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fireball

‘Just a big ball of fire,’ evacuee describes Prud’Homme explosion

Image Source: CBC News

Grace Hryniuk and her husband Julius have lived on their farm near Prud’Homme, Sask., for the past 50 years.

They were outside in their yard on Saturday morning when something unprecedented happened.

“It’s like a fighter jet flying over your house, 500 feet above,” Grace Hryniuk explained. “It’s a continuous roar, just a big ball of fire.”

For as long as the Hryniuks have lived on their farm, the TransGas pumping station has been nearby too. Hryniuk said they had a good idea what had happened once they saw the fireball.

“Well, we figured it probably caught on fire because there was always the possibility of that happening,” Hyrniuk said.

Hryniuk and her family stayed in their home for a few hours after the initial explosion at the TransGas site and before they were told they had to evacuate. They are now staying with their daughter who lives nearby, out of the evacuated area.

Despite the evacuation, CBC News reached Hryniuk at her farm on Monday morning. She explained her family had received permission from emergency personnel to stop by their residence to do some chores as they are nearing the end of their harvest.

“It doesn’t really have that much impact on us right now because we would have been out in the field anyway,” she said. “But come tomorrow or the day after we’ll be done, and we’re hoping by then things will be settled then.”

SaskEnergy says there was an accidental release of natural gas on the site, which ignited. An oilfield firefighting company called Safety Boss is helping battle the flames. The fire is still burning.

Crews still unable to reach gas valves

SaskEnergy spokesperson Dave Burdeniuk told CBC News that firefighting crews tried to get closer to the burning building to help shut off the gas on Monday morning, but were unsuccessful.

According to Burdeniuk they now believe there are two valves that need to be shut off. SaskEnergy is working with the safety company on a revised plan to access them. Burdeniuk says they may try again later Monday afternoon, however it is a lengthy process to provide access to the wellhead.

Crews first need to fill up water cannons and trucks and spray down the area. While the water will not put out the gas fire, it’s an attempt to lower the temperature. Burdeniuk said the fire is burning at about 815-1100 degrees Celsius (1,500 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) and the flames are burning about 18 to 20 metres high.

He added that the 13 people evacuated from their nearby homes will likely be out for another day.

A few things packed, in case we need to go

Katherine Regnier lives on an acreage near Prud’Homme with her husband, toddler and baby. She was riding in a combine with her brother, who farms in the area, on Saturday morning.

“It wasn’t until I was driving home that I actually saw the sheer size of the fire,” Regnier said. “Just scorching flames that looked like they were shooting a hundred feet into the air.”

Although their home falls outside of the evacuated area, Regnier said the sound and the site of the blaze is prominent in their minds.

“At night it lights up the evening sky like a candle light,” Regnier said “I can see the fire right now and I am speaking to you, and at night its actually reflecting off our windows from 5 kilometres away, so that tells you how large the fire is.”

Regnier said her family has a few things packed just in case they are forced to leave.

“We just have a few things packed in case we need to go.”

Article Source: Author Unknown. (2014). ‘Just a big ball of fire,’ evacuee describes Prud’Homme explosion. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/just-a-big-ball-of-fire-evacuee-describes-prud-homme-explosion-1.2797072

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Oil refinery

OPEC Finding U.S. Shale Harder to Crack as Rout Deepens

By Grant Smith and Dan Murtaugh

OPEC is resisting pressure to cut oil production while demand slumps as it tests how low prices must go to make U.S. shale oil unprofitable. As producers become more efficient, that floor is sinking.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries boosted output by the most in 13 months in September, even as crude plunged into a bear market and demand growth weakens to a five-year low, according to the International Energy Agency. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the largest and third-largest members of OPEC, indicated the price slump doesn’t warrant immediate production cuts, the IEA said.

While OPEC acted as a “swing producer” over the past decade, responding to surpluses by cutting output, it’s now letting oil slide to see if North American production can withstand lower prices, said Antoine Halff, head of the IEA’s oil industry and markets division. So far drillers are showing no signs of cracking, with the U.S. government forecasting record shale output in November, helping boost the nation’s crude supply to the highest level since 1986.

“This is a new situation and will likely elicit a new response from OPEC,” Halff said by phone from Paris yesterday. “We’re more likely to see OPEC let market forces play out and let the higher-cost production be the first one to cut.”

Brent crude, a benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, slumped as much as 2 percent today to a four-year low of $83.37 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. Brent has dropped more than 20 percent from its June peak, meeting a common definition of a bear market. West Texas Intermediate crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange sank as much as 2.2 percent to $80.01, a two-year low.

Saudi Determination

Saudi Arabia has “appeared determined to defend its market share” in Asia, even at the expense of lower prices, the IEA said in a report yesterday. Kuwait’s oil minister said there may be “no room” to restore prices by trimming supply. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran are offering the biggest discounts to crude buyers in Asia since at least 2009, amid speculation they are seeking to maintain market share.

“It makes perfect sense for Saudi Arabia to let the price drift down,” said Jamie Webster, an analyst in Washington at IHS Inc. “There’s a lot of discussion on what is the break-even price for shale, and whatever you believe, the reality is there’s no clear consensus. It gives the Saudis the opportunity to test” that level, he said.

