Nate assisting the local Swinomish Tribe during their clam survey on Crandall Spit.

Nate Biletnikoff’s preparation for his work as Environmental Manager at the Puget Sound Refinery happened about as far from the Anacortes site as possible.

For seven years, Nate worked on behalf of the National Science Foundation as the environmental manager for the scientific research program in Antarctica. He conducted environmental impact assessments for projects in the Southern Ocean and at the major U.S. bases in Antarctica, as well as at many remote field camps conducting scientific drilling and climate change research.

He was also responsible for oil spill prevention and response programs in a pristine, bitterly cold and technically challenging landscape where heat and electricity are mostly generated using fuel oil. 

“I was one of the lucky people who got to go everywhere on the continent,” Nate recalls. “It also allowed me the opportunity to engage other environmental leaders from across the globe supporting the Antarctic Treaty System.”

He originally came to “The Ice,” as Antarctic workers like to call the continent, as a water quality specialist. But the departure of the environmental manager made him the right person at the right time.

“All of a sudden I had a whole staff of people that were working on so many fascinating things. That really was truly a dream job.”

But during the same period, he was spending his time off the ice on San Juan Island, where his wife, Janice, worked as a land use planner, and his love of the Pacific Northwest was growing. He began looking for a role that would be as interesting and fulfilling as his work in Antarctica.

Nate was attracted by the high-stakes challenges that oil companies face in protecting the environment, and by Shell’s approach to meeting those challenges. And his time in the San Juans had prepared him for the intense scrutiny that oil refineries in this region receive from both citizens and governments. 

 “Shell’s level of commitment really impressed me,” Nate said. “I specifically had my sights on working for Shell.”

His very presence, Nate says, is a testament to the refinery and the larger company’s commitment to environmental protection.

“They hired the environmental manager for the most pristine place on earth,” Nate said.

At the refinery, Nate is responsible for facilitating and maintaining sound environmental policy and sustainable development practices that help the facility toward its goal of zero environmental non-compliance. He also works to promote environmental stewardship principles, and drive accountability of Shell’s responsibilities as a community leader. And he is a highly visible external representative of Shell in the community, where he serves as an advisor to the Anacortes High School Environmental club, as a member of the Skagit County Marine Resources Committee, a new board member on the Padilla Bay Foundation, and is also a recent graduate of Leadership Skagit, a community-based service organization and leadership development program.

One of the attractions of working at the refinery, Nate says, is the degree to which his devotion to protecting the environment is shared across the company.

“I work with an entire network of environmental managers across Shell. Every single one of them has that level of commitment.”