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27 min read

CWJJ Episode 134: Jeff Wiese

Thursday, September 22- Long-time industry icon, Jeff Wiese joins the guys as they talk PSMS, thought leadership, and how to move the needle in the bigger energy diversity discussion.

Quick Links:

James Cross on Linkedin
Jim Schauer on Linkedin
Jeff Wiese on Linkedin

Episode Transcript

 [0:00] [music]

Jim Schauer:  [0:24] Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this episode of “Coffee With Jim & James.” James, we should have been hitting the record button 15 minutes ago.

James Cross:  [0:31] Hours ago, yeah. I’ll tell you what…

Jim:  [0:34] Our pre‑show with Jeff has been off the chart. I mean…

James:  [0:36] It’s all downhill from here, Jimmy, I think.

Jeff Wiese:  [0:40] You would’ve had to edit it, though.

James:  [0:42] That’s several times.

Jim:  [0:45] And I was going to come in with icon, legend, guru, all this stuff. It was just a fun chat. We should have been recording that because we were all over the place.

James:  [0:55] It’s always about the pre‑show.

Jeff:  [0:56] We know we won’t remember any of it, so we can’t redo it.

James:  [1:00] I know. Have you ever had to do that before? Have you ever gave something and somebody said, “I need you to do it again.”? You can’t help but think about the points that you really hit and you’re like, “There’s no way.” You get so preoccupied with it. Sounds like EWNCON, Jimmy. Flashbacks.

Jeff:  [1:20] Anyway, I told you that I learned a lot through doing and making mistakes. One of the things that I learned long time ago is I’ll never ever read a speech. I tried it one time. I wasn’t nervous. It was just I lost my place in that speech.

[1:41] There were a lot of people there, and I was like, “Damn. Man, I know I look like a fool here.” I couldn’t find where I was on that. So I go, “Never again.” Just have the thoughts down in a logical order and then ad‑lib. That’s a more natural delivery anyway.

Jim:  [2:01] Again, Jeff Wiese is joining us. We’re going to get into a little bit more particulars about him, but…

James:  [2:05] We just assume everybody knows him. We just started talking.

Jim:  [2:08] Guru, the legend, the icon. Everything about Jeff Wiese here.

Jeff:  [2:12] On the wanted poster.

Jim:  [2:14] We’re going to keep that on the down‑low, especially in Florida or in Washington. I’m the same way. Two years ago, we did a Christmas special. It was beautiful. It was wonderful. It was all via Zoom. James was beautiful with doing all these verbiages that I had to speak. I am an ad‑lib type of guy. Give me a concept and I’ll come up with the words, but all of a sudden, I’m like on the screen.

James:  [2:36] Keep locking up. That was right at the beginning of the pandemic too, Jeff. We’re all trying to figure it out at that. We’d been on Zooms and doing those things, but we had to do something special. And really, the only means we have to do it was record on Zoom.

[2:52] And we kind of made this, it was almost like an award show with the skits built‑in and things, and Jimmy was a sport. We recorded, but it was a nightmare to record. Jim would walk off, and it was comedy.

Jim:  [3:09] Throw stuff.

James:  [3:10] Throw stuff, and then he’d come back, pick it all up. “All right, let’s do it again. Let’s do it again.”

Jeff:  [3:15] I noticed that you guys have really professional‑looking video and probably audio. Meanwhile, [laughs] I’m sitting in my makeshift office, converted bedroom…

James:  [3:27] It happens.

Jeff:  [3:28] and with a cheap, little cam.

James:  [3:32] We didn’t want to say anything. We’re professional association [laughs] over here. We really have our life together as a podcast, I’ll tell you what.

Jeff:  [3:40] You should think of myself as a professional. I have to upgrade my video and my audio.

James:  [3:47] I’m even downgraded.

Jeff:  [3:48] Jeff, we’ll be your. We’ll take you along the trip.

Jim:  [3:52] Thank you.

James:  [3:52] We are looking for a third member to the band. We just saw Jeff not too long ago, I think. I’m not sure when this is airing, but back in May at our own event, EWNCON, which we’d seen him a few times before that. But Jeff, I guess I hadn’t seen you since then. We’ve emailed back and forth, but good seeing you again and thanks for coming out and joining us.

Jeff:  [4:15] I told you, guys, earlier. I will restate that part. That was really well worth the time in the trip. I enjoyed myself there, met a lot of neat people, got to talk to a lot of people. You guys are kind enough to let me join a panel with Stephen Allen, my buddy.

James:  [4:35] It was a seven‑hour panel.

James:  [4:40] Steve Allen, Jeff, the colonel. Who else is on there?

Jeff:  [4:43] The colonel. Oh, my god.

James:  [4:45] So many folks. It was great.

Jim:  [4:49] All short‑winded guys, they hardly ever say again.