Iran, OPEC’s fifth-biggest supplier, isn’t concerned about the drop in prices, which will pass, Roknoddin Javadi, deputy oil minister and managing director of National Iranian Oil Co., was quoted as saying by Mehr, the state-run news agency.

Break-Even Costs

About 2.6 million barrels of daily production, or 2.8 percent of global output, requires an oil price of $80 a barrel or more to be profitable, the IEA said. Only about 4 percent of U.S. shale output needs prices above that level, it said. Canadian synthetic oil projects are the most dependent on high prices, with about a quarter needing oil to remain above $80, the agency said.

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in hydrocarbon-rich underground shale layers have helped U.S. oil production grow 65 percent in the past five years to the highest level since 1986. That’s reduced crude imports by more than 3.1 million barrels a day since peaking in 2005.

Production per well was projected to increase in fields in North Dakota, Texas and Colorado, the Energy Information Administration said yesterday. Companies are getting more oil per dollar spent drilling, driving costs down by as much as $30 a barrel since 2012, Morgan Stanley (MS) analyst Adam Longson said in a report Oct. 13.

Lower Prices

“Prices aren’t low enough to put these projects at risk,” Matthew Jurecky, head of oil and gas research for the London-based research company GlobalData Ltd., said by e-mail yesterday from New York. “The profit margin on most commercial unconventional oil plays will support prices as low as $50, many below that even.”

U.S. shale producers could keep pumping oil economically even if Brent dropped to $60 a barrel, Bjornar Tonhaugen, an analyst with Oslo-based Rystad Energy, said in an e-mailed report yesterday. Brent would need to remain at $50 a barrel for 12 months for North American shale output to drop by 500,000 barrels a day, he said. Morgan Stanley said break-even costs at the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas range from $30 to $60 a barrel.

“We continue to be impressed by how much operators are improving their operations,” R.T. Dukes, an upstream analyst for Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Houston, said yesterday by phone. “There’s enough out there that significant development would continue even at $75 or $80.”

Expensive Projects

Oil may have already fallen sufficiently to curb the most expensive shale projects, according to estimates from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Drilling may slow down in North Dakota with WTI below $90 a barrel, Jeff Currie, the bank’s head of commodities research, said in an interview in London on Oct. 1. Producers in the area decreased activity when WTI plunged below this level in 2012, Currie said.

Jefferies LLC, which advises on mergers and acquisitions, estimates that a drop to $80 a barrel or lower in WTI would trigger a reduction in drilling operations, Ralph Eads, the bank’s vice chairman and global head of energy investment banking, said in an Oct. 1 interview.

Weaker Demand

Global oil consumption will expand by about 650,000 barrels a day this year to 92.7 million, the lowest growth since 2009 and about half the increase projected in June, the IEA said. OPEC boosted production in September, pumping 30.47 million barrels a day, the most since August 2013, the group said Oct. 10 in its latest monthly oil market report. Its next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 27 in Vienna.

Saudi Arabia, which pumped almost one-third of the group’s output last month, won’t alter its supplies much between now and the end of the year, a person familiar with its policy said on Oct. 3.

“They’ve not come out and said ‘we will do what it takes to balance the market’,” said Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York. “Right now the economy is weak, and demand is weak in Europe and China. The market wants to see something fairly dramatic.”

Article Source: Smith, G. & Murtaugh, D. (2014).  OPEC finding U.S. shale harder to crack as rout deepens. Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-15/opec-finding-u-s-shale-harder-to-crack-as-rout-deepens.html

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oil worker

How Oil Sands Workers Use Karaoke to Cope

Thursday night in Ft. Mac. Bailey’s Bar. There’s a karaoke contest about to begin. We’re here making a feature documentary movie about it. Not about how the “tar” sands is the worst thing since the black plague. Not about how the “Oil” Sands is a technological and economic marvel of responsible energy production. We’re here for the karaoke.

My partner & producer Tina Schliessler and I accidentally visited a karaoke bar in the oil patch late one night last year while making our last film — Peace Out — about the aggressive energy extraction in the Peace watershed. By the time we realized what the bar was the drinks were already on the way. Argggh.

Stumbling drunks destroying the songs we all love. But then this guy gets up, muddy boots, oily coveralls, early 20s, an obviously Southern college kid (paying off his student loan he tells me later). In a fragile voice he begins singing the Boy George hit “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” and I’m like, in a bar full of roughnecks — this guy is dead. But as his voice gains strength the tattoo boys start cheering. Seriously. Okay, he can really sing, but Boy George, here? Note to self: There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

We pitched the idea at Hot Docs last May (where the now finished film — Oil Sands Karaoke is having its world premiere this month), got greenlit by the awesome team at Knowledge Network, and here we are in the bar with 5D cameras in hand.

First up in the contest, Brandy. Brandy is a lot of things. Status 1st Nations Cree, a haul truck driver in the mines, a beautiful, confident, articulate young woman, a gentle soul and a really good singer. Her story is typical of many of the Ft. Mac oil workers we got to know.

Brandy was born on a Northern reserve, had what sounds like a pretty perfect childhood but after losing her dad at an early age struggled to adapt to life off the reserve and ended up a teen rebel in a string of foster homes. Far too often places like Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is where people with the kind of hand Brandy was dealt end up.

