Name: Michelle CollettiTitle/Occupation/Work Location: Physical Scientist based at headquartersBorn/Raised/Hometown: Las Vegas, NevadaFamily/Pets: I have three cats (Rose, Coco and Phoebe) and one husband, Mike.
When people ask me what I do for work I tell them:I am a Bonneville Power Administration environmental representative. I don’t specialize in any particular environmental category; I get to do a little bit of everything. I work with our construction teams to ensure projects mitigate potential environmental impacts; I respond to spills and coordinate clean-up efforts; I perform sampling at substations to ensure we dispose of material properly; and I coordinate BPA’s program to track sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas emissions. SF6 is an insulating gas used in high-voltage electrical equipment to interrupt electrical arcs.
I like working at BPA because:I love the variety of work I get to do. One day I might be inside with my head buried in a spreadsheet or writing documents related to our environmental analyses required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The next day I am out in the field taking concrete samples, or assessing an access road to see if a wetland is present.
How does your work group or office support BPA’s mission and strategy?My work group, Pollution Prevention and Abatement, provides environmental compliance and pollution prevention oversight for the operation and maintenance of BPA's transmission system, including protection of water resources, reduction of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and protection of other critical environmental resources. We oversee BPA transmission construction projects and implement environmental measures and requirements identified during the environmental planning and analysis phase.
A new or technical aspect of my job that I enjoy is: SF6 is a powerful greenhouse gas, which we are required by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act to track and report our emissions. I enjoy the technical aspects of tracking SF6 emissions because of my training as a chemist and previous work in the field of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I appreciate the opportunity to “nerd out” on some cool atmospheric chemistry and make a big impact by keeping tabs on SF6 emissions for the agency. I also get to work with many interesting people throughout the agency who design and install equipment that contains SF6 gas—it’s an impressive program that is a credit to everyone who interacts with it.
The coolest or most surprising thing about my job is:Whenever I do a site visit on a transmission line right-of-way I am continually awed by the beauty of the region we serve. Some of our rights-of-way are in very remote and hard to reach places; I like to send a photo of where I’m working that day to my husband who is stuck in the office to share the experience. He may have a better view from his cubicle window, but I get to go outside. How lucky am I!?
What leadership behaviors do you try to demonstrate or is there one you’re working on being better at?One leadership behavior that is easy to demonstrate at BPA is valuing people. I get to work with incredibly interesting and knowledgeable people every day at BPA. My co-workers in my own work group have backgrounds in everything from mathematics and material science to biology and hydrology, and those I get to work with on project teams are experts in their own fields. I get to learn new things every day and appreciate the passion and interest of all of my co-workers. A leadership behavior that I enjoy and attempt to continually improve is to pass it on. I love what I do and I hope to share information in a way that is interesting and engaging.
What has the pandemic taught you?I think this pandemic has taught me the value of taking a moment to pause before reacting. Particularly on the complex projects that we often find ourselves tackling at BPA, finding the space to pause and collect my thoughts has let me relax more and hopefully be a better teammate. I also appreciate when we seek to understand one another. I think all of the project teams that I take part in are excellent at encouraging dialogue and fostering an environment where ideas and feelings can be openly and honestly shared
Safety is a core value at BPA. How do you incorporate safe behavior into your practices and environment?I am not an electrical worker, but I do perform work inside substations to conduct environmental testing of soils and concrete. I ask as many questions as possible before and while working in these environments to make sure that I am aware of the potential hazards.
Notable past jobs/previous careers, awards, published work/technical papers, etc.:I received my undergraduate degree in chemistry from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska and my environmental and natural resource policy graduate degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
I have worked at a number of places before BPA, all in different aspects of my field, including stormwater management at the city of Omaha, Nebraska, methane emission reduction at the Environmental Defense Fund and pesticide fate and effect review at the EPA. At BPA, I have been able to use all of the experiences and knowledge from my previous jobs in one, single position.
When I’m not working or sleeping, I like to: I love to garden, read long, epic fantasy novels, and am currently re-learning to play the French horn. I also love to tackle home improvement tasks, which has come in handy during the pandemic. I love a good plumbing snag or some drywall patching, not that I am very good at it.
Two things I can’t live without are:Good food and good company. Fortunately, my husband is an excellent cook, and our cats are great company for us both.
I am inspired by:I have had the great good luck of working with some amazing people throughout the years who I still keep in touch with. I love seeing how passionate my colleagues are about their fields and making the Earth a better place through what they do. That is what I aspire to do here at BPA.