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Weekly News Update: 8/6-8/10

AUGUST 10, 2018

Monday, August 6, 2018

Avista reaffirms commitment to acquisition by Hydro One
Avista Corp. reaffirmed its commitment to its pending acquisition by Hydro One Ltd., despite regulatory delays caused by the Ontario government’s shakeup of the Canadian utility’s management.
“We have made significant progress in the Hydro One transaction, and we’re continuing to work through the approval processes,” Avista Chairman and CEO Scott Morris said Aug. 1 during the company’s second-quarter earnings call. Avista expects that the $5.26 billion deal will close during the fourth quarter of 2018.

Canada dilutes carbon tax after industry pushback
Canada pedaled back a federal carbon tax policy set to roll out in January 2019.
Multiple media outlets reported on Aug. 1 that, after industry pushback, the federal government agreed to reduce the scope of emissions subject to the tax by shifting a benchmark used in its calculation. According to a report in The Globe and Mail, the original plan would have taxed about 30% of industry emissions on average. The new plan, however, will tax around 20% of industry emissions and 10% in sectors like steel and cement.

TransCanada bullish on North America gas as transportation demand surges
TransCanada Corp. is looking for opportunities to expand its natural gas network even as major projects in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. near completion, President and CEO Russ Girling said.
The Canadian pipeline giant is in the process of wrapping up three pipeline projects in the U.S. — the WB Xpress, Mountaineer and Gulf Xpress — which are expected to be in service by the end of the year, Girling said on a conference call. As those projects conclude, TransCanada expects its Columbia system “to continue to generate organic growth opportunities as natural gas production continues to grow in the Marcellus and Utica regions,” he said on the Aug. 2 call to discuss second-quarter earnings.

U.S. & International: 
Construction Employment Reaches 10-Year High in July 
Construction employment increased by 19,000 jobs in July and by 303,000 jobs over the past year, reaching a 10-year high, while the industry’s unemployment rate and level hit an all-time low, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said it was likely firms would have added even more workers if they could find qualified candidates to hire.

Deal reached to clean land around 3 US plutonium reactors 
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A portion of the vast Washington state site where the U.S. government created much of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal will be scrubbed free of radiation and other pollution under a final plan reached by the U.S. Department of Energy and federal and state regulators.

Denver Crane Watch: Three major projects break ground in July 
Three major projects broke ground from Boulder to Cherry Creek this month.
They include apartments in Boulder, a large mixed-use project in RiNo, and a six-story retail and office building in Cherry Creek.

Seattle won’t be on hook for $100 million increase in cost to renovate KeyArena
The renovation of KeyArena could begin as early as October, and its expected cost is now $700 million, the Seattle City Council heard Thursday. That’s $100 million more than the budget was in December, when the council and Mayor Jenny Durkan approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group (OVG) for the massive project, which could attract an NHL team soon and possibly an NBA team down the road.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Wave of LNG Development Projects Making LNG the Fossil Fuel of the Future 
A new race to build multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants is gaining momentum after a long hiatus in investments as energy giants sense a widening supply gap within five years. Qatar, the world’s largest LNG producer, is preparing to expand its facilities by around one third to produce 100-108 million tonnes per year (mtpa) by 2023-2024. “The glut that people see I don’t see … If you just count on being pessimistic about the market, and don’t build expansions, you will never catch that upside when the market is up,” Saad al-Kaabi, the head of Qatar Petroleum, told Reuters in May. A major change in the outlook happened after China strongly boosted imports of LNG in recent years to reduce coal burn in its fight against pollution. “The supply-demand balance definitely looks more favorable towards producers these days,” said Philippe Sauquet, the head of gas at France’s Total, the world’s second largest LNG trader after Shell. It is estimated that the LNG market will require over 200 million tonnes per year of new supply through to 2030, or roughly 25-30 mtpa per year in new capacity additions to 2025. Oil and gas companies have heralded LNG as the fossil fuel of the future thanks to its relatively low carbon emissions.

B.C. NDP government moving toward more labour-friendly policies
Earlier this year, British Columbia’s NDP government made a little-noticed change to the Workers Compensation Act that expanded mental-health services for first responders.
In particular, these workers no longer need to point to a specific incident to submit a claim for a mental-health condition related to their work.

