The oil and natural gas industry knows it hasn't always been held
in high regard by the public.
Mindy Stitt and the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board are in their
14th year of trying to change that. The OERB has tried to enhance
the image of energy in the state, and through advertising and media
campaigns and an aggressive abandoned well site cleanup program, the
industry is being seen in a better light, according to Stitt and
many others in the industry.
Stitt joined the OERB as an assistant director in 1994 and was
named executive director in May 2006. Through all those years, the
OERB's objective was, and still is today, to help the public look
favorably at the industry. "The oil and natural gas industry here in
Oklahoma wanted the public to understand what we are doing for the
state and what we are doing as far as environmental concerns," Stitt
said. "We wanted them to know we are trying to make a difference
here. So, if you don't tell anybody you're doing it, it's as if you
aren't doing it."
It was a tough gig at the beginning. It had been just more than a
decade since the oil bust, bank failures and everything else
negative about the business.
"So many people lost jobs, they thought of the oil and gas
industry as a dying industry, a dinosaur industry that was going to
go away," she said. "They also thought of the industry as greedy."
Leaders in the industry found a way to help soften those
"The biggest thing was that the oil and natural gas industry
wasn't a good environmental steward," she said. "Those are things we
are trying to go back and correct and show Oklahomans we are
cleaning up these problems. We want to show them we are not a dying
industry. We are trying to show them this is a high-tech industry
that's going to be around a long time. We want to show there are a
lot of great job opportunities out there and that we are responsible
The OERB this week will reach a couple of milestones. For one, it
will celebrate its 8,000th well site cleanup. The OERB and the
Department of Transportation are working together to clean up an
area near the junction of Interstates 40 and 235. Secondly, the
project will take environmental restorations over the $40 million
mark. The well-site cleanup projects didn't exactly get off to a
The OERB hired staff in February 1994.
"It took about a year to get it up and going," Stitt said. "After
staff was hired, we cleaned up a couple of sites. But not being
familiar with how state agencies work, it took us some time to
develop all of our policies and procedures and get our bidding
documents and things like that. …