Environmental Engineer

Christopher Martinez

Tell us about your work---what do you do? All aspects of environmental work for an oil & gas gathering and processing company . For instance; air and water permitting , waste disposal , reporting, and reclaiming of abandoned industrial locations . What skills are needed? Excellent communication and negotiation skills. A solid foundation of math and chemistry knowledge are also essential. What was your major? Chemical and Petroleum Refining Engineering How did you get started in your career? I was doing process engineering for a large chemical company for about a year out of college. The environmental group needed some help with obtaining an air permit for a planned expansion of one of the processes at our plant. They said it would take six months to a year. They offered a position to me to stay and I've been doing environmental work ever since (8 years). What experience do you need in this job? Scheduling is a big plus. Often there are 10 -- 20 projects/permits being started or in some phase of completion. Knowledge of regulations is also helpful but this is most easily achieved by having good resources of the information when you need it. I definitely do not know all of the environmental regulations on the "books" but I know where the "books" are located. Describe your "typical" workday: I usually come in early, check my white board for the highest priority project -- it's usually a toss up between an air permit application , water discharge permit application , paying invoices from projects, or scheduling field people to be on-site somewhere. The scheduling of personnel takes some time and phone calls so that is taken care of first. Then I begin or finish the application of most importance either before or after lunch. Somebody inevitably schedules a meeting after lunch to go over project progress and cost estimates. The rest of the day is either working on another application or paying invoices or preparing a new project. What is the hardest aspect of your job? The fact that environmental projects don't have any tangible financial benefits. It is very difficult to get projects approved when you can't show any revenue. There are benefits such as improved land owner relations, elimination of liability, and improved relations with State and Federal agencies. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Completion. It is very rewarding when you see an old gas plant dismantled and the site reclaimed and put back to use by a farmer or rancher. Also, knowing that the success of the company depends on you being able to obtain permits when needed is also gratifying. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? Talk to everyone you can. When I first started out of college I was terrified to call anyone. Couldn't get much done that way. Now I learn something new every day from someone I met six months ago at a conference or other meeting. People even call me to ask my opinion on topics/discussions which I am actively participating. You can make long lasting friendships or professional working relationships. Both are very valuable when you find yourself in a pinch.