As part of FracTracker’s staff spotlight series, learn more about Gwen Lehman and how she first got involved in working with FracTracker Alliance and studying the oil and gas industry.
Time with FracTracker: 3 years
Education: Currently completing an Associate’s degree in Health Sciences
Office Location: Camp Hill, PA
Title: Manager of Operations
What do you actually do in that role?
This roll consists of working with all staff at an administrative level and assisting with benefits, HR related issues, and connecting them with articles or points of interest as they come across my desk. Just like other staff at FracTracker, I wear many different hats – from event planner to office manager. I also conduct budget reviews and management, invoicing, purchasing, arranging appointments and conference calls. Much of my work is behind the scenes, which I enjoy. I work directly with the Executive Director to assist in a variety of ways, monitor grant budgets, track expenses, manage paperwork, and follow state regulations from the various state offices where staff work.
Previous Position and Organization
I previously worked for the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association as a Communications Specialist and Administrative Assistant – creating the monthly e-newsletter, reviewing topics for outreach, working on sponsorships and events, and conducting administrative duties.
How did you first get involved working on oil and gas issues / fracking?
About 30 years ago I heard an oceanographer talk about the then-visible effects of carbon emissions on the ocean life and the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change. What was current then was from use of fossil fuels 25 years earlier, and unless drastic measures were taken soon, the negative impacts on the natural world would be too late to return to a good normal.
About 7 or 8 years ago, I was staying at the lodge in Cook’s State Forest, Clarion county, PA and was awakened at dark-thirty by heavy trucks going by the lodge on this small rural road. The noise began to pick up as the day progressed, and as I was hiking I remember thinking that they are certainly doing a lot of logging in this area. Little did I know that the trucks were part of the fracking industry and had begun putting wells in that regional forest! What a letdown as I had hoped to hike in quiet serenity.
I’ve spent a lot of time hiking in Penn’s Woods. They are beautiful and have the most diversity in the nation. Pennsylvania also has more miles of streams per square mile of area than most other states. I had taken this feature for granted when hiking because it seemed like there was always a stream close to the trail somewhere on the hike. In a prior job while working for Audubon Society I learned that several major bird migratory routes travel through these then un-fragmented woods of PA.
As I heard more about fracking I became intent on learning what exactly this was about. When I read about the process of fracturing the shale with so many chemicals that are considered quite harmful, I remember thinking, “what’s going to keep this from eventually seeping into our aquifers and leaking into the water table?” The more I heard about the impacts the industry could have on the forest, land, air, and water, the more upset I became.
It was also unbelievable to me that – knowing the impacts on our climate that fossil fuels have – there was such a huge surge to extract more and continue to burn them, especially when other means for meeting our energy needs have been developed. So several years ago, when I heard about the job opening at FracTracker Alliance, I deeply wanted to support this organization in their pursuit of informing others about the impacts of the oil and gas industry.
What is one of the most impactful projects that you have been involved in with FracTracker?
FracTracker Alliance’s Film Night and Community Sentinel Awards – I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the enthusiasm and new awareness of those attending the event, and listening to the stories of the awardees and their work to create change in their communities and government agencies around the issue of fracking.
And finally – FracTracker is quite a team of wonderful people. I always appreciate when we get together as a group and discuss projects and insights about our work.