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A warm donation for shelter canines

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

When crisp autumn breezes turn into bone-chilling, whipping winds, there are plenty of ways for humans to warm up but the dogs at the Waterford/East Lyme Animal Shelter are left to shiver through the nights.

It gets so cold inside the shelter that their water bowls freeze.

Volunteers and Animal Control Officer Robert Yuchniuk dress the dogs in sweaters and sweatshirts and add extra blankets to their kennels but it’s still not enough.

However, thanks to two generous donations, the dogs won’t have to freeze this winter.

Benvenuti Oil Co. has agreed to donate the time it takes to install new heating ducts and Home Depot has agreed to donate the materials needed for the project.

Jessica Hamilton, who has been volunteering at the shelter every day for about two years, said that the dogs are “her world.”

“It would bring tears to my eyes just imagining them shivering all night long in an already unfamiliar, scary place. It just breaks my heart,” she said last week.

The new duct work down the length of the kennels will carry heat through the entire area instead of just near the front of the kennel where the thermostat is. The thermostat turns off once a certain temperature is reached, but because the thermostat is directly across from the furnace it turns off frequently and the heat never reaches the back of the kennel.

“In the winter it’s really bad, so this repair should make the dogs’ stay here much more comfortable,” Yuchniuk said.

“We truly, truly appreciate Benvenuti and Home Depot for donating the time and the materials to make this happen. We’re not getting a new shelter next week. We just want to make their time here nice because it’s scary for them to be in here.”

In addition to the new heating system, the shelter is also in the process of raising the money for a swinging door cover that will provide some protection from the outside elements in the winter but will also allow the dogs to move freely.

There are 10 kennels for the dogs that are picked up in either Waterford or East Lyme and each kennel has a small door that the dogs can go through to get outside, to an enclosed space. Those openings are not covered and in the winter, are just like an open window, Yuchniuk said.

The cost for those doors are about $150 each and Yuchniuk said that donations are tax deductible.

The shelter is located behind the Waterford Police Department and was built 56 years ago for about $6,000, Yuchniuk said.

Fundraising efforts for a new shelter, estimated at around $1.7 million, began about two years ago. Since then, Yuchniuk said that about $88,000 has been raised.

The town’s Animal Control Facility Ad Hoc Committee has been charged with the goal of raising $100,000 towards a new facility and Yuchniuk said that goal will easily be surpassed and that he doesn’t foresee an end to fundraising efforts.

Currently the towns split Yuchniuk’s salary, while Waterford maintains the shelter and East Lyme pays for the vehicle.

“We’re in a financial struggle. Nobody has the money to build a new shelter right now and we’re not a priority. We’re looking years down the road before we get a new one and right now we just have to improve the current conditions here,” Yuchniuk said. “We deal with the hand we’re given and these are our cards. But we’re staying positive.”

For more information on adoptions, supplies needed at the shelter, how to volunteer or donate, call (860) 442-9451.

Volatile market means few deals to lock in a heating oil price

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Last year, Benvenuti Oil Co. Inc. in Waterford offered a price cap of $2.99 a gallon for home heating oil, meaning the consumer who bought the plan would pay that amount or less if the price dropped, but never more, even if the price rose.

Contracts for price protection programs usually start to take shape this time of year as dealers purchase oil ahead so they can sign up customers in June or July for the coming winter.

This year, however, Benvenuti and other heating oil dealers are holding off because of a volatile market.

With crude oil prices spiking last week as high as $4.50 a gallon in Connecticut and $3.99 in New London County, according to state figures, heating oil dealers and managers in southeastern Connecticut say they are eyeing the market for signs of stability that they ultimately expect but cannot predict.

Wilcox Fuel of Westbrook relies on its consultant, Hedge Solutions, to determine when to buy.

“They told us to sit tight right now,” said Wilcox co-owner David Foster. “There’s a bubble. The problem is we don’t know when it will break. When is a good time to buy? Unfortunately, we don’t know.”

Marc Mazzella, vice president of Benvenuti Oil, said the company also is holding off on setting a cap price.

“What we have doesn’t look good now, and I don’t see a benefit to it for the customer,” he said. “It’s hard to set a cap because of the market volatility.

“The cost to cap 1,000 gallons three weeks ago was $320. Last Thursday it was $580 to cap the same 1,000 gallons. So I’m not doing any caps now. I will, but not yet.”

