COINCIDING WITH THE OFFICIAL ARRIVAL OF SPRING this week, daffodils – some quite strategically placed – and blossoming trees are appearing throughout the area. Daffodils surrounded the lawn sculpture at the historic Flippin Castle, owned by the Clatskanie Senior Citizens, on SW Tichenor Street, while an ornamental tree burst into pink blossoms nearby. Chief Photos by Amanda Gail Moravec
by Deborah Steele Hazen
Global Partners LP, the new owner of the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery (CPBR) ethanol plant and related facilities at Port Westward is ready, willing and able to expand operations and employment at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie.
Global, ranked 182 in the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations, announced record earnings in 2012 last Thursday, March 14.
According to the Seeking Alpha transcript of the March 14th “earnings call” at www.SeekingAlpha.com, Eric Slifka, president and chief executive officer of Global Partners LP, stated: “Global Partners delivered record results across its key financial metrics in 2012, achieving new highs for EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and distributable cash flow and the highest net income in the partnership’s history adjusting for a one-time gain from the sale of NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) seats in 2007.”
Among the 2012 financial highlights, according to Slifka, “net income more than doubled to $46.7 million, EBITDA was up 58 percent to $135.8 million, and distributable cash flow increased 73 percent to $80.8 million.”
“U.S. oil production grew at its fastest rate in history in 2012, and 2013 could be even stronger,” Slifka said. “For example, the Department of Energy has reported that domestic oil production for the week ended March 8 was 7.2 million barrels a day, the highest level in over 20 years. This surge requires significant infrastructure to move crude oil and associated products from wellhead to market. Our rail logistics expertise and unique origin to destinations assets position us at the forefront of this opportunity.”
Both in the “earnings call” and in an interview with The Chief on Friday, March 15, Slifka spoke about the newly-acquired Port Westward site’s importance in the company’s ability to respond to the surge in U.S. oil production, and transport crude (unrefined) oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region to refineries on the West Coast, and beyond, including the possibility of exporting to Pacific Rim nations.
“It’s a great site,” Slifka said of Port Westward in his interview with The Chief. With the recent completion of the $95 million purchase of Cascade Kelly Holdings at the Port of St. Helens-owned industrial park on the Columbia River near Clatskanie, Global acquired not only the largest ethanol plant on the West Coast, but also a rail transloading facility, 200,000 barrels of tank storage capacity and a deep water marine terminal with access to a 1,200-foot leased dock.
Beginning last November, “a leading West Coast refiner” began moving crude oil through the Port Westward facility under a short-term contract, bringing it in by rail and transloading it to barges.
“We are discussing future crude offloading use of the facility with that refiner, as well as other refiners,” Slifka said in the “earnings call.” “We expect to grow volume on a spot basis initially, but similar to what we have done with Phillips 66 on the East Coast, we will consider longer-term arrangements. Likely interested parties certainly include several of the West Coast refiners, although the export of Canadian crude is also a possibility.”
Ready to Invest in Port Westward
While Slifka declined to go into specifics, he told The Chief that the company is ready to put money into the facility. “We’re prepared to move; to take the existing asset and expand upon it.”
While in Oregon last week, Global’s leaders met with the Governor John Kitzhaber and his staff, Columbia County and Port of St. Helens officials, and representatives of Portland General Electric (PGE), its neighbor at Port Westward, and the lease holder on the property surrounding the ethanol plant. “We’re delighted to have them (PGE) as our neighbor, and we’re working closely with them.”
An outgrowth of the oil distribution business founded by Slifka’s grandfather in the 1930s, Global Partners also owns approximately 1,000 gas stations and convenience stores in nine Northeastern states.
While Global regularly transports ethanol as part of its energy products distribution network, the CPBR facility is the first ethanol manufacturing plant it has owned.
