Last week, we spoke with The Markosky Engineering Group’s Environmental Services Division Manager David Cutlip and Environmental Sciences Department Manager Jason Harkcom to learn more about their firm and discuss their capabilities in assisting oil and natural gas companies in the Appalachian Basin. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. To start, could you introduce The Markosky Engineering Group?
David Cutlip: We’re a full-service engineering and environmental firm that works mainly on transportation and oil/gas projects. Our main office is located in Ligonier, Pa., which is approximately fifty miles east of Pittsburgh. We also have offices in Charleston, West Virginia and Steubenville, Ohio. We currently have over 70 employees in these offices. Founded in 1999, we are certified as a woman-owned business in PA, OH, WV, and VA. Our oil and gas services include ESCGP Permitting & Compliance Inspections, Well Pad and Access Road Design, Wetland/Stream Delineation/Permitting, Roadway Permitting & Inspections, Driveway Permits (HOP), T&E Species Coordination, Rare Plant Botanical Surveys including Running Buffalo Clover, Small Whorled Pogonia, Wetland & Stream Mitigation design, Phase I/II ESAs, and Cultural Resource Investigations.
Q. How do you support your clients in the energy space?
DC: We started the Environmental Services Division in 2012 when the Marcellus oil and gas business was booming. Through past working relationships, we were given an opportunity to provide ESCGP and Chapter 105 permitting on a pipeline project. We gained a lot of experience on the first couple of projects and were able to gain the trust of our client. We also had experienced staff that could do E&S, stormwater, wetlands and streams permitting. It just made sense to diversify the business and transition from transportation work into the booming oil and gas industry, especially when the majority of the work was in our area.
On the oil and gas side of our business, most of the work that we do is pipeline, well pad design and environmental permitting. We also have experience providing roadway permitting, site design, construction inspection services, and environmental compliance inspections. We have the experience and provide all the key environmental services for the oil and gas industry.
Jason Harkcom: I am the Environmental Sciences Department Manager. My group is responsible for natural resource investigations, preparation of DEP Chapter 105 permits. Environmental Site Assessments to determine the potential for hazardous or residual wastes are also conducted in the Environmental Sciences Department. Resource surveys allow our clients to proceed with installing their pipelines, getting their permits reviewed. Our clients are mostly located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and we have a few in Ohio.
DC: We have great relationships with the federal, state, and local agencies, which is essential for obtaining environmental documents and permit approvals in a timely manner. We understand what they require and that allows us to get our permits submitted on time and get quick approval with minimal comments. We’re proud of that and we’re able to do that while still maintaining competitive rates for our clients.
Q. What sets The Markosky Engineering Group apart from other engineering and environmental consultancy firms?
DC: We like to think that the quality of our work and our client relationships set us apart. It’s hard to get your foot in the door with any client, but once we do, we take that opportunity to show them that we listen to their needs and provide the quality work and plans that they expect. We have a very collaborative group of employees with experience and talent that work together to provide innovative solutions to the many challenges encountered in obtaining the environmental permits for the oil and gas projects. For example, our environmental engineers work very closely with the environmental scientists to complete macroinvertebrate sampling and identification. The environmental scientist can perform the infiltration testing needed to complete the stormwater designs. Some of our engineers have assisted with providing botanical surveys. Because we are a smaller company, our employee’s skills need to be diverse. It works well for us.
Importantly, it allows us to obtain permits without delays, which is difficult to do these days. We’re attentive and give our clients what they want and need, and we know what the agencies want so we can deliver on that end as well. Recently, we were given the opportunity to be a part of the MSC’s pilot program with the PADEP Southwest Regional Office. The pilot program was a partnership effort between the MSC, the oil and gas industry and the PADEP to submit quality and complete ESCGP-2 permit applications. In return the PADEP would issue the permit approvals within a shorter time frame. There were thirteen or fourteen projects selected for the pilot program, and our client’s project was one of them. We worked very closely with the MSC and our client to prepare the required checklist and quality permit application and plans. The permit applications were submitted and it was determined the application was administratively complete within a week. The technical review was completed the following week and three or four technical comments were received. The comments were addressed immediately and the permit was issued within three weeks. Compared to the typical timeframe of 60 to 120 days, three weeks represents significant time and cost savings.
Q. What value have you experienced since becoming a member of the MSC?
JH: We’ve been MSC members for about four or five years now.The engagement the MSC has with state regulators – DEP, PennDOT – and the ability to stay ahead of the curve and provide guidance on what regulation changes are coming our way has been very beneficial for us. Another benefit is the relationships. Being on the consulting side, we get to network and build relationships with different members that are part of different committees. At the MSC you get to build a better relationship with these people because you end up working together in committees.
Q. If there is one thing you want to tell a neighbor who is unfamiliar with the industry, what would that be?
DC: The oil and gas industry gets a bad rap sometimes. The public may think the industry is not environmentally conscious. The companies we work with are very environmentally conscientious. Our clients are very concerned about the environment; they take their jobs seriously. They design environmental BMP’s to meet the regulatory requirements, install the BMP’s and inspect them weekly to ensure they are functioning as designed. They hire experienced quality professionals to complete these tasks. The oil and gas industry is heavily scrutinized by the regulatory agencies and our clients make every effort to protect the environment and comply with these regulations.
JH: One of the benefits that I really see coming from the oil and natural gas resource is the ability to create good jobs for a lot of people in in a diversity of industries. This is occurring in localities that have been depressed due to losses of manufacturing in the upper Ohio Valley region. I think that is such an important benefit of this resource.