In this week's news, an evacuation order is lifted in some areas hit by wildfire in the Alberta oilsands region, farms in Iowa have filed lawsuits to stop a Texas company from using eminent domain to secure land for its project, and the rig count dropped by two last week

A mandatory evacuation order has been lifted at two Northern Alberta oilsands production sites and five nearby work camps, as firefighters continue to battle wildfires in the region.

The lifting of the order on May 20 allows Suncor Energy and its Syncrude subsidiary to reopen two major oilsands production complexes that have been shut down for more than two weeks because of the threat.

A spokesperson for Suncor told The Wall Street Journal that the company is preparing a schedule for staged restarting of the plants.

Related: Blog: Gas and Oil Fuel North Dakota’s Rise

Lawsuits Filed Against Use of Eminent Domain with Dakota Access Pipeline

Two lawsuits were filed May 20 in northwest Iowa’s Cherokee County by owners of farmland that a Texas company is trying to seize for construction of the Bakken crude oil pipeline, according to The Des Moines Register.

Dakota Access, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, has filed applications to use eminent domain to secure access to agricultural land owned by several owners.

Related: Editor's Notebook: Shifting Focus

The lawsuits ask the court to suspend the condemnation proceedings. A Cherokee County compensation commission is scheduled to meet June 13 to begin valuing the farmland for seizure by Dakota Access.

Construction on the pipeline began this week in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois, but the Iowa Utilities Board still hasn’t authorized the start of construction in Iowa because of a lack of federal permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Rig Count Drops Slightly

Related: Editor's Notebook: Big Gains on the Big Stage

The number of rigs seeking oil and natural gas declined by only two last week to 404, according to data released by oilfield services company Baker Hughes on May 20.

Of those, 318 were seeking oil and 85 were seeking natural gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago 885 rigs were active.

Texas lost eight rigs last week, while Kansas and North Dakota each declined by one. Oklahoma and Colorado each added a rig, while Louisiana went up by seven.

Alaska, Arkansas, California, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming were all unchanged.

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