From Oil Patch Hotline

A huge expansion costing between $35 million and $40 million, that will more than double the capacity of the Dakota Access Pipeline to 1.1 million BOPD, was proposed by Energy Transfer Partners. Work will be completed by February 2021.

The company said it is anticipated that crude oil production out of the Williston Basin will increase between 350,000 to 450,0000 BOPD over the next five years, with current production exceeding 1.3 million BOPD.

The 36-inch crude oil pipeline runs 1,172 miles from Stanley, ND to Patoka, IL.

Based on shipper support solicited during an open season late last year, the pipeline has reached its maximum capacity of 600,000 BOPD.

The company is proposing a new pump station adding 30,000 horsepower in Emmons County five miles west of Linton.

Expansion of the two crude oil tanks and pumping station at Johnson’s Corner in McKenzie County is also planned. A new 300,000 crude oil storage tank will be erected along with two 6,000 HP pumps.

A third pumping station will be constructed in Illinois.

In its formal application to the ND Public Service Commission, the proposed expansion “will allow Dakota Access to meet the growing demand from shippers by optimizing and fully utilizing the existing pipeline infrastructure, without the need to install new pipelines, and without the need for shippers to use less safe and efficient means of transportation, such as rail,” said attorney Lawrence Bender, representing Energy Transfer.

Chris Heivly, the co-founder of MapQuest met with local tech founders, last week, to share his entrepreneur journey and to discuss ways to develop a thriving startup community in Billings.

Heivly is part of a cohort of successful entrepreneurs at Techstars- a global platform for investment and innovation, that have adopted a philosophy they call, “GiveFirst.” He explained that creating a give-before-you-get cultural norm in Billings is a critical step to attracting talent and creating a vibrant, entrepreneurial culture.

Heivly also encouraged each founder to band together and take on a leadership role. He shared how facilitating regular meetups that bring entrepreneurs together to help each other will have an incredible impact on their own companies over time. “Spend 1 to 2 hours each week meeting and building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Billings.” He said. “It will benefit your companies in more ways than you know.” After spending almost an hour discussing challenges and opportunities in Billings, the founders ended by sharing why Billings is the right place for them. “I like that Billings is built on a strong foundation, there’s a lot of hard-working people who live here” they said.

Andrew Korf, a business student at Rocky explained how being a part of this entrepreneurial community inspires him to stay here instead of going back home to Boise after he graduates. Founders in attendance included:

Chris Heivly- Co-founder of MapQuest and serial entrepreneur;

 Colter DeVries- Co-founder of Moochdocker;

Josh Toenyes- Co-founder of Cardsetter;

Andy Rahn- Founder of Landsource;

Ethan Kanning- Co-founder of Harken CRE;

Trevor Hartman- Co-founder of Converge and senior staff SRE at Carta;

Kevin Scharfe- Co-founder of Converge;

and director of Rock31 Andrew Korf- Finance intern and business student at Rocky Mountain College;

Michael Rae- Livestock BioTech entrepreneur.

To learn more about Billings Entrepreneur Eco-System visit

The Center Square

Americans are paying down their credit card debt in 2020, and Californians are leading the way.

According to a new study from financial website WalletHub, American consumers entered 2020 owing more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. In the first quarter of the year, consumers reduced that by $60 billion. And in the second quarter, they reduced it by an additional $58 billion, or about 6.7 percent.

“Although first quarter paydowns are normal, Q2 2020 marks the first time in more than 30 years that credit card debt has dropped from April through June,” WalletHub’s report says. “As a result, WalletHub now projects that U.S. consumers will end the year with a slight reduction in credit card debt for the first time since the end of the Great Recession in 2009.”

California led all U.S. states in the amount of credit card debt reduction, according to WalletHub’s rankings. The average Californians reduced such debt by $558 in the second quarter. Texas placed second in the rankings, with the average household reducing credit card debt by $550.

California residents still have the fourth highest credit card debt on average in the U.S. at $9,472 per household. Only residents of Virginia ($9,589), Hawaii ($10,987) and Alaska ($11,250) have more on average, according to WalletHub.

Across the U.S., the average credit card debt is $7,938.

WalletHub says its study is “based on analysis of the latest data on consumers’ finances available from TransUnion as well as the Federal Reserve and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly changes in credit card debt levels include both the total amount outstanding (revolving credit, not seasonally adjusted) and charged-off debt (not seasonally adjusted) that is no longer on credit card companies’ books but consumers continue to owe.”

