Those attending the NRA Leadership Conference in Dallas are on notice that no firearms or “weapons of any kind,” or ammunition, will be allowed in the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center “prior to and during” Pence’s appearance on May 4. The NRA posted the restrictions ― a requirement of the Secret Service ― on a website announcing the conference.
“There will be no storage for firearms,” the NRA says in the announcement. Knife Rights, a knife advocacy group, will provide “complimentary storage” for knives, the NRA adds.
Teens who survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed, are wondering why the NRA fiercely resists extending the same safety considerations to other areas to safeguard children. The NRA wants “guns everywhere” when it comes to kids, tweeted Matt Deitsch, a Parkland student who helped organize the March for Our Lives rally for stricter gun laws in Washington.
No effort to fight Superior refinery fire; evacuations could last days
By News Tribune 26 April, 2018, 4:40 p.m.
A series of explosions and fires rocked the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior on Thursday, sending a black plume of acrid smoke across the city, forcing massive evacuations and sending several people to local hospitals.
At least 11 people were confirmed injured in hospitals in Duluth and Superior, one with a serious blast injury, Essentia Health and St. Luke’s hospital officials said.
No fatalities were reported.
Essentia Health announced it was closing all of its Superior locations including evacuating everyone from its Superior hospital with all patients going to its Duluth facilities.
No details were available on the extent of refinery damage or what caused the initial explosion which occurred just after 10 a.m., apparently in a tower near an asphalt tank. The tank punctured and asphalt spewed onto the ground.
A second, larger fire erupted just after noon with multiple explosions, sending another thick, black cloud for miles.
Collin Schade, refinery manager for Husky, told reporters that the facility was preparing for a May shutdown for servicing and inspection and that most of the smoke and fire was from asphalt burning at the scene. He said it may be some time before any cause is determined.
Because of the intensity of the fire Superior Fire Department officials said firefighters were standing by but not attempting to extinguish the main blaze. Firefighters were working to put out grass fires and other small fires caused by the major blaze, and were preparing for a potential attack on the fire with foam and water – but it was unclear how soon that could occur.
Nick Alexander, Superior police chief, said the fire could continue to burn for days.
Evacuation orderedBy early afternoon a north wind gusting to 20 mph appeared to be fanning the flames and pushing the smoke mostly south, with National Weather Service in Duluth radar showing the plume wafting as far as Solon Springs, nearly 20 miles away .
At a 3 p.m. press conference, Mayor Jim Paine said everyone within a 3-mile radius of the refinery should evacuate. Alexander said those who leave should plan to be gone a few days.
City and county officials also said that everyone who lived or worked within 10 miles south of the fire also should evacuate due to the toxic nature of the spreading smoke plume.
“If in doubt… just leave. Find a place to go,” Paine said.
Many of Superior’s main roads were clogged to gridlock with traffic at early afternoon as residents tried to move away from the smoke plume.
Residents who evacuate and need shelter are suggested to gather at The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, Miller Hill Mall or the Hermantown Public Safety building which were opening doors to any evacuees who need a place to stay.
Superior school officials said public school students in the city were evacuated to Amsoil headquarters at 1101 Susquehanna Ave. where parents waited in traffic jams to pick up their children. All school events for the day are canceled.
The Duluth Transit Authority was sending busses to help move evacuees to safety. Officials at Duluth’s Marshall School said any Superior students were welcome to remain there into the evening.
The University of Wisconsin Superior and the Superior and Maple school districts are canceling schools again on Friday as a precaution.
Many businesses also closed and evacuated, including Superior Water, Light and Power and the Superior Family YMCA, gas stations and grocery stores. Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College closed, cancelling all scheduled classes and events for the remainder of the day.
Superior Mayor Jim Paine said he reached out to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson to take in evacuees if needed.
A second wave of employees and contractors were rapidly leaving the scene after 12:30 p.m. as a series of seven or eight more explosions occurred at 12:40 p.m. when fire trucks were seen moving away from the fire.
Earlier in the morning witnesses said they saw at least seven ambulances enter the facility, with helicopter ambulances also shuttling to and from the refinery and the Richard I. Bong Airport in Superior. Douglas County Deputy Medical Examiner Paul Stein told the News Tribune at noon that he heard there are 20 total injuries but no fatalities.
Contractors at scene of blastEric Mathews, a boilermaker for Wales, Wis.-based CTS Inc. contractors working inside the refinery, said he was about 200 yards away on break when the blast occurred.
It was like “a big sonic boom and rattled your brain,” Mathews told the News Tribune. “I was running and then the debris started falling out of the air … I stopped under a pipe rack then waited for the debris to stop falling.”
Mathews said most or all of his fellow contractors were on break, in blast-proof shelters at the scene, when the first explosion occurred.
“The really lucky part is that it happened during our break so all of our people were in blast shacks,” Mathews said.
Another contractor walking out of the scene said he thought he was “going to die.”
News Tribune photographer Bob King, who flew over the site in an airplane on two different occasions, said one of the large, white storage tanks at the refinery was fractured and that a thick black liquid was pouring out onto the ground.
