O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
February 2007

Columnist — Joyce Trent

DENVER — Blasted by one blizzard and with another on the way, motorists staged a run on the gasoline pumps in Colorado in late December, causing some stations to run out of fuel.

There were two back-to-back blizzards and a heavy snowstorm the following week. The first blizzard hit just before Christmas and disrupted fuel deliveries for three to four days.

Colorado flag

As soon as the roads were passable people flocked to the gasoline stations. Many stations reported sales up 40 to 50 percent. The stations then tried to replenish the fuel supply twice during the day instead of getting the usual delivery every two days.

A Shell station ran out of premium gasoline by mid-afternoon on Dec. 28 and a Texaco didn't have regular unleaded. Other stations were running low.

When some Phillips 66 stations ran out of regular unleaded they sold midgrade and premium at the same price to cover the shortage.

The sales boom caught major suppliers by surprise. Suncor Energy, which meets 35 to 45 percent of Colorado's gasoline and diesel market, had planned to have every gas station tank full by the evening of Dec. 28, realizing it would be difficult to deliver after that, said Steve Douglas, Suncor's general manager of marketing. "What we didn't anticipate was that so many people would decide to have a full tank before the snowstorm."

Twelve deaths were attributed to the blizzards that left drifts fifteen feet deep in some areas of Colorado. Preliminary estimates had 3,500 cattle dead in the plains of six southeastern counties alone with the total expected to rise much higher. Thousands of people were without electricity and many holiday travelers spent the holidays in airports.

SNOWMASS — The Snowmass Town Council is bumping heads over whether to provide subsidies to keep the town's only gasoline station.

The Snowmass Village Conoco is located in the Snowmass Center. Its lease runs out in June and the developer that owns the center has not included a gas station in his redevelopment plan.

The council has appointed a negotiating team comprised of economic director Jason Haber, gas station owner Jeff Jandigan, developer Pat Smith and two members of the community at large to study the issue and make recommendations.

Should the station stay in the Snowmass Center or be offered town entryway land are key issues to be decided. Some questioned the need for a gasoline station at all. And there is sharp debate as to who should pay for it: Smith, the town, or both.

The current owners of the gasoline station agreed to sell the business to Smith for $300,000 if the developer would not require that the tanks be dug out and the building razed, which would cost about $500,000.

Councilman Arnie Mordkin said Smith had promised the council and station owners that he would help with financing a new station. But at a town meeting, Smith's representative threw cold water on that. Carey Shanks cautioned the council not to expect too much. He reminded council members that they had said they would not allow the gasoline station to have a convenience store or car wash.

One proposal to solve the problem calls for allowing the gas station owners to lease town entryway land. But the owners say they can only afford $40,000 a year to finance the loan to build the structure but would need about $90,000. The council floated the idea of having a deferred rent structure, whereby nothing would be paid for the entryway land and at the end of 30 years the town would own the gas station. Another suggestion was for low rent.

Further complicating the issue is how to value the entryway land, whether to appraise it on a best-use basis or on the intended use.

Councilman Reed Lewis objected to any subsidy. "I am not in favor of trading our land or any town asset from public to private. I didn't get a handout from the town when I started my business," he said.

Councilwoman Sally Sparhawk supported the idea of subsidizing the station, saying there was a need for it.

One council member wondered why they had not required the developer to have a gasoline station. The town has already mandated the erection of a post office, supermarket and a pharmacy.

And said Mordkin, "We damn well ought to tell Smith's group they have to have a service station."

COLORADO SPRINGS — Police here have arrested two people in connection with the shooting death of a 7-Eleven convenience store clerk in Aurora.

Arrested were John Andrew Doubleday, 23, on suspicion of first-degree murder and robbery and Ann Lewis, 22, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. They were being held in the El Paso County Jail, pending transfer to Aurora.

Lewis' one-year-old son was with her when she was arrested and was placed with the county social services.

