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  • Rory Sweeney

The Job Responsibility You Probably Didn't Discuss During Your Interview Process

I read an article the other day about solar developers bemoaning issues engaging with landowners on securing land leases for development in western Pennsylvania, and it immediately took me back about half a decade to identical frustrations from another part of the energy sector: oil and natural gas exploration-and-production companies. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've worked with the company for whom the landman quoted in the article works -- land leasing is land leasing, no matter what you're leasing it for. And apparently, according to the article, landowner concerns (and media reporting on those concerns) remain the same as well. Agriculture and land-preservation interests worry about major, long-term changes to prime farmland and bucolic landscapes, while energy developers assure that, once installed, the infrastructure is so innocuous as to eventually go unnoticed and, either way, only around for a few decades (though presumably not the transmission lines installed to carry the electricity generated to urban load-centers). Anecdotally, I've heard similar concerns about similar development in similarly rural areas of Virginia and North Carolina, so it's a widely-held perspective that goes beyond the Keystone State. It's important for people in urban and affluent areas, who tend to be consumers of power and generally disconnected (pun somewhat intended) from the details of electricity generation, to be informed about the wider issues their demands generate (ok, that one was fully intended) -- but a complicated industry such as ours is understandably very hard for others to fully grasp. That's why it's an unspoken job responsibility for all of us, as our society presses for continued transition in the power industry, to be well and fully informed -- both the good and the bad, what benefits us professionally and what does not -- to help explain what all the changes mean. The consequences of misinformed decisions and demands are too important to ignore that call. Perhaps if consumers knew of the concerns, they'd be more interested in local solutions to their power needs. Or maybe not. But we'll never know unless we actively pursue those conversations (repeatedly).

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