PennzEnergy to cut production, jobs
by Julie R. Cryser
ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR
PennzEnergy, an independent oil and natural gas
producer, will shut down 300 oil wells and lay off 32 hourly workers and
seven field supervisors throughout West Virginia by May 1. Company officials
are blaming a 20-year low in crude oil prices for the reductions.
"With oil prices where they are, the oil wells in
that area just aren't profitable to be run by anyone," said Jeanne Buchanan,
vice president of corporate communications for PennzEnergy, headquartered
in Houston, Texas.
The move comes just two months after Pennzoil split
into PennzEnergy, an exploration and production company, and Pennzoil Products,
which specializes in marketing oil products. Pennzoil Products then merged
with Quaker State to form Pennzoil/Quaker Co. Union officials say it's
not just the name of the companies that has changed. "This was just sprung
on us all at once," said Jim Johnson, a member of the Teamsters Local 175.
PennzEnergy has just over 90 people working in West
Virginia and 900 oil wells throughout the state. The company began negotiations
Thursday night with the Teamsters to offer voluntary severance and early
retirement packages. Johnson said about 20 to 25 people will be laid off
in Harrison and Doddridge counties. "The loss of these jobs will
drastically affect the lives of these men and their families," Johnson
Union officials believe the company is hiring contract
workers to do much of the work that company employees being laid off could
do. The practice is known as out-sourcing and allows companies to reduce
expenses by hiring outside companies to do work. "We just don't feel that
there should be contractors working when there are men being laid off,"
Legislature enters stretch run with much work left
by Troy Graham
CHARLESTON - With a little more than two weeks
remaining in the legislative session, West Virginia lawmakers have yet
to see most of the major bills on the floor of the House and Senate, while
some lawmakers say tensions are riding high as the last deals are cut.
"The real serious stuff is still out there," said
Delegate Barbara Warner, D-Harrison. "Why aren't they moving some of this
stuff? We all know it's coming, but nobody's talking about it."
Most of the major bills, such as the revamping of
the workers' compensation law and the repeal of the last year's mountaintop
removal bill, will most likely hit the floors sometime before midnight
on March 13, the last night of the regular session. The fate of several
other major bills, such as the proposed tax on smokeless tobacco, is more
uncertain. But in the meantime, all is fairly quiet in Charleston.
The House spent most of its floor session Thursday
engaged in ceremonial work, honoring the Shepherd College football team,
renaming an intersection in Cabell County for a Huntington businessman,
and memorializing a former delegate who died in October.
One delegate also urged lawmakers to see the movie
"October Sky," which is set in McDowell County, while Delegate A. James
Manchin lamented in a floor speech that coffee mugs distributed by lobbyists
were made in China and not at a West Virginia company.
The ceremonial day may have been due largely to
the fact that there were no bills on third reading, when members vote for
or against passage, said Delegate Frank Angotti, D-Harrison. "I don't know
why that happened, but I think that may have been kind of rare," he said.
Committee work has stepped up, though, in recent
days, he said. The major committees are meeting sometimes twice a day,
and minor committees are meeting once a day in an effort to get the bills
out for a vote, Angotti said.
"It's going to speed up," he said. "It's going to get busier and more
bills are going to come out."
Some of the bills still in committee include:
THE SMOKELESS TOBACCO TAX: The House Health and
Human Resources Committee passed it Wednesday. The bill now moves on to
the House Finance Committee, despite the fact that House and Senate leaders
have declared the bill dead.
A spokesman said Governor Underwood is "not ready
to concede" defeat on the bill. Underwood has said the tax would discourage
smokeless tobacco use by children. Health and Human Resources Chairwoman
Mary Pearl Compton also urged passage of the tax Thursday, saying it would
"show that we care about our kids."
REGULATING THE CABLE INDUSTRY AND ELIMINATING NUDE
DANCING: Neither bill has seen any movement in their respective committees.
HOSPITAL RATES: A bill to do away with state rate
setting for hospitals, which is still in a Government Organization subcommittee.
AEROSPACE TAX BREAKS: A bill sponsored by Warner
to give tax breaks to the aerospace industry. Warner promised Thursday
that the bill would pass. However, Warner declared a bill she sponsored
to set up a graduated drivers' license system for teen-agers dead. "Not
that it's not a good bill, but it's an unfunded mandate," she said.
CASH REFUNDS: A bill pushed by Harrison County officials
to allow cash reimbursements when clerical errors are made on county taxes.
BODY PIERCING: A bill sponsored by Harrison County
Delegate Larry Linch to regulate body piercing made it out to the House
floor. The bill passed on second reading Thursday.
Businesses warned to be prepared for Y2K bug
by Paul Leakan
Preparation for the year 2000 computer glitch ranges
from inaction to hoarding gallons of water and heading for the hills. Perhaps
the best way for businesses to prepare lies somewhere in between.
Some local analysts on the problem believe that
while all businesses must take action, the issue can be tackled effectively
by approaching it as a project and taking reasonable precautions.
Representatives from Toothman Rice and Steptoe &
Johnson offered possible solutions and approaches to the year 2000 glitch
Thursday at a Harrison County Chamber of Commerce breakfast seminar in
the Bridgeport Holiday Inn.
The glitch has millions worried that the world's
computers will shut down on Jan. 1, 2000 because many of them were not
programmed to understand the year 2000. The year 1999, for example, shows
up on most computer systems as 99. But when the year 2000 rolls around,
computers not reprogrammed properly will read the year 2000 as 1900, causing
Businesses can't afford to shy away from the problem,
said Jon Elder, a partner at Toothman Rice, an accounting firm in Clarksburg.
Elder said that small businesses must realize that they could take a major
hit if they don't prepare for the problem.
Still, he said, small businesses should view the
situation not as an impending catastrophe but as a project that needs to
be addressed and managed. The first way to address the problem is to admit
there is one, Elder said. Many small businesses are in denial that they
could be affected, he said. The common misconceptions?
"It's a Fortune 500 problem." "People are handling
it." "My small business won't be affected." "It only affects mainframe
computers." "My business isn't affected by dates."
All of those beliefs, Elder said, are simply not
true. All businesses should develop a plan to diagnose the problem, prioritize
efforts to fix them, fix the problems, test the solutions and have backup
solutions in case something fails, he said.
Even then, Elder believes there are more steps that must be taken.
Businesses must also track their suppliers' efforts
to solve the computer glitch. After all, no supplies means no business.
"We're all together in this. You have to ask yourself, how much do
I rely on myself to provide goods for my customers?"
Aside from technical problems, legal issues are sure to arise, said
Gordon Copland, partner with the law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The computer
glitch is the opportunity that lawyers have been waiting for in their quest
to take over the world, Copland joked.
Actually, Copland believes it may soon seem that
way. The Gartner Group estimates that lawsuits relating to the problem
will reach $1 trillion. Law firms are already preparing to pounce on the
problem, Copland said. "It frightens me how much preparation is being done
by lawyers to prepare for the problems."
Businesses can avoid class-action lawsuits over
the glitch by documenting their efforts to fix the problem, Copland said.
In addition, businesses should consider forewarning their customers
that they may not be able to meet their prior commitments.
In the end, analysts believe that it is unclear
exactly how many businesses will be affected when the clock strikes 2-0-0-0.
But at least by solving the glitch, Elder believes the problem can
actually become an opportunity. "If I'm compliant and my competitors are
not, then that's got to help me in some way."