James:  [4:54] They had side conversation. I would watch them meddling back. Jeff would be talking to Steve or something, while somebody else is totally talking. Like Joseph, couldn’t wait their turn.

James:  [5:07] It’s not normal.

Jeff:  [5:08] Stephen and I are both members of this Pipeline Safety Management Systems group on LinkedIn. There’s an open joke in there that when they finally turn from the speaker to the Q&A thing, who goes first? Is it Steve or Jeff?

[5:28] Now, the last time, it was last Friday, I just waited. It was a 15‑second pass before I finally said “Steve, come on now. You got to go ahead or I’m going to champion you later.”

Jim:  [5:44] Who’s the head of that group? Stephen?

James:  [5:46] Steve…I can’t. I don’t know how to say his last name.

Jeff:  [5:50] maybe.

Jim:  [5:50] I got to meet him at AGA this year.

Jeff:  [5:52] He’s a great guy.

James:  [5:53] He is. We just can’t say his last name.

Jeff:  [5:56] I think it’s something like that.

Jim:  [5:59] I know it’s Stephen.

James:  [6:00] We’re going to have Stephen on to talk about it. That’s what we’re going to do.

Jeff:  [6:04] You should. He and Ashley Donnini. Do you know her?

James:  [6:09] Again, I wouldn’t have never tried to say her last name, but yes. I know who you are talking about.

Jeff:  [6:14] Well, that was easier for me to say, Donnini. I knew her before. She worked for a company that I sat on one of their boards. I’ve enjoyed working with those two. They have expanded that group. You guys ought to come on and be the interviewed instead of the interviewer.

James:  [6:33] What are we waiting on? What are we talking about? Set it up.

Jeff:  [6:38] I can get you his contact if you don’t have it and happily set it up.

James:  [6:43] Look at that, Jimmy, we made a deal, I think.

Jim:  [6:46] I think we did.

James:  [6:46] We’re going to trade services. Jeff, I met you at EW Income and maybe before that. I think at APGA last year, we ran into each other. Personally, myself, I haven’t got to sit down and unpack Jeff Wiese.

[7:08] I’d love, and I know our audience would too, your journey to where you are at now. We always like to say the origin story. How did you get to be the superhero in this pipeline safety world?

Jeff:  [7:24] There’s not many people that would call it that. We don’t start from the gleam in my daddy’s eyes.

James:  [7:29] We only have 45 minutes.

Jim:  [7:33] Don’t start at that point, accelerate a few years.

James:  [7:36] [laughs]

Jeff:  [7:37] It’s funny. We were talking about our kids earlier. I’m saying you try to coach your kids. [laughs] Like Jim was saying, you try to transfer knowledge from all the mistakes you’ve made and say God, “I hope you don’t make those mistakes.”

[7:54] They will only listen. To answer your question, life is like a river. Unless you actively move, you’re going to go where it takes you. It’s random sometimes. You may end at a good place. You may end up in a bad place.

[8:15] I just went along the path and said, “Hey, I need to go on to college after high school.” Very active in sports in high school. I wanted to go to the Berklee School of Music. I wanted to be a musician. My parents hated that idea.

[8:32] Despite the fact that they weren’t paying for college, and I paid for it for 10 years afterwards, I acquiesced. I went into what they call a pre‑med program. I was ready to go to med school when I graduated from the place in Iowa.

James:  [8:49] Hold on. Hold on. Don’t go any further. I want to know first what type of musician…I mean, what were your aspiration?

Jeff:  [8:56] Guitar, but all kinds of influences from jazz to Jimi Hendrix, you name it.

James:  [9:04] Lover.

Jeff:  [9:08] Anybody who’s got talent with a guitar, I liked.

James:  [9:11] That’s awesome. My second question is then, as you made the other choice, what type of medicine?

Jeff:  [9:20] No. It was a pre‑med program, so I would be free to…

James:  [9:25] I got you.

Jeff:  [9:26] I actually was accepted into med school, but I was too idealistic. I decided to interview 10 doctors as a project in my senior year. I didn’t find one of them that really liked their job.

[9:43] I was thinking to myself when I was graduating, “I don’t want to do that. I’m going to go into debt forever and then come out not liking my job.” What a fool. I would have been retired a long time ago, if I had followed that path.

[9:55] But I just went along, at any rate, this got funny. We could talk sometime a little more casual about some of those paths. He took me, eventually, on a sailing trip…medic, somebody, the captain of this boat that I was the boat boy for. He paid all food, all drink, all expenses, but no money per se.

[10:22] He asked me after we finished sailing from New England down to Key Biscayne in Florida. He said, “Hey, the wife and I really enjoyed having you here. Why don’t you sail with us into the Caribbean for the winter? Mistake number one was not taking him up on that. [laughs] I should have gone sailing in the Earth.

