Archive for October, 2010
Tesoro is appealing the record fine from L&I for the accident at the Anacortes refinery. Here’s L&I’s response to the appeal:
Tesoro filed its appeal today of the record $2.39 million citation the Department of Labor & Industries issued against the company in the wake of the fatal refinery explosion that killed seven workers.
On Oct. 1, L&I cited Tesoro for 39 “willful” violations and five “serious” violations of state workplace safety and health regulations in connection with the deadly April 2, 2010 explosion at the company’s Anacortes refinery. The accompanying $2.39 million fine is the largest ever issued by L&I.
A willful violation is a category of violation where an employer knowingly violates a rule or is plainly indifferent to it, while a serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability of serious injury or death.
A six-month investigation by L&I determined that the explosion was preventable. A heat exchanger at the petroleum refinery blew apart along cracks in welded areas. Tesoro was required by state law and industry standards to test the equipment for cracks, but L&I inspectors determined the company had failed to do this correctly.
Under state law, employers don’t have to correct hazards identified in a citation during the appeals process.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised that they would appeal,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director, Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “We look forward to hearing how the company intends to address the violations we found.”
Businesses have a right to appeal a citation issued by L&I. The first step is often an informal “reassumption” conference where L&I representatives meet with the employer to hear their concerns regarding the citation.
If an employer remains dissatisfied with the results of this process, they can appeal the decision further to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, a separate state agency independent of L&I. Its three-board members are appointed by the Governor’s Office and include a business representative, a labor representative and a public member.
Government regulators shut down four banks early this afternoon, making it 136 in 2010. It appears we’ll be topping last year’s total of 140. Details of the latest four below. I’ll update with a new post if others are shut down this evening.
No. 133: First Bank of Jacksonville, Fla. was shut down, then taken over by Amerris Bank, Moultrie, Ga. First Bank had one branch. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $16.2 million.
No. 134: Progress Bank of Tampa, Fla. was closed, then taken over by Bay Cities Bank of Tampa. Progress had two branches. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $25 million.
No. 135: The Gordon Bank of Gordon, Ga. was closed, then taken over by Morris Bank of Dublin, Ga. Gordon Bank had one branch. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $9 million.
No. 136: The First National Bank of Barnesville, Ga. was shut down, then taken over by United Bank of Zebulon, Ga. First National had two branches. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $33.9 million.
Here’s a press release from Washington State Department of Transportation about Amtrak train ridership:
OLYMPIA – Amtrak Cascades is having a great year with total ridership in the corridor between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., up more than 13 percent for the first nine months compared to the same period last year.
The third quarter of 2010 set a record with 16,100 more riders than the same period in 2009, making it the highest third-quarter ridership since service began in 1994. Total ridership for the third quarter was 237,162 – a 7 percent increase over 2009.
Both the first and second quarters also posted record ridership with increases of more than 22 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Ridership jumped to the highest levels in 16 years during eight of the nine months so far this year. All but August were record-breaking months.
The second train to Vancouver, B.C., which began in August 2009 and will continue through at least October 2011, was a major factor in the growing popularity of Amtrak Cascades. More than 68,000 riders traveled on the second train between Vancouver and Portland in the third quarter.
“For people throughout Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Amtrak Cascades has proven year after year to be a valuable transportation option, and the demand continues to grow,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.
Hammond said the growth in ridership confirms the need to continue improving the service and reliability of high-speed rail in the Pacific Northwest. She said the next step in the long-term plan comes with Washington’s award this year of $590 million in Recovery Act high-speed rail funds. The money will be used to improve rail corridor infrastructure, add additional Amtrak Cascades service and reduce rail-line congestion.
WSDOT applied for an additional $80 million in high-speed rail grants in August.
Amtrak Cascades operates three daily round trips between Portland and Seattle; one daily round trip between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and one between Portland and Vancouver, B.C.; and daily service between Eugene and Seattle, via Portland. Amtrak Cascades is operated by Amtrak in partnership with the Washington and Oregon Departments of Transportation. For Amtrak Cascades fares and schedules, visit AmtrakCascades.com.
In order to make sure they have everything ready, Andi and Nick Vann have decided to push the opening date of Pure Bliss Desserts to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26. The dessert restaurant is on Cornwall Ave. in Bellingham, near the Pickford Cinema. Details about Pure Bliss can be found by clicking this (link) or calling 360-739-1612
One of Whatcom County’s biggest manufacturers has a new leader.
Barry Hullett has been promoted to plant manager at Alcoa Intalco Works near Ferndale. He replaces Mike Rousseau, who has taken a similar position at the Alcoa Mt. Holly facility in Goose Creek, S.C. Rousseau began his new job earlier this month.