“Every Confidence” in CPBR Management
Because of the narrow margins between the cost of the raw material (Midwest corn) and the current price of ethanol, the CPBR is not now operating, but Slifka and Edward Faneuil, executive vice president and general counsel for Global, were firm in denying recent rumors circulating in the Clatskanie area that there were plans to dismantle the plant.
To the contrary, Slifka and Faneuil said, “we’re looking at all ideas about how to use the plant.” The plant will operate when it is profitable, they said, expressing “every confidence” in the existing management and employees at CPBR.
“We’re expert in the buying, logistics and selling of ethanol. Those teams are already in place – they’re the engineers, they’re critical to the operation of the site; they have the knowledge base.”
The ethanol plant’s team of 49 employees – an employment number that has been maintained through the transition of ownership – “we intend to maintain and grow that number” – is currently conducting the transloading of crude oil from trains to barges at Port Westward.
Global plans to expand that transloading infrastructure first, and then “look at some ideas about how to use the plant in the future.”
Dan Luckett, general manager at CPBR, who was present for a portion of the interview, noted that his team had just successfully completed a small spill scenario overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“They received the highest grade and a glowing review,” said Slifka, “it’s a credit to the men and women working there.”
Under the short term contract now in place, the crude oil is arriving at the plant in approximately 100-car trains, each car carrying 28,500 gallons of crude.
Environmental Safeguards High Priority
Complying with all local, state and federal laws regarding the transportation of petroleum products and renewable fuels is “obviously something we take very seriously,” Slifka said. “The last thing in the world that you want to happen is a spill. All our facilities have contingency plans, drills and equipment in place and practice with it. We have an excellent record.”
Rail lines are a large and essential part of Global’s system. A major selling point for the Port Westward site was its accessibility by rail from Global’s terminal in Beulah, N.D. via the BNSF railroad to Portland and then via the Portland & Western short line, owned by Genesee & Wyoming Inc., to Port Westward.
In regard to possible improvements to the Portland & Western railroad, Slifka said, “we’re interested in the rail being as efficient as possible. Genesee & Wyoming is a critical player in that – a business partner… We ship a lot by rail – it is all federally regulated and controlled.”
Welcomed to Community; Check for Clatskanie Foundation
In their meetings with local leaders, including State Senator Betsy Johnson, State Representative Brad Witt and Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl, as well as Columbia County and Port of St. Helens commissioners, Slifka and Faneuil said they feel welcomed.
While Global is a publicly traded company – listed as GLP on the New York Stock Exchange – “we’re not just a bunch of suits,” Faneuil said.
The company lists just 27 members of its management team, in which Slifka family members are active as well as on the board of directors.
“The family is charitable,” Faneuil said, as he presented a $10,000 check to the Clatskanie Foundation for the Clatskanie Cultural Center project.
“We’re always involved in the communities in which we do business,” Slifka said. “We’re ingrained in the community – that’s just the way we operate. It’s a primary thought to try to be responsible to local needs.”
With filings closing Thursday, March 21, at 5 p.m. for local special district board seats in the May 21st election, numerous local positions were going without candidates as of late Tuesday afternoon, March 19.
Filings as of Tuesday were:
Clatskanie School District: Michael Moravec (incumbent), position 3. No filings for positions 4 and 5.
Rainier School District: No filings for Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 5 nor Zone 7.
Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District: John Moore and Greg Brody, position 1, (the incumbent Malcolm Groulx had not filed); William D. Mellinger (incumbent), position 2; David Scott (incumbent), position 3.
Columbia River Fire & Rescue: Diane Dillard, position 4; Peter Koss, position 5. No filings for position 2.
Mist-Birkenfeld Rural Fire Protection District: William DeJager, position 3. No filings for positions 2, 4, 5.
Clatskanie Library District: Linda Constans, position 1. No filings for position 2 now held by Janice Youra.
Clatskanie Park and Recreation District: Gary Kuehl, position 4; Bruce Holsey (incumbent), position 5. No filings for position 1.
Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District: Connie Budge (incumbent), zone 2; Henry Heimuller (incumbent), zone 3; Tyler Miller, zone 5.
Port of St. Helens: Terry Luttrell (incumbent), Michael Clarke, position 4; Chris Iverson (incumbent), position 5.
Rainier Cemetery District: M. Dearl Taylor (incumbent), position 3. No filings for position 2.
How to File
Those filing for election to special district seats must file a declaration of candidacy accompanied by a $10 fee or a petition for nomination signed by at least 25 registered voters residing in the election district with the Columbia County elections department no later than 5 p.m. on March 21.
Filing forms are available online at the Secretary of State Elections Division http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/publications/district.html. The forms are also available in the Columbia County Elections Department in the county courthouse, 230 Strand Street in St. Helens.
Clatsop County Positions Also Seek Candidates
Up for election in Clatsop County are positions on the boards of more than three dozen service districts including the Port of Astoria, Clatsop Community College and Sunset Empire Transportation District, as well as area school districts, rural fire districts, water and sewer districts and other entities.
For a complete list of all seats up for election, the requirements for each office and other information, go to www.co.clatsop.or.us.
Conrad Weirup, 58, of Knappa drowned as the result of a boating accident early Friday morning, March 15.
According to a report from the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office, a small boat operated by Lonnie Emken, 45, of Brownsmead capsized and sank in Blind Slough before 6 a.m. Emken and passenger Emery Neale, 60, of Knappa were able to swim to shore. They called Clatsop County 9-1-1 and reported that Weirup, who was also a passenger in the boat, was missing.
Clatsop County sheriff’s deputies and personnel from the Knappa Fire District and Medix ambulance service responded to the scene. The sheriff’s office marine patrol later located and recovered Weirup’s body.
An investigation of the incident is on going.
The Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office reminded boaters to have a personal flotation device (PFD) readily accessible for every person aboard a boat. Children 12 years and younger are required to wear a PFD while a vessel is underway, although it is recommended that all persons wear a PFD.
Additionally, boaters are urged to be careful not to overload a vessel, which can cause it to become unstable and/or sink.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
Clatskanie School District’s board of directors voted to expand the number of out-of-district students it will accept at its meeting Monday, March 18.
The action was in response to a recent discovery that 19 students who reside within the boundaries of the Rainier School District are attending Clatskanie schools, in addition to the five Rainier students attending Clatskanie under the revisions made to Oregon law by House Bill (HB) 3681 that took effect last year, and another five attending under a one-year inter-district agreement.
Interim Clatskanie school superintendent George Lanning said that the discovery of the 19 out-of-district students was made accidentally after he received a complaint from a mobile home park resident in the rural Rainier area about both Clatskanie and Rainier school buses using a private road.
Upon investigating the issue, Lanning learned that the Clatskanie bus is contracted to the Head Start program to transport both Clatskanie and Rainier area children to the Clatskanie Head Start center.
However, the investigation also uncovered the information that 19 students – mostly in the Delena/Alston Corner areas where the boundaries of the Clatskanie and Rainier school districts meet – were coming to Clatskanie without being covered either under an interdistrict agreement or HB 3681.
Students attending districts other than the one in which they reside have significant consequences under the state per student funding formula – roughly $6,000 per student - resulting in a loss of revenue for the district losing the students.
Lanning reported his discovery to the Rainier School District. More investigation resulted in the information that nine Clatskanie students are going to Rainier under a one year interdistrict approval, three are attending Rainier under HB 3681 approval, and three were discovered to be attending Rainier without approval.
Letters were sent last week to the parents or guardians of the students in question, stating that the situation had been discovered, that no changes to where students were attending school would be made for the remainder of this school year, but informing parents that if they wish their students to continue attending Clatskanie schools, while residing in the Rainier School District, they must apply for permanent placement under HB 3681 or go to the Rainier School District office and fill out an inter-district transfer request.
