RON SCHALOW: Part 3 —’Washington State Opts Out of Bakken Oil Train Lotto’

“Oh, you would LOVE that wouldn’t you?” smirks a loudmouth into an iPhone while waving a glazed bear claw. “Like you know anything, Steeeve. Who are YOU to tell ME what you supposedly know about president Maynard T. Loser and his unbecoming band of hysterical liars?”

“Right, right, right — shut up a minute — I just heard that one of the North Dakota bobos was on a Sunday show and said something like, Oh Trump’s lies are just a different way of communicating. Plain spoken lies. That’s why we love him in my state. In other words, it might not be true, but that’s just YOUR opinion.’ Trump doesn’t even know this dude, but he’s willing to soil himself on national TV. That’s the word. People are talking.”

Roy Geiger finally gets irritated. A stranger has one of his bear claws. “Whoa, wait just a minute there, bub. We’re trying to enjoy a short peaceful break and you just waltz in like this was a Starbucks and holler into a phone like this was a Starbucks. I won’t allow it.”

“Just a minute. I’ve got some high-pitched static in my ear.” There’s a short stare-off. “WHAT?”

“Don’t bark at ME, tough guy. I’m in charge of this rental space and you are interrupting a very important meeting.”

“It looks like a superlarge family of donut eating weirdos squatting in an old Blockbuster, and I came in with this pastry, so don’t be giving me the high hat or make AaaaaAaaaaAaaa.” Thud. The interloper is downed by three tasers. This is no time to wonder if he is dead.

“Thank you, ladies. Did you get a bear claw? I ordered four dozen. That’s 48.”

“It looked like a big chunk of dough to me.”

“I think they’re similar to big chunks of dough, Jen,” the second or third woman told her. “A bear stepped on a chunk once and left a paw imprint, thus the name.

“Yes, well, heck, let’s begin,” sighs Roy. “Don’t worry about the carcass by the door, folks. It’ll wander out when his brain reboots and return to the unraked forest.”

“Safety mode, probably.”

RG continues. “First, I have some backroom business to discuss. A few have said this gathering doesn’t have enough pizzas. Well, first of all, it’s day one and it’s not even NOON yet, for crying out loud. What? Pizzazz? I never smoked the stuff.”

“Smoky backroom, Roy,” insists a bossy person. “Can we revise the word choice in the edit?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Kind of snotty, Roy.”

“Oh, shut up, Ozzie.” Roy stares at his shoes, then declares, “I will read the following to reiterate the basic issue: ‘W.A. made a law forbidding the transport of Bakken crude into the state with a vapor pressure of more than 9.0 psi., meaning more of the dissolved explosive gases would need to be stripped from the raw Bakken crude BEFORE a train trip.’ The N.D. oil hardliners evidently feel that huge explosions are the price the public should pay because the Bakken producers don’t want to pay.”

“Bravo,” chirps Ozzie. “Well read.”

Roy continues after a short glare. “Next, we’re going to point out the fibby flaws in the Dec. 9, 2014, Commission Order No. 25417 titled, ‘Industrial Commission Adopts New Standards to Improve Oil Transportation Safety.’ A copy of the order is on page 18 of your study binders. What do you see, people? I hope everyone studied.”

“I’m worried about the carcass by the door, professor Gengis. Are we licensed for bodies? It’s cold enough to store a few in the storeroom.”

“Quit being a wanker, Clint. It’s coughing. That means it’s taking on air.”

Scum stands. “The first sentence of Order 25417 is awful mushy. The Industrial Commission claims to have ‘adopted new conditioning standards,’ which isn’t saying much. Conditioning is like straining bugs out of your soup with a volleyball net and what it does to ‘improve the safety,” I sure don’t know.”

“What if I don’t have a quick retort for anything? Can I retort at a later time? I’ve had this retort question on ice for hours.”

Wilhelm jumps in and he’s irked. “The title is wrong and not because of a typo. That’s a bad way to start any document. N.D. didn’t have old standards for shipping crude oil, let alone rules for moving fracked crude AND explosive gases mixed together on the rails. Nobody did.”

“Because it would be stupid, right?”

“Quite. Crude oil AND natural gas liquids conjugally and consensually shipped commingled in 100 tanker cars is a new thing.”

“This has Hunter Biden written all over it,” interrupts Chickenhawk Olson.

“I’m busy here, son. Skedaddle, boy, scram.” Big inhale. “Now then, quoting from 25417: ‘The order includes parameters for temperatures and pressures under which the equipment must operate to ensure that light hydrocarbons are removed before oil is shipped to market.'”

“That’s a helluva second paragraph.”

“First of all,” said Wilhelm, “the Department of Mineral Resources wrote Order 25417, so it went through Lynn Helms — and N.D. Petroleum Council — before being presented to the trio on the Industrial Commission for a vote.”

“I never know when to shut up. Like now for instance.”

Sigh. “We don’t know definitely whether Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem or Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring knew that Order 25417 did less than Order 8675309 issued during the 80’s oil boom, but I think I know.”