James:  [10:43] I don’t know what’s happening right now. I thought this was really like an origin story. It sounds like a superhero story, please continue.

Jeff:  [10:54] Yeah. Anyway, I’ll make it shorter. He talked me into going back to school because I said, “Dude, I got to get serious about this.” Took a year off, I was a bartender. I’ve worked at High Steel Construction and I was just saying, “This is not going anywhere fast.”

[11:12] He talked me into going to grad school. I went to grad school, got interested in ocean matters. So I got a Marine Affairs degree which was interdisciplinary.

James:  [11:25] Aquaman.

Jeff:  [11:26] It’s science, oceanography, economics, and public policy. Got a job while I was going to school that eventually took me to DC. I’m saying the river takes you places. I needed money, so I did that job. I was tired of it before…and I’ve been a student a long time.

[11:51] In the year before as a student, generally, but got me very interested and I spent 15 years, then in offshore oil and gas. The only thing I’ll say besides that, I loved that stuff, I really did. Was that I ended up on the first SMS‑type program that come out of Department of Interior.

[12:18] I was on the committee. I was the only government person on the committee. That’s the story of my life, only government person on the industry committee. I’ve been on a number of Industry committees and I found that to be fascinating, always loved it. Took that opportunity whenever I can get it.

Jim:  [12:37] When was that, Jeff? When was that? Out of curiosity.

Jim:  [12:37] When was that, Jeff? When was that, just out of curiosity?

Jeff:  [12:41] That was in the mid‑90s. It followed up Piper Alpha, which was a platform explosion over in North Sea that killed 148 people.

James:  [12:51] Wow.

Jeff:  [12:53] People don’t even remember Piper Alpha. It’s a perfect example of why eventually, we’ll come back to talk about SMS, why I think SMS is so important. I don’t think people do things on purpose. Honestly, we allow them to do things through the way that we manage our operations, and sometimes, haphazardly.

[13:18] Systematic approach to management is always producing the results. Anyway. Did that one. During that time, I got on an inter‑agency Committee. Stacey Gerard had the position that I eventually ended up with at DOT.

[13:35] She and I were simpatico. She said, “Hey, how’d you like to come work for me?” No, actually, she tried to recruit me as her boss. There was a vacancy. I said, “I don’t think I’m qualified for that one.” [laughs] “I don’t think I’m going to be able to meet the qualifications even to compete.”

[13:55] She goes, “Well, I’m applying. So will you come work for me if I get it?” I eventually took her spot. I spent 17 years with the Office of Pipeline Safety, which is within what a lot of people know as PHMSA, which itself, is in the US DOT.

[14:14] Loved working for the Office of Pipeline Safety. Lot of challenges. A lot of challenges. The last 10 years I was there, how do you present that one? I was the guy still standing when everybody else sat down when they said, “Who wants to be the next chief?” I was like, “What?” [laughs]

[14:35] I did that for 10 years. I think that’s the record for the chief of the Office of Pipeline Safety. Headed up by one of my close friends, Alan Mayberry, now. He used to be my deputy, and Linda Daugherty. You guys know Linda Daugherty?

James:  [14:54] We don’t, but I was going to say we were just at LGA and I think Alan was there and we missed him. We wanted to have him on the show, so you’re going to have to broker that too, Jeff.

Jeff:  [15:04] I will. I would also introduce you to Linda Daugherty. Those two were my deputies for almost that whole 10 years. They’re excellent people. They’ll still come better.

[15:19] Dave Murk, I don’t know if you guys know him with API. He’s the API pipeline guide now. He worked with us.

James:  [15:26] Steve’s mentioned him, yeah.

Jeff:  [15:28] He’s such a good guy. He’s 6’5″, so you don’t like to walk anywhere with him. He’s always towering over your head. A 26‑year coast guard that…

James:  [15:44] Well then.

Jeff:  [15:45] I’ll close out by saying, I left there for a lot of reasons. I’d done it long enough. I don’t think I was going anywhere in achieving a high state too long largely due to guilt. You don’t want to leave people that you’ve been leading for a while.

[16:04] I joined a company called TRC. That’s where Monique, Roberts, with other TRC people and I, worked together for a long time. In January, I decided, “Hey, I’m going to pull back and go off as an independent consultant.” Sorry for that long one.

James:  [16:23] [sighs] Wow.

Jeff:  [16:25] I know.

Jim:  [16:25] We loved it.

James:  [16:25] We covered a lot of ground there. We ended with Monique, who we saw last week?

Jim:  [16:31] Yes.

James:  [16:32] Now friend of the show, been on the show. Her episode was top‑notch. She’s good, people. She glows about you, Jeff, just like you do about her.

Jeff:  [16:42] We had a good time together. She’s now the PODS executive director.

