EnCana Community Conversation
by Dawn Ballou, Editor, Pinedale Online!
May 3, 2007
EnCana USA held a “community conversation” at Rendezvous Pointe in Pinedale on Wednesday, April 2nd. Approximately 25 people showed up to listen to what they had to say and ask questions. Present were Chris House, EnCana’s Production Operator; Randy Teeuwen, EnCana Community Relations Advisor; EnCana field people for various aspects of their operations, a JIO representatives, Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman, Congressional delegation representatives, Western Wyoming Community College oil & gas program representatives, Town of Pinedale representatives, Laurie Latta with the Sublette County Coalition, Sublette County Sheriff’s Office representatives, media, and various concerned citizens.
Noticeably absent were representatives of environmental groups and vocal organizations who have been very outspoken about the pace of development in the Upper Green.
Chris House began the session with general information about EnCana’s operations. He said the company is pulling out approximately 700 million cubic feet of gas a day from their wells. They plan to drill 150 wells this year. Currently they have about 13 wells being drilled. The company is doing a variety of environmentally-sensitive drilling methods including using more wooden mats to protect the well pad surface from disturbance and using more natural gas powered wells which create less air pollution. House said the company is actively trying to find ways to consolidate and centralize their drilling activities so they are more efficient, create less of a footprint, create less of an impact on the ground, and to the volume of traffic on roads.
House said the company is very aggressive in their reclamation programs. Crews get out on the well pad as soon as completion is done on the well and start reclamation activities, which include seeding, fertilizer applications and even irrigation.
Below are some highlights of other points raised during the meeting.
WORKFORCE AND HOUSING
- When asked about what they anticipated the workforce would be for the rigs that will be brought in, House said they expected to have about 400 workers.
- When asked where those workers would be housed, he said they had plans to build a new man camp on the southern edge of the Jonah field for those people. The man camp would help open up motel rooms in nearby towns and put workers closer to their jobs. The camps are fully catered, have internet access, TVs and recreation facilities.
- Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Jim Whinnery asked about security at the man camps. He was concerned that the location was remote and their officer response time would be long should incidents occur. Randy Teeuwen commented that these workers do shifts of 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. They are busy working and don’t have a lot of free time off. On their off-time, they go back to their homes and families that live in other places. So the company does not feel that most of those people would eventually be merging into the community and be part of the local housing need issue. Some would, they said, but many live the oil and gas field “transitory lifestyle” that puts them moving around from job to job in various locations and not settling down into the areas where they are working. They emphasized that this transitory lifestyle did not mean they were “transients” without homes or family base. These folks generally have their wives and homes in a stable place, with their kids in school, and the husbands follow the work in the gas industry as needed.
- House said the company has an average of 800 total workers in the field at any given time for all the various aspects of their operations of construction, drilling, completion, clean-up and reclamation. They expect that number of workers to stay fairly steady over time.
- Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman commented that government is reluctant to step into the housing issues and feels private enterprise should work to solve the problem.
- Randy Teeuwen, EnCana Community Relations Advisor, commented that the large, expensive homes being built now probably wouldn’t help with the housing issue for people in the service industry. He said what was needed is rental opportunities in the way of apartments and trailer courts. Many of these people probably wouldn’t be interested in buying homes, and don’t make enough money to afford the homes that are on the market here now.
- Wildlife-monitoring and related projects are being done by various people and groups for a wide range of wildlife species, from insects to big game (deer, pygmy rabbits, burrowing owls, to name some species). They are looking at soil types, vegetation, cover, canopy, etc for various species. The Jonah Interagency Office (JIO) is helping put money towards a wide range of projects for mitigation of impacts of the gas fields.
COOPERATION WITH LOCAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT AND AGENCIES
- Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman commented that all the big gas companies have been really good about working with the county on anything the county has asked for. One of their biggest concerns at the moment is roads and the impacts all the heavy truck traffic is having tearing up the highway surfaces, which are very expensive to maintain. The county is looking at putting in a paved industry access road, an “Energy Road”, from south of Pinedale down through the gas fields. EnCana officials asked how much it would cost? Bousman said they estimate the cost would be $1 million per mile and he guessed they were looking at 20 plus miles needed. Others said they thought it would be closer to 40 miles to reach Jonah.
- Bousman said the commissioners would like to have regular monthly meetings with the energy companies to discuss energy and community/socioeconomic needs so everyone can work together to better problem solve and address issues.
- Pinedale Online asked if the company, or industry, had any plans to create some sort of central place where people could go to get information about available jobs in Sublette County in the oil and gas industry. Because there are so many companies involved, and such a wide variety of jobs, it is difficult for someone from out of the area to find information on job opportunities. Some of the smaller support companies advertise in the local newspapers with their current job listings, however only one of the papers has their classifieds online (Sublette Examiner). The larger companies work with the State of Wyoming job placement office. Also, the Wyoming Contractors Association has a website that serves as a job clearinghouse (www.wyomingcontractors.org) for rig workers (welders, truck drivers, rig hands). The Rocky Mountain Oil and Training Center in Casper has a great program to train workers for working in the gas field, and a good job placement record.
- One of the more exciting things we heard about at this meeting related to jobs was all the things Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs is doing to train workers and place them in oil and gas-field related jobs. Western Wyoming Community College has course and hands-on training in Oil and Gas Production Technology. They offer core courses related to natural gas field that prepare students to be workers as Production Technicians. They offer a two-year Applied Science in Oil & Gas Production Technology and a summer paid internship in the field. These courses train students to fill the jobs of the needed workers who maintain the well sites after initial drilling is complete. “The number of available jobs far outstrips the availability of workers.” These workers generally work rotating shifts, perform tasks requiring good mental and physical aptitude and work with a variety of materials and equipment. They have a new program in Compression Technology. This is to train the people who will maintain the compression equipment after the drill rigs are gone, so these are long-term jobs, great for people who want to stay in the area in a stable job in the industry. The college has arrangements with various companies to have immediate job opening placement for graduates of this program. These jobs have The college has scholarships and other financial aid available. For more information, call Western Wyoming Community College at 1-800-226-1181 or 307-382-1648 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Kudos to EnCana for being a significant financial contributor to Western Wyoming Community College to help make these oil and gas workforce training programs possible at the college!
- (Editor's Note, shameless plug) Pinedale Online also offers our new JOB BOARD for local area "Help Wanted" job listings, www.pinedalejobs.com, which more and more of the oil and gas-related companies are using as a place to advertise their local job openings to reach those looking for jobs online.