“Dalrymple is working with a lot of spare chin bone.”

“But, as reported by the Bismarck Tribune, Director Helms said removing the light hydrocarbons from Bakken crude to achieve that vapor pressure would ‘devalue the crude oil immensely.’ That was in February of 2019.”

So, they …”

“Lied,” said some annoying sentence finisher. “In 2014, North Dakota regulators said the explosive gases would be removed, but in 2019, they say the opposite.”

Oblivious whisperer: “Trump has never met Lynn Helms. That’s the word.”

“I was speaking,” yells Wilhelm. “Do I have the floor, Geiger, or are we to let chaos resume its footing?”

“From chaos comes coconuts.”

“Let Wilhem finish his comments,” admonishes Roy.

A helpful type: “You’re doing a swell breakdown, Wilhelm. Guten tag.”

“And Helms admits that removing ‘immense’ amounts of the explosive gases lowers the vapor pressure — which is a measure of volatility. That’s what we in Washington want, but they don’t want to do what they already said they did.”

“Trumpish bastages!”

“Nobody is asking for the removal of crude oil from the tankers, just the  not crude oil  gases, in any state of matter, before the lid is screwed on.”

“I think Will went for a laugh,” whispers a whisperer. “Grim subject matter.”

“And they don’t have to dispose of the gases,” continues Wilhelm. “Bakken producers could have installed the proper stabilization equipment and sold the ‘immensely’ valuable natural gas liquids ala carte. They can still do that. They won’t, though. If N.D. officials ever wanted a big-league North Houston petrochemical blemish on their dirt, they should have insisted that stabilization equipment be used in the beginning.”

Wandering gypsy mind whisperer: “I heard Trump was considered for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man part in GhostBusters.”

A less than handsome fella loudly squeals, “We don’t have the infrastructure. The Bakken doesn’t have the infrastructure.” Then he drops the falsetto and says, “Oh, we can’t stabilize, because we don’t have the infrastructure — I’ve been hearing it for years. Then I yell, ‘Well, it’s not going to build itself!’ I shout it more verbosely than that so they get the point.” All eyes are on the curious fella. “But why should rich corporations spend the money on a remote oil field when it’s clear that we humans must cut back on the carbon stuff? Besides, renewables will be just as profitable. They’ll never stabilize the crude, but that’s their problem. If all it takes to keep out the potential explosions is to pass a 9.0 law, many other states will follow. They’ll say, ‘We don’t have to live as hostages’ and then yell ‘hooray.’ North Dakota leaders have been snookered by the oddly named Beer Baron Polka strategy. They never felt the blade. All major organs survived. Don’t ask me how. He just laid there after that. Are those bear claws?”

“Is this happening, man?”

“Go back to sleep.”

“Aargh.” Exhausted from the brutal monotone tedium, Wilhelm tags off with Scum to finish his analysis of the first 66 words of Order 25417.

“Sit down and we’ll hang a bag of saline for you, dude.” Scum hands Will a Snickers Bar and pulls a notebook from W’s clenched left hand.

“Here’s the next point,” announces Scum. “The N.D. oil clan’s marketing of the placebo order was just crazy enough to convince state newspapers to print this same sentence, over and over: ‘North Dakota regulations that took effect in 2015 require companies to remove the most volatile gases from Bakken crude oil to ensure the vapor pressure doesn’t exceed 13.7 pounds per square inch.'”

“Even after journalists were told that producers didn’t need to ‘remove the most volatile gases,’ to stay below the conveniently conjured 13.7, news writers continued to include the bogus line in Bakken articles. Why?”

“Exploding trains don’t make for interesting news?” Jamil asks the air.

Carl wakes up: “Yeah, and the Petroleum Council has a squarehead Fargo Forum blogger for whom there isn’t a spill too big, an explosion too high, a worker death too unavoidable, or an oil tax too low. This guy advocates in favor of hastening the demise of most humans, for chrissakes.”

There’s a lot of coughing.

Scum sums up Wilhelm’s notes: “I would like to read a pertinent quote from Railway Age, a respected industry publication: ‘The state’s three-person Industrial Commission seems likely to adopt a set of industry-designed best practices. Simply put, North Dakotan crude will have to be lightly pressure-cooked to boil off a fraction of the volatile ‘light ends’ before shipment. This conditioning lowers the ignition temperature of crude oil — but not by much. It leaves in (the) solution most of the culprit gases, including butane and propane.'” Scum bows to W and takes a seat.

“What did we learn?” asks Roy. “What’s the bottom line?”

“They were wool pulling,” states Charlene. “The North Dakota oil guard pretended they were taking the explosive gases out of the crude in 2014 but said it couldn’t be done in 2019.

“Mike Wallace is here and he’s pissed.”

“Hey, the loud electrified strange dude is gone,” announces Igor. “I set my cell phone on his forehead and it charged right up. That’s how I’ll remember our time together.”

“Uh-huh,” mumbles Roy. “Take a hard 30 minutes for lunch, people. We’ve got many more things to talk about.”

“A half-hour? What is this, France?”

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