Last week, we spoke with Lauren Parker and Emily Chiodo of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) to learn about the company and the wide array of services it provides for the Marcellus energy industry. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. Tell us about CEC.
LP: We are a nationwide engineering and environmental consulting firm that serves seven different industries, of which oil and gas is one. This is our thirtieth year in operation. Four individuals – three engineers and one geologist – started the company in 1989 here in Pittsburgh, which remains our headquarters office today. It grew from those four founders to now over 1,000 employees in twenty-three offices located in fifteen states.
Interestingly, CEC is an employee-owned company now. We have 450+ employees who own stock in the company, and the founders are transitioning their ownership of the company to the employees. I think that’s different from a lot of companies, in that as the owners age and retire, it’s a smooth transition. Because of this model, also, there’s definitely a lot more ownership over your work. If we do well, we reap the benefits in stocks that we all own.
Q. As shale development went underway in the Basin about a decade ago, would you say CEC used that as an opportunity for growth?
LP: Definitely. Although we have twenty-three different offices, many of which are outside of the Appalachian Basin, the work we do here makes up about 35% of our revenue. We opened our office in Sayre, which recently relocated to Athens, Pa., specifically to serve the natural gas market. Now that office has grown organically by its own right.
EC: Oil and gas is a good fit for us, because the industry touches all our practice areas. There are aspects of air, engineering, land development, ecological, water, survey, waste management … so it can impact all disciplines within the firm. Everyone who works at CEC could have a hand in contributing to an oil and gas project at some point.
Q. What stands CEC apart?
LP: We offer so many different services. We’re a true one-stop shop. We have surveyors, the ecological staff for stream and wetlands, botanists, rare plant and animal specialists, cultural resources … the list goes on and on. We can literally take a project from the very beginning all the way to a finished product. There aren’t a lot of firms that can do that.
EC: On a resources level, too, we have horsepower and speed. I think that’s one of the things that our clients appreciate. When they need something, we are responsive. We always return calls and emails quickly, get answers, and identify solutions. We also have a deep bench that can take on a lot of work and get things turned around quickly.
Q. Where do you see the value in being an MSC member?
LP: It’s been very beneficial. We’ve had a lot of success being engaged in the Marcellus Shale Coalition and volunteering our time. I was a vice-chair of the Midstream and Pipeline Committee for four and a half years, and I did have to put a ton of time in, but it provided me the opportunity to get up in front of potential clients and current clients every other month—and for a while there we met every month—and talk about issues. It allowed me to attend meetings with the Department of Environmental Protection as an MSC representative and really be on the forefront of upcoming regulations. I became a resource to clients, because they saw me as an expert. It gave me a platform to showcase my knowledge and experience, as well as the knowledge and experience of CEC, that I otherwise might not have had.
Q. What is one thing you would tell a friend or neighbor about the natural gas development?
LP: I was recently at a function for my church, and a few new ladies asked what I did. I said I was a civil engineer and started talking about the different industries CEC serves and mentioned natural gas. And one woman perked up and asked, “Oh, like that fracking?” And I responded, “Actually, they are environmentally sound in what they do and are highly regulated. A lot of oversight is done on behalf of the Department [of Environmental Protection]. There is a lot of time and effort put into making sure sites are designed properly and permitted properly, and they’re doing a good job.” So, I think that’s the biggest thing I like to share with people that don’t know much about it. There is a lot of oversight, regulation and effort that goes into preparing and permitting these sites before companies even go out and build them.
EC: I would also add that the industry does a lot through its own initiatives. Many of the large companies initiate increased standards, sometimes above and beyond what’s being asked by DEP. They’re creating best management practices that can often guide the standards set by the DEP. It’s a genuine effort on the part of the industry.
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