Price protection programs include price-cap contracts, which enable consumers to lock in at a maximum, or capped, amount, pay a lesser price if the price drops, but never pay more than that capped amount if the price rises.

Pre-buy contracts allow consumers to buy heating oil up front at a fixed amount, potentially protecting the consumer from market fluctuations but also locking that consumer into one set price.

Unlike those two programs, budget plans typically start at a set price, but that price then fluctuates over the course of the plan, usually a year, as the consumer pays a set amount. Budgets work well for consumers who don’t want to get caught paying a large amount all at once when they run out of oil.

Since dealers, who sell directly to the consumer, have to take possession of and own most of the oil they are committing to sell, they, like the consumer, have a vested interest in seeing the prices drop. Yet, the opposite is occurring.

A repeat of 2008?

With prices that jumped in one week by 13 cents a gallon statewide and 14 cents a gallon in New London County, it makes no sense to buy now, Mazzella and other dealers said. Mazzella usually gives his customers several weeks to opt in to price protection programs, but this year customers may only have a week or two to decide.

“It’s going to be a really small window of opportunity this year,” Mazzella said. “It could be anytime between now and June.” Late in the week, prices were trending downward, but the erratic up-and-down gyrations need to settle out to make dealers comfortable buying, Mazzella added.

Industry and government experts say dealers’ conservative approach is sensible.

“They’re looking at these prices in the wholesale market and saying there’s a lot of iffiness here,” said Ray Wilson, director of the Energy office at the state Office of Policy and Management. “That’s a good assessment. It shows insight into the marketplace.”

They also warn that the coming year could be a repeat of 2008 if everyone is not careful.

Three years ago in July, heating oil prices spiked to a statewide average of $4.77 a gallon and a high of $5.50 a gallon, according to the state’s energy office. But by fall, the prices had eased back down considerably, and many consumers who had willingly locked into certain pre-buy contracts when the price was climbing sought to get out of those contracts when the price went back down.

At the time, then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal found that most written contracts were legitimate. The market had simply worked against the consumer.

Market is erratic

Earlier in the week, crude oil peaked at just over $105 a barrel. Refined heating oil, which is what goes into consumers’ furnaces, hovered at just over $3 a gallon.

The crude oil market is erratic for a lot of reasons, including increased demand in India and China, and political unrest in the Mideast and Libya, but the speculation of traders has done more to drive up the price of crude than anything else, according to Eugene Guilford, executive director and chief executive officer for the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association.

“We don’t have a clue anymore” about prices, said Foster, the co-owner of Wilcox Fuel. “It’s really driven by media news and Wall Street, and it’s disconnected from supply and demand.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said he’s trying to do something about that.

The Dodd-Frank reform bill passed last year grants the Commodities Futures Trading Commission the authority to limit some of the practices that enable speculators to trade futures without ever taking possession of the commodity. With new rules proposed, Courtney is trying to keep lawmakers from cutting the CFTC’s budget, which would make it difficult for the agency to enforce the new rules.

“This is really about consumer protection and keeping the markets transparent,” Courtney said. “What’s happening out there for home heating oil and at the gas pumps is reminding people that we need to stabilize these markets, and you just can’t let these outside forces create such uncertainty from one week to the next.”

Larry Chesler, president of Spicer Plus Inc., which owns Advanced Heating Oil, is considering offering price protection in addition to his traditional market-based pay-as-you-go pricing. The market cannot sustain the unrelenting climb, and will correct itself, he said, so the educated consumer should have options when considering price protection later this year.

“There’s no difference between the oil I buy and distribute and what other people buy and distribute,” he said. “In a saturated market where there’s many suppliers, the consumer becomes very
informed and informed and starts making decisions about who to do business with.”

Experts predict rising crude oil prices won’t be leveling off soon

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

While gasoline demand across the country grew by 3.2 percent in November 2010 over the previous year, demand for diesel fuel spiked 13.2 percent and demand for jet fuel soared nearly 17 percent, a reflection of a growing economic recovery and increasing world consumption.

And, say the experts, these rising energy prices won’t be abating anytime soon.

“Those numbers are staggering,” said Steve Guveyan, executive director of the Connecticut Petroleum Council. “We’re just not used to seeing increases like that.”