Aurora police allege that Doubleday shot and killed Jutte Gallegos Burton, 62, at the 7-Eleven store Dec. 10. Lewis has been identified as a possible accomplice.

They were apprehended at the Capri Motel in Colorado Springs. Manager Willy Haskell said someone else booked them in. He said Lewis told him she worked at Baby Dolls, a strip club not far from the motel. "She paid in all ones [$1 bills] so I believed her," he said.

Haskell told police Lewis turned in the key to the room after the first night and said they didn't have the money to pay for another night. "They had the baby, it was cold, and she had no idea where she was going, and I couldn't turn them out." He let the couple stay free for one night.

The following day, Lewis paid for another night.

During the robbery, a surveillance camera captured images of the shooter and a car seen driving past the front of the store immediately after the shooting. Haskell identified a picture of Lewis and told police she was in room 104. The pair was arrested without incident.

DENVER — Forest Oil Co., of Denver, says it will buy Houston Exploration Co., a natural gas company, that was put up for sale last June. The reported price was $1.5 billion in cash and stock.

The acquisition will bolster Forest Oil's reserves in the U.S. Southwest and Rocky Mountain at a time when new energy deposits are harder to find. The sale will boost Forest Oil's oil and gas reserves by almost 50 percent to the equivalent of two trillion cubic feet of gas. The company will sell its Alaska unit to reduce the debt.

DENVER — Millions of dollars are at stake in a Denver federal courtroom, where the Kerr-McGee Corp. is defending itself against a lawsuit filed by a former auditor of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Bobby Maxwell spent years scrutinizing royalties or fees paid by companies that produce oil and natural gas from federal lands. He alleges Kerr-McGee cheated the federal government out of millions of dollars in royalties between 1997 and 2002 by knowingly selling oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico at below-market prices to a company that, in exchange, absorbed much of its market costs.

Kerr-McGee, an Oklahoma energy company, recently merged with Anadarko Petroleum.

The firm was represented in a pre-trial hearing by a host of lawyers from the law firm Holland Hart. If they lose, Kerr-McGee would have to pay $50 million or more in unpaid royalties and penalties and Maxwell and his lawyers would retain 30 percent of the proceeds under the federal False Claims Act. The rest would go to the federal government.

Kerr-McGee denies any wrongdoing. Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen maintained the case was without merit.

Maxwell's lawyer, Richard LaFond, said Maxwell was advised that an official of Minerals Management Service, the Denver-based arm of the Interior responsible for collecting royalties, would be "very upset" if he pursued it. Maxwell retired in 2003 but was rehired within four months for a management position in Denver. He filed the lawsuit in June 2004 as a private citizen. The case was unsealed on Jan. 20 2005 and a week later the agency eliminated Maxwell's position in what it said was a reorganization.

RIFLE — A trial has been set for May in the case of four fires set in the early morning of Sept. 5, 2006, which destroyed an Amoco service station and did heavy damage to the Rifle Fireside Lanes bowling alley. Damage from the fires was estimated at $1.5 million.

Facing trial on 18 crimes, including arson and of being a habitual criminal, is Robin J. Clifton of Calbran. His criminal history dates back to 1978 and includes crimes ranging from robbery to drugs and prison escape. He was arrested at the Garfield County Courthouse in Glenwood Springs last April as he was coming out of court on unrelated charges.

At his preliminary hearing, a tape recovered from the Amoco station after the fire shows a man dressed in black breaking into the station and spreading liquid around the inside of the garage. It also shows the man igniting a fuse and the inside of the building bursting into flame. Clifton was linked to the fire after it was discovered that a trailer and motorcycle that he had hooked to his pickup had been stolen in Utah.

The service station, owned by Rifle native David Valencia, reopened eleven months after it was destroyed by the fire. The bowling alley also has reopened.

Originally published in the February 2007 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2007 by KAL Publications Inc.

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