Perspectives: Christine Lederer, Rowan Companies: Drilling industry must better publicize its efforts to reduce environmental impact

By Kelli Ainsworth Robinson, Associate Editor

Christine Lederer is an Environmental Specialist with Rowan Companies.
Christine Lederer is an Environmental Specialist with Rowan Companies.

While the general public is aware of the impacts that oil and gas activities have on environments, they are often not aware of the significant efforts that the industry undertakes to reduce its environmental footprint. Christine Lederer, Environmental Specialist with Rowan Companies, is working to change that. “One of the things I’ve been trying to work on is increasing the public visibility of our efforts to be a responsible corporate citizen,” she said, citing Rowan’s forthcoming first sustainability report. “It will highlight the things we do that aren’t required by law but where we go above and beyond for our employees and local communities.”

Before joining the oil and gas industry, Ms Lederer spent 15 years in the legal field, including as a legal secretary and paralegal. In 2001, she decided to join the US Navy after the 9/11 attacks. “Most of my family has been in the military, and I just felt a strong sense of duty to sign up after the attacks happened,” she said, adding that she served in the Navy as a gas turbine mechanic after scoring high on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Unfortunately, she had to be honorably discharged a year later due to a medical condition, at which time she decided to go back to school at Hawaii Pacific University.

Resuming her legal career after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2005, Ms Lederer soon realized that she should go further in her studies and obtain a law degree, since she was essentially already doing the same work as a lawyer. “It was a natural progression,” she said of her decision to enroll at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 2007. The school allowed law students to simultaneously pursue a Master’s degree in another field, including environmental studies – an area that interested Ms Lederer. Further, she “thought law and environmental policy management complemented each other really well.”

In 2012, she joined the drilling industry as an HSE Specialist with Parker Drilling. Responsibilities included reviewing contracts for HSE liability, helping to set the company’s HSE policies and procedures, and conducting audits to ensure compliance. In this role, Ms Lederer found that many of the skills that served her well in the legal field – such as analysis, research and troubleshooting – were also beneficial in HSE. For instance, when conducting audits, she had to ask the right questions in order to get the information she needed. “In the legal field, you always want to ask open-ended questions. It’s the same when you’re investigating an event or conducting an audit; you’re trying to gather information rather than asking the question in a leading way.”

In mid-2015, Ms Lederer began her current job at Rowan. As an Environmental Specialist, she ensures that rigs comply with environmental regulations and company policies, oversees internal reporting relating to waste, discharges and emissions; maintains permits; and attends and supervises regulatory inspections and investigations. She also regularly communicates and negotiates with both US and international regulatory agencies about permits, as well as about air and wastewater discharge regulations.

One regulatory challenge that Ms Lederer said she’s trying to address is redundant reporting and/or recordkeeping requirements, particularly in the US. Because some of the same documentation is required for the International Maritime Organization as for the US  Coast Guard or the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it can be time-consuming to fill out redundant paperwork. Rowan is now working to develop a central repository of information related to recordkeeping, with the aim of streamlining the reporting process, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Using this system, the rig crew only has to enter information one time. Depending on what reports they need to fill out, they can just go in and print out what they need based on the information they’ve entered,” she said.

Further, Ms Lederer is leading an effort within the company to develop a method for tracking the amount of waste that’s generated on a drilling rig that ends up in a landfill. “In our industry, it’s hard to reduce the amount of waste we generate, but what we do with the waste can make the difference,” she said. For instance, she said, oily rags and filters are recycled. Paint that goes unused could be returned to the manufacturer for them to repurpose.

Since joining the industry in 2012, Ms Lederer has been active within the IADC HSE Committee and last year began a two-year term as Committee Co-chair. One task that the group undertook in 2017 was submitting comments to the EPA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Western Gulf of Mexico General Permit Reissuance. Drilling contractors had several concerns regarding the reissuance and noted them in the submitted comments. They included language around permit coverage during warm stack periods, sanitary waste monitoring requirements, marine sanitation devices and cooling water intake structures. “The committee actively seeks input from members to identify HSE trends that need addressing and develops work groups to brainstorm practical solutions. We also work to ensure the voice of drilling contractors is heard in response to anticipated and proposed regulations,” Ms Lederer said. “In 2018, we’ll be working to address HSE concerns as they arise, as well as reactivating the Environmental Subcommittee.” DC

About the author

Kelli Ainsworth has a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas. She has been writing for Drilling Contractor since 2014.


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