King said the smoke plume “smelled like burning rubber” and that the intense heat from the fire tossed the small plane in different directions.
Passersby and people nearby said they felt the first explosion rock buildings up to a mile away.
“It felt like a bomb,” said Katey Geistfeld, who works at the Challenge Center at the nearby Mariner Mall. “Everything kind of shook.”
Employees of the refinery and multiple contractors working in the facility were evacuated nearby at first and then further away as the fire rekindled and expanded.
“It shook the houses all over. They felt it at Belknap Plaza. … Tons of people were trying to get down there. They should be staying out,” said Mark Androsky, owner of Stadium Towing who was watching from just outside the refinery. Androsky was using his wrecker to block traffic at one point to allow emergency vehicles to enter.
Superior police have asked people to stay away from the area.
Mayor says city preparedThe mayor said city agencies and refinery crews have trained jointly for disasters at the facility.
“This community is aware we have an oil refinery. We’re prepared for this. We’ve done extensive training,” Paine said. “We’ve invested in equipment and infrastructure. We probably have the best fire department in the country to respond to an event like this.”
State Rep. Rick Milroy issued a statement that today’s “disaster at the refinery in Superior has left everyone with a deep sense of worry and heavy hearts for all of the workers and families involved. Like most Superiorites, I have a lot close friends who work at the pant. Injuries have been reported, but thank God that no fatalities have been reported. I ask that everyone keep all of the workers, first responders, and their families in their prayers as they secure the facility and get the injured medical attention.”
Mel Duvall, manager of media and issues for Calgary-based Husky Energy, said he had no information on where inside the refinery the initial explosion occurred. The company was planning a five-week turnaround starting in May, meaning parts or all of the plant would be shut down.
Officials at Enbridge Energy, which own a massive oil pipeline terminal and storage facility with millions of gallons of petroleum products stored just across the street form the refinery fire, said their facility has not been impacted.
“The Husky Terminal is across the street from Enbridge’s Superior Terminal. This incident has not impacted Enbridge’s Superior Terminal operations. Most Enbridge terminal employees have been evacuated except for a small crew who continue to monitor the situation,’’ said Jennifer Smith, an Enbridge spokeswoman. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Husky employees and their families.”
Refinery had past violationsIn 2015 the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Calumet $21,000 over emergency response and flammable liquids violations. Those violations were marked as settled and the problems solved by the end of that year.
It was the only OSHA enforcement action taken against the refinery in the past 20 years, according to a search of the agency’s database.
In 2012 and 2013 there were four reports of hydrogen sulfide releases due to power outages, according to the National Response Center.
The refinery has not been fined over hazardous waste since 1999, according to the Environmental Protection Agency
The refinery’s most recent Risk Management Plan was submitted in 2012 and states: “In the unlikely event of a catastrophic release, the refinery, working in conjunction with local emergency management staff, is well prepared to respond and mitigate adverse consequences to the community or the environment.”
Husky took over in 2017Husky Energy concluded its purchase of the refinery in November, spending $492 million to acquire the refinery from Calumet. Husky said there were no changes planned for the facility but was planning to continue a $30 million upgrade started by Calumet.
About 180 people are employed at Wisconsin’s sole refinery, which provides the Northland with gasoline, asphalt and other specialty petroleum products. About 50,000 barrels — or 2.3 million gallons — of oil per day can be processed at the refinery, located at 2407 Stinson Ave.
Along with the refinery, Husky took control of two asphalt terminals and two product terminals, a marine terminal, 3.6 million barrels in storage and a marketing business.
The Superior refinery was built in 1950, acquired by Murphy Oil in 1958 and sold to Indianapolis-based Calumet for $475 million in 2011.
Husky Energy said Wisconsin’s lone refinery had averaged 37,000 barrels per day of production in the first three months of this year, according to an earnings statement released Thursday morning.
Check back for updates.
News Tribune reporters Brooks Johnson, Jimmy Lovrien, Jana Hollingsworth and Peter Passi and Superior Telegram reporter Maria Lockwood contributed to this story.
Breaking: Big refinery explosion, fire happening now
From: Donna Lisenby, Waterkeeper.org
Date: Thu, Apr 26, 2018 2:13 pm
Breaking: There were two explosions a few hours ago and there is currently a very big active fire still burning at the Husky refinery in Superior, Wisconsin near Duluth, MN. This is near the Wisconsin/Minnesota border on Lake Superior. Emergency services have ordered a big evacuation of all people within 10 miles south and 3 miles north, east and west of the refinery.
Bomb trains are sometimes parked on tracks near this refinery. If you know anyone in this area of Minnesota/Wisconsin, please share this live news link and encourage them to evacuate RIGHT NOW. Firefighters are not fighting the fire currently. There is too much danger of additional explosions. There is the potential for mass casualties if people do not heed EVACUATION orders now. You could save a life. Please share this post.
GOP Tax Law Bails Out Fracking Companies Buried in Debt
By Justin Mikulka • Thursday, April 26, 2018 – 08:44
EOG Resources is one of the top companies in the fracking industry, and thanks to the new tax bill passed by Republicans and President Donald Trump at the end of last year, EOG had an exceptionally strong year compared to 2016.