Hullett has been at the Intalco facility for six years, originally hired as the production manager. An engineering graduate from Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Hullett has worked in the aluminum industry for more than 30 years. He was previously the production manager at Alcoa’s Rockdale smelter in Texas.
Rousseau took over plant operations at Intalco in February 2004, overseeing a tumultuous period when the facility was nearly closed while company officials tried to negotiate power contracts with the Bonneville Power Administration. A shutdown of the facility was avoided as a short-term contract was reached in December. Earlier this month BPA announced its intention to extend the current contract through May 2012 while the agency continues to work on a longer-term contract with the aluminum smelter.
Alcoa Intalco Works employs about 530 people, producing about 180,000 tons of aluminum metal a year with two of its three potlines.
Along with other airlines, Alaska had a great third quarter. Here are some highlights from its press release:
Alaska Air Group Reports Record Third Quarter Results
10/21/2010 4:59 a.m.
Third quarter highlights:
•Net income excluding special items was a record $118.1 million, or $3.21 per diluted share, compared to $83.0 million, or $2.33 per share, in the third quarter of 2009. This quarter’s results compared to a First Call mean estimate of $3.11 per share.
•Net income under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) was a record $122.4 million, or $3.32 per diluted share, compared to net income of $87.6 million, or $2.46 per diluted share, in 2009.
•Through Sept. 30, 2010, the company has prepaid $115.5 million of its outstanding debt under the current $200 million prepayment plan.
•Alaska Airlines continued its streak of excellent on-time performance, holding the No. 1 spot in U.S. Department of Transportation on-time performance among the 10 largest domestic airlines for 16 of the last 17 months ended August 2010.
SEATTLE — Alaska Air Group, Inc. (NYSE: ALK) today reported record third quarter 2010 net income of $122.4 million, or $3.32 per diluted share, compared to net income of $87.6 million, or $2.46 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2009. Excluding mark-to-market fuel hedge gains of $16.7 million ($10.4 million after tax or $0.28 per diluted share) and Horizon restructuring and CRJ-700 transition charges of $9.8 million ($6.1 million after tax or $0.17 per diluted share), the company reported record adjusted net income of $118.1 million, or $3.21 per diluted share, compared to net income of $83.0 million, or $2.33 per share, excluding special items in the third quarter of 2009.
“We are pleased to report our best quarter ever, with record earnings driven by higher traffic and load factors,” said Bill Ayer, chairman and chief executive officer. “We couldn’t be more proud of our people for their commitment to operating our flights safely and delivering outstanding on-time performance and customer service.”
Here’s the latest survey from the National Retail Federation about the upcoming holiday shopping season:
Washington, October 19, 2010 – Though Americans are still operating with the recession in the back of their minds and many have fundamentally changed their shopping habits, some findings from NRF’s first holiday survey imply consumers won’t only be focusing on low prices and basic necessities this year.
According to NRF’s 2010 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $688.87 on holiday-related shopping, a slight rise from last year’s $681.83*.
As in years past, most holiday gift-givers will spend the largest portion of their budget buying gifts for family ($393.55) and friends ($71.45), though they’ll still carve out room in their budget for small tokens of appreciation for both co-workers ($18.26) and others ($34.82). Total spending on gifts ($518.08) is expected to rise 2.1 percent from last year, which is in line with NRF’s 2010 holiday forecast. Americans will also spend an average of $41.51 on decorations, $26.10 on greeting cards and postage, $86.32 on candy and food, and $16.86 on flowers.
“Consumers will still shop with the economy in the back of their minds, but we’re starting to see shoppers take baby steps toward a new normal,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As Americans open up their wallets for more discretionary gifts like jewelry or take advantage of sales to buy for themselves, retailers will begin to truly believe that the worst may be behind them.”
According to the survey, 61.7 percent of shoppers say the economy will impact their spending, down from last year’s 65.3 percent. Many shoppers say they will compensate by spending less (81.5%), comparison shopping online (30.9%) or with newspapers and circulars (28.1%), shopping for sales (54.1%) or using more coupons (40.6%). Although the economy continues to impact shoppers, a number of survey results indicate that shoppers may be ready to emerge from their shells this holiday season.
When asked which one factor will be most important when shopping this holiday season, the majority of shoppers said that sales or price discounts (41.8%) or everyday low prices (12.7%) were most important. While those factors either declined or remained flat this year, two other categories rose in importance. The number of people who counted customer service as the most important factor rose from 4.4 percent last year to 5.3 percent this year, while shoppers who touted quality as the overriding factor rose from 11.8 percent to 12.7 percent.
“Price is paramount during any recession, but when the economy begins to recover other factors take on greater importance,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “When shoppers consider other factors like customer service and quality in buying decisions, retailers have the ability to highlight a variety of other features to help their company stand out from the competition.”
