The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Face-to-Face with Congress

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted June 10, 2009

It would be hard to find a more determined group of people than the 29 women who've come to Washington this week to meet with members of Congress about energy. In their day jobs, some wear hardhats, others wear heels, but all work for an energy company.

Here, they explain why they made the trip:

Louisiana native Aisha Ragas, senior geologist with Anadarko Petroleum: "I'm a geologist. Most of us get in this field for one reason: because we love the earth. Many of these negative connotations about the oil industry and the environment are difficult to hear because they couldn't be further from the truth." She adds, "The oil and gas industry is many faces. It's not just middle-aged men. It's women, too. We are from all different ethnic, socio-economic backgrounds. We have different career paths--some are scientists, others are managers, some are field or rig workers. But all of our jobs are valuable, and we all care about what everyone else cares about: doing our jobs well, taking care of our families and giving back to the community."

Ragas' colleague Thuy Rocque, a petroleum engineer with Anadarko, fled Vietnam with her family in a small wooden boat in 1975. She notes, "People would be surprised at the advanced technology we use to safely produce oil and gas."

Melissa Erker, a ConocoPhillips refinery worker in Illinois: "I want to tell policymakers that if they do not make the right decisions now, they could put an industry out of business. It would have a devastating effect on our community where 50 percent of the budget for the local school district comes from the oil industry."

Cheryl Gomez, an ExxonMobil technical engineering manager, has worked in Qatar and is heading to the Russian Sakhalin oil and natural gas facility: "Maybe it's my unique perspective, having worked around the world, but I really want to stress to those in Congress that U.S. companies need to compete with other countries around the globe. Many areas in which we are given access to develop oil and gas in the United States are mature and declining fields. We need to be given access to new areas or we simply aren't going to be able to compete."

Lynne Hackedorn, vice president of land with Cobalt International Energy, pursues niche opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico: "I want Congress to understand that oil and natural gas companies risk tremendous amounts of capital to drill wells in the Gulf of Mexico with only about a 30 percent chance of finding oil or gas. Then we have to drill appraisal wells--at additional costs--to determine if the discovery is economically feasible. In the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, a discovery is economically feasible if it can support a $1 billion-plus platform."

Today the women wrap up their visits on Capitol Hill. I'll share their observations about their meetings in another post soon.