The council, which represents large oil companies, refineries, terminals and other major suppliers, is a division of the Washington-based American Petroleum Institute.

Crude oil prices – from which gasoline, diesel, kerosene and propane are derived – have jumped from $80.44 a barrel in mid-November to $91.55 a barrel on Monday.

The AAA says the average price for diesel fuel in the New London/Norwich area on Tuesday was $3.47 a gallon – about 47 cents higher than it was this time last year. Statewide, the price was $3.49 a gallon while nationally it was $3.32 a gallon.

Those gains are taking a toll on consumers. New London resident Daniel McSparren, who relies on diesel fuel to drive his Volkswagen Jetta to work in Meriden, believes suppliers are “gouging the consumer.”

“The price of diesel fuel is (hurting) everybody, and the suppliers are taking an unfair advantage of all the consumers, whether you drive diesel or not, because we purchase those products that are shipped to us daily by diesel trucks,” McSparren said. “And that’s something the government should be looking at – why the disproportionate increase.”

Gene McGillian, an analyst with Tradition Energy, which has offices in Stamford, expects oil prices to range from $95 to $100 a barrel later this year.

And Tancred Lidderdale, a senior economist with the U.S. Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy, agrees.

“We agree that consumption of petroleum products in the U.S. is definitely showing some strength that it didn’t show in the first half of this year,” Lidderdale said. “What that means for consumers is that a global economic recovery is leading to increasing world oil consumption – and higher prices for consumers.

“We’ve been revising upward our forecast for world economic and oil consumption growth for 2010. Our forecast is for rising crude oil prices, which lead to higher gasoline and diesel prices. The rule of thumb is (that) a $1-per-barrel increase in the price of crude oil increases the price of gasoline and diesel fuel by 2.4 cents per gallon.”

Besides growing worldwide demand, two other things are driving costs up, says Eugene A. Guilford, executive director and chief executive officer for the Cromwell-based Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association.

First, crude oil has been “sending signals” on the New York Mercantile Exchange that it will rise as global demand increases. Investors who then see crude rising decide to invest, driving the price up even further, Guilford said. Second, the Federal Reserve is causing inflation by “printing money,” weakening the value of the dollar, and pushing up the cost of gold, food and energy commodities, he said. (Crude oil is priced in U.S. dollars.)

Heating-oil dealers in New London County say their customers are reverting to budget or discount pay-as-you go plans to make costs manageable. Consumers still think the recession and increased U.S. inventories should have a dampening effect on prices, but that isn’t the case, said Mark Mazzella, who owns Benvenuti Oil Co. in Waterford.

“World demand is up, world supply is down, hence oil prices are up,” Mazzella said.

Corrections 8/26/08

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Prebuying oil has saved Benvenuti Oil customers money for 15 of 16 years, according to owner Marc Mazzella, who expects similar results this year. Information in a story on page A1 in Monday’s edition was incorrect.

The Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route runs from Newport R.I., to Yorktown, Va. Information in a story on B1 of Monday’s edition was incorrect.

Pre-Buying Oil? Do Homework

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Customers who bought heating oil in advance last winter at the thenhigh price of $2.57 a gallon saved hundreds of dollars as prices rose to $4 later in the year.

Yet more than 3,000 customers with F&S Oil Co. in Waterbury who bought heating oil ahead of time with “pre-buy” contracts did not get all of the oil they paid for, and in some cases, got nothing, said Jerry Farrell Jr., commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection.

In financial turmoil, the company could not deliver.

Heading into the heating season, consumer advocates are warning consumers to be wary of pre-buy contracts, where money is paid up-front for guaranteed delivery at a fixed price.

There is heightened concern this year that some businesses will fail, says Farrell. The agency is trying to bring restitution to customers in the Waterbury case and in complaints involving two other small firms, Kady Oil of Colchester and Bazzano Oil of Norfolk, Farrell said.

Oil prices are volatile, and though they’re dropping, it’s impossible to predict what will happen in six months, he said.
“We are very careful to tell consumers they need to really think about doing a pre-buy, given the risk and the situation we could be in this winter,” Farrell said. “You could have companies on that precipice, in danger of going out of business, so the consumer needs to think the transactions through.”

