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  1. Oil and Gas News: Cities turn to local action to block oil trains

    In this July 27, 2015, file photo, a passenger commuter train, left, passes one of two mile-long oil trains parked adjacent to the King County Airport in Seattle. As oil trains began rolling through its downtown a few years ago, Spokane, Wash, was among the first cities to pass a resolution calling for tougher state and federal safety regulations. But when an oil train derailed in a fiery crash in Oregon last month, after earlier rumbling through the Eastern Washington city, some city leaders didn't want to wait for the federal government to act. The Spokane City Council decided 6-0 to ask voters whether the city should fine companies that ship crude oil or coal by rail through downtown, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) SEATTLE (AP) — As crude oil trains began rolling through its downtown a few years ago, Spokane was among the first cities to pass a resolution calling for stronger federal safety regulations. But when a mile-long train derailed in the scenic Columbia River Gorge along the Oregon-Washington border last month — after earlier passing through this major railroad hub in eastern Washington — some city leaders said they couldn't wait for tougher federal protections. This week the Spokane City Council decided 6-0 to ask voters in November whether the city should prohibit the shipment of crude oil or coal by rail. The ballot measure, if approved, would make rail shipments of crude oil or coal a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $261 per tank car. Spokane is certain to face a steep uphill legal fight, since the federal government regulates railroad operations and safety. Even councilmembers expect the matter to end up in court, though some say it's worth putting to voters. Main rail lines converge in Spokane and there's no realistic alternative route, BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said. "There have been a distressing number of incidents in the U.S. and Canada with oil trains derailing or exploding, sometimes with catastrophic consequences, so cities certainly have a strong reason to regulate this kind of traffic," said Michael Gerrard, a professor and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. "Unfortunately, the jurisdiction over it is firmly centered on the federal government." Spokane, which sees up to 19 oil trains a week, is the latest community attempting to assert its local authority in the fight over fossil fuels. Cities from Oakland, California, to South Portland, Maine, have also passed local ordinances to block crude oil or coal terminal projects. Last month, Oakland unanimously voted to ban the handling and storage of coal and petroleum coke at bulk material facilities or terminals in Oakland over concerns about public health and safety hazards. Meanwhile, South Portland is defending its city ban on the loading of crude oil into tankers in Portland Harbor in federal court. Its ordinance also prevented the Portland Pipe Line Corp., which sued the city, from reversing the flow of its pipeline to bring Canadian tar sands oil into Maine. The company says the ordinance is unconstitutional; the city argues it is exercising traditional police power and land use authority. And last week, Vancouver in southwest Washington voted to ban new or expanded crude oil storage facilities. The decision, however, won't affect a massive crude-by-rail facility currently proposed at the city's port and which the city has opposed. Spokane's measure is unusual in that the city of 210,000 people is trying to regulate which goods are shipped in trains, rather than other local attempts to regulate the construction of facilities that receive oil or coal. "I believe personally that there's something we have to do, and that means try every single argument that we possibly can in order to make a difference and make Spokane safer," Council President Ben Stuckart before Monday night's vote. Some at the meeting criticized the tactic and worried about potential costs to taxpayers if the city has to defend it. In a memo, the council's legal adviser wrote there is likely a small chance the proposed ordinance would survive a legal challenge. But Councilman Breean Beggs, an attorney, believes a provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act allows states to adopt certain laws to protect a local safety hazard — in this case Spokane's sole source drinking water aquifer — if the federal government hasn't yet addressed the issue. Other municipalities have fought in different ways, including two Illinois communities that last year challenged new train safety rules they say would allow the continued use of oil tank cars known to fail during accidents. Andrew Johnsen, BNSF Railway's assistant vice-president of community affairs, wrote to the Spokane council Tuesday, saying its proposed ordinance, if enacted, would be pre-empted by federal laws. He said moving hazardous materials by rail is safe, and added that it appeared the "proposed ban is less about safety and more about a political agenda against fossil fuels." Justin Jacobs, a Union Pacific Railroad spokesman, wrote in an email that if a customer delivers an oil or coal rail car within federal regulations, the railroad is required to transport it to its destination. But Eddie Scher, a spokesman with advocacy group Stand, said Spokane can and should make the case for authority over oil trains. "Public safety has to come first," he said. "Deadly oil trains were not on the table when pre-emption was dreamed up."

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    Thu, 28 Jul 2016

  2. MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil price for September drops below $42/bbl

    Light, sweet crude oil prices dropped $1/bbl on the New York market July 27 to approach 3-month lows after a weekly government report showed an unexpected gain in US oil inventories last week. Brent crude oil prices dropped more than $1/bbl on the London market.

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    Thu, 28 Jul 2016

  3. BHI: US oil , overall rig counts creep up; firms plot second-half activity

    Thanks to another rise in oil -directed units, the US drilling rig count barely held on to its recent upward momentum during the week ended July 29. The modest increase comes during a week in which many US exploration and production firms outlined second-half drilling plans in second-quarter ...

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    Fri, 29 Jul 2016

  4. MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices decline but Brent breaks losing streak

    Light, sweet crude oil prices fell to a 3-month low on the New York market July 26 on what traders and analysts called oversupply concerns. The US benchmark crude price has fallen in six of seven trading sessions but the front-month Brent crude oil price rose slightly July 26, snapping a ...

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    Wed, 27 Jul 2016

  1. Oil and Gas News: Vermilion sues oil and gas companies over coastal damage

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    Fri, 29 Jul 2016

  2. Oil and Gas News: US to speed oil , gas permits amid sharp drop in applications

    U.S. officials announced plans Thursday to speed up permitting for oil and gas drilling on federal and Indian lands to reduce delays, as applications were projected to be down 40 percent versus their historical average amid an ongoing price slump.

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    Fri, 29 Jul 2016

  3. Oil and Gas News: Exxon reports smallest profit since 1999

    Lower oil prices continue to punish Exxon Mobil Corp., which reported its weakest quarterly profit in nearly 17 years.

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    Fri, 29 Jul 2016

  4. Oil and Gas News: Shell sees Q2 earnings fall 72 percent amid oil drop

    Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that second-quarter earnings fell 72 percent as low oil prices weigh on the profitability of the Anglo-Dutch energy giant.

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    Thu, 28 Jul 2016

  5. Oil and Gas News: Libya's UN-backed council says oil terminals have reopened

    Libya's U.N.-brokered presidency council has announced the reopening of the country's vital oil terminals after 18 months of closure despite threats by a rival military commander that his forces could target tankers entering Libya's territorial waters.

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    Fri, 29 Jul 2016

  6. Oil and Gas News: AP Newsbreak: US oil , gas applications could drop 40 percent

    U.S. officials announced plans Thursday to speed up the permitting process for oil and gas drilling on federal lands to reduce delays, as applications were projected to be down 40 percent in coming years versus their historical average amid an ongoing price slump.

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    Thu, 28 Jul 2016

  7. Oil and Gas News: Coast Guard: Abandoned pipe leaks oil in southeast Louisiana

    Cleanup was underway Tuesday on an oil spill caused by a leak from an abandoned pipeline in southeast Louisiana waters.

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    Wed, 27 Jul 2016

  8. Oil and Gas News: Environmentalists take aim at TransCanada pipeline project

    Environmentalists are again taking aim at the company that proposed the Keystone XL pipeline — this time for another of its projects they fear would send hundreds of supertankers laden with crude oil down the Atlantic coast to refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

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    Wed, 27 Jul 2016

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