While many traditional categories like clothing (48.2%) and books (47.3%) will appear on a majority of wish lists this year, one item will appear more often than a year ago: jewelry. As a potential sign that discretionary gifts may become more popular, 23.0 percent of people will ask for jewelry this year, a significant 10 percent jump from last year’s 20.8 percent. Gift cards will remain the most requested holiday gift this year with 57.0 percent of people asking for plastic.
As another sign that shoppers feel a bit of breathing room in their budget, the number of people who say they will make a holiday purchase from a discounter dropped from 70.1 percent last year to 65.1 percent this year. Popular holiday shopping destinations will include department stores (54.5%), grocery stores (46.7%), the Internet (43.9%) and clothing stores (33.6%).
Americans aren’t only shifting where they’re shopping – how they’re shopping is changing, too. Mobile devices like iPhones and Androids are becoming more popular among consumers, and many shoppers plan to use these devices this holiday season to look for gift ideas, compare prices and find items in nearby stores. According to the survey, over one-fourth of American adults with a smartphone (26.8%) will use these devices to research or make holiday purchases, and that number jumps to 45.0 percent among young adults 18-24. Retailers are expected to take advantage of this trend by offering more robust mobile apps and websites, along with enhanced features like mobile reviews, to cater to Americans looking to shop from their phones.
Yet another hopeful indicator: the number of people who plan to take advantage of holiday sales to make non-gift purchases for themselves will rise 8 percent this year (52.9% in ’09 to 57.1% this year), with the average holiday shopper spending $107.50 on themselves, up from $101.37 last year.
Though the holiday season won’t kick off for many retailers until at least November 1, a sizeable number of shoppers are already planning ahead. According to the survey, 37.2 percent of Americans will begin holiday shopping by Halloween. Women are the most likely to begin shopping by the end of October (42.1%) while young adults 18-24 are among the least likely (27.7%).
NRF continues to expect holiday sales to rise 2.3 percent to $447.1 billion.
The NRF 2010 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 8,767 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch October 5-12, 2010. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.
BIGresearch® consumer intelligence provides analysis of behavior in areas of products and services, retail, financial services, automotive and media. The BIGresearch Consumer Intentions and Actions® Survey (CIA) of 8,000+ respondents is conducted monthly and the Simultaneous Media Usage® Survey (SIMM®) of 15,000+ respondents is conducted semi-annually.
As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, the National Retail Federation’s global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the U.S. and more than 45 countries abroad. In the U.S., NRF represents the breadth and diversity of an industry with more than 1.6 million American companies that employ nearly 25 million workers and generated 2009 sales of $2.3 trillion. www.nrf.com
* Using consumers’ intentions from early October coupled with actual spending data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, NRF and BIGresearch have restated final per-person spending estimates for the 2009 holiday season along with the years 2004-2008. NRF uses the final estimates of per-person holiday spending each fall for the previous year, much like it does total holiday sales.
Here’s a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) from the state about a Vancouver, Wash. company:
Company: CDM Long-Term Care Services (Vancouver) will lay off 100 employees,
effective November 01, 2010
Date of Notification: October 19, 2010
The Dairy Queen restaurant on Cordata Parkway was shut down last week by the Department of Revenue.
The restaurant owes $63,166.44 to the agency, which revoked its certificate of registration earlier this month. A business with its registration revoked by DOR must pay what it owes plus put up a bond equal to six months of taxes the business would typically pay in order to re-open, said Mike Gowrylow, a spokesman for DOR.
The other three Dairy Queen restaurants in Whatcom County are under different ownership and remain open.
Whatcom County’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest rate in nearly a year, but it has very little to do with job growth.
In September the local unemployment rate was 7.7 percent, down from a revised rate of 8.2 percent in August and the lowest since October 2009. However, this area only gained 100 new nonfarm jobs in September compared to the previous month, and is down 2,700 jobs compared to June.
What happened is more seasonal — people went back to school. Whatcom County’s total workforce decreased by 3,210 between August and Sep-tember, typical for this time of year as the fall session for post-secondary schools begin. In September, 8,080 people were actively seeking employ-ment, down from 8,840 in August.
While up by 100 month-to-month, non-farm employment was down by 500 compared to September 2009. Private sector employment was down 300 positions, while local government employment is down 400 positions. There was a slight year-over-year increase in state and federal employ-ment, with each up 100 positions.
Whatcom’s unemployment rate was among the lowest of nearby counties. Skagit’s rate last month was 9.1 percent, while Snohomish was at 9.6 percent and King was 8.4 percent.
Washington state’s unemployment rate was at 9 percent, unchanged from the revised August rate. The national unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in September. Washington added about 1,000 private sector jobs, but shed 4,200 government jobs between August and September.
“We’re gradually seeing private-sector jobs returning, and I find optimism in that,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause in a press release accompanying the data.