But by chance Brandy signed up for a heavy equipment operator’s course. Fast forward a few years and incredibly, she’s driving one of those ginormous haul trucks in the Sands. You know the machine — that iconic yellow monster three stories high, costs 6 million dollars and can carry the equivalent of 7 fully loaded semi-trailer trucks.

Today Brandy is an irrepressible, self-assured, self-sufficient young woman everyone adores. And like most of the oil workers we met she also has serious misgivings about the sands. Brandy spends scarce time off wandering mountain paths in the truly magical Jasper National Park. Which seems like a pretty weird thing for an oil patch worker to do.

But that’s one of the contradictions that make this place hard to figure out.

Like many of us, people here are caught between the economy-first side who charge that Greens are naive hypocrites who just don’t get what needs to be done to keep people warm and fed, while the environmentalists counter charge that the business guys value the science in their jets and Bentleys, but willfully ignore the same science when it clearly proves what the true cost of flying and driving is. Many Canadians are both knowledgeable and deeply concerned about the environment. But the argument cuts a lot deeper here — people’s livelihoods are directly at stake.

When I raised the issue of climate change with Brandy her first reaction was: “My company is doing their best to produce oil cleanly and reclaim the land.” But that wasn’t the question I asked. And this happens a lot up here — this answering a different question thing. Even if we could produce oil without disturbing a single blueberry bush, or emitting a puff of greenhouse gas, it’s the burning of the product that our best brains are positive is bringing our species to the brink of mass extinction.

For sure, how these companies extract the oil is something we should be holding their feet to the fire over. But how the rest of us use their product is a much bigger question that is unlikely to be solved by individual action alone.

As we probe deeper, most of the people we’ve gotten to know here express frustration. Frustration at the looks and comments they get from strangers, relatives, friends down South when the sands comes up in conversation. You’ll often hear comments like: “Stop burning it, we’ll stop producing it.” But what I hear when we finally get real is often a kind of helpless: “I have a family. I have debts. People depend on me.”

Personally, I’m convinced we’ve got to stop dumping our garbage in the air now. But without some clear, responsible leadership Brandy and the other friends we made up here are going to lose their jobs and it’s hard to celebrate that. So the beat goes on. Every shift a million more barrels. More sniping back and forth. No action.

Ben the enormously entertaining karaoke DJ calls the first contestant onto the stage — Brandy’s nervous. Getting up in front of this many people, this kind of crowd takes a LOT of guts. Try it. Familiar strains of music play. Oh Jeez, she’s singing that?! The crowd, as they say, goes wild. Huge, tattooed guys who lumbered in on Harleys start dancing with skinny college kids, high fiving. And for the moment both sides are united in one small, trivial thing like karaoke. Maybe that’s a start. How does Brandy do in the contest? What about the four other singing oil workers we follow?

Article Source: Autor Unknown. (2014). How oil sands workers use karaoke to cope. moviefone.com. Retrieved from http://news.moviefone.com/2013/03/29/oil-sands-karaoke-hot-docs/

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Tornado hits North Dakota oil worker’s camp

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — A rare North Dakota tornado that critically injured a 15-year-old girl and hurt eight other people at a workers’ camp in the heart of the state’s booming oil patch packed winds that peaked at 120 mph, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. The twister touched down Monday night at a camp just south of Watford City, about 50 miles southeast of Williston, and damaged or destroyed 15 trailers. The 15-year-old, who was from out of state and visiting an aunt and uncle, was flown to a Minot hospital. She was in an intensive-care unit with a head injury but expected to survive, McKenzie County Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson said Tuesday.

See photo gallery here

Article Source: Author Unknown. (2014). Tornado hits North Dakota oil worker’s camp. The Denver Post. Retrieved from http://photos.denverpost.com/2014/05/27/photos-tornado-hits-north-dakota-oil-workers-camp/#1

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Oil tanker proposal draws fire from industry

By Zack Colman

Refineries, oil producers and railroad companies say they need more time to swap out the old tank cars that carry crude oil and ethanol than the Transportation Department has proposed in a rule to prevent those trains from exploding.

Industry groups said in comments filed late Tuesday that they cannot feasibly retrofit or replace enough of the thousands of “legacy” tankers by the Oct. 1, 2017, proposed deadline without causing oil supply disruptions.

“This rule, if not properly re-worked, could have a significant impact on jobs and the economy,” American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers President Charles Drevna said Tuesday, adding that the agency’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s proposed timeframe was “infeasible.”

The Department of Transportation wants to get the old tankers off the rails following a series of accidents and explosions that have stoked fear about potential disasters, while adding safety features such as advanced brakes and thicker shells to models that adopted 2011 industry-approved safety measures.

The concern reached a head in July 2013, when an unmonitored train carrying crude from the Bakken shale formation in Montana and North Dakota derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47.

But industry groups representing oil producers, railroads and refineries rejected the strongest safety measures in the agency proposal, such as the thickest shells for containing flammable liquids and certain types of advanced braking systems, for which environmental and liberal groups had advocated.