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is investigating complaints from consumers that could result in up to 10 other heating oil suppliers reneging on contracts as they face insolvency. Blumenthal said he could not identify those companies, noting that consumers should thoroughly review any agreements before they sign them.

“Be wary and watchful, but avoid panicking,” he said. “The vast majority of home oil heating dealers are hardworking, honest and financially in decent shape. But obviously they face an extraordinarily challenging time.”

Pre-buying is popular

Half of the state’s 682,000 customers prefer some type of pre-buy plan, said Eugene Guilford Jr., executive director of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association.

When it comes to pre-buys, Benvenuti Oil Co. Inc. of Waterford saw customers save an average of $812 this past heating season by paying $2.57 a gallon up front. That might have seemed high at the time, but oil prices later rose to close to $4 a gallon, said owner Marc Mazzella.

Benvenuti is a full-service company that offers pre-buys, along with budget and pay-as-you-go plans, he said.

And pre-buy can be a great deal. At Benvenuti, last year was the greatest payoff for customers, and only once in 16 years did prebuy not pay off, Mazzella said.This year, he is advising customers who want to buy in advance to buy less than they need in case the price drops. He also expects them to cut back 10 percent on usage and actually recommends lowered thermostats and other conservation measures.

“I do tell my customers this and I hope it’s good advice,” he said. “It’s a mixed bag. You don’t want to own excess. There’s no history to base this on, these prices, so we have to set new rules.”

One huge misconception about the advantage of pre-buys, says Guilford, is that they guarantee savings. The only thing they guarantee is delivery of the product at the price you paid for it. And according to Farrell, even that cannot be taken for granted.

“This is a time not to do your routine transaction without thinking,” Farrell said. “Figure out approximately how much oil you’ll use and calculate out the savings you’ll get versus the possibility you won’t get the oil. There’s some chance the dealer might not be there.”

Contract binds both ways

Options other than pre-buys are available, chief among them the practice of buying oil as needed and paying the going rate. Norwich Discount Oil does that kind of business, and swears by it.

“Pre-buys right now are a waste of money,” said Vice President Fred Johnson. “I think they’re overrated.”

People who signed up in June when the price rose to almost $4 a gallon may be regretting it now that the price has dropped by 40 cents or more, Johnson said.

In the winter of 2006-2007, that is what happened, and customers, feeling deceived, tried to get out of pre-buy contracts, Guilford said.

His agency, which represents 380 of the state’s 580 heating oil dealers, had to stuff 190,000 envelopes with fliers alerting customers to the fact that just because the price went down didn’t mean customers could back out of a signed agreement.

“A contract is a contract is a contract,” Farrell added. “You sign it, you’ve got to perform. When the price drops, the consumer is paying a higher price. When price goes up, the dealer has to perform.”

Some oil dealers offer “downside protection plans” that rebate the customer if the price drops, but Guilford said those plans come at a high price – an additional 30 to 45 cents a gallon or more.

Firewood Already In Demand

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Consumers are buying firewood early this year for their fireplaces or wood stoves, according to local
tree removal companies that are selling wood by the cord.

With the pronounced run-up in oil prices over the past year, companies that sell firewood and wood stoves say many
consumers are investing in alternatives to help offset those rising energy costs.

Oil suppliers Donald Fowler, who owns Williams Oil Co. in Uncasville, and Mark Mazzella, owner of Benvenuti Oil in Waterford, say analysts are advising them to brace for the likelihood that consumers will cut back on fuel usage – either through conservation or the use of alternative sources, such as wood stoves, by anywhere between 10 percent and 20 percent this coming heating season.

Scott Bourgeois, who owns C&S Tree Removal in Niantic and Salem, said he has had orders from between 70 and 100 people in the past six weeks – and had to turn “quite a few” away.

He charges $200 for a cord of wood, up $25 from last year.

“A lot of people are trying to get orders in before the prices go up and up and up,” he added.

Typically, the season for regular customers starts in August but new requests usually don’t come in until September or October,he said.

Another woodcutter, who declined to be named, said he was too busy to be interviewed.

According to the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association, Connecticut’s 682,000 heating oil customers use 545 million gallons of heating oil annually, or approximately 800 gallons per customer. That number has declined over the past three decades because of increases in efficiency.

