Rich Hoffmann, the popular executive director for the INGAA Foundation, is retiring on Aug. 31 after 10 years of service. In this interview, he looks back on his tenure, and suggests what his successor, Jason Goldstein, can expect.
P&GJ: Looking back, Rich, what was your goal when you came to the Foundation, what were some of the anxieties you felt, and what do you consider your biggest accomplishments?
Hoffmann: My first goal in 2008 was to continue the great reputation of the INGAA Foundation. There was a new strategic plan approved in 2007 that I needed to implement. As I settled in, it became apparent there were some initiatives we could pursue to take the Foundation to a new level. The first was creating overarching principles to direct the Foundation’s work.
With that in mind, we created the Foundation’s guiding principles that were adopted by our board in November 2008. Those principles were grounded in five key statements: 1.) Safety is the most important thing we do; 2.) We provide a reliable and efficient natural gas pipeline transmission system; 3.) We are good neighbors to landowners and communities; 4.) We comply with all applicable federal, state and local regulations, and 5.) We act with integrity.
After we adopted these guiding principles, we held a safety intervention workshop in 2009. That workshop, in many ways, helped crystalize the purpose of the INGAA Foundation, and steered us on the course we are on today.
Our guiding principles continue to focus our activities. They help us improve our organization and ensure that we work toward our collective goal of continuously improving our industry.
P&GJ: What in particular do you consider the Foundation’s most significant achievement during your term?
Hoffmann: The Pipeline Construction Inspector Certification program! We started this process in 2013 and developed Guiding Principles and eventually a complete program that was adopted by the INGAA and INGAA Foundation Board of directors in January 2016, as well as the CEPA (Canadian Energy Pipeline Association) and CEPA Foundation boards in late 2015.
The Association’s program adopts the API 1169 New Pipeline Construction Inspector Program; sets the 1169 certification as a baseline for all inspectors; and establishes a goal that by the end of 2018 all pipeline construction inspectors will be certified. As of July 2017, we have 2,375 certified inspectors with an additional 1,214 signed up for the August 2017 test as well as 269 signed up, so far, for test dates later in the year. This progress is quite remarkable and hits the target levels we set for percentage of certified inspectors for 2017.
P&GJ: The Foundation probably is best known for its influential studies – how have some of these affected the pipeline business?
Hoffmann: Our long-term midstream infrastructure projections to 2035 are probably the most high-profile of our studies. The long-term infrastructure study provides information to help companies, regulators and the public understand the pipeline infrastructure needed to keep the interstate natural gas pipeline network functioning at peak performance. Over the years, we’ve expanded the scope of this study to include not only estimates of the mileage and investment needed, but also the economic impact of those investments.
In addition to the infrastructure study, some of the technical papers we’ve produced have provided extremely important information and safety insights. We’ve published reports on a wide range of topics, including: field coating and welding best practices; rupture monitoring using SCADA; compressor station safety; the impacts of pipelines on property values; effective collaboration with emergency responders; land movement mitigation; construction quality management systems, workforce development; and the role of pipeline age in pipeline safety. This is just a small sample of some of our studies and papers. We’ve released over 180!
P&GJ: Speaking about studies, what are some new studies we can look forward to this year?
Hoffmann: We currently are preparing a report on the impact of pipeline crossings on surface and groundwater, and we are working on updating a previous report that looks at the relationship between natural gas and renewable energy. We are also making great progress on our construction safety guidelines. We have issued a new construction safety guideline this year on Job Safety Analysis (JSA). Two others – on pipe-loading and unloading and on the handling of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) – are out for member review. Another, on Site-Specific Safety Plans, is under development.
P&GJ: How has the Foundation grown in recent years and what would you attribute that to?
Hoffmann: We had 116 members when I came to the Foundation in January 2008. We have over 200 members now! I’d like to say it is because of my leadership, but I think the growth of the natural gas industry, the Foundation’s reputation for producing accurate, trustworthy reports and our amazing meetings are the real reasons.
P&GJ: Have you seen a more diverse membership evolve in terms of variety of companies, and why?
Hoffmann: Our membership has always consisted of pipeline companies, construction contractors and consulting companies. The trend of pipeline company consolidation has limited growth in the number of interstate natural gas operators as members. Still, the INGAA Foundation is a fantastic cross-section of the companies and people that make the industry safer and more efficient.
P&GJ: Has there been much attrition in the Foundation in the past few years when the economy and industry both seemed to slow down?
Hoffmann: Quite the opposite. Our membership has grown every year since 2008 when I arrived. We are known for great programs, great reports and projects, and great network opportunities at our meetings. That all makes membership worthwhile and a bargain, really. There is steady interest in the INGAA Foundation and what it does.
P&GJ: What have been some of the challenges in keeping up with the growth of the Foundation, especially for a small staff? Did you ever feel that the Foundation was getting too large or unwieldy?
Hoffmann: Faced with the challenge of greater membership and more studies to perform, we simply work harder! But seriously, we have added several full or part-time staff since I arrived: Cathy Landry is vice president of communications for both INGAA and the INGAAA Foundation; Paul McKay is a researcher and communications assistant; Hebe Shaw-Begala is senior project coordinator and event planner and we are currently searching for a new project manager. So, the INGAA Foundation professional team has grown like the membership. One of our biggest challenges has been to find meeting venues large enough to handle our crowds, but Hebe and the rest of the staff do an amazing job with that, and it remains one of our priorities.
P&GJ: Are the strategic goals of the Foundation the same as when you started? Is it hard to keep a growing and often new membership, focused and involved with those goals, so that they realize the Foundation offers much more than its popular spring and fall meetings?
Hoffmann: We updated our mission statement in 2014. Our mission is the following:
The INGAA Foundation facilitates the safe, efficient, reliable, and environmentally responsible design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the North American natural gas transmission system to advance the delivery of natural gas for the benefit of the consuming public, the economy, and the environment.
We changed the words somewhat, but the fundamental mission has remained the same since 2007. We educate all of our new members about their roles and responsibilities when they join, and we hold a new-member webinar to explain the best way to get value from membership. Study champions and steering committees are an important element of our success, and we encourage our members to participate in lots of different ways. Those that participate tend to have the best experiences. Moreover, the Foundation benefits greatly from the expertise of our members. At the same time, it is a terrific way for the members to get to know each other, network with other members and help promote and improve our industry.
P&GJ: You worked at FERC for 34 years before coming to the Foundation; how did your experience at FERC play out at the Foundation?
Hoffmann: The construction and regulatory issues I experienced at FERC helped me immensely in understanding the issues surrounding the construction of large-diameter transmission lines in the United States. Understanding the complexities of the regulatory and construction processes and the interests of landowners along the route is a critical piece of successful construction and safe operation.
P&GJ: How have you seen the relationship between operators and service suppliers change through the years? Was this ever a goal of yours?
Hoffmann: The Foundation has always been a forum for dialogue and collaboration among its members – many of whom are competitors. Helping people to work well together has always been a goal of mine. The Foundation is very successful at – and benefits greatly – bringing competitors together toward a safety or construction quality issue that affects the industry. The safety culture work we have performed and are still working on is another extremely positive element of what we do. We will continue to work on improving those goals.
P&GJ: What will you miss about the Foundation?
Hoffmann: No question that I will miss the professionals at INGAA and in the Foundation membership the most. I have been fortunate to work with people who are hardworking, smart and funny, too! It always helps to keep humor at the forefront of the daily work grind. These dedicated people and many, many more who work for the pipelines and for service-supplier members are what I will miss the most.
P&GJ: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently or wished you had accomplished?
Hoffmann: I’m proud that I have been able to continue the tradition of the INGAA Foundation as a trusted source of information, especially as it relates to the safety of facilities. That really is the cornerstone of the work we do.
I would have loved to have completed all the construction safety consensus guidelines. While we’ve made great progress, I didn’t quite get there. The good news is that the Foundation’s Safety and Quality Committee will keep plugging away at all of the construction safety topics, and I know they will be completed.
P&GJ: What are your plans for retirement?
Hoffmann: My wife Lynn and I will continue to run our beach house rental business in Duck and Corolla in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We will travel to see our five daughters and their families, including our four grandchildren, who are spread around the country from coast to coast. We also have a group of friends we travel with internationally, and we will trek around the world with them as well! And then there’s always golf.
P&GJ: What advice do you have for your successor?
Hoffmann: My successor, Jason Goldstein, is an experienced, outgoing and smart man with a great regulatory, field and business background. I know that he’ll work hard and move the Foundation into a prosperous future. My best advice would be to take care of the details and everything else will fall into place.