Cooper Kirkland, a senior environmental science major, completed a three-month internship with Oncor Electric Delivery’s environment department in Dallas. The internship is a part of the Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program (MLEIP) sponsored by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). We caught up with Kirkland to learn more about his responsibilities as an intern, as well as how this position allowed him to ensure Texans receive electricity in an environmentally responsible manner.
What were your duties as an intern?
As an intern at Oncor, I had several duties including: filing and organized many important documents relating to petroleum storage tanks (PSTs), waste management, oil spills, air quality, and water quality; attending PST training; analyzing PST maintenance data to help improve PST performance in the future; maintaining PST spreadsheets that help monitor oil leaks and the integrity of the tanks; editing and recording waste manifests (tracking documents); attending avian training on how to protect birds from power lines and the federal regulations that apply; helping transport bird eggs rescued from power lines to a bird rehabilitation center; observing the waste management facility where all of the company's waste is tracked, held, and eventually disposed of; observing the lab where samples from electrical equipment (transformers, power lines, etc.) and samples from the surrounding environment were tested for PCBs.
How was this experience beneficial to your undergraduate career?
This internship really showed me how everything I’m learning at SFA translates to a real job. It’s interesting to see how all the state and federal regulations, environmental concerns and problems, and keeping a company up and running efficiently all interact to run a business like Oncor in a sustainable and responsible manner. I now know how all the things I’ve learned at SFA can help me to identify many environmental concerns associated with the continual growth and development of many different companies that we need to sustain our society.
What was your favorite aspect of the internship?
We got to tour the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in Seagoville, TX, because Oncor previously had a large electrical structure in the area on which a pair of bald eagles created a nest. Bald eagles are a very protected species, so they had to move the nest before it was harmed by the electrical equipment in the tower (easier said than done). A permit to relocate the nest was prepared and approved, and the eagles had to be away from the nest for 10 consecutive days before they could relocate the nest. It took over a year for them to stay away long enough. They were finally able to transplant the nest to a safe location at the wetland center in July 2014. The wetland center is not only home to two magnificent bald eagles (who have hatched and raised several eaglets since the relocation), but also to the wonderful wetland that is a joy to explore and provides better drinking water quality for Dallas.
How did you learn about the internship?
Dr. Jerez had some students who also participated in the MLEIP come and talk to us about their internship experiences in our environmental measurements class. It sounded like a good opportunity, so I applied; and, fortunately, I got an internship at Oncor.