Tag Archive for 'Texas'

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  On April 2 USDA and EPA kicked off “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month.”  Unbelievably, in the US, more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste!  One third!   Food is the single largest type of waste in daily trash.  On April 1 President Trump issued a Presidential Message addressing food waste.  Next week EPA will host an event that will announce additional joint agency actions to reduce food waste, including ways for localities and states to become more active on this set of issues.  The agencies are asking for corporate and business leaders to join their peers who have already made a public commitment to reducing food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50 percent by the year 2030.
*  In March I referenced a major deep-water port project getting started in Texas.  An interesting comment came in last week by an affected property owner first claiming lax notification for people directly impacted.  But that was small potatoes compared to her subsequent comments.  She wrote that it seems unbelievable that such a project could even be considered, much less proposed, “given all the warnings recent events have shown (about?) the hazards of similar projects.”  (Seems she left out a word…)  But her sentiment is clear:  Fears from the recent Houston storage tank fire.  A submerged leak in the Louisiana Gulf.  The proximity to wildlife preserves.  “Can you not imagine,” she writes to MARAD, “the impact when 28 miles of underwater line is involved was a leak to occur, to say nothing of the impact of installation? Is there no ‘saturation point’ for potential pollution and Gulf disruption for this area?”  Hmmmm….
*  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposes to establish a “nonessential experimental population” (NEP) of the California condor in the Pacific Northwest.  An NEP could facilitate reintroduction of California condors to the region and provide for “allowable legal incidental taking of the California condor” within a defined NEP area. “Take” or “taking” is the official word for, uh, killing – not casually, of course, but unavoidable deaths associated with otherwise legal activities that can proceed only if project managers have done everything possible to avoid situations in which a “take” might occur.  The NEP would include northern California, northwest Nevada, and Oregon. FWS writes that “the best available data indicate that reintroduction of the California condor into the Pacific Northwest is biologically feasible and will promote the conservation of the species.”  Regulatory restrictions are considerably reduced under an NEP designation.  However, FWS explains that regulatory flexibility can make a reintroduction process more palatable to apprehensive stakeholders. “We have seen stronger support for conservation efforts when stakeholders are involved and have a voice in the process.”  Comments are due by June 4.
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Wells Fargo Reports: Texas Labor Market Update: March 2017

Texas added 9,500 jobs in March and February now shows a larger 14,100-job gain. Labor force growth outpaced job growth, however, causing the jobless rate to edge 0.1 percentage points higher to 5.0 percent.

Seasonal Quirks Hide a More Positive Story

Although a 9,500-job monthly gain may seem small by Texas standards, job gains disappointed at the national level in March as well. The better household data provided some consolation in the U.S. report, but less so in Texas, where the jobless rate rose 0.1 percentage points to 5.0 percent as labor force growth outpaced employment growth.

Texas posted the third largest job gain among all states. Revisions to February were significant, bringing Texas’ three-month average job gain to 25,000. The details of the March data also tell a better story than the headline. Most major sectors added jobs. The largest gain was in professional & business services, which added 13,200 jobs, with large gains in both professional & tech services and administrative support positions. Financial services also had a strong month, adding 2,800 jobs in March. Even with solid hiring in government, information and education, service sector employment declined by 1,000 jobs in March. Gains were offset by a 12,300-job decline in the leisure & hospitality sector, which may have been impacted by seasonal factors. This year’s relatively late Easter pushed Spring Break out into mid-April, resulting in less seasonal hiring than usual in March. There was a large decline in health employment on the month, although the sector remains one of the strongest growing over the year. Cuts in March were likely a one-month blip.

In a reversal of sorts, goods producing sector employment was up broadly in March. Mining & logging added 4,800 jobs, reflecting the ramp up in drilling activity in the Permian Basin. The rig count has steadily climbed higher since bottoming out last May. Construction employment rose by 4,000 jobs in March—also likely reflecting the improvement in the energy patch as well as continued gains in homebuilding and commercial construction. Manufacturers added 1,700 jobs in March and February’s gain was revised up to +6,400 jobs. March marks the first month that Texas’ manufacturing employment was above its year-ago level in nearly two years.

The bottom chart illustrates some of the impact of the energy boom and 105 subsequent bust. Houston’s employment remains essentially flat with its 100 December 2014 level, which is a testament to efforts to diversify its economy beyond fossil fuels. It appears to have paid off. The energy bust did take a bit out of Houston’s momentum, however. We expect the region to return to growth mode rather quickly now that oil prices have stabilized and drilling activity is ramping back up. Manufacturing faces a longer road to recovery, as headcounts are still 5.1 percent lower than peak in December 2014, though the upward trend is encouraging. Mining & logging employment in Texas has returned to where it was back in 2012, right at the beginning of the shale boom. With oil prices seemingly stuck at around $50 a barrel, oil producers are becoming even more efficient, which means employment will likely come back slower than production does.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor and Wells Fargo Securities

Wells Fargo Reports: Regional Effects of the Oil Price Slump

Wells_Fargo_Securities_logoOil- and gas-related businesses are cutting capital budgets and implementing layoffs in the face of the continued slide in oil prices. The bulk of the burden is falling on just a handful of states.

