Energy expert has more than 30 years in the business - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Energy expert has more than 30 years in the business

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Energy Corporation of America, or ECA, Senior Vice President and General Counsel Don Supcoe started working for the company in 1981.

ECA was founded in 1963 in Glenville, where it has since grown into a company that stretches throughout the country. The company is involved in the exploration and extraction, gathering and transportation of natural gas. It handles the entire process, starting with obtaining a property, through getting the valid permits, contacting a third party contractor for equipment and drilling the wells.

Supcoe said when he started 34 years ago, the company had about 20 employees but today about 300 people in five states (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Montana and Texas) work for ECA.

As senior vice president, Supcoe organizes various transactions, drafts documents and handles litigation. He also is responsible for operations east of the Mississippi.

The State Journal recently asked Supcoe about his more than three decades of experience in the industry.

The State Journal: What is the most challenging part about what you do?

Don Supcoe: I think right now, there are a couple things that are extremely challenging. Dealing with the success the Marcellus has had, we've kept prices down for the consumer, but on the flip side you're always trying to cut cost and make sure you can remain competitive in the environment. I think we've been successful in doing that. I think ECA is good at adapting to change, because we're extremely flexible to the changing environment. Marcellus is a fabulous opportunity for this whole area.

TSJ: How do you adapt to the changing environment of the industry?

DS: The business has changed over the last five to seven years with the onset of horizontal drilling. In some spots the biggest problem is trying to get consistency in regulatory oversight and compliance. Consistency in the regulatory environment is what everyone needs; it's inconsistency that causes the problem.

TSJ: Do you receive, as a company, any backlash from the environmental community?

DS: At ECA, we strive to be environmentally conscious. We employ industry-best practices to maximize safety for our employees and communities, and minimize impacts of the environment. Our well casings include multiple layers of steel and cement to isolate our operations from water supplies and surrounding geology. Our sites are outfitted with secondary containment to avoid discharges to the environment. And, we utilize the latest technologies, like horizontal drilling, to minimize impacts at the surface.

But equally important is this: Our industry can work very well with environmental advocates. Thanks in large part to the growth of natural gas, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have fallen to levels not seen since the early 1990s. that is a tremendous decrease. Natural gas is a critical support to the development of renewable energies. This is because both wind and solar sources of power fluctuate. So, natural gas becomes an ideal back-up fuel when the winds die down and the sun sets.

I think you have to appreciate and accept their opinions. Unfortunately, there has been a significant amount of false information out there about the industry. I think it is because there has been a dramatic increase in drilling over the last few years. And, our activities, especially horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, are substantially increasing the domestic energy supply, but that process is not well understood. So misinformation proliferates. The industry has made significant efforts to change that and I think ECA has done a good job at staying in front of it.

TSJ: What is the natural gas industry's relationship with the coal industry?

DS: I think you've seen that the evolution in the relationship between the natural gas and coal industries, over the last several years, is probably friendly competition. I think all of us in the natural gas industry who experienced the mid '80s and early '90s are somewhat sympathetic to what coal is going through right now. It's my opinion that coal and natural gas are going to be the two main drivers over the next 20 to 30 years for electric innovation. So, both sectors need to continue to figure out a way to cooperate with each other and I think they have. My brother's in the coal supply business.