Business Briefs

Farmington Daily Times
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A pumpjack operates in Farmington. State sales of oil and gas leases on state lands are skyrocketing, a direct contrast to activity in San Juan County on federally-controlled lands.


State Land Office’s lease revenues soar in first quarter
SANTA FE — Here’s one place business is booming — the State Land Office. On Sept.19 it earned $6.7 million from five bidders at an average per-acre price of $4,317.
The collection brings “Q1 2018 earnings from monthly lease sales to nearly $50 million. Comparatively, Q1 2017 earnings from oil and gas lease sales barely exceeded $8 million,” the state said in a press release.
“Ninety-two percent of revenues collected by the State Land Office are from oil and gas activity on State Trust Lands and most of it flows to public schools, which exemplifies why the industry is vital to our state,” said State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.  “These first quarter earnings indicate we are on track for a top-performing year which is good news for education.”  
That money will go to several places, including $5.3 million for public schools, $65,381 to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and $1.3 million for the Miners’ Colfax Medical Center.
This month the state offered 10 tracts covering 1,560 acres of State Trust Lands in Eddy and Lea counties, the release said. Chisholm Energy Holdings, LLC, of Fort Worth, TX, won, paying $2.56 million for 200 acres in Eddy County.
Oil and gas lease sale revenues go into the Land Maintenance Fund, which covers the self-funded Land Office’s operating expenses. Except for about five cents out of every dollar it earns the remaining revenue goes to the beneficiaries, except for public school funds which go straight into the state’s General Fund to be doled out by the state Legislature, the press release said.
Daily Times Staff Report

Health benefit offers from small businesses keep vanishing
Only half of America's smallest businesses now offer health coverage to their workers because many say steady cost hikes have made it too expensive to afford a benefit nearly all large employers still provide.
The Kaiser Family Foundation said Tuesday that 50 percent of companies with three to 49 employees offered coverage this year. That's down from 59 percent in 2012 and 66 percent more than a decade ago. Some employers have opted instead to give workers money to buy coverage on the individual market, which includes the Affordable Care Act's public marketplaces.
The nonprofit Kaiser also found in its annual benefits survey that 96 percent of businesses with 100 or more workers offer health benefits.
Employer-sponsored coverage is the most common form of health insurance in the United States.
The Associated Press

Walgreens, Rite Aid revise store purchase deal to $4.38B 
Walgreens and Rite Aid have finally devised a combination of the nation's largest and third-largest drugstore chains that will get past antitrust regulators.
The companies said Tuesday that they have Federal Trade Commission clearance for a slimmer version of a store-purchase agreement announced in June. Walgreens will now spend $4.38 billion on 1,932 stores, three distribution centers and inventory.
The drugstore chains had said earlier this summer that Walgreens planned to spend about $5.18 billion on 2,186 stores.
That deal marked a step down from Walgreens' initial plan to take over Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corp. for $9.4 billion. That deal spent a couple of years in regulatory review before the companies abandoned it.
Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. says the latest deal should be completed by spring.
The Associated Press

US rig count dropped by 8 mid-month
HOUSTON — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. fell by eight on Sept. 17 to 936. One of those was in New Mexico.
That's up from the 506 rigs that were active a year ago.
Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes said Friday that 749 rigs sought oil and 186 explored for natural gas this week. One was listed as miscellaneous.
Among major oil- and gas-producing states, West Virginia added one rig.
Louisiana and Texas each lost three rigs. Colorado, New Mexico and North Dakota each shed one.
Alaska, California, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming were unchanged.
The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May of 2016 at 404.
The Associated Press

Lawsuit aims to block oil drilling on US land in Nevada
RENO, Nev. — Environmentalists have sued a U.S. agency to try to stop it from allowing oil and gas drilling on a vast stretch of federal land in Nevada, where the government is reversing protections put in place nine months ago under the Obama administration.
The Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management illegally failed to consider potential consequences of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, ranging from harm to the greater sage grouse to contamination of fragile desert water sources and emission of climate-altering greenhouse gases.
The suit filed last week in federal court in Reno seeks an order forcing the bureau to rescind oil drilling leases it sold in June for as low as $2 per acre on three land parcels covering about 9 square miles (23 square kilometers).
The groups are asking a judge to forbid permits on an additional 103 parcels totaling 296 square miles (767 square kilometers) until the agency complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws they say require a thorough examination of the potential effects of fracking.
"The Trump administration wants to turn public lands into private profits for the fossil fuel industry at the peril of local communities and wildlife," said Clare Lakewood, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute in Oakland, California.
President Donald Trump has taken other steps to open up federal lands to energy production, including proposals to eliminate national monuments designated by former President Barack Obama.
Patrick Donnelley, the center's state director in Nevada, said the drilling leases in Nevada mark the first time the Trump administration has reversed a draft proposal by the previous administration to keep some otherwise unprotected lands off limits to drilling. He says the government is flouting environmental rules "to push their oil and gas agenda."
Fracking has led to a boom in natural gas production but raised widespread concerns about possible groundwater contamination and even earthquakes. The method uses huge amounts of pressurized water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas from rock formations deep underground.
The Associated Press