The ongoing fall in oil prices will hurt domestic producers squeeze their profits and reduce their capital spending and exploration efforts. Producers are not the only ones who will feel the squeeze. The decline in capital spending and exploration will also hurt support businesses, manufacturers of related equipment, and possibly spill over to firms that build pipelines, transport oil and sell the commodity. Weakness in the domestic oil and gas industry has contributed to a downward adjustment of our forecast for business fixed investment for the first quarter of 2015. The sharp pullback in oil- and gas-related investment and employment will largely be concentrated in energy producing states, while the benefits of cheaper gas will be more equitably divided among the entire nation.

In dollar terms, Texas is likely to suffer the largest loss. The Lone Star State has by far the largest number of workers in each of the oil- and gas-related industries. However, it does not have the highest concentration of those workers as the state is relatively large and diverse economically. In Texas, only 2.6 percent of workers are employed in oil and gas extraction, drilling oil and gas wells and support activities for oil and gas wells. By contrast, 6.0 percent of North Dakota’s workers are employed in those three industries, while 5.8 percent of workers in Wyoming are concentrated there. Moreover, Alaska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana all have a higher concentration of oil and gas workers than Texas. Support for oil and gas operations has been the largest and the fastest growing oil-related industry in the U.S. by employment. As spending cuts become more evident in the data, this industry will significantly restrain job growth in many of these states.

The pain of capital spending cuts will reach beyond those in the business of extracting oil. Oil and gas machinery manufacturers will feel the squeeze of reduced demand. Employment data on this industry are not available for several states, including Wyoming, North Dakota, Louisiana and Alaska; however, nearly 80 percent of all workers in the industry are employed in either Texas or Oklahoma.

The construction of oil and gas pipelines, pipeline transportation and petroleum wholesalers could also be at risk, though cuts to these industries are unlikely to be severe if the momentum in oil production does not slow this year. Pipeline construction is most heavily concentrated in Wyoming and North Dakota, with a slightly smaller concentration in Louisiana. Wholesalers and pipeline transportation are relatively small employers, but still account for a sizable share of the workforce in Wyoming, North Dakota and Oklahoma.


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Kicking Oil Addiction

One of the dominant news items is the oil spill, which is beyond its third month. It has challenged scientists, environmentalists, the oil industry and the patience of not only this country but also the world. The extent of its damages cannot yet be measured. Just the other day I read a report that a scheduled bridge project for Minnesota has been delayed because of the oil spill. It’s predicating the need for additional environmental impact studies.

People from Alabama’s Gulf Shores area are complaining because the clean up is restricted to beach surfaces and does not include the oil that gets buried by the tide hammering it into the sand. At this point the beach clean up is cosmetic.

The problems become myriad because cleaning crews cannot work for long periods in the blistering hot sun with temperatures in the 100+ degree range. For every fifteen minutes they work they have to spend fifteen minutes cooling down and recuperating.  By necessity and safety regulations, eight-hour workdays become four hours but the cost doesn’t decrease.

Hurricane Alex adds to the already unmanageable situation erasing the to-date clean up efforts in hours. You have to feel compassion for the people who live in the New Orleans, Mobile, and Gulf Shores area. They were crushed by Katrina and are still trying to recover only to be subjected to this tragedy. Thousands of words have been written about the situation; hours of TV coverage have been aired; reasons for the failure analyzed by experts; solutions offered by virtually everyone and still the situation continues…

Among the verbiage that has been expounded, written and spoken, is the demand that we become oil independent. This isn’t going to happen. Alternate fuel sources, while available simply can’t replace what we already have in place and let’s not forget the emerging countries that are just now becoming oil addicts. Kicking an addiction isn’t easy and can’t be done overnight. It takes time, understanding and support.

Are alternate energy sources available? Certainly. They’re just not practical in today’s economic environment. How would you react if you were told that effective immediately you couldn’t use your car, you air conditioning or your electricity? You’d be paralyzed. As a society we’d no longer be able to function because we have become totally dependant on the things that energy provides.

So, what do we do? We evolve, make the transition, adapt. We learn how to use hydrogen and an energy source; expand our use of solar and wind power; become less extravagant in our consumption of energy.

