Back when Erin Sutherland was a legal intern, one of the first issues she was assigned was the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill. The spill dumped 142,800 gallons of crude oil (3,400 barrels) onto the Gaviota Coast, one of the most biologically diverse places on the West Coast.
“The Refugio spill was my first awakening to the fact that there is not enough regulation out there to protect us from pipeline incidents,” Erin says. “It was the first time I became familiar with PHMSA and learned about the federal pipeline regulator.”
Fast-forward seven years and Erin is Policy Counsel for the Pipeline Safety Trust, working to protect people and the environment from pipeline disasters like the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill.
Growing up just North of Houston, Texas, Erin is no stranger to pipelines. Houston, the petrochemical complex of the world, is nearly synonymous with oil and gas.
“It’s interesting to me that I am pursuing a career distinct from what I grew up around,” Erin says. “But at the same time, I never thought I would end up working in an oil and gas adjacent industry.”
Erin says she is glad to be a part of the Pipeline Safety Trust and is excited to use the skills she has gained in other areas of practice for the public benefit.
There are unique opportunities when working in a burgeoning regulatory field, and, being the voice of safety and the public is an important perspective to have as the regulatory landscape continues to take shape she says.
One issue Erin is particularly looking forward to working on is CO2 pipelines because she believes it is important to have a voice for safety influencing the push for regulation.
“When it comes to pipelines, the regulatory landscape is very complex and intricate,” Erin says. “That’s what makes this new opportunity challenging but also very exciting,” she says.
More About Erin
Erin Sutherland joined the Pipeline Safety Trust as Policy Counsel in September 2022. Erin’s areas of expertise include regulatory and legal affairs and government transparency.
Previously, Erin worked as staff attorney for the farm animal program at the Animal Welfare Institute and clerked at the public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks. Erin graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Natural Resources Policy and Administration, and obtained a J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School with a certificate in Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law.
In her free time, Erin enjoys gardening, cooking, skiing, and hiking with her husband and dog Penny.
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