Madeleine Smith: Stakeholder Interview

Q&A with Field Compliance Coordinator Susan L.

*(views expressed here do not reflect those of her company)

Susan L. has been with her company (she requested that the company be kept confidential and her last name was omitted to ensure that) for about three years, now as a Field Compliance Coordinator.  Currently she visits North Dakota and Montana, two major boom states, every couple of weeks.  Her primary job is to make sure that after locations are drilled that they are in compliance with the various regulatory agencies. 

1. What is your job title and what does your job entail? 

Susan commonly checks for things like proper labels on locations, that proper metals were used to construct pipelines, well signs include all required information and are plainly visible, and the well site has security diagrams.  The Environmental Health and Safety group within the company deals with compliance issues and checks for Spill Prevention Controls and Countermeasures (SPCC) plans.   

2. What are the main pros and cons of fracking from your point of view?

According to Susan, a couple of the major advantages of fracking include a positive move toward a greener energy use and energy independence.  Obviously the U.S. cannot completely cut off petroleum use, but natural gas has the power to slowly ease the country off of oil use.  She says, “If we can wean off of one dirty product, maybe in the future we can move into more wind power.”  The biggest downside to fracking is obviously environmental pollution and she recognizes that the industry is a double-edged sword.  Although she does cite the negative connotations that accompany the fracking industry, she says that “a lot has been changed and been updated in the fracking industry.”  She notes that people want the profit and economy but not in their own backyard, which is the source of most conflicts

3.  Who are the primary groups and organizations you work with to regulate? Specifically in Colorado?

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) serves as the primary national regulator and the regional offices located in various locations around each state work very hard with companies drilling to make sure that everything is being properly regulated and taken care of.  Each county or city can set a lot of regulations of its own as long as these regulations meet the state and federal laws.  A couple of the Colorado state governing entities are COGCC and COGA.

4.  How do you believe the industry is working to improve fracking regulations?

Within her company, Susan  cites many other positions like hers that have become much more common for companies trying to regulate better from within.  Companies do not want to pollute or cause issues and know that it will only benefit them to have a good reputation in the eyes of the public.  Employees like Susan take a proactive role in following federal and state guidelines by keeping all of their observations and issues filed to show state inspectors should they come.  State officials conduct their own investigations, but having background information readily available makes the process much more quick and effective.  Groups like the Environmental Health and Safety group are working to make sure public and employee health are a top priority for the company as well.  As mentioned above, SPCC plans have also become a staple for the company and basically she says, “We have to hold the plan and if anyone requests it, it has to be ready and available on-site or at the office nearby.”