James:  [16:46] I know.

Jeff:  [16:46] That’s exactly what PODS needed, too, is somebody who knows how to market and sell.

James:  [16:53] I tell you what, when she talks, I listen. That’s for sure. I’m sure a lot of people do. Jeff, I want to talk a little bit about stakeholders, and the many stakeholders that you’ve worked with in this field of pipeline safety over the years. What has that time taught Jeff Wiese?

Jeff:  [17:17] You mean what kind of stakeholders that we have to work with?

James:  [17:20] Yeah. What stakeholders are you working with? How has that shaped what you’re doing now as well?

Jeff:  [17:33] I’d like to say, it maybe, taught me that eventually, compromise is the only way to make progress. These were diametrically opposed points of view in a lot of cases. For example, I was top‑level career when I was in US government.

[17:54] Everybody above me was a political appointee of whatever administration at work, Republican, Democrats. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell them apart based on their actions. You could tell them apart based on their words, but their actions can be a little different.

[18:10] There were politicos. You got your employees. You’ve got other regulators. I formed a group in the federal government called the Inter‑agency Risk Management Working Group. We had the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on there. We had the US Department of Energy on there. We had NTSB. Two of the chairs of NTSB sat on that group with me.

[18:38] Then we had the Wildland Fire guys. Holy Toledo.

Jeff:  [18:44] If you want to talk about risk management, those guys are risking their life all the time. They’re really keen, and they were very smart. Anyway, I won’t ramble on it. Just to say that I was thrilled by these meetings. I would always find one person in each meeting and go, “Wow.”

[19:06] I need to talk to that person. You see them afterward, and “I really enjoyed what you were saying. Can we have lunch and chat?” Eventually, you build a network of people. There’s other feds, the state regulators.

[19:21] We had 52 state partners. This was before the group that’s known as NAPSR. You guys probably known National Association of Pipeline Safety Reps. They’re much stronger now, but when I came in there, they were nothing.

[19:37] It was all the states were telling me what they wanted. NAPSR would never take a position, and you go, “I can’t negotiate with 52 [laughs] people. I would never get anywhere.”

[19:49] The other people that are less common for you guys, for example, might be Pipeline Safety Trust, advocacy groups, environmental defense, the National Resource Defense Council, I think it’s called, Natural Resources. But they were on the other side of the stage. Stage comprised industry is over here. Regulators are somewhere in the middle. You got advocacy groups over here.

James:  [20:18] Environmental.

Jeff:  [20:18] Environmental, and other ones were international. One of the things, I yesterday talked to two guys who I worked with for over ten years, internationally, and they’re from Canada. It used to be called the National Energy Board.

[20:39] It’s now the Canadian Energy Regulators, CER. They were the pipeline regulator on that side of the border. I knew people in Enbridge TransCanada and all these Trans‑Mountain, which getting more than it gets.

[20:58] The pipelines doesn’t know any difference when it crosses the border, but it had different regulatory regimes. We began meeting twice a year. I would go to Calvary, and they would come to DC. That went on. We eventually did research together.

[21:15] I remember them standing up when we’re building Integrity Management. They stood up in one of their conferences with their regulated industry, and said, “Hey, we’re learning a lot from these people and Integrity Management is coming your way.

James:  [21:32] It’s funny you say that, Jeff. This is a totally different example. It’s based on the same concept, which is those unique vantage points and those different angles to look at problems and going to work on it. At one of our conference, not this past one, but the one before, we were teaching a soft skilled class.

[21:54] It was an all‑day class, eight‑hour class. In half of it was a group of pipeline folks, all makes and models from compliance people, to field workers, to evaluators. You name it, engineers. Then, on the other side of this group, we had invited all of our local school districts and DFW like teachers, counsel.

[22:24] Anyone that might want to come check it out. We have these two groups. We were like, “This might not go so well.” What was amazing was, the teachers were so interested in what that group was saying because they were saying, “We need workers. We have this worker shortage. We need training, and this and that.”

[22:50] Then, the other side was going, “We need to place people.” It became this awesome dynamic of the way they learned so much from each other. They were on polar opposite ends of the spectrums. When they came together, it was for one cause. Really we learned, so it was my favorite class of all time, for sure.

Jim:  [23:10] It teaches you something that we’re talking about before we started recording. Remember, it was like the simplest things. They seem simple when you say them, but it takes a long time to learn them.

[23:21] One of them is to be able to listen to people without prejudging them, and be able to say, “What the hell,” and ask questions. Don’t jump in and try to give your point of view. Ask questions like, “Help me understand that,” which is a great line, by the way.

James:  [23:41] Absolutely, always.

Jeff:  [23:42] I pulled that from somebody.