In 2017, the company reported a net income of $2.6 billion. The previous year? A loss of $1.1 billion. That financial turnaround seems very impressive until you realize that $2.2 billion, or about 85 percent, of its 2017 income was the result of the new tax law. Without that gift from the GOP and Trump, EOG would have lost approximately $700 million between those two years. Instead they are $1.5 billion ahead of the game.
With numbers like these, it is easy to see how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was a much-needed lifeline for the money-losing fracking industry. EOG is routinely touted as one of the best shale oil and gas companies. Yet the company still lost $700 million in the past two years. Or at least it would have if not for the tax bill.
This is the same company that an analyst at the investment advice website Seeking Alpha says is “generally considered one of the best unconventional upstream oil and gas players in the business, and its financials back it up.” If those are the best financials in your industry, your industry has a big problem.
An interesting side note is that EOG stands for Enron Oil and Gas, which was spun off as its own company from Enron — the company notorious for one of the great energy Ponzi schemes of the 20th century. Today, an Enron spinoff company is being held up as the most fiscally sound in the shale oil industry.
And Seeking Alpha is now pushing EOG as a good investment and wondering when “the equities market will wake up and smell this opportunity” despite EOG still being over $6 billion in debt. Without the tax overhaul it would be much harder to make this argument.
There is one prominent person in the shale industry warning against rosy forecasts for shale oil, and that is Mark Papa, head of independent oil company Centennial Resource Development. Papa’s last job? CEO of EOG Resources.
Continental Resources is another of the shale companies being heralded as a good investment in 2018. Continental is run by Harold Hamm who was an advisor to the Trump campaign and has taken the title of “Shale King” that once belonged to Aubrey McClendon. Hamm’s net worth is estimated at over $13 billion.
Thanks to the new tax law, Continental took home an extra $700 million because its effective tax rate for 2017 was negative 406 percent.
Continental Resources 2017 Annual 10-K Filing
And Continental needed that money (although Hamm certainly doesn’t). In 2007 Continental had $165 million in debt and paid $13 million a year in interest on that debt. In 2016 its debt had ballooned to $6.5 billion and the annual interest payments rose to $321 million. The GOP tax law essentially pays off two years of Continental’s interest payments, allowing this failing business model to continue because Continental has not been generating enough income to pay even the annual interest on its debt.
While the company he leads is drowning in $6.5 billion of debt, Harold Hamm is personally worth twice that amount. He’ll be fine. He was easily able to afford one of the most expensive divorce settlements ever.
These are just two examples of shale companies receiving an immediate financial lifeline from the GOP tax bill. These companies also will benefit from lowered tax rates in future years. However, this one-time handout simply masks the reality that the shale revolution looks a lot like a Ponzi scheme enriching CEOs and Wall Street financiers by producing oil and gas with borrowed money that is unlikely to be paid back in the future.
And Hamm and the Wall Street financiers have no incentive to do anything differently. Sure bankrupt energy companies destroy worker pensions, wipe out investors equity, layoff thousands of workers — but if we use the coal industry as an example — CEOs will still get bonuses after driving their companies into bankruptcy.
Tax Bill Especially Beneficial to Oil Companies
The benefits of the new tax bill are certainly not unique to oil and gas companies. Utility companies did even better and the big Wall Street banks who are financing the cash-burning shale industry also are awash in new profits thanks to the GOPtax overhaul.
However, due to the nature of how oil and gas companies book profits and losses — and the epic money-losing streak the shale industry created over the past few years — these companies benefited more than most.
To be clear — this bill which was signed at the end of 2017 was applied to the deferred tax liabilities that were already on the books — thus erasing a large chunk of the liabilities for these companies that had built up while the industry kept borrowing to drill more and ultimately lose more money. Simply a bailout of reckless financial behavior by any other name.
And it wasn’t just the companies primarily working in shale that benefited. ExxonMobil raked in a $6 billion benefit from the new tax law, which even CNN Money referred to as a “gift.”
Industry Will Use Bailout to Borrow and Drill More
In discussing the trade deficit President Trump recently tweeted the following:
When you’re already $500 Billion DOWN, you can’t lose!
While the mainstream media is pushing the industry message that shale companies now are focused on profits instead of just production volume, record U.S. oil production and predictions for even greater increases would appear to reveal the lie in that promise. Just as most sharks must swim to stay alive, shale companies must drill to preserve CEO bonuses, which are often tied to oil production, not profits. So, they drill. Even when that means losing money on nearly every barrel of oil they pump.
A graphic from the Wall Street Journal reveals just how much money the shale industry has been losing compared to traditional oil — all while CEOs such as Harold Hamm were amassing billions in personal wealth. The shale oil industry generated free cash flow pumping oil for one brief period in the last seven years. Hamm has done a bit better personally during that time frame.
Shortly after President Trump signed the new tax bill, he took another vacation to Mar-a-Lago where he reportedly told those in attendance: “You all just got a lot richer.”
A rare moment of honesty from the President. And while he wasn’t speaking specifically to shale oil CEOs — it’s safe to say they got the message loud and clear.