While those three words strike fear in the hearts of some contractors, they also can mean important changes in safety, education, training, and many other areas of the industry, according to three men in the drilling industry.
"If you look at what's required now for a driller, he's no longer just a laborer. He's got to have a commercial driver's license, and he has to be trained in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, such as the 40-hour hazardous waste training if he's drilling environmental projects. It will be a challenge for drillers to keep up with all the training requirements and be aware of all the new regulations that will be coming out, and those change from time to time" said Alan Garrard, supervisor of drilling for the Southern Company, the parent of several electric companies.
"The bad part of it is things will go up in cost because of the regulations. Anytime a new regulation is passed, it's almost a rule of thumb that it will cost a driller more to stay in compliance with the regulation," Garrard added.
Besides state licensing programs and federal regulations from the Department of Transportation (DOT), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), E.H. Renner & Sons President Roger Renner said drillers are also being regulated via other licensing programs, such as background checks when they obtain or renew a driver's license.
"When you get your driver's license, they can check a computer and they can tell if you've ever had a ticket, a warrant issued against you, if you are a deadbeat dad or a tax evader. If you have anything outstanding, you won't get a license to drive a car, a fishing or hunting license, or a license for a boat, a four-wheeler or a license to operate a rig. Big Brother just stepped into your life and that's here now," Renner said
He added drillers need to become pro-active in meeting with legislative and regulatory officials to discuss proposed regulations before they take effect.
"We've got to be involved and we've got to be more serious about what we do as drillers," Renner said. "I have 35 employees working for me and that's 35 families I'm responsible for. If drillers don't get educated about the industry, that's one thing, but if they don't get involved, that's another thing."
Noting more safety-related regulations will likely be implemented in the 21st century to protect drillers on the job, Renner cautioned that regulations don't keep people from taking shortcuts and trying to bypass safety features on equipment. "The equipment is only as good as the people working on it, and the operator is only as good as the person who trained him," he said.
Roy Yoder, a drilling contractor from Montezuma, GA, said he believes obtaining certification as a driller is one of the most important things a contractor can do professionally and to better educate himself about the industry.
"We need to be smarter as drillers. It used to be all brawn and no brains in the drilling business, but today it's brains and some brawn," Yoder said.
"We need to know our product in terms of formations, hydrology, the legal aspects and things such as that. The potable water supply is only about 1% of the water on Earth, so we need to know how to protect and not contaminate it. A lot of drillers aren't into drilling to protect the groundwater. They're in it for the money."
Yoder, a certified Master Ground Water Contractor, said attaining that certification in the drilling industry is comparable to receiving a college degree or becoming a doctor.
"Certification is a tough thing to get and most of the fly-by-night guys may be licensed, but they don't have any kind of certification," he said. "We need to have a certification program in place to get people educated. When you are educated you change from a well digger to a well driller. You get more respect and you understand things better."