Jim:  [23:44] But yeah, I agree with you. This same thing that you described, it happened with emergency responders in our groups. I was with a group of them. I utmost respect emergency responders. Anybody who puts themselves in harm way for us, we all ought to…

James:  [24:02] 100 percent.

Jeff:  [24:03] Anyway, the emergency responders clarified thinking irons. They always say, “Hey, guys, to us it was just another hazard‑matter event. Stop thinking it’s so different. We need to talk about things like communication. What channels are you guys going to be using?

[24:23] What equipment and resources do you have? Are phones effective? When ethanol came around and started being blended or transported, that was an epiphany. The ER guys said, “Hey, you know, our phones, nationwide, are grossly alcohol soluble. I was like, “What.”

[24:48] Plus, they said, “You know that alcohol flame burnt clean.” It scares the hell out of emergency responders. They were like, “Wow. That’s important to know this.” We need to talk to the volunteers, which make up 80 percent of the emergency response community.

[25:06] Not to get off too far in that. I love many fields. Damage prevention, think about that. You guys know this for sure. It’s excavator locators, one call centers. We did some stuff. I was on the board for Common Ground Alliance for four years. Then stepped down because I knew I was going to leave government at that time, the first government person on that one too.

[25:32] The excavators didn’t like to go to these. I eventually turned them, though. They invited me to their conference. I spoke for a little while. One of the other board members was there. He was an excavator. I always conclude with now. This is the fun part. You guys ask whatever you want.

[25:53] I’ll tell you if I don’t think I can say that, but I’ll try to answer if I can. Nobody would ask a question. Eventually, this guy was on the board with me stood up. He was a big excavator from Louisiana. He stood up, and he said, “He’s all right guys. I know him. You can talk to him.”

James:  [26:12] That’s awesome.

Jeff:  [26:13] Then, the hands started going up. That means you’re accepted in that group again. Another lesson, right? Go with a friend.

James:  [26:20] The recovering regulator. Steve always says I’m a recovering regulator.

Jim:  [26:26] He does.

Jim:  [26:27] No, go ahead, Jeff. Go ahead. I love listening to you brother. I mean, honest to goodness, I’m sitting here and every question I have in my head, you are pinging on all this stuff. This is wonderful.

Jeff:  [26:42] If you’d allow me, can I lay out what I was talking about before I started recording this business about…I’ve been wrestling with this chain of thoughts to figure out where it’s going. One of the things we’re talking about, and again, I know you know these things, so I’m talking about anybody else who might be listening to see if it makes any sense at all.

[27:10] I’ve gone places [laughs] when my kids were small and in high school, I would go into the school, and I’d talk to kids. I’d say, “Hey, kids, let’s talk about energy. How do you use energy?”

[27:25] They’re like, “What?” I would go, “Well, does anybody have a light switch in your house? You drove a car over with your parents or you. Do you ever fly anywhere, take a train, bus, whatever? You eat food, which is delivered by a truck that are burning and stuff.”

[27:46] The point of this for me is the average citizen, intelligent though they may be, has never pondered this question, like, “Hey, how freaking dependent am I on energy? Where in the hell is that coming from? They know they want it. They want it as cheap as they can get it. They want it to be reliable.

[28:13] They freak out when gas goes to $5, meanwhile in Europe, it’s probably about $8, right?

James:  [28:19] Right.

Jeff:  [28:20] They’ve been used to that forever. Anyway, the first point of it was, the public is generally not cognizant of their dependency on energy. Therefore, everything from this point forward becomes a discussion about the cost of the pipelines and delivering energy reliably cheaply, safely.

[28:44] It becomes a cost‑centered debate. For example, one of the things I was mentioning to you that I was stunned. I think I told you at Energy World, I did a little bit of research by Energy Information Administration and US Department of Energy, probably the most neutral source you can find.

[29:06] They released a report a few days ago. They said last year, primary energy production, 79 percent of the energy produced in the US was fossil. That includes coal, but coal has been going down. So it’s mostly oil and gas. 14 percent was renewable. It’s been growing, which is good. I think we talked about this before too. We all have to embrace renewable power.

James:  [29:38] No doubt.

Jeff:  [29:41] I’m not a denier. I believe you got change of foot. We’ve got to get with it. Only seven percent is nuclear. Nuclear has been going down more slowly for a long time. On consumption, and this is where we talked about Energy Worldnet, was that the bulk of our energy that we’re consuming, you, me, anybody, lights, everything.

[30:05] They don’t think about all‑natural gas when they think about lights or their computer, the Internet. Oh my God, take the Internet away from anybody, and they freak out, right.

James:  [30:15] Right. They do it one‑to‑one. I say they. Six years ago, this could have been me is what I mean. I very well could have been in that demographic. For instance, if you mention natural gas, well, I don’t have natural gas at home. I’m electric.