It’s a debate that has stretched across communities, flaring up in places where there isn’t any oil production but which tankers pass through. The volume of oil being carried around the country has risen sharply due to shale production. In 2009, there were 10,800 carloads carrying Bakken crude. Last year, shipments surpassed 400,000, according to the Department of Transportation.

Environmental groups, in comments to the agency, pushed the agency to accelerate its timeline for eliminating the older tank cars, with some pressing for an immediate ban.

“DOT falls short of its obligation to ensure that transport of volatile crude oil by rail is done in a safe and responsible manner. The proposed rule would keep thousands of communities in the U.S. and Canada under the continued threat of catastrophic train crashes,” said Devorah Ancel, a lawyer with the Sierra Club.

But implementing the rule quickly, the oil and refining industries said, could cause shortages in oil supply that drive gasoline prices upward. Drevna said AFPM would ask for a 10-year window. The American Petroleum Institute and the American Association of Railroads said in joint comments that older tankers should be eliminated in four years and newer models should have seven years to complete upgrades.

Drevna cited statistics from railcar industry group the Railway Supply Institute that 28 percent of the 98,000 tank cars that currently transport hazardous materials such as crude oil would retire under the proposed rule. But the industry needs a year to ramp up for new builds, has a backlog in the tens of thousands of cars and estimates it could at best churn out 6,400 cars annually.

The Railway Supply Institute could not be reached for comment.

The railroad, refining and oil industries agreed that, with some improvements, the newer tank cars built with the 2011 industry-approved standards should remain on the rails. But there were some variations as to what those retrofits would entail.

AFPM elected to go with the current 7/16 inch shell thickness, while API and AAR said 1/2 inch would be desirable. The Department of Transportation suggested a shell thickness of 7/16 inch and 9/16 inch.

Gerard and Drevna said the thickest shell would yield few safety benefits — they said cars would be heavier and couldn’t carry as much crude, so it would increase the amount of cars on the rails — at a significant cost.

But the Greenbrier Cos., a top railcar manufacturer based in Lake Oswego, Ore., said it preferred the thickest shell, though it said the agency’s suggestions to include “top-fittings” designed to prevent rollovers and advanced braking systems would be unnecessary and ineffective.

Greenbrier is already making tank cars with that thick a shell, and plans to double production this year. It took a swipe at oil and refinery industry concerns by saying those cars carry the same volume of crude oil as the legacy tankers that the proposed rule would phase out.

On speed limits, the railroad, oil and refining industries all said sticking to a 40 miles per hour limit when carrying flammable materials through populated urban centers, while maintaining a 50 mph speed limit elsewhere was desirable.

The railroad industry has been gearing up for that since February, when it struck a deal with the Department of Transportation to voluntarily take steps to address safety concerns.

“Railroads have been at the forefront of advocating for safer tank car standards and we believe the public supports regulation that weighs both safety and the ability to move people and goods in a timely and efficient manner,” AAR President Edward Hamberger said.

Article Source: Colman, Z. (2014). Oil tanker proposal draws fire from industry. Washington Examiner. Retrieved from http://washingtonexaminer.com/oil-tanker-proposal-draws-fire-from-industry/article/2554212

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Oil pipeline

N.D. oil output jumps even as flaring rule changes loom

Oil pipeline

By Ernest Scheyder

(Reuters) – North Dakota’s daily oil production jumped 5 percent in July to an all-time high, though the number was lower than expected as producers worked to meet aggressive flaring-reduction targets, state regulators said on Friday.

The production numbers, which have been steadily rising for years, highlight the massive investments Hess Corp, Whiting Petroleum Corp and other companies are making to develop the state’s oil-rich Bakken and Three Forks shale formations and others.

Despite the positive production data, shares of top North Dakota oil producers fell with the broader market.

The investments have brought thousands of new workers to North Dakota, as well as billions in infrastructure and real estate investment, making the state the fastest-growing economy in the United States.

North Dakota’s oil wells produced 34.4 million barrels in July, up from 32.8 million barrels in June, the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources said. That averaged 1.1 million barrels a day.

Natural gas production in the state hit 1.3 billion cubic feet per day, also an all-time high. The percentage of natural gas flared in the state fell to 26 percent in July from 30 percent in June.

In an effort to curb flaring, the wasteful burning of natural gas, state regulators issued strict goals earlier this year with key benchmarks for flaring percentages each month. For Oct. 1, for instance, the state’s oil producers cannot flare more than 74 percent of natural gas produced. If they do, they face fines.

The industry has effectively reached that goal, but it did so by posting a jump in July oil production that was only about half what had been expected, Lynn Helms, the director of the state Department of Mineral Resources, said in a presentation to reporters.

“The industry is taking this dead serious,” Helms said of the flaring goal.

The number of rigs operating in the state as of Friday stood at 198, up from 193 in August but 9 percent below the all-time high, according to state data.

“The industry understands that there is no better place to make money than the core of the Bakken and Three Forks formations” in North Dakota, Helms said.

Helms vowed to keep drilling permit approvals going in order to continue development, though he acknowledged that oilfield service companies are having a hard time completing wells due to the speed at which drilling is occurring.

Shares of top Bakken oil producers fell across the board on Friday along with the broader stock market.