July’s high for wholesale heating oil at $4.23 a gallon is now down 93 cents, to $3.30 a gallon, according to Eugene Guilford Jr., the executive director of the ICPA. But winter retail prices will likely exceed $4 a gallon, according to industry observers.

“Heating oil prices not only have gone down, but are likely to continue to go down,” said Guilford. “We certainly hope people do conserve regardless of what the price is. That’s the intelligent thing to do.”

The Benvenuti firm is charging customers $4.32 a gallon to pre-buy oil for the winter.

At C&S Tree Removal, the firm usually removes trees and clears residential building lots for its supply of wood. But that has slowed as fewer homes are constructed because of the slumping housing market, Bourgeois said. So he buys most of his wood, splits it hydraulically and then delivers it by the cord.

A cord is 4 cubic feet by 4 cubic feet by 8 cubic feet of wood, tightly stacked.

Back orders for wood stoves as well as pellet stoves in some cases extend to the end of the year or beyond, said Joe Biber owner and president of the Preston Trading Post.

“We had placed huge early-buy orders, but we’re kind of coming up against the availability problems, so it’s going to be a tough season for a lot of folks who wait,” he said.

In Waterford, the Home Depot is seeing the same trend, said Jen King, a corporate spokeswoman. The store will soon carry firewood but isn’t doing so yet, she said.

Guilford of the ICPA believes that if the price of oil continues to drop, people will tire of supplementing oil heat with firewood. But the industry is volatile, and the opposite could also occur, he acknowledged.

“The charm of cozying up to the wood stove at night – the bloom comes off the rose when you realize you have to cart the wood and stoke the stove, but people will do what they have to do,” he said.

Consumers are Getting A Break From Mock Spring

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Brian Turley of Noank took advantage of the unseasonably mild weather Thursday to paint his boat.

The town of Groton’s public works department, which might have been expected to be plowing snow, repaired sidewalks
instead, said Director Gary Schneider.

At the same time, Norwich discount oil dealer Don Sanford looked out on a parking lot full of idle delivery trucks and lamented “the winter that wasn’t.”

“It’s like selling snow to the Eskimos,” he said.

Fuel prices have plunged and so has fuel usage, as Mel Goldstein and other forecasters continue to report daily temperatures climbing into the high 40s and 50s, well above normal readings for early January. The temperature
Thursday in southeastern Connecticut peaked at 55 degrees, according to Goldstein’s colleague, meteorologist Geoff Fox.

“Temperatures have been above normal since the ninth of December, and there’s really no prospect of getting below normal before early next week,” Goldstein said. “And if we do, it’ll only be temporary before it gets mild again.”

November and December were the warmest on record in Connecticut, Goldstein added.

That’s not the kind of forecast Sanford and other home-heating oil retailers want to hear. They bought oil at this summer’s premium wholesale price of $2.20 and have sold it at retail prices of 50 cents more a gallon, said Gene Guilford, executive director of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association in Cromwell. Now they can’t buy at today’s wholesale prices of $1.99 or less until they sell what they have on hand, he said.

As far as counting on the weather turning cold, Sanford was not optimistic.

“I’ve seen winters where it never does,” he said.

The oil industry records how cold the climate is and how much heating oil may be needed with a measurement called degree days. The lower the number of degree days, the warmer the season.

The normal 30-year average of a year’s worth of degree days is 2,413, Guilford said. Last year, the number was 2,313.

This year, it’s down to 1,953.

“That’s huge,” Guilford said. “That’s off 20 percent from normal,” a drop that correlates to a decrease
of 30 percent in oil consumption. “Last year at this time we had 32 inches of snow,” he said. “We’ve
gotten nothing this year. Nothing.”

Some of the reasons for the change in oil prices are mystifying, Guilford said.

“Worldwide, it started with abnormally high cost through August, and then the market absolutely collapsed,” he said. “We’re not sure why, but crude oil dropped from $78 to $57 a barrel. Then everyone assumes we’re going to have winter, but where the hell is it?

“The fact remains, this is a seasonal business. You have to earn your income as a dealer between November and March.”

Natural-gas prices also have plummeted from 64 cents per cubic foot last January to just under 35 cents this month, said Jeff Tilghman, a spokesman for Yankee Gas.