U.S. & International:
Renewable Energy Saves Water and Creates Jobs 
A common argument for expanding renewable energy sources is that technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines are responsible for far less carbon dioxide than power plants that burn fossil fuels. But two other powerful benefits should also be getting much more attention: the switch can save vast quantities of freshwater, and can create a large number of new, high-paying jobs. Want proof? Let’s look at the data that our detailed research has revealed.

Battle lines drawn on US EPA’s proposed vehicle fuel efficiency freeze
The governor of California and environmental groups vowed to fight the Trump administration if it adopts its proposal to suspend and rewrite vehicle fuel efficiency standards.
The Trump administration on Aug. 2 proposed to suspend rules that would boost fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks and to revoke California’s permit to set its own standards. The proposed rule released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would set up a showdown between the federal government and a number of states, led by California, over their right to set higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

 Saudi Arabian crude oil imports to Canada easy to replace, says energy economist 
Canada can easily replace the oil it imports from Saudi Arabia should relations with the Middle Eastern kingdom deteriorate to the point that trade in crude is halted, says an energy economist. But this week’s trade tension escalation means Canada will be on the sidelines as the Saudis try to diversify their economy away from its dependence on oil and gas, said Omar Allam, a Canadian consultant who specializes in advice on doing business in Saudi Arabia.

Alberta to focus less on costs when awarding highway contracts 
Quality of snow clearing, pothole patching, line painting and weed whacking are set to play a bigger role in how the Alberta government awards contracts to maintain provincial highways in the future. Transportation Minister Brian Mason announced changes Tuesday to the contract bidding process that will see a reduced focus on cost in favour of more emphasis on a company’s performance. The first contact to be awarded under the new evaluation system will be for Deerfoot Trail in Calgary. The current contract, held by Carmacks Enterprises Ltd., expires on July 31, 2019.

Cost to twin Trans Mountain pipeline could go $1.9B higher, Kinder Morgan says
Kinder Morgan Canada documents say expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline could cost the federal government an additional $1.9 billion beyond the company’s original construction estimate, and will take another year to complete. The figure is included in documents Kinder Morgan Canada filed Tuesday with the United States Security and Exchange Commission related to the company’s plan to sell the pipeline to the Canadian government for $4.5 billion.

Trans Mountain could bring C$1B annual cash flow to Canada’s feds, bank says 
Canada would see annual returns excluding debt costs of about C$1 billion per year from its purchase of Kinder Morgan Inc.‘s Trans Mountain pipeline, even if an expansion project is delayed or goes over budget, according to a filing related to the C$4.5 billion sale of the crude-carrying network.

Energy Deals Decline in Canada as Oil Rally Heals Slump’s Scars
Investors have been pushing Canadian energy companies to merge so they can cut costs and combine resources. That isn’t going so well this year.
The value of deals involving Canadian oil, natural gas and pipeline companies slumped 29 percent to $45.5 billion in the first seven months of the year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Exclude $22.3 billion in Enbridge Inc. outlays to absorb subsidiaries, and this year’s decline widens to 64 percent.

U.S. & International:
Dept. of Labor doing Oregon construction wages survey
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is conducting a building construction survey statewide in Oregon to collect data to establish prevailing wage rates, as required under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts. The survey is not limited to federally funded construction projects, and covers active building construction projects in all counties between March 1, 2017, and February 28, 2018.

Report: Oregon ‘hottest’ market for roads through 2021 
Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report, using data from McKinsey & Co., also put Oregon at the top its state infrastructure ranking. U.S. News looked at the categories of energy, transportation and internet access and placed Oregon first after considering a variety of factors like bridge integrity, public transportation utilization, road quality, renewable energy, power reliability and cost and broadband download speed.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Analyst Confirm Trans Mountain Profitable Investment despite Potential Cost Overruns and Construction Delays 
The Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion, which Canada is buying from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd., would be profitable even if costs rose 26 per cent and the project took a year longer to complete. If the cost of expanding the line increased to $9.3 billion (US$7.1 billion) and wasn’t in service until the end of 2021, the project still would generate $126 million in distributable cash flow the following year, according to a TD Securities analysis included in a Kinder Canada filing on Tuesday.

Stop Bill 28 in Manitoba
Project Labour Agreements have been used since the 1960s to protect the safety, security and quality of Manitoba public sector construction jobs. They add significant community benefit by using tax dollars to support work for Manitobans and create training and apprenticeship opportunities for young Manitobans including women, new Canadians and Indigenous youth. Add your voice to support Manitobans working on Manitoba projects.

