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Latest plan to build worker camp in far western N.D. postponed

MEDORA, N.D. -- The latest proposal to turn an old school in Fryburg into a crew camp has been tabled until early January by the Billings County Zoning Board. Morgan Chase Management, a development company based in Jackson, Miss., presented its revised plan to build hundreds of rooms for oilfield workers on Thursday afternoon in a packed conference room at the Billings County Courthouse. Fryburg is west of Dickinson, just off Interstate 94.

Power company tells feds about rail delivery concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Minnesota power company official told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., Thursday that they had substantial railroad coal delivery problems this past year, and although stockpiles have recovered as of this month, they still have concerns. Because of it, consumers are paying more, too, officials told the federal regulators. David McMillan, executive vice president of Duluth-based Minnesota Power, described how his company’s stockpiles of coal were nearly exhausted during last winter’s harsh weather. He said that in the face of unreliable service from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the company’s coal reserves dwindled to a four-day supply at one point.

New promise for Keystone

McConnell: First job for new Senate is to approve controversial pipeline
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The new Republican-controlled U.S. Senate's first act in January will be approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters the bill would be based on a measure that failed in the Senate last month that was co-sponsored by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Groups want broader review for Sandpiper oil pipeline

ST. PAUL -- Two Minnesota environmental groups have filed suit in state district court asking for a broader environmental review for the proposed Enbridge Energy Sandpiper oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Friends of the Headwaters jointly filed the suit in Ramsey County asking for a full-fledged Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline. Both the need and the route for the proposed Sandpiper line currently are under review by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Enbridge is conducting an extensive environmental review as well.

Public-private partnership to provide $56 million in S.D. railway system

PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Tuesday that a total of $56 million in public and private funds will be invested in four rail projects across the state that should provide farmers better access to the marketplace. Because of the improvements in the railroad system, it also means a new $40 million grain-handling facility in Britton in the northeast part of the state near Aberdeen and a $40 million grain shuttle-loading facility in Kennebec in south-central South Dakota will be opened.

October preliminary North Dakota oil production estimate - 1,182,174 barrels/day

Helms: 2015 could be tough for oil; with prices slumping, production could plateau
BISMARCK, N.D. -- With oil prices on a steep downward slump, 2015 could be a tough year for oil producers, North Dakota’s lead regulator for the industry. “I started talking months ago about soft oil prices in 2015. I had no idea how soft,” said Lynn Helms, director for the state Department of Mineral Resources. “I honestly did not see them this soft, and that is going to have a significant impact.” Sweet crude in North Dakota was at $41.75 per barrel on Friday, according to the report, the lowest since March 2009, before the current boom. The price of oil has dropped 40 percent since June. The New York Mercantile closed Friday with 57.81 per barrel.

FACES OF THE BOOM: Tennessee family enjoying new life in Minot

FACES OF THE BOOM: Tennessee family enjoying new life in Minot

MINOT, N.D. -- Nick Vaughn earns in two nights what took him two weeks to make in his home state of Tennessee. The 34-year-old Gallatin, Tenn., man uprooted his family — wife Burgandy and four children — in September in hopes of finding a better life in Minot. The former automotive factory worker who was earning $9 an hour now tends bar at the Blind Duck Lounge and Casino. His wife quickly found work as a licensed practical nurse in a retirement home, increasing her salary by $3 per hour. Vaughn said his brother-in-law, a retired Air Force service member who has been working in the Oil Patch since July, coaxed the family to move, saying “There’s a better life here for you.”

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Oil may boom, but infrastructure is busting northeast Montana oil, gas counties

Oil may boom, but infrastructure is busting northeast Montana oil, gas counties

SIDNEY, Mont. — Out in the epicenter of the oil and gas boom, communities are growing so quickly they can’t keep up with their basic infrastructure needs such as water and sewage treatment facilities, housing and roads and bridges. Upgrading water and sewage treatment facilities is the most pressing need in Sidney, public works director Jeff Hintz said. It may cost up to $18 million for the wastewater plant, $17 million for the water treatment plant and $3 million to replace the water storage tank. Yet local officials said they haven’t received much help yet from state government.