Under the provisions of HB 3681, a school board may set the amount of students they will accept from out-of-district without the agreement of neighboring districts.
After considerable discussion, including hearing comments from several parents in attendance, the three Clatskanie school board members in attendance set the number of students it would accept under HB 3681 at 20.
The Rainier School District is expected to take similar action.
It was noted that most of the families involved were unaware that they were sending their students to the wrong district, or thought they had permission to do so.
Parents of impacted students, who wish them to continue attending the Clatskanie schools are encouraged to apply for the HB3681 transfer no later than March 31. For more information call Lanning at 503 728-0587, ext. 2003, or e-mail email@example.com.
Because a quorum was no longer available due to conflicts with other commitments and illness, the Clatskanie school board postponed the rest of its agenda until the April 2nd meeting, including an update on the superintendent/elementary principal search, the latest draft of the 2013-14 school calendar, an update on the Clatskanie/Rainier class sharing program and the status of seven versus eight period school days, an administrative layoff based on projected revenue shortfall, appointment of budget committee members and policy revisions.
Student, Staff Achievements Recognized
At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, during the time devoted to celebrating student and staff success, Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) teacher Renee Wells told the board and audience about the student of the month program and introduced two of February’s winners Chrissy Trevino, 7th grade, and Mariah Leatherman, 9th grade.
Other CMHS students honored for their achievements and conduct during the month of February were Rachel Haas, 8th grade; German George, 10th; Chase Berg, 11th, and Shaine Warren, 12th.
Clatskanie Elementary School principal Yolanda Brackman recognized two teachers, Hallie Parker and Heather Stafford, for successfully applying for small grants from the Donors Choose site. Parker received a grant of $200 to be used toward a gardening project entitled “Blooming in the First Grade.” Stafford received a grant of $218.75 for the development of a classroom listening center.
CES students receiving the “Golden Paw” award for February in recognition of their achievements and behavior were: Jason Miller, Kelly Ferguson, Jadelyn Holm, Aaron Hadley, Madisyn Hansen-Bishop, Tristan Karvela, Lizzy Hill, Corbin Roe, Nevaeh Fondren, Miles Carter, Declan Hendricks, Malia Garnett, Morgan Kyser, Jocelynn Castilleja, Audrey Griffiths, River Turk, Cadence Doan, Jake Tausch, Macy Newton, Caitlin McKinney, Blake Brockway, Kalani Ausmus, Tony Christen, Cade Warren, Shelby Blodgett, Kees Tjaarda, Lita Blodgett, Jack Boothe, Olivia Geer, Maris Jackson.
Superintendent Lanning brought to the board’s attention the many contributions of Larry Cook, the technology director who is shared by the Clatskanie and Rainier school districts.
The third and final season of restoration work on the Lewis and Clark Bridge which spans the Columbia River between Rainier and Longview is now underway.
Painting crews returned to the bridge Monday, March 18, to inspect cable rigging and begin installing work platforms over the roadway.
Drivers will encounter narrow lanes and up to 10-minute delays for the next eight months, while crews finish painting the bridge’s steel superstructure, according to Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
For the past two years, motorists crossing the bridge navigated traffic cones and narrowed lanes. Tent-like containment platforms allowed crews to strip flaking paint and rust from the metal framework over the roadway and apply layers of paint to the bridge’s 84-year-old steel beams.
Fresh gray paint on the bridge’s center and southern sections contrasts sharply with the faded, rust-stained northern side, where crews will focus their efforts this spring and summer, noted a WSDOT spokesperson.
The work is more than two-thirds complete, and contractor crews with WSDOT plan to wrap up painting by the end of 2013.
The $40 million preservation project is possible with $12.3 million in federal funding through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It is the third and final contract in a series of projects to restore and preserve the historic Lewis and Clark Bridge which carries 21,000 vehicles a day, according to WSDOT.