Dan McCaleb is the executive editor of The Center Square. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) announced that Five Mile Road is now open to the public. Finishing work taking place will include epoxy striping in mid-September and final seeding and erosion control blankets in mid-October.

Fleetwood Gaming Gains Historic Horse Racing Partnership with Exacta Systems

Fleetwood Gaming CEO Jon Dehler announced that his company has entered into an agreement with Exacta Systems to form a joint partnership to manufacture and distribute Historic Horse Racing (HHR) machines in Montana.  The Montana legislature will consider HHR legislation in the upcoming session, after the passage of SB 183 in 2019, which instructed the Montana Board of Horse Racing to propose legislative language surrounding HHR.  The Montana horse racing and breeding industries support the introduction of HHR terminals to help sustain the equine and agriculture-based industries in the state. 

The agreement will see Exacta’s HHR pari-mutuel wagering platform rolled out throughout Fleetwood’s distribution network in Montana.  Fleetwood Gaming CEO Jon Dehler commented, “this is an amazing opportunity for us at Fleetwood adding HHR pari-mutuel terminals to our distribution chain. Having terminals with pari-mutuel payouts that can compete with the Montana Lottery and Montana Cash finally levels the playing field and will be a win-win for all.”

“We are excited to have found an experienced partner like Fleetwood Gaming and Jon Dehler,” commented Exacta Systems President Jeremy Stein.  “HHR terminals will help enhance Fleetwood’s already strong product lines and wide distribution range throughout Montana.  We look forward to bringing the HHR success story to Montana and its legendary equine industry.”  

Montana’s population is just over one million people, but over 12.6 million tourists visited Montana in 2019 and spent $3.6 billion in the Treasure State.  The leisure betting market in Montana provides a great market opportunity for the Fleetwood-Exacta Systems HHR partnership.

About Fleetwood Gaming, Inc.

In 1974, the Fleetwood Distributing Company headquarters was established in Montana and in 1978, Jon Dehler purchased the family run company from his father Bill.  Soon after, Fleetwood began operating as both a machine route operator and distributor. The business achieved a major product line expansion in 1985 when gaming was legalized and video poker machines were introduced in Montana. Today, Fleetwood Gaming, Inc. is one of Montana’s leading suppliers of gaming products, and has five locations throughout Montana providing local support and or distribution from Billings, Butte, Great Falls, Missoula and Sidney.

About Exacta Systems

Founded in 2013, Exacta Systems is the leading provider of Historic Horse Racing systems and terminals in the country.  Exacta is currently operating in Kentucky, Wyoming and Virginia, and is expanding into new markets each year

A recent survey shows that 21 percent of Montanans believe that employers should be liable to pay compensation should an employee contract Covid-19 in the workplace. Nationally, 38 percent believe the employer should be held responsible, in a survey done by Gomez Trial Attorneys.

As business slowly starts to pick up following Coronavirus-related restrictions, companies across America are addressing how they can create a safe space for their employees or customers. However, as Congress has recently been debating, there exists the potential for lawsuits to be filed against businesses should their staff or customers contract Covid-19.

A number of states have acted to extend liability protection to businesses. It will undoubtedly be an issue before the 2021 Montana State Legislature. The US National Chamber of Commerce has pushed for the provision to become a nationwide protection for business owners as part of the next Congressional package for COVID benefits. Harold Kim, President of the US Chamber, said during a recent virtual conference in Montana that more than 30 states have already “done something” in that regard, adding that “it shouldn’t be a partisan issues.”

The survey release pose the question, “Does the government side with workers who want their safety to be prioritized above anything else, or beleaguered employers who fear resulting lawsuits pose an existential threat to their businesses following extended periods of lockdown?”

Broken down across the country, the survey found that West Virginians felt most strongly about “protecting employees’ rights,” with 75% saying businesses should not be protected from legal blame if workers contract Coronavirus. Comparatively, South Dakotans felt most strongly about protecting businesses during this time, with only 11% agreeing that employers should be held liable.

One method many companies will adopt as they re-open their workspaces is to take everyone’s temperature regularly. Employees feel reassured that temperature checks are a positive way of protecting their health, as the survey found that over three-quarters (76%) believe they should be compulsory each time you enter their  place of work. If a person’s temperature is over a certain degree, they could be instructed to go home and seek medical advice. 

There are also ongoing debates on the issue of privacy regarding personal data involved in temperature checks. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of employees say their personal data obtained via temperature checks should be kept confidential. Re-introducing workers back into the workplace has not only brought up issues related to health and privacy, but also finance. For example, if Covid-19 testing or temperature checks take place outside of official work hours, should workers be compensated for their time? The survey found that 58% of employees feel they should be compensated, for example for testing before work, during lunch or after hours.