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N.D. Sen. Heitkamp works for homeowner financing relief

Apartment, home prices continue to rise
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's hard work to bring financial relief to those living in the Oil Patch is starting to pay off. The Democrat from North Dakota announced Wednesday that the Federal Housing Administration has allocated higher loan limits for seven western North Dakota counties to better reflect soaring housing costs. Burleigh, McKenzie, Morton, Oliver, Sioux, Stark and Williams counties -- which have felt some of the greatest impact from the state's housing shortage -- need higher FHA loan thresholds to make home buying more practical for families, Heitkamp said in a release.

Critics say proposal for radioactive oilfield waste falls short

Petroleum Council welcomes rules that would allow landfills to accept filter socks, other waste
BISMARCK, N.D. – Critics blasted rules proposed Friday that would permit the disposal of filter socks and other radioactive oilfield waste in North Dakota landfills, saying they don’t go far enough to protect public health and track the waste. Darrell Dorgan, head of the North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition, said he was “not surprised at all” by the state Department of Health’s proposal to allow special oilfield waste landfills to accept radioactivity levels up to 50 picocuries per gram – 10 times the current limit, which forces companies to ship the waste to other states.

Proposal would let N.D. landfills accept more radioactivity in oilfield waste

BISMARCK, N.D. – Oilfield waste with elevated levels of radioactivity could be dumped in North Dakota’s landfills instead of having to be trucked out of state, under proposed rules being announced today by the state Department of Health. The rules strive to set a reasonable standard, based on science, in response to growing concerns about hauling and disposal of radioactive waste generated by oil and gas drilling. “We don't want to do anything that would put anybody at risk,” Dave Glatt, the department’s environmental health chief, said Thursday. “At the same time, because we're generating this waste, we should take responsibility.” Several cases of illegal dumping in recent months have spurred activists and local officials in western North Dakota to call for better tracking of radioactive oilfield waste and stiffer penalties for violators.

Oil company plans to downsize operations next year

WILLISTON, N.D. — Oasis Petroleum expects to cut 2015 spending 50 percent amid plunging oil prices. The company expects to spend about $1.43 billion in 2014, but lowered next year's expectation to $750 million to $850 million, said Oasis CEO Tommy Nusz. The company is downsizing from 16 rigs operating in September to just six in March.

Energy company plans diesel, natural gas plants in N.D., Montana

WILLISTON, N.D. -- A Williston-based energy company has plans to roll out at least four plants in the Bakken region that would refine crude into diesel and strip natural gas liquids from oil. Quantum Energy calls the plants 21st Century Energy Center(s) and has optioned big tracts of land in Stanley and Berthold, about 30 miles apart on Highway 2 west of Minot, and in Montana at Baker and Fairview. Quantum is teamed up with Bilfinger Westcon, of Bismarck, which is lead contractor on the MDU Resources and Calumet diesel refinery project near Dickinson. Quantum president Neil Amondson said Thursday they'll focus on developing the Stanley and Berthold plants first because the Dickinson project has created a regulatory template for air quality and other permits.

N.D. regulators order oil industry to further separate volatile gases from crude

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota regulators foisted a new set of standards on the oil industry Tuesday aimed at further separating volatile gases from Bakken crude oil to make it safer for rail transport in the wake of several explosive train derailments. “I think the important point is stabilization is going to occur one way or the other,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said before the three-member Industrial Commission unanimously approved the oil conditioning standards.

Gas prices fall to four-year lows, could drop more

FARGO, N.D. -- Gas prices are hitting four-year lows, and it doesn’t look like the price fall will stop any time soon. AAA said in a release Wednesday that the national average hit $2.64 a gallon for regular unleaded fuel, the lowest since Feb. 20, 2010. That’s more than 50 cents less than it was at this time in 2013. “Gas prices have fallen at a remarkable pace that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago,” said Avery Ash, a national AAA spokesman. “Lower gas prices represent real doorbuster savings as everyone begins their holiday shopping.”

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