The member spotlight series features OOGA members making an impact with their membership. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Brad Miller at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The afternoon that Will Ratcliffe sat down with OOGA for this spotlight, he was waiting to find out whether his next action would be traveling back home to see his family or boarding a flight to Houston later that evening
“That happens from time to time, having to travel on short notice. My wife loves it,” he said with a smirk.
More concrete on his upcoming calendar were work trips to Seattle, WA and Medora, ND.
Such is the reality when you are the Manager of Regulatory Affairs for Williams, a natural gas transmission, gathering and processing company made up of more than 5,000 employees with assets in 24 states and about 30,000 miles of pipelines.
Ratcliffe’s professional career has taken him all over the country, beginning in South Charleston, WV, where he was born and raised. Today, his mailbox is in Pittsburgh, PA, but that doesn’t mean his fondness for the Mountain State has diminished.
“I still think of West Virginia as my true home,” he said. “As many other West Virginians I’m very partial to my home state, as I presume many folks in Ohio are as well.”
Although his family background doesn’t include anyone directly connected to oil and gas, going back a couple generations there were several coal miners. and rowing up in Appalachia, he was certainly exposed to the energy industry.
“When I was a little kid, white trucks on the road were prevalent,” he said. “You’d see coal company trucks and natural gas company trucks. Frankly, I never really thought of going into the energy industry until I got to college.”
At West Virginia University, Ratcliffe earned a degree in environmental science with an emphasis in geology. His first job out of college, in the Charleston branch at Thrasher Engineering, was focused on environmental consulting. This included natural resource permitting, wetland delineations and natural stream designs for several clients, many of whom were energy companies.
A couple years later, he had the opportunity to move to Newport News, VA, working in the shipyard business with a focus on hiring shipyard employees and doing environment, health and safety trainings. That job took him all along the East Coast, including quite a bit of time in Florida.
Then following a one-year stint as an environmental consultant in Raleigh, NC, it was back to his home state of West Virginia, working at Terradon Corporation. For one of his projects, he obtained all the necessary permits for a compressor station for client Chesapeake Energy.
“Apparently I did a reasonably good enough job for them because, when the manager I was working for moved to upstate New York to figure out what this whole Marcellus thing was supposed to look like on the pipeline side, he gave me a call and wanted to know if I could come help him navigate the permitting process for Chesapeake..”
He accepted that opportunity on April 9, 2009, and he’s “been on a bit of an acquisition/divestiture roller coaster since then.” Chesapeake Energy broke off its midstream assets into a wholly owned subsidiary, Chesapeake Midstream, which later sold its assets to a private equity firm to create Access Midstream, and in 2015 Williams bought Access Midstream.
At Williams, Ratcliffe focuses primarily on the eastern states (he has a counterpart dedicated to the western states).
“I pretty much get engaged where my company needs help in any state this side of the Mississippi,” said Will.
As Manager of Regulatory Affairs, he engages on a wide array of policy and regulatory issues that may arise in respective state capitols. That requires closely tracking public policy, working with various trade associations like OOGA and reviewing and communicating with his internal team to ensure the company has the right processes in place to follow new laws and regulations.
“With a company this large and a huge asset base, there are a lot of different relationships you have to maintain in as many states that we’re in,” he said. “There’s just so many moving pieces in each respective state that you need groups that are dedicated to developing relationships in each sector, like local communities, non-governmental organizations, regulators, etc.”
Besides serving on the Executive Committee and as chair of the Midstream Committee for OOGA, he is also the Vice Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), serves on several committees for WVONGA, as well as the Health and Environmental Committee for the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and is currently working on a report for the National Petroleum Council that focuses on infrastructure development.
While he believes the industry is approaching a time when we’re having to buckle up a little bit tighter, he is optimistic about the future.
“I feel strong undertones of resiliency. With every hard time and burden, other opportunities are created that I think the industry will be able to take advantage of.”
And he believes organizations like OOGA will continue to help. The many benefits of being an Association member, he says, probably don’t get the credit they deserve all the time.
“OOGA has been a really consistent voice within this state for oil and gas operators through all of the peaks and valleys,” he said. “It’s not always good times and it’s not always hard times. To try to hit the ball down the middle of the fairway throughout is very difficult. [OOGA] has done a fantastic job of maintaining its posture and significance throughout all of the different scenarios. I think any good organization is the manifestation of its leadership, and I definitely think the work that the OOGA team has done proves that out.”
As for his own participation in OOGA, he has seen the value of becoming involved early on and remaining engaged both as a committee chair and, now, as a member of the executive committee. He encourages all members to take an active role in their Association through joining committees, participating in phone calls, attending meetings and taking advantage of networking opportunities.
Moving forward, he thinks the industry needs to modernize its fundamentals in order to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape, from following new regulations to handling increased public input that is changing the way the industry operates.
“Anything we do now, it seems like there are eyes on it, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” he said. “It helps us be accountable to ourselves and is an opportunity for effective growth. That’s another area where OOGA has been really essential in helping all of the industry in Ohio balance it out and be the light for the path forward.”
Shortly after his spotlight interview, Ratcliffe learned that he would not need to fly to Houston after all. But if the past is a reliable indicator, he will have plenty more upcoming opportunities to travel the countryside.