In the late 70s the country experienced its first fuel shortage. Then we were driving 300, 400, and even 500+ horsepower cars that weighed several tons and drank gallons of gas. We were satisfied with fuel economy in the 10 – 15 mpg range because gas was only 32.9 cents a gallon for regular and 39.9 cents a gallon for premium.  At that time more than 90% of the cars on the road were V-8s with rear-wheel drive. The country freaked out when gas prices shot to 99.9 cents a gallon and the auto industry responded by giving us 4-cylinder front wheel drive vehicles that delivered 25+ miles per gallon. The race was on, not the horsepower race that ran wild in the 60s and 70s but the fuel-efficiency race to deliver vehicles that got more than 30 miles per gallon.

What happened? Vans, then SUVs. Everyone had to have one and the bigger the better so were back to the same level of fuel consumption – almost – as we were 70s. The only difference, we are driving more now then and we’re using more fuel.

The point is that we started on a mission to become oil independent in the late 70s and early 80s and let ourselves get distracted, first by van – remember the van craze? You still see them.  Then we went from vans to SUVs. Right, everyone needs four-wheel drive capabilities and four-wheeled behemoth to go to the grocery store, or church or run errands.  Sure you do.

Not many people are going to run out and trade their SUVs in on SmartCars, but you certainly can start curbing (pun intended) your trips to the store or whatever. Other things you can do is make certain that you follow the recommended maintenance practices outlined in your owners manual. (Yes you did get one with the vehicle when you bought it.) A properly maintained vehicle will dispense lower emissions into the atmosphere; give you better fuel mileage and longer vehicle life. Not only that, it is a positive step towards oil independence.

In your homes, control your air conditioning or heating use as well as the use of electricity. This may seem trivial but if 300,000,000 people do a little, the result will be significant.

If by the time you read this the oil spill has been stopped, that’s great but we should still work, doing our part, to achieve oil independence and kick the oil addiction. Maybe if the people who ever they are/were) from the late 70s had taught us the value of finding ways to cut and eventually eliminate oil consumption we wouldn’t be struggling with this same problem today – high energy consumption on the road, at home and with everything we do.

Greg Sitek

Note: This article will appear as the editorial in the August 2o10 issues of the Associated Construction Publications (ACP)

Texas Stadium – First Down

By Liz Moucka and R.G. Pickard

Contractors Weir Brothers., A&R Demolition, and Dykon Explosive Demolition collectively held their breath and Cowboy VIPs shed tears Sunday morning as the sound of explosive reports and billowing dust filled the air Sunday morning around Texas Stadium in Irving. Workers had been preparing the structure for implosion since Weir Bros. Inc. won the contract from the City of Irving last October.

The asbestos coating had been removed from the locker rooms, circular suites, and basement, plus the three-story-tall CMU brick wall, which spanned 2,300 linear feet around the circumference of the stadium.

Weir Brothers had brought in most of the estimated 380,000 cubic yards of fill that will be needed to bring the 40-foot-deep stadium bowl to grade. The fill dirt being is coming from excavations on a nearby Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) roadway construction project. In a symbiotic relationship, concrete removed from the stadium will be crushed onsite for use on the DART Rail and highway projects adjacent to the stadium property.

From February until April, A&R Demolition weakened the structure for implosion, removing unneeded structural elements, and prepping the dozen roof trusses for demolition. Subcontractor, Panther City Construction Services, LLC, drilled 2,757 holes into concrete columns for Dykon specialists to set their explosive charges for the implosion of the roof and upper seating,

Implosion of the roof and upper seating was contracted to Dykon Explosive Demolition of Tulsa, whose crew used roughly 2,700 lbs. of explosive material to bring down the house. Implosion of the concrete sections began in the basement in the southwest end of the stadium, and was allowed to progress toward the northeast end of the stadium. Dykon breached the roof support trusses with 400 pounds of lineal shaped C4 steel cutting charges – 260 charges in 12 separate locations, detonated in a controlled delay sequence of 1/2 second between charges. The roof was brought down within the footprint of the stadium within 100 seconds of the first explosion in the sequence. After the dust had settled, three of the support buttresses, which were reinforced with post tension cables and extend 100 feet into the ground, remained standing as a testament, overlooking the Trinity River to the north.

Those three buttresses were brought down the next day. Stephen Reveile of A&R Demolition explained, “The explosives did go off and they leaned over onto the debris that was next to them. When we excavated the debris from the side they were leaning toward, they just laid on down. It took about 30 minutes to get all three of them down. All in all, it was perfect.”

A&R Demolition is recycling the metal from the stadium, sorting it into manageable piles of steel rebar, tin, aluminum and copper. Debris cleanup by A&R Demolition and further elevation to grade of the stadium area by Weir Brothers is expected to be complete by July 22, 2010.

Casey Rogers of Terrell, Texas, winner of an essay contest held by implosion sponsor, Kraft Foods, pushed the detonation button, which actually triggered the explosion electronically rather than with cables. The 11-year-old wrote about Casey’s Heart, a charity he started to help the homeless in North Texas.