‘In the midst of a global pandemic, it is vitally important to know your rights – whether an employee, employer, or customer’ says a spokesperson for Gomez Trial Attorneys. 

Montana Chamber of Commerce Report

The Montana Chamber of Commerce has presented its 2020 Judicial Review of more than 50 Montana Supreme Court decisions from 2018 and 2019 that impacted business and the economy.

“The Montana Chamber is one of the only organizations that reviews court decisions with special attention to their long-term impacts on doing business in Montana,” said Bridger Mahlum, government relations director for the Montana Chamber.  “As the third branch of our state government, it’s just as important to evaluate the activity of the judiciary as it is to engage in its legislative and executive counterparts.”

Harold Kim, President of the US Chamber, during a recent webinar commented on the Montana Chamber’s review of the courts saying it “is critically important because it has had an impact on the Montana Supreme Court.”

Mahlum added, “It is an incredibly important tool .. not only do judges recognize it but so do legislators and policy makers.”

The Montana Chamber of Commerce has presented its 2020 Judicial Review of more than 50 Montana Supreme Court decisions from 2018 and 2019 that impacted business and the economy. Overall, the Court received a 74% rating for its decisions on crucial business cases – a slight improvement from its 72% rating on the 2018 review. Receiving the highest individual rating for the second consecutive cycle was Justice Laurie McKinnon at 83%t (Career Judicial Score of 87 percent). Other ratings included:

* 68 percent for Chief Justice Mike McGrath (57 percent Career Judicial Score);

* 78 percent for Justice Beth Baker (67 percent);

* 64 percent for Justice Ingrid Gustafson (64 percent);

* 80 percent for Justice Jim Rice (78 percent);

* 71 percent for Justice Dirk Sandefur (71 percent); and

* 72 percent for Justice Jim Shea (67 percent).

As a part of our continued focus on worker’s compensation, the Montana Chamber included a review of the Worker’s Compensation Court’s performance from 2018 and 2019. Twenty-six cases were reviewed, with Judge David Sandler ruling on all those cases. His rating was 62 percent, bringing his career score to 66 percent.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce tracks all activities related to business in Montana. With legal reform as part of its Envision 2026 business climate objective, the Chamber facilitates the Montana Justice Coalition and produces the Judicial Review under the auspices of that coalition.  The Coalition brings together business leaders, attorneys, association directors, and other stakeholders to track Montana’s legal climate, monitor important cases, and develop legal reform measures.

From Center Square

States that enforced Certificate of Need (CON) laws during coronavirus shutdowns increased mortality rates for COVID-19 patients and others, a new assessment of state laws has found.

Montana is among about 35 states that still impose CON laws – laws which require some health care facilities to “prove need” before being allowed by the state government to go into business or to expand business, such as adding the number of beds. Part of that consideration involves protecting existing, both public and private, facilities from competition.

An analysis of state laws, published in a new working paper by economists Agnitra Roy Choudhury, Alicia Plemmons and Sriparna Ghosh at the University of Cincinnati, Auburn University, and Southern Illinois University, concludes that CON laws increased mortality rates for COVID-19 patients and others.

In Certificate-of-Need Laws and Healthcare Utilization during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the authors found that in states with high hospital bed utilization, suspending CON laws saved nearly 100 lives for every 100,000 residents for all causes of death. Suspending CON laws saved 40 lives from COVID-19 and 57 lives from natural causes of death.

In states with high intensive care unit bed utilization, suspending CON laws saved 28 lives for every 100,000 residents for all causes of death, saved 11 lives from COVID-19 and 15 lives from natural causes of death, the report says.

“CON laws are legal limitations to the expansion and acquisition of medical services within a state and were not structured in a way to prepare or stockpile medical goods and services to the volume that has been required to meet demand swells during the recent pandemic,” it states.

The analysis primarily focused on mortality caused by COVID and non-COVID related reasons to assess how CON laws affected access to health care for illnesses that might require similar medical equipment.

“Their baseline results suggest that mortality rates are higher in states with CON laws relative to that in states without any CON laws,” the report states. “States with high healthcare utilization due to COVID that reformed their CON laws during the pandemic saw a significant reduction in mortality resulting from natural death, Septicemia, Diabetes, Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease, Influenza or Pneumonia, and Alzheimer’s Disease in addition to reduction in COVID deaths.