Despite not having as much work as he’d like, Sanford said his company is “getting along.” Others, like Mark Mazzella, owner of Benvenuti Oil Co. Inc. in Waterford, said full-service firms such as his can ride the wave of decreasing demand by repairing equipment and providing other services to customers.

“We don’t get concerned,” Mazzella said. “It’s a good thing for homeowners; they’re finally getting a break. In 57 years, we’ve never had a layoff. Granted, it’s a warm winter, but we’re diversified enough” to handle it.

Other entrepreneurs who sell heating-related products such as wood for wood stoves and rock salt for driveways have also seen business slow to a crawl.

“Snow shovels, ice melt, pretty much all that stuff is down” in terms of sales, said Gordon Savard, store manager for Benny’s Home and Auto Store in Waterford.

Bill Ross, a senior landscape designer at Burnett’s Landscaping in Salem, provides pay-as-you-go snow removal but says he hasn’t missed the work. His crews are happy to focus on landscaping, he said.

“It’s kind of a good thing, because we’d much rather be doing what we’re good at,” he said.

Some, like Savard and Turley, believe New England ice and snow will arrive, possibly with a vengeance, before the winter season ends.

“I’m just like everybody else,” Turley said. “I take advantage of these warm days when I can. It won’t last, I know it won’t last.

“I think we’re going to pay for it ultimately.”

Lower Prices for Heating oil Not Good news For All

Friday, October 13th, 2006

E.J. McCue decided not to lock in a fixed price for home heating oil this year, and he couldn’t be happier.

On Thursday, McCue filled the tank in his new four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home in Waterford for $2.29 a gallon. That’s a tidy savings of 43 cents a gallon when compared to the statewide average of $2.72 recorded last October by the Energy Management Unit of the state Office of Policy and Management.

“I’m just kind of rolling dice right now,” said McCue.

Heating oil costs have dropped in Connecticut to an average of $2.36, according to statistics on the OPM’s Web site.

Typically, customers either pay as they go; “pre-buy” their oil and service contracts for a fixed price; or sign a
contract for a “cap,” which limits how high the price can climb and rewards the customer with lower costs when
the price drops.

Customers like McCue, who are capitalizing on the recent drop in oil prices, are probably the exception, said
Eugene Guilford Jr., chief executive officer of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association.

Across New England, customers who banked on stable costs with a fixed pricing plan are complaining loudly, thinking the oil dealers put one over on them and arguing they should be able to renegotiate their contracts, Guilford said.

The association represents more than 459 independent Connecticut businesses, which supply most of the state’s 350 heating fuel dealers.

“What we try to emphasize, regardless of the price, is: Anybody who purchases a fixed-price option from the
dealer is literally fixing the price of their fuel,” Guilford said. “They’ve made a decision to have stability and
certainty. Nobody can tell you eight weeks from now that the price will be higher or lower, any more than they
could have told you eight weeks ago.”

“There has only been one year out of the last 14 where the average retail price went below the average fixed
price, when people were playing golf in the middle of January,” said Mark Densmore, owner of Densmore Oil
Co. in Mystic

“The key with the fixed price is really the comfort of knowing you will not pay more than that. So you’re
guaranteed a source of oil,” no matter what happens in political hot spots like Iraq or Venezuela, he said.

When the price of crude oil dropped in August and September, many consumers had already had to choose their payment plans for the coming year, said Phil Baratz of Angus Energy, a commodity trading adviser.

About a dozen people have told Densmore they are concerned that the fixed pricing plan puts them at a disadvantage. He reminds them, he said, that with a fixed plan, the customer can save about 30 cents a gallon over several seasons, while the price of oil fluctuates as much as 10 or 12 cents daily in the commodities market.

Baratz said it’s shortsighted to “Monday-morning-quarterback” the oil business.

“It’s amazing to me that customers are complaining,” he said, “because prices are coming down. Why should
your dealer renegotiate with you? You signed a contract. The notion of a contract has to go both ways.”

State law requires that companies buy and own the oil before they can sell it, so the oil companies pay the market cost and assume the risk of re-selling it. Mark Mazzella, owner of Benvenuti Oil Co. Inc. of Waterford, and Donald Fowler, a co-owner of Williams Oil Co. Inc. in Uncasville, said customers sometimes forget that.

If the price is high, “we’re stuck with it, too,” said Mazzella, referring to prices customers agreed to pay this past July.

