One of the ducks Roich has saved over the years, warming in the cab of his pickup truck after being washed clean of contaminants from an oilfield wastewater pit. (Adam Roich)

Dominion Energy fired an oilfield worker in Rock Springs after the employee saved an estimated 50 waterfowl from wastewater ponds. 

Adam Roich said he’s rescued about that many waterfowl in the last five years after they landed in tainted ponds at his worksite about 50 miles south of Rock Springs. He would take the oil-slicked birds to a company facility, wash them with Dawn household soap, warm them in his truck, then set them free on clean water, he told WyoFile in an interview.

“I got fired a couple days before Christmas for rescuing these guys throughout the years,” he posted recently on Facebook above many photographs of his avian patients. “I only did what I thought was right.”

Adam Roich. (Adam Roich)

Dominion terminated Roich on Dec. 19 for violating company policy, according to a letter obtained by WyoFile. His firing followed an internal investigation, the seven-sentence letter read.

Dominion wouldn’t say why it fired Roich, calling the issue “an internal matter.”

“[T]he company has fully complied with the applicable laws and company policies with respect to the individual,” Dominion’s Don Porter, media relations manager, wrote WyoFile. “[W]e abide by federal regulations which direct us to notify the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service only in the event of a bird fatality.”

Roich described a sad scene at the water’s edge: “They’d get oil on their feathers,” he said. “They’d just go to the bank and sit there. They’d freeze to death if I didn’t grab them.”

No bird rescues allowed

Four ponds, the largest about the size of a football field, dot the Canyon Creek energy field complex along the southern border of the state, Roich said. “It’s really toxic water,” he said. “Slicks of oil on them accumulate over time.”

A net covers one of them, Dominion’s Porter wrote. A BirdAvert system uses radar to deploy plastic falcons, strobes and falcon screeches to scare waterfowl away from the others.

A trumpeter swan in one of the oilfield ponds. (Adam Roich)

“The system doesn’t work that well,” Roich said. Dominion called the bird-scaring system “not 100% effective,” and wrote that some birds alight in the ponds anyway, landing in produced water from natural gas wells — contaminated groundwater that contains gas and other substances.

Oilfield workers at the Canyon Creek field employed their own rescue system, Roich said. “We had a net out there,” he said. “I would just net the duck or grab it.

“I would take into our facility,” he said. “I would wash it. They rode around with me in my truck loving the heat while I worked my ass off.”

At the end of the day, Roich would release the rehabilitated ducks in a freshwater pond nearby, he said. Most would fly off.

Roich contacted state wildlife officials who told him what he was doing was probably OK, he said. But Dominion wrote that such rescues by employees are not allowed.

“When this happens, Dominion Energy follows federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act-related regulations, which forbid our employees from retrieving the fowl,” Dominion’s Porter wrote WyoFile.

Roich said other workers had been rescuing ducks during his five years with the company and beyond. “Before I was there they were doing the same thing,” he said. “Others did the same, but it all got pinned on me.”

Roich said he tried to work within the system. He believes Dominion could get a permit to handle the ducks and told supervisors as much.

Federal regulations allow licensed veterinarians to rescue migratory birds without a rehabilitation permit, but they must transfer the birds to an authorized rehabilitator within 24 hours after they are stabilized.

This fall a supervisor told Roich not to rescue any more waterfowl, Roich said. “He recently ordered me to let them die and not touch them,” he wrote on Facebook. After that, “I never touched another duck,” he told WyoFile.

Dominion put him on paid leave for almost two months, Roich said. “Like I’m some criminal,” he said. He called the episode a two-month ordeal that led up to his firing.

“Then I was terminated.” Ducks were at issue, Roich said. “An HR person told me that.”

Dominion’s Porter said the company is following federal regulations.

“We did not create these rules and regulations, but we are committed to adhering to them,” he wrote. “One of Dominion Energy’s core values is ‘ethics,’ which we take seriously — especially pertaining to government regulations concerning our business operations.”

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Dominion fired him for violating the company’s code of ethics, Roich said he was told. “I don’t think there’s anything about ducks in the code of ethics,” he said.

Roich has another job in a Rock Springs auto shop in Rock Springs, he said, but isn’t making as much as he used to in the oil patch. He believes he’s made the right decisions.

“I don’t regret it,” he said.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. Thank you, Mr. Roich.

    Dominion Energy Executives may be following the rules but the new rule is inhumane and none of the Executives, as far as I am aware, spoke out against it which, in my mind, makes them complicit in the killing of birds for profit. But please don’t limit your ire to Dominion Energy Executives. It was the Trump Administration that gutted a one hundred year old law protecting birds to reduce costs and regulatory burdens to oil corporations.

    And it is oil corporations, along with a few other bad actors, that are destroying the only planet we can call home and survive.

    1. And Dominion has the nerve to talk of ethics? If they had any ethical concerns at all those ponds would be cleaned or covered to protect wildlife, something.

  2. I agree with many who have already posted comments in regards to how unethical Dominion Energy and its upper management staff is to fire Adam Roich for doing such a selfless and compassionate act to try and save these innocent birds.

    Celeste Finn from Cambridge, MA posted that she would like to help Mr. Roich by setting up a crowdfunding campaign. I would like to help and/or contribute to that fund. In my humble opinion, Adam should be rewarded for his big-hearted kindness and efforts to help these animals.

    I hope the WyoFile publication follows up with Mr. Roich and helps to create such an outlet so that folks like me who appreciate what he has done and have a way to help him directly and give back. I look forward to learning more about how we can help Adam Roich, a local hero and strong individual who was wrongfully terminated for being a caring and compