantasyland,” Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox said.

“With support for insane policies like the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and abolishing ICE, the American people saw tonight just how out of touch with reality and our values the Democrats are.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, our economy continues to thrive, unemployment remains at historic lows and billions of dollars are being reinvested into Michigan’s auto industry.”

Trump’s campaign said the debate was the best argument for his reelection “and should really be counted as an in-kind contribution to the president’s campaign.”

“The Democrats proposed a radical government takeover of American society that would demolish the American dream so many are gaining access to under the growing Trump economy,” the campaign said in a statement.


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Gas prices down 4 cents this week [Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.]

WORCESTER – Gasoline prices in Massachusetts are down 4 cents this week, the same decrease of a week ago, according to AAA Northeast.

Regular unleaded gas is averaging $2.67 per gallon when pricing data was gathered by AAAJune 17. That’s a penny lower than the national average of $2.68 for regular unleaded, a drop from last week’s 3 cent difference in averages. A year ago, the average price in Massachusetts was 20 center higher, at $2.87.

“The decline in prices is unusual for this time of year as prices usually trend higher during the summer months due to increased demand,” said Mary Maguire, spokeswoman for AAA Northeast. She continued to contrast that the growing amount of available gasoline has been stimulating the drop in prices as people head to the pumps this summer.

The range of prices in gas this week in the latest AAA survey found a 56-cent difference, from a low of $2.49 to a high of $3.05. Prices may vary within both the area of consumers and individual companies of pump stations.


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Drilling Down: ConocoPhillips gears up for heavy round of Eagle Ford projects [Houston Chronicle]

Oilfield worker is checking the oilfield equipmentJun. 17–Oil giant ConocoPhillips is gearing up for a large round of horizontal drilling on three leases in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas.

The company’s subsidiary, Burlington Resources, is seeking permission from the Railroad Commission of Texas to drill 13 wells in oil-rich DeWitt and Karnes counties. ConoocoPhillips plans to drill 10 horizontal wells divided between its J Rossett and Mumme-Schendel-Maron lease in DeWitt County and three more on its Korth Vickers lease in neighboring Karnes County.

The wells target the Eagleville field of the Eagle Ford geological layer at total depth of 17,000 feet. So far this year, ConocoPhillips has filed for 80 drilling permits — all of them for projects in South Texas.

Permian Basin

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Houston saltwater disposal well operator Solaris Water Midstream is seeking permission to drill three vertical wells to support its proposed Superbad, Spectre and Skyfall saltwater disposal wells in Loving County. Located more than 20 miles northwest of Mentone, the proposed injection wells target the Mason filed of the Delaware Sands formation at depths ranging from 5,400 to 6,100 feet.

Eagle Ford Shale

Oklahoma oil company Chesapeake Energy is returning to its Valley Wells lease in Dimmit County seeking permits for 12 horizontal wells. Located off FM 1558 about 12 miles southeast of Big Wells, the company is targeting the Briscoe Ranch field of the Eagle Ford geological layer down to total depth of 9,000 feet.

Haynesville Shale

Houston exploration and production company Sabine Oil & Gas is is seeking permission to drill two new wells targeting the Minden field of the Cotton Valley geological layer on its Viper leases in Rusk County. Located about two miles southeast of Henderson, the projects both have a total depth of 11,500 feet.

Barnett Shale

No horizontal drilling permits were filed in the Barnett Shale of North Texas, but Frisco exploration and production company Stonebriar Oil is preparing for a directional drilling project in Wise County. The company is seeking permission to recomplete a gas well on its Cockburn lease about 11 miles southwest of Bridgeport. The well targets the natural gas-rich Newark East field of the Bend Conglomerate geological layer down to a total depth of 6,308 feet.


McKinney oil company Headington Energy Partners is seeking permission to drill a pair of new oil wells — one directional, one vertical — on its Sarita Field Oil & Gas Unit lease in Kenedy County in the ranchlands of deep South Texas. Both drilling projects target the Sarita Shallow field at a depth of 9,000 feet.


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