Shares of Continental Resources Inc fell the most after the company, the largest North Dakota oil company, said its president had quit. The stock was down $1.93, or 2.5 percent, at $73.86 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/12/oil-north-dakota-idUSL1N0RD1BL20140912

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After Eric Cantor’s Exit, House Turns Sympathetic Ear From Big Business to Oil and Gas

Congress returns next week for a mere 12 scheduled legislative days before the November midterm elections, but in that brief reappearance, the House’s new leadership team will be tested. If nothing is done, the federal government will run out of money on Oct. 1, and the federal Export-Import Bank — which underwrites American private-sector exports — will exhaust its charter.

With both issues, the departure of Mr. Cantor, the former House majority leader defeated in a June Republican primary, and the rise of Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the newest member of the Republican leadership, will be felt. Mr. Scalise, the new House majority whip, brings with him a capacity to deal with the House’s most ardent conservatives, which could help to keep the government open ahead of the elections.

But Mr. Cantor was the man who could translate the wishes of Big Business to the conservatives. Without him, the Export-Import Bank and its business supporters have lost their most persuasive advocate. Asked who in the new leadership can talk to business interests and Wall Street, Mr. Scalise said, “I have no idea.”

Mr. Cantor, once the bridge to those interests, crossed to the other side. He joined Moelis & Company, a small investment bank, as vice chairman and managing director with a pay package worth $3.4 million over the next two years.

Without him, House Republicans are left with a comparatively inexperienced leadership team. In his 24th year in Congress, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has broad legislative experience and the skills of a political survivor. Below him, the new House majority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy, is in his fourth term and Mr. Scalise his third.

In official rankings, Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, Mr. Scalise’s chief deputy, is the second-most senior member of leadership, just nudging out a fellow fifth-termer, the Republican Conference chairwoman, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.

Besides the speaker, no member of the House Republican leadership was in Congress for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or the invasion of Iraq. The top six Republican leaders have served a collective 64 years in the House. The top three Democratic leaders have served 80.

“This is unique,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “You now have a sizable number in leadership who were not there when the parties routinely worked together or who have a significant understanding of operating in divided governance. The only thing they’ve seen is tribalism.”

What is more, with so little time in Washington, the new leadership team has yet to develop deep connections to the K Street lobbying world or the elders in either political party.

Mr. Scalise said his degree is in computer science, an interest he maintains, but what animates him most is the oil and gas industry that has long been central to the Louisiana economy.

“Build the Keystone pipeline, open up the outer continental shelf, bring in billions of dollars to the Treasury to help us balance the budget, look at the E.P.A. and what it’s trying to do to shut down energy production in America,” he said. “This is real stuff that’s happening in the country, and it’s not just Louisiana.”

Louisianians foresee a new moment for their state and its congressional history, from Russell and Huey Long to John Breaux and Hale Boggs. Robert L. Livingston resigned in scandal in 1998 just days before he was set to take over the House speakership. Now, as a prominent Washington lobbyist, he said he was advising Mr. Scalise on policy and leadership issues.

“He doesn’t ask for it,” Mr. Livingston said of his advice. “I volunteer it.”

Another former House member from Louisiana, Jim McCrery, was once the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. Now, as a senior tax lobbyist in Washington, he said he had spoken with the new majority leader on a broad overhaul of the tax code.

“Louisiana over the years has managed to have a delegation that is stronger than its numbers,” Mr. McCrery said. “We’re still a long way away from being where we used to be, but it’s a good start.”

Louisiana’s gain has been New York’s loss. Representative Peter T. King, one of the last in New York’s shrinking Republican delegation, said Mr. McCarthy had been developing contacts with Wall Street and the Big Business community. But it is a measure of business’s relative lack of influence that Mr. McCarthy turned against reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank shortly after Mr. Cantor’s defeat.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups have mounted an all-out campaign to save the bank, arguing that its loans and loan guarantees to foreign customers of American exporters are vital to the country’s competitiveness in a global economy. But conservative activists have denounced the bank as corporate welfare, an argument Mr. Cantor was willing to rebut but his successor has avoided.

With Mr. Cantor gone, the coalition supporting the bank has opted for a bottom-up campaign, sending home-district manufacturers to lobby rank-and-file members and largely bypassing Republican leaders.

“We need a durable solution to this issue,” said Tony Fratto, a former Bush administration official organizing the campaign.

The new leadership team at one point turned to Mr. McHenry, the chief deputy whip, as the possible point person with Wall Street. He does serve on the House Financial Services Committee, but as the sixth man in leadership, he can wield only so much influence.

“Obviously Eric was the conduit on a number of these issues,” Mr. King said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/us/politics/eric-cantor-takes-job-with-wall-street-investment-firm.html?_r=0

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boots

100 pairs of work socks headed to oil field

Jeff Bahr | Aberdeen News

Hannah LaJoie wasn’t interested in winning a 5K Fun Run/Walk on Saturday morning. She cared a lot more about being honored for her flamboyant socks.

Hannah, 10, sported a colorful look in the “Run Your Socks Off” 5K event, organized by North Highland United Methodist Church.

You can be sure her legs weren’t cold. Hannah was wearing eight pairs of socks, which created a wild rainbow effect. She also had four pair of socks elsewhere on her body.

Why was Hannah wearing the wacky attire?