James:  [30:33] No, no, that’s the one‑to‑one for most people is, ‘Well, I’m all electric.”

Jeff:  [30:41] Except for gas, burning gas at the burner tip at your house is absolutely the most effective way of using gas.

Jim:  [30:49] Absolutely.

James:  [30:50] No doubt.

Jeff:  [30:51] A power‑gen is not all that efficient.

Jim:  [30:53] It’s like 60 percent lost. It’s a crazy number.

Jeff:  [30:57] It is. It’s almost like 60 percent, both in the generation and transmission period through the grid. Anyway, we’re all heading there. The point I wanted to make on that one. Besides the fact that people take energy for granted and it’s like a birthright was that we’re dominantly dependent on fossil fuels and primarily oil and gas.

[31:20] The other point that I was thinking about was that pipeline projects have been associated with, and I’m sure you guys too, have been canceled because of opposition. The opposition is galvanized by social media, you name it. The news love a negative story.

[31:43] Nobody says, “Hey, by the way, we’re going to kill this project, and here’s what it would have delivered to you for how many years.” Now we’re going to have a hard time making up for that.

[31:55] I worry about the fact that we’re turning down so many major projects that would have provided energy while renewables are finally getting to a place where they can…

Jim:  [32:09] And wouldn’t you say, Jeff, and I think we might have talked about this before, we may have mentioned it in Dallas when we were together, but energy is almost like a 401(k) portfolio. You don’t put all your stuff in one basket. Energy in the world or, let’s do the micro, the United States. I’m for hydro and solar and wind, but I’m also for natural gas.

[32:31] I was in New Orleans. There was a lady sitting next to me at DRAGO’S, who had the “End fossil fuels.” She wasn’t with our group, but she’s eating charbroiled oysters.

Jeff:  [32:43] Which are so good, by the way.

James:  [32:44] So good there, aren’t they?

Jim:  [32:47] They’re 20 feet ahead of us on a huge, natural gas grill.

Jeff:  [32:51] Of course.

Jim:  [32:51] That’s the only way you can do it. She was there and I’m like, “What the…?”

James:  [32:55] That’s fine, but let’s talk about those oysters some more, though.

Jeff:  [33:00] No kidding. Go to the Acme in New Orleans.

Jim:  [33:04] Acme’s good.

James:  [33:05] I don’t know, DRAGO’S is good.

Jeff:  [33:07] Oh yeah, I know that. Is that the one right across the street?

Jim:  [33:10] No, no, no…

James:  [33:12] It’s at the Hilton, but there’s also one in [inaudible] too.

Jim:  [33:14] down at the Riverside.

Jeff:  [33:15] Anyway, the last point in that whole dialogue was that because of all those things, because we’re going to need it for decades. We’re going to need the energy provided by oil and natural gas for decades. Hopefully, we ramp up faster on renewables, but we can’t bank on it.

[33:41] That means to me that we’re going to have to rely on existing infrastructure probably longer than people had intended. That puts the pressure on the operators to do a better job of doing risk management. Most of my career has been involved in risk management. Monique would laugh if she hears this because I’ve said it so many times.

[34:08] It’s a simple thing, risk management. People tend to overcomplicate it. To me, in the pipeline context, even offshore in that context, it means know your system. Know what you know and know what you don’t know, so you can make conservative decisions. Know what’s around your system, it’s number two.

[34:34] It can affect you, whether it’s subsidence or hurricanes or whatever, but you can also affect it. If you know those two things, your system and what’s around it, with certainty, you can really do a pretty good job of risk management if you’re intelligent and really care about safety and people.

[34:56] That’s where we’re at. We’re going to have to rely on this existing infrastructure even more than we may now. We’ll probably run into capacities. Some of it’s old. I rarely use a name.

James:  [35:17] Uh‑oh.

Jeff:  [35:20] You can edit it out later.

James:  [35:22] No, I’m just kidding. It’s your call.

Jeff:  [35:25] I’ll just say this. A major East Coast aviation and motor fuel pipeline had the largest inland spill about a year and a half ago. You guys know what I’m talking about. It was the largest. That’s a very old pipeline. It also suffered from railroad fatigue.

[35:48] The pipe was transported on rail before they had all these standards about bracing the pipe on the transport. I’ve been rambling for a while, but it was mostly that I’m concerned that we, as a country, don’t have a plan. US Government had not had a plan, to my knowledge, in the entire time I worked for it.

[36:13] They would say they had an energy plan, but it didn’t say…Jim, you were saying earlier, 2050, whatever it is. By that date, we’re going to stop, and here’s how we’re going to get there. Here are all the many parts of how we’re going to get there, but it…The German Marshall Fund is out there, and they’ve released a plan.

[36:34] I haven’t read it in detail, but US Government really needs to get on board with this stuff and make sense.

