2014 a nasty year for Wyoming
By Mead Gruver
CHEYENNE (AP) — An oil boom in Wyoming has a filthy side effect: A
string of accidents from a remote gulley in the Powder River Basin
to a refinery in downtown Cheyenne already has made this year the
state’s worst for oil spills since at least 2009, state records
Almost 220,000 gallons of oil already has spilled in Wyoming this year, more than double the 90,000 gallons all last year. About 165,000 gallons spilled in 2010, the previous worst year since the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality began tracking spills in a database that year.
“There’s a lot more production,” Joe Hunter, the department’s emergency response coordinator, said Thursday. “If you’re producing more, there’s going to be more opportunities for releases. We’re doing what we can to just make sure the things get cleaned up.”
Much of the oil spilled lately has been in the Powder River Basin, epicenter of Wyoming’s nascent oil boom. Oil production in the basin has doubled in the past five years as companies tap the Niobrara Shale and other deep formations with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
All the while, large volumes of oil spill on Wyoming’s remote landscapes with little public awareness. None of the federal or state agencies with purview over oil infrastructure and public lands in Wyoming actively notifies the public about oil spills except in extreme cases.
“Unless it’s going to have an impact on public health, that’s where we would notify the public,” Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Keith Guille said Thursday.
The biggest spills in Wyoming this year haven’t affected waterways, posed no risk to the public and promptly were cleaned up, according to Guille.
Guille said the department is working on developing a publicly accessible spills database. Such public disclosure could help the state agency encourage companies to work harder to prevent oil spills, said one environmental advocate.
“I think they’re more likely to be more careful. It’s a deterrent,” said Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council landowner advocacy group.
Department of Environmental Quality records disclosed in response to a request by The Associated Press show several recent oil spills weren’t inconsequential in scale. Three within a month last spring totaled more than 100,000 gallons and originated with infrastructure owned and operated by a single company, Casper-based Belle Fourche Pipeline:
— On April 30, a malfunction caused a 210,000-gallon oil storage tank owned by Belle Fourche in Campbell County to overflow, spilling 70,000 gallons of crude near a drilling site;
— On May 19, corrosion at a damaged section of a Belle Fourche pipeline spilled 25,000 gallons of oil that flowed three miles down an ephemeral drainage in Johnson County;
— On May 23, heavy equipment damaged one of the company’s pipelines in Crook County, spilling about 9,000 gallons of oil.
The Department of Environmental Quality isn’t pursuing fines against Belle Fourche or HollyFrontier, owner of a Cheyenne refinery where 70,000 gallons of oil spilled July 13, Hunter said.
The refinery spill happened when a severe thunderstorm dumped heavy rain and hail on a crude oil storage tank and cause the tank’s floating roof to collapse. The oil remained on site and was cleaned up quickly, according to Hunter.
The department decides whether to pursue fines against companies on a case-by-case basis, Hunter said.
“If we think there’s negligence, we’ll absolutely, 100 percent go after a violation. If surface water is obviously impacted, that’s grounds for seeking enforcement,” he said.
“You can’t really just say, you know, they met this number, so we’re going after enforcement. You’ve got to look at circumstances, was there negligence, could this be prevented?”
A message seeking comment from HollyFrontier wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.
Bob Dundas, environmental coordinator for Belle Fourche Pipeline, said Thursday he would forward a reporter’s message to somebody else in the company who could comment. Nobody at the company called by press time.
“It looks like if we’re going to have more oil production, we’d better step up enforcement,” Morrison said. “We want to be looking at how we’re going to prevent this increase in oil spills.”
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Home Depot breach affected 56M debit, credit cards
By Anne D’Innocenzio
AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Home Depot said Thursday that a data breach that
lasted for months at its stores in the U.S. and Canada affected 56
million debit and credit cards, far more than a pre-Christmas 2013
attack on Target customers.
The size of the theft at Home Depot trails only that of the heist of data from 90 million TJX Cos. customers, which was disclosed in 2007. Target’s breach compromised 40 million credit and debit cards.
Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement retailer, said that the malware used in the data breach that took place between April and September has been eliminated.
It said there was no evidence that debit PIN numbers were compromised or that the breach affected stores in Mexico or customers who shopped online at Homedepot.com. It said it has also completed a “major” payment security project that provides enhanced encryption of customers’ payment data in the company’s U.S. stores.
But unlike Target’s breach, which sent the retailer’s sales and profits falling as wary shoppers went elsewhere, customers seem to have stuck with Atlanta-based Home Depot. Still, the breach’s ultimate cost to the company remains unknown. Greg Melich, an analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group LLC, estimates the costs will run in the several hundred million dollars, similar to Target’s breach.
“This is a massive breach, and a lot of people are affected,” said John Kindervag, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. But he added, “Home Depot is very lucky that Target happened because there is this numbness factor.”
Customers appear to be growing used to breaches, following a string of them this past year, including at Michaels, SuperValu and Neiman Marcus. Home Depot might have also benefited from the disclosure of the breach coming in September, months after the spring season, which is the busiest time of year for home improvement.
And unlike Target, which has a myriad of competitors, analysts note that home-improvement shoppers don’t have many options. Moreover, Home Depot’s customer base is different from Target’s. Nearly 40 percent of Home Depot’s sales come from professional and contractor services. Those buyers tend to be fiercely loyal and shop a couple of times a week for supplies.
Home Depot on Thursday confirmed its sales-growth estimates for the fiscal year and said it expects to earn $4.54 per share in fiscal 2014, up 2 cents from its prior guidance. The company’s fiscal 2014 outlook includes estimates for the cost to investigate the data breach, providing credit monitoring services to its customers, increasing call center staffing and paying legal and professional services.
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