U.S. & International:
As Utahns consider raising the gas tax, a new analysis shows how the current rate compares
With Utah voters considering this year whether to raise taxes on gasoline to help fund education, a state-by-state analysis shows the Beehive state’s current rate ranks in the middle of the pack.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Federal Government Announces $278.6 Million to BC Infrastructure Projects Through Federal Gas Tax Fund 
The Government of Canada has delivered the first of two $139.3-million annual instalments of the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to British Columbia. In total, the province will be provided with over $278.6 million this year through the fund.  The GTF is a long-term, indexed source of funding that supports local infrastructure projects across the province annually. This year funding is going towards projects as diverse as Chilliwack’s new curling rink; a new solar energy system for Richmond’s fire hall; and a new Westshore water reservoir in Central Okanagan Regional District.

Federal Government Announces $229.5 Million to Alberta Infrastructure Projects Through Federal Gas Tax Fund 
The Government of Canada has delivered the first of two $114.7-million annual instalments of the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to Alberta. In total, the province will be provided with over $229.5 million this year through the fund.  The GTF is a long-term, indexed source of funding that supports local infrastructure projects across the province each year. In the Town of Canmore, GTF funds are supporting new connections for pedestrians and cyclists through expansion of the active transportation route along Legacy Trail in the direction of downtown Banff and Lake Louise. In Lac La Biche, residents 15 kilometres of newly paved road will be completed.

Federal Government Announces $61.9 Million to Saskatchewan Infrastructure Projects Through Federal Gas Tax Fund 
The Government of Canada has delivered the first of two more than $30.9 million instalments of the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to Saskatchewan for the 2018-19 fiscal year. In total, the province will be provided with more than $61.9 million within that period. The GTF is a long-term, indexed source of funding that supports local infrastructure projects across the province each year. Some planned projects funded this year include installation of culverts in the Rural Municipality of Pleasantdale No. 398, construction of a new skating arena in the Town of Assiniboia, and expansion of a water treatment plant reservoir in the Town of Strasbourg. Local roads and bridges, sport infrastructure and drinking water are only three of the 18 project categories eligible for funding under the program.

Federal Government Announces $72 Million to Manitoba Infrastructure Projects Through Federal Gas Tax Fund
The Government of Canada has delivered the first of two $36-million annual instalments of the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to Manitoba. In total, the province will be provided with over $72 million this year through the fund.  In Portage la Prairie, funding will be used to replace the aging Island Park Bridge with a 3-lane causeway, improving traffic flow and establishing a safer crossing that will serve the community for decades to come. Recreation, roads and water systems are only three of the 18 project categories eligible for funding under the program. This wide range demonstrates the flexibility of the GTF in allowing communities to direct their allocations to their most pressing local needs.

Federal Government Announces $72 Million to Northwest Territories Infrastructure Projects Through Federal Gas Fund 
The Government of Canada delivered the first of two $8.25-million annual installments of the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to the Northwest Territories. In total, the territory will be provided with $16.5 million this year through the fund.

Federal Government Announces $16.5 Million to Yukon Infrastructure Projects Through Federal Gas Tax Fund
The Government of Canada delivered the first of two $8.25-million annual installments of the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to Nunavut. In total, the territory will be provided with over$16.5 million this year through the fund.

With Whistler pipeline, Targa keeps focus on Permian buildout
Targa Resources Corp.‘s top executive said the Whistler natural gas pipeline project will strengthen the company’s position in the Permian Basin.
Targa CEO and director Joe Bob Perkins said during an Aug. 9 earnings call that many of the company’s growth projects are slated for completion by the first half of 2019. Closer to the start of the development cycle, the Whistler residue gas pipeline will enhance the company’s ability to offer gas transportation service to Permian Basin producers and midstream companies.

U.S. & International:
Colorado’s alternative energy economy boosted by wind and biofuels
Advanced energy job gains slowed last year, but should recover in 2018

Review: Labor and the Class Idea in the U.S. and Canada
In 1965, in both Canada and the U.S., about 30 percent of the workforce was represented by unions. This figure, called union density, had been close between the two countries for 50 years. Often, density in the U.S. was a little bit higher than in Canada. But starting in the mid-1960s, our paths diverged. Union density in the U.S. began to fall, while in Canada it kept climbing. Canada’s union density peaked at 38 percent in the early 1980s. By 2017 it had fallen to 28.6 percent—but that’s still substantially higher than the 10.7 percent in the U.S.