Jim:  [36:42] It gets back to education. You herald the idea of education and cross‑collaboration and sharing, Jeff. That’s one of your passions. Collectively, we have a lot of the answers. Individually, maybe we don’t, but when we do…

[37:02] I’m talking at a macro level of this, and that’s a key to it too. Whether it’s everything you talk about, risk management. You assess the United States right now in a SMS or a PSMS world. Lot of us think, “Wow, we’re going great,” and then others can say, “Well, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”

[37:23] We’ve been doing this for 20‑plus years in some form or fashion. What would you…Go ahead, James.

James:  [37:32] I was just going to say, this is a new concept to me or was a new concept to me about the time I met Steve Allen, when he came on board with us. I’ve told other people as well. I think I just said it to Monique. Last week was that I learned a lot about pipeline safety through his power points because I worked with him.

[37:55] To make him look better because he’s Steve and we love him. No, I’m just kidding, but he came to me and was like, “I need your help.” We worked together, and I learned a lot that way by osmosis and being around Steve, but how…

Jeff:  [38:16] He knows it.

James:  [38:17] He does. Is there any advice, Jeff, for those that are…Well, this was my point was I remember telling Steve one time, as I said, “Why are you all still going out and doing PS unless it’s one‑on‑one?” I was like, “People are tired of hearing that crap. I don’t want to hear it.” And he goes, “Because there’s still some people out there have never heard it.” [laughs]

[38:40] I laugh about it, but I would be at a show, listening again for the 100th time, and somebody would have that aha moment of “I got to get moving.”

Jeff:  [38:53] That starts with that there’s a…I was a regulator, and I’m recovering like Steve Allen.

Jim:  [39:01] Like Steve, yep.

James:  [39:02] That happens. I know a bunch of you.

Jeff:  [39:04] That’s why we always hang together. In case anybody’s looking for us, later we can…Got two of us. It used to irritate me. I actually threw two vice‑presidents out of my office one day when they’d had a nasty accident and they’d come in to explain what was going on.

[39:27] They kept saying, “Don’t worry, we have a culture of compliance.” They kept saying that phrase until I eventually said, “Timeout. If that’s the best you’ve got, you need to leave and come back when you want to talk to me about performing.” Compliance is not safety.

[39:44] It is a negotiated outcome. I lived that world and I negotiated a lot of those rulemakings. The regulator doesn’t set the bar that sits. “This would be safe if we did this, but oh yeah, by the way, we got to pass cost‑benefit. We have to argue with the industry. We got to argue with the states. We got to argue with the advocates.”

[40:04] You would negotiate and get to a place that people are willing to sign off. I’m proud to say, when I was there, we never got sued on rulemakings, but that was because we negotiated outcome. Some people will say, “You didn’t go fast enough.” I’d go, “Guess what? We went progressive.”

[40:27] We would shore up our ground underneath us and move ahead. You can’t always be so lucky.

James:  [40:32] Direction’s more important than speed, right?

Jeff:  [40:35] Progress is what we really ought to live for. We talked about that too earlier. I loved working in damage prevention. There are so many different people in that and so many different perspectives. If you’re open to listening to it, you can usually craft the statement.

[40:52] You got to ask what’s in it for them because they’re thinking, “What’s in it for me?” You might as well think about what’s in it for them. The only people I couldn’t figure out, I tried, were the locators. I couldn’t figure out…

Jim:  [41:08] Why’s that?

Jeff:  [41:10] Well, I wanted them to do a better job. I wanted them to move to new technology, electronic white‑lining, all this stuff. This was a long time ago, and yet it was trying to figure out how do we get them on board? How do we get the telecoms on board? You guys know this.

James:  [41:32] Still.

Jeff:  [41:33] They’re terrible.

James:  [41:34] We love everyone.

Jeff:  [41:35] They go through drilling forever.

Jeff:  [41:36] They’re constantly drilling underground. It’s a fast job, not paying that much. They got to make speed, so they think it’s cheaper to fix it.

Jim:  [41:54] If something happens, it’s cheaper to fix the “if,” right?

Jeff:  [41:57] Right, after the fact. I’m sorry, I got…You know me, it’s like get us distracted. The thing on SMS was it’s not mandated. In fact, that was my policy. That I was on that 1175 or 72 committee and did not want to do that. I always felt that if the operator didn’t want to do it, it didn’t really matter.

[42:25] It was just extra paper and a waste of money. You got to want to do it. To answer your question, there are a lot of operators who don’t want to do it. They got enough other things to deal with. I’d love to sit down any one of them to say, “Brother, you can make money on this.”

James:  [42:45] Amen.

Jeff:  [42:45] Honestly. That was true offshore too. You can make money on this. Your insurance companies will thank you. Your employees will feel more invested in your company. You guys focus a lot on culture. I’m very thankful for that because very few people think about the role of culture in the success of an organization. I would say culture’s king.