Connecticut revised the law to require bonding and other protections for the consumer after a Newtown oil company went bankrupt, leaving its customers in the lurch, Baratz and Guilford said.

According to Baratz, the retailer pays the supplier up front for price protection in the “cap option,” which is why
that plan costs more than the fixed option. But unlike with the fixed plan, a customer with a cap is betting that
at some point oil prices will drop, Baratz said.

The cap option has been popular with 65 percent of Densmore’s clientele over the years, he said.

As for McCue, he normally prepays to lock in his heating oil price. Despite his recent coup, he said he expects
to pay in advance in the future.

That’s because, as he put it, this month’s windfall was “pure luck.”

Fuel Oil Terminal Restricts Supplies

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

The Amerada Hess terminal in Groton, which is the region’s only supplier to fuel-oil companies, has imposed a quota on its customers because of the damage to Gulf Coast refineries by Hurricane Katrina. Jay R. Wilson, vice president of investor relations for the New York-based energy company, said that all 22 of its East Coast refineries have imposed restrictions on how much oil they will sell to each of Hess’ oil-company customers to ensure that it can meet demand.

“It was a tight market to begin with,” Wilson said. He said a pipeline supplying petroleum products to several
states also was shut down because of the Gulf Coast hurricane. “The demand has remained strong, but our ability to maintain supplies on the East Coast has been difficult,” Wilson said, adding that many other major terminal operators have imposed similar quotas on their oil supplies.

Hurricane Katrina skidded across the Gulf Coast on Monday morning, causing damage to refineries there as
well as some offshore oil operations. The storm damaged refineries, fuel pipelines and terminals and production sites in several states. Officials and oil company representatives were still trying Wednesday to assess the damage and determine when some of those facilities will be back in business.

Amerada Hess, which has extensive refining, exploration and production, and retailing operations, has two fuel-oil terminals – one in Groton, the other in Wethersfield – that serve the state.

“We’ll limit the amount of product that will move out of the terminals,” Wilson said. He said fuel-oil companies
that use the terminal on Eastern Point Road in the city of Groton have been advised of Hess’ actions. He declined to say what prices are being charged at the terminal or how much they may have risen this week as crude oil prices continued to fluctuate on the commodities market.

Despite the concerns over a disruption to oil supplies, crude oil prices trading on the New York Mercantile
Exchange for October deliveries closed the day’s trading at $68.94 a barrel after floating about the $70 range.
Prices throughout the day’s trading fluctuated wildly before closing lower for the day. A barrel of crude oil
represents 42 gallons.

Marc Mazzella, director of operations for Benvenuti Oil Co. in Waterford, said the action by the Hess terminals
wasn’t surprising, given this week’s volatile energy markets. “We’ve been dealing with Hess for the past 55 years and they’ve been very good to us,” he said. “It’s not a problem right now with quotas,” he said, “because it’s 85 degrees out there.” He said that quotas during the busy winter heating season would be a far bigger problem.

Mazzella said his oil firm, founded in 1950 by his grandfather, has not experienced any supply problems. He said that 75 percent of his firm’s business is done during the four- to five-month winter heating season.

“The bigger problem right now is the price of fuel,” Mazzella said. He said he regularly follows crude-oil prices
on the mercantile exchange and has been worried about its recent heightened volatility in advance of the busy winter months, when demand puts even more pressure on existing oil supplies. And he said he’s not alone. “Even people now follow the price of crude,” Mazzella said. “It’s miraculous how educated people have become about petroleum prices,” he said.

Benvenuti Oil Is Honored

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

The Waterford Economic Development Commission, as part of its ongoing program to honor the town’s oldest businesses, has presented a certificate of recognition to Benvenuti Oil Co. The firm was founded by Gotardo and Regena Benvenuti in 1950. The family-owned business has been in continuous operation for the past 54 years. The second generation of the family, Charles Mazzella and Deborah (Benvenuti) Mazzella, began operating the company in 1968, and its third generation, their sons Mike and Marc, are actively involved in the Waterford business. Benvenuti Oil now has a fleet of five oil trucks and eight service trucks for its customers. In 1999, the firm built a 5,000-square-foot office at 17R Boston Post Road in Waterford. The firm was honored by the commission during a meeting this past month of the Waterford Division of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.