“Well, because I love wearing crazy socks,” said the Warner student.

Over the summer, the Boys and Girls Club had a crazy socks day and Hannah took that event. She describes herself as “really competitive.”

So Hannah was happy after Saturday’s run when she and her 4-year-old sister, Kenna Wolberg, were honored for their socks. They were the two young people who won sock awards.

More importantly, though, a lot of people in the North Dakota oil fields will be wearing better socks because of the event.

The entry fee for the fun run was a pair of work socks, each of which will be shipped to folks in the Bakken oil basin. “We collected close to 100 pair,” said the Rev. Lou Whitmer, pastor of North Highland.

About 50 people covered the 5K course. The event was a project of the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry, which is organized by United Methodist churches in the Dakotas.

Whitmer knew that several members of the church like to run, so the run seemed like “a fun way to do a mission program,” she said.

Many of the participants dressed for the occasion. Fashion choices ran from argyle to stripes galore. Participants ranged from Michael Hartung, who’s run four marathons, to babies in strollers.

Ten-year-old twins Zachary and Nathan Palmer joined their mother, Lesleann, at the fun run/walk. Lesleann was there because of her best friend, Amber Huff, who invited her. “I knew she wouldn’t turn down a chance to do a run,” Huff said.

Also taking part was Huff’s sister, Miranda Telin, and her parents, Al and Kristie Scherbenske, who go to church at North Highland. They told Telin about the event “and I thought it was a good fundraising effort for people in North Dakota,” she said.

Two of the participants, De Basham and Dar Retzer, recently saw a missionary from the Bakken area speak at First United Methodist. The speaker lives in Williston, where her rent is $2,500 a month.

Hannah and Kenna participated with their grandmother, LeAnn Conn.

The run/walk was just the start of a busy day for the Sarah and Nathan Miller family. Later in the day, their three sons had soccer games. Sarah ran the 5K course Saturday because she likes to run. She was on the cross country team at Edmunds Central, when her name was Sarah Miles. “Run Your Socks Off” was her third 5K, the second one this year.

The 5K was successful enough that North Highland will have another fundraiser next September.

“It was really fun to have the community support along with the people of the church,” Whitmer said. “And it was a beautiful day and lots of energy.”

Source: http://bakken.com/news/id/221172/100-pairs-work-socks-headed-oil-field/

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Midstream firms build to meet Eagle Ford condensate production

HOUSTON — With an $860 million deal announced this week, Buckeye Partners is betting on condensate.

Condensate, a type of light crude oil, has been flowing in increasing quantities from the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas as technological advances boost production there.

And with more condensate flowing from the region — as well as the possibility that lightly refined condensate may be exempt from a U.S. ban on most crude oil exports — many midstream companies are looking at potential profit in getting the light oil from the South Texas wells to market.

From 2009 to 2012, annual U.S. production of condensate from wells grew by 54 percent, from 178 million barrels to 274 million barrels, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. By many estimates, the Eagle Ford  region accounts for the majority of that production.

On Tuesday, Houston-based Buckeye Partners L.P. announced it would enter the heated market by paying $860 million for an 80 percent interest in Texas facilities owned by Trafigura AG. The deal includes gathering facilities in the Eagle Ford, as well as processing plants and a marine terminal in Corpus Christi.

Buckeye has been active in markets including Chicago, New York and the Caribbean.

Buckeye and Trafigura will  run the assets  as a joint venture and will contribute at least another $240 million to build new storage and seaborne shipping capacity in the near future, the companies announced.

Trafigura AG is a subsidiary of Netherlands-based commodities trader Trafigura Beheer BV.

Under the new agreement, Trafigura will buy oil and condensate produced in the Eagle Ford before sending it  to other markets using the joint venture’s infrastructure, said spokeswoman Marisol Espinosa.

The deal includes two condensate splitting units Trafigura already is building. Splitters  break condensate into component parts including naphtha, kerosene and diesel. The units will be able to handle a combined 50,000 barrels per day of the light oil when completed in 2015.

In a Wednesday morning conference call with investors, Buckeye Partners executives said the partnership is considering building another splitter.

Other midstream interests also are building splitters to accommodate the increasing amount of condensate flowing from the Eagle Ford.

“The outlook is pretty favorable,” said Lysle Brinker, a research director at analyst firm IHS . “A lot of companies are looking at doing this.”

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners’ $360 million splitter project at its Galena Park terminal on the Houston Ship Channel, also slated for completion in 2015,  will have a daily capacity of 100,000 barrels .

“Midstream is moving into processing,” said John Auers, executive vice president with Turner Mason and Co. “These large midstream companies are investing and the Gulf Coast is the place to be.”

Besides deriving condensate components, running it through a splitter can clear the way for its export.

A law that arose from oil shortages in the 1970s bans most crude oil exports from the United States, but recent regulatory activity has allowed some export of lightly processed condensate with a license.

Trafigura has applied for such  a license, Espinosa said.

If regulators approve, the new Trafigura-Buckeye venture could export condensate through its five ship berths at the Corpus Christi facility terminal.