“In states with high ICU bed utilization that subsequently reformed their CON laws in order to increase acquisitions of medical equipment, 11 lives per 100,000 residents [were saved] from COVID weekly,” the report states.

By keeping CON laws in place, health care providers were prevented from expanding care options, the report found, including the ability to add beds, ventilators or expand facilities.

Twelve states do not have CON laws; 15 states and the District of Columbia have CON laws in place; 23 states suspended some portion of CON laws or enabled emergency provisions.

Several attempts have been made to pass bills in the Montana State Legislature to eliminate Montana’s cumbersome bureaucracy controlling the emergence of new health care providers or preventing existing ones to expand, but to date they have been unsuccessful. CON laws protect hospital profits, not patients, in a process that can takes months or even years, Moriah Lawrence and Angela Erickson at the Pacific Legal Foundation, argue.

Lawrence and Erickson charge that state bureaucrats “are so concerned with the potential harm to the existing companies’ bottom lines that this process ultimately creates ‘Competitor’s Veto.’” In Montana government- ran medical facilities have exercised that veto to block private sector companies from entering the market. Hundreds of preventable deaths can be traced back to CON laws, well before the coronavirus, according to a 2016 Mercatus Center report. Mercatus published empirical evidence to show how death rates were higher for patients suffering from pneumonia, heart failure, or heart attacks at hospitals in states with CON laws than in non-CON states.

At its Board of Trustees meeting, the Yellowstone Art Museum’s Board of Trustees bestow the annual President’s Awards for Service to the Arts. Given out since 2001, these awards recognize outstanding service from philanthropists, artists, and volunteers to the YAM and the art community. In most cases, awardees have given prominent support over a number of years. The 2020 awardees are:


John & Patricia Burg

John and Patricia Burgs were named Legacy Society members. Their commitment to the YAM spans more than two decades. As donors, members, and through Patricia’s time as a docent, the Burgs have been very involved with the museum, and understand that there are many moving parts and that much support necessary to keep delivering its programs. The Burgs have understood the importance of the YAM’s capital campaigns and its endowment throughout its history. The Burgs’ gifts are quite generous, and steady. John and Patricia’s gifts to the YAM cumulatively place them amongst the first ranks of the philanthropists.

Docent  Year, Posusta

Jean Posusta has been a docent who proactively participates in educational programming at the YAM. She is always striving to do more and explore new ways of teaching, learning, and creating art. Posusta has been a YAM docent since 2011. Since that time, she has toured children and adults, always seriously undertaking her training on current exhibitions and best practices for inquiry based learning. The projects Posusta has undertaken this past year have had a powerful impact on museum programming and on docents here and across the state. Jean is an artist who often participates in ArtWalk. She is also a prolific author of a wide range of books. When Posusta volunteered to read a story to young children as part of YAM’s Art & a Story program, she wrote her own story.

Artist of Year, Neltje

Neltje’s paintings, like the artist, are intense, complex, and larger than life. Now in her 80s, Neltje is still constantly learning, growing, and taking on new challenges. For a Wyoming retrospective in 2012, she painted her first 10’ x 30’ works, The Moroccan Suite. She followed with four wall-scale paintings representing the four seasons. These works anchor her current exhibition at the YAM, offering an experience of sublime beauty that envelops, overwhelms, and, ultimately cradles the viewer. Her fearless energy is an inspiration to anyone who comes in contact with her or her paintings. Living in New York as a young adult, Neltje absorbed the spontaneous energy and improvisational style of the abstract expressionists, whose work she experienced firsthand. Inspired by Joan Mitchell, she learned to channel “a sense of power and joy,” as well as energy and rage.  Neltje moved to Wyoming. In her late 30s.

According to the Beer Institute, “Taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer, costing more than the labor and raw materials combined.”

Research has shown that approximately 40 percent of the retail price of beer is dedicated toward covering all the applicable taxes.

Tennessee, Alaska, and Hawaii levy the highest beer excise tax rates in the country, while Wyoming, Missouri, and Wisconsin have the lowest rates. Tennessee’s tax is $1.07 per gallon and in Wyoming the tax is 2 cents a gallon.

Montana’s tax is on the low end at 14 cents a gallon, ranking the state 40th.

Meanwhile across the pond in Europe, the EU countries with the highest excise taxes on beer are Finland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

On the lower end, Bulgaria, Germany, Luxembourg, Romania, and Spain levy the lowest rate (EU’s minimum rate of €0.03 per beer bottle).