James:  [43:09] Culture is king.

Jeff:  [43:11] What do they say? Eats strategy for breakfast every day. [laughs]

James:  [43:16] That one’s tough, but that is what they say. Jeff, you’re…

Jim:  [43:19] I’ve seen that before.

James:  [43:23] We could do this all day, really. We have done it all day. It’s just like that, it sneaks away from us every time.

Jeff:  [43:30] I know. You’re doing good.

James:  [43:31] Jeff, we’ve been asking everybody a different question. We had you at EWNCON, and you got to answer our “be brave” question. In fact, you talked about that a little bit earlier in the pre‑show. What we’re asking people is…I guess it’s not really asking, but we have a philosophy with the show of giving it all away.

[43:59] We can’t take it with us. You’ve talked about it in different ways, different aspects of your life along the way. If you could give it all away right now, what advice could you give our industry, our people, anybody coming up, whoever? What would that be?

Jeff:  [44:19] You guys are good at these surprise questions at the end of the day. You know what? The older I get…We were talking about that earlier too. You know what? When I started out, I was young, I was cocksure. I knew what was going on, I was really in form.

[44:37] I said, the older I got ‑‑ it’s somebody else’s line, I don’t remember who ‑‑ the older I got, the less I knew for sure. That is the beginning of wisdom. Understanding…

Jim:  [44:47] Realizing…

Jeff:  [44:50] What’s that?

Jim:  [44:52] Realizing that you don’t know?

Jeff:  [44:53] Yeah. Realizing you might not have a perfect handle on everything, which allows you to be open enough to learn. To answer your question, James, I would say that all of us should have a goal of living a happy life. What makes you happy?

[45:23] The old saying is, when you die, on your deathbed, what are they going to say, what are you proud of having done? It’s probably not going to be, “I was in the office really late every night,” but it’s true, I was.

James:  [45:37] It’s tough.

Jeff:  [45:37]  I’m getting perspective, the older I get, and I’m able to coach and mentor. I had a kid, they were TRC, I was mentoring and I really enjoyed that. Giving back, mentoring somebody else.

James:  [45:54] 100 percent. Bring them along.

Jeff:  [45:56] Take time to invest in somebody and help them out.

Jim:  [46:00] I like that. That’s good. I got to be honest. Jeff, we’re friends, but your stories, your wisdom, your experience, your knowledge, just hearing all that, I could sit here for days.

Jeff:  [46:14] It’s the coffee, really.

James:  [46:16] It really is. He’ll fall off a cliff here in a couple hours.

Jeff:  [46:21] Have to get a nap after.

Jim:  [46:23] Hit that caffeine peak.

James:  [46:25] This was the peak. Jeff, I’m not kidding, your story and hearing the whole breadth of it, you’re like a superhero in our industry, so I appreciate you.

Jeff:  [46:43] I enjoy talking to you guys. Whether we’re recording or not, it’s…

Jim:  [46:51] Jeff, thanks for joining us today. Absolute pleasure.

Jeff:  [46:54] No, thank you guys. Thank you for tonight.

Jim:  [46:55] We look forward to many more discussions on or off the air, either one.

Jeff:  [47:00] Any time.

James:  [47:01] Next time, Jeff, you have to pick a guest to come with you. It can’t be Steve Allen because everybody’s already picked him once.

James:  [47:09] Can’t have Steve on every week. Oh, that might be good. No, you can pick somebody who’s been on before, but I’m telling you Steve has already been on too many times.

Jeff:  [47:19] We talked earlier about Alan Mayberry. What a great guy. Problem for Alan is he is currently in that job and there’s only so much he could say publicly.

James:  [47:31] [laughs] We might have to wait just a little bit.

Jeff:  [47:34] I can say whatever.

Jim:  [47:36] That happened in Louisiana. We wanted some of the regulators on, and they’re like, “Ah, probably not going to happen. Nope.”

James:  [47:44] The gauntlet has been thrown. Find your teammate and we’ll bring you back. It’s been awesome. We’ll just tell stories next time.

Jeff:  [47:52] Sure. That’s fun, and you can teach a lot through stories, right?

Jim:  [47:56] You can.

Jeff:  [47:58] I mean that. Think about, when you’re done working, what are you going to be proud of? What are you really going to be proud of? Hopefully, you developed some other people and you made the organization stronger and smarter.

James:  [48:09] Amen.

Jim:  [48:11] Amen to that.

Jeff:  [48:12] All right, guys.

Jim:  [48:13] Thanks, Jeff. Great having you on.

Jeff:  [48:16] Thank you.

Jim:  [48:16] All right, till next week. We’ll see you all later.

[48:19] [music]

Transcription by WatchingWords