In a presentation to investors, Buckeye said that the market probably will favor splitting condensate it into its parts before sending it abroad. But Buckeye also stressed that it would remain flexible.

source-http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/09/03/midstream-firms-build-to-meet-eagle-ford-condensate-production/

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Texas Proposes Tougher Rules On Fracking Wastewater After Earthquakes Surge

The agency that regulates oil and gas activity in Texas is considering new, tougher regulations governing the practice of injecting leftover water used to frack natural gas wells deep into the ground — a process which is believed to be responsible for an increase in human-caused earthquakes across the state.

The Texas Railroad Commission’s new proposed regulations on wastewater injection wells were heard by members of the Texas House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Seismic Activity on Monday, following complaints that earthquakes have become more frequent over the last several years. Dr. Craig Pearson, the Railroad Commission’s new seismologist, told the subcommittee that the regulations would help make sure injected wastewater doesn’t migrate onto inactive fault lines and cause man-made quakes.

“Because we’re now dealing with induced seismicity, the worry is not only about water moving up [to our groundwater] but out to dormant faults,” Pearson said, noting that current regulations are only designed to protect from groundwater contamination.

The controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as “fracking,” uses a great deal more water than conventional drilling. To stimulate natural gas wells, companies inject high-pressure water and chemicals miles-deep into subsurface rock which effectively cracks or “fractures” it, making the gas easier to extract.

The leftover wastewater used to frack the well is disposed of by injecting it deep underground, and scientists increasingly believe that this is causing man-made earthquakes — not only in Texas, but across the country. The large amount of water injected into the ground can change the state of stress on existing fault lines to the point of failure, scientists believe, causing earthquakes.

As it is now, Pearson said most of the earthquakes occurring in Texas are too small to be felt. But some scientists have warned that seismic activity stands to get stronger and more dangerous as fracking increases, and more wastewater propagates along fault lines underground.

If Texas’proposed rules on wastewater disposal wells are approved, companies seeking to operate them would have to include United States Geological Survey records of seismic events that have occurred around proposed well sites in their permit applications. The commission estimated that this would cost companies an additional $300, which the rules describe as “negligible.”

Additionally, the commission would be allowed to suspend or terminate any wastewater disposal operator’s permit if it finds that fluids have been leeching past where they’re supposed to be. It would also be allowed to terminate an operator’s permit if the operator is found to be responsible for earthquakes. The rules would not require that permits be suspended for fluid-leeching violations or earthquakes; instead, they would just give the commission the authority to do so if it wanted to.

The commission would also be allowed to require more frequent monitoring of fluids and pressure from certain companies, and to request additional information from the application to prove that fluids won’t spread across fault lines.

So far, environmentalists have applauded the rules as a good start, but have expressed concerns that they don’t go far enough.

“It’s kinda like when you’re in a 12-step program,” Cyrus Reed with the Sierra Club told Terrence Henry at StateImpact NPR. “You know, the first thing you need to do admit that you have a problem. And I think the Railroad Commission has done that by proposing these rules.”

Indeed, the Railroad Commission has come a long way from January, when commission Chairman Barry Smitherman refused to acknowledge that the quakes were linked to any part of the fracking process. “It’s not linked to fracking,” he told local reporters after a meeting of concerned citizens. “If we find a link then we need to take a hard look at all these injection wells in this area. Reexamine them … Perhaps there something that we’re not aware of underground.”

The Texas commission is taking public comment on the proposed rules until next month.

source-http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/08/27/3476207/texas-earthquake-rules-fracking/
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5 Tax Changes Small Business Owners Need to Prepare For

Though it still may be barbecue and beach season, the end of 2014 will be here before you know it. For consumers, this means holiday shopping and New Year’s resolutions. But for business owners, it also means getting financial ducks in a row in preparation for the upcoming tax season.

There are many new and pending changes for the upcoming tax season, and some of them will be particularly important for small businesses. Based on conversations with tax experts, here are a few upcoming issues you may want to speak with your financial adviser about as you look toward year-end tax planning.

The Affordable Care Act. The ACA should be at the forefront of a business’s tax planning agenda, especially if the business is over or close to the 50-employee threshold, said Timothy Todd, CPA and assistant professor of law at Liberty University School of Law. With the administration beginning to enforce the mandate in 2015, now is the time to plan, Todd said. For some employers, the mandate has been pushed out to 2016, so discuss this with your tax adviser if you’re unsure how you’ll be affected.

Corporate tax rates. Mike Trabold, director of compliance risk atpayroll processing company Paychex, noted that one key issue in upcoming tax-reform proposals is corporate tax rates. Companies that are structured as corporations currently pay a higher tax rate than LLCs, partnerships and other tax-efficient business structures. Trabold said that if tax rates are lowered for corporations,small businesses that are structured a different way wouldn’t get the same tax advantages unless there were a parallel amendment to personal tax rates.

Deduction eliminations and limit reductions.Small business owners will find that some tax credits they once depended on have expired or have been greatly reduced, saidJohn Hewitt, CEO of Liberty Tax Service. Section 179 allows business owners to deduct the entire cost of certain assets, such as equipment and furniture, in the year of purchase rather than over a longer period of time. In the 2013 tax year, the deduction limit was $500,000, but this year, it has dropped significantly to $25,000. Bonus depreciation, whereby businesses could claim a 50-percent deduction for qualified property they placed into service in the tax year, ended in 2013. The work opportunity tax credit, which had given employers a credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans and other workers in specific categories, is also gone, as is the energy tax incentive that helped employers go green by giving deductions for eco-friendly business features such as lighting.

Net investment income tax. The 3.8 percent tax on net investment income became effective in 2013, but it may surprise you if you are being affected for the first time in 2014. Todd explained that the tax applies to high-income individuals with investment income. Common scenarios where this new tax may be implicated is if you have rental income, a stock portfolio or other “passive” income.

Tax extenders. The proposed “tax extenders” bill is an effort to renew $85 billion in temporary tax breaks for individuals and businesses. Although Reuters reported that the bill is stalled in the Senate until after the congressional elections in November, any decisions that follow may affect the 2015 tax season, Trabold said. Whether your business has been taking advantage of any of the 50 tax breaks included in the bill or not, it’s important to be prepared either way.

So what can you do now to make things easier when tax preparation season rolls around in a few months? The first thing you’ll want to do is to make sure your records are up-to-date and that your financial documents are organized and easily accessible for tax season, especially for any potential deductions.

“Save everything,” Todd said. “A lot of deductions require extra substantiation, such as meals, entertainment expenses and use of a personal vehicle. There’s been a spate of tax court cases lately that has disallowed business deductions due to lack of record keeping. If your business is audited, this is low-hanging fruit for the IRS to disallow.”

Another smart tax-prep move is to take advantage of technology that will make organization and record-keeping easier for yoursmall business. Jonathan Barsade, CEO of sales tax solutions provider Exactor, advised seeking a tax solution that is comprehensive, low-maintenance and easy to use.

“Modern technologies can automate the entire [tax] process for the small business owner, from the point of calculating the taxes at the time of the transaction, through the final generating and filing of the tax returns,” Barsade told Business News Daily.”There is no reason why a small business owner should spend any more than an hour each month on all of their tax compliance needs. The earlier the business owner proceeds towards automation, the less time they will need to work in tax season, which means more time remaining to focus on your business.”

Most importantly, keep these and other tax issues on your radar by following financial news and checking in regularly with your accountant or tax adviser.

“Tax code changes regularly, and this year is no exception,” Hewitt said. “A tax adviser will help ensure that your [documents] are organized and that your business is taking advantage of any tax savings that may be available. Depending on your situation, you may want to purchase new equipment, defer income or even hire personnel before the end of the year for tax savings purposes. A tax adviser can look at the business and help answer those questions.”

“Things can change very quickly,” Trabold added. “[Certain tax reforms] could be a real benefit to a small business, and you wouldn’t want to lose an opportunity because you didn’t move on it quickly enough. Keep an eye on the changing winds, and be ready to act if necessary.”

source-http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7032-small-business-tax-issues.html

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Small business, big mistake: Classifying employees as independent contractors

When I started my company in 2006, my intent was to have only independent contractors for the first five years, with the goal of minimizing overhead. My plan was to re-evaluate growth, goals, expenses and income in 2011 to determine whether I should start onboarding employees.

However, as with most small businesses, there’s always something that doesn’t go according to plan — at all.

This was one of those things.

At the conclusion of a long-term project with one of my customers, an independent contractor who had been providing onsite support for the project filed for unemployment benefits. What the what? I was left with that perplexed Scooby Doo look on my face.

How can my former independent contractor file for unemployment when our duly signed, attorney-approved agreement clearly states “independent contractor?” When I received a notice from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, I thought it would be resolved quickly one I sent them the signed agreement.

 Well, it wasn’t. My next notice included a case number for an audit of the work and compensation history not just for that individual, but for my records on every person I had hired in the three years leading up to that.

During the audit, DLLR officials reviewed my payroll information and compared workers to see if those who had been doing similar work were identifying it the same way on their income tax returns. They also wanted to know whether each contractor had an online presence (they asked me for Web site addresses) and whether each individual had been doing work onsite for my company in Maryland.

Of course, I thought I had done my due diligence in the beginning to develop an understanding of what constitutes an employee versus an independent contractor. Ultimately, though, reading through the Internal Revenue Service’s checklist and trying to sort through my state’s guidelines on my own didn’t prove sufficient.

So, if you’re structuring a company like mine and you aren’t sure, call the IRS and talk it through. Explain the type of work an individual will be doing and ask for some guidance.

After going through this, I’ve done consulting work for my clients to help them make better hiring decisions. For instance, I had a customer who was offering their independent contractors full benefits, and another whose contractors were working onsite and had no other customers they were claiming work for on their taxes. I’ve been able to guide them in the right direction and help them avoid potential audits.

So, make sure you are identifying and verifying these details with your contractors:

• Does your contractor do similar work for others and identify that on their tax forms?

• Does the contractor have a Web site?

• Has the contractor provided you with a complete W-9 tax form?

• Are you giving the contractor control to handle tasks with little direction from you?

If you are unsure about any of these items, I suggest you seriously consider making the individual an employee — or at the very least, pick up the phone and seek some guidance.

source-http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/small-business-big-mistake-classifying-employees-as-independent-contractors/2014/08/27/d2af22bc-2d40-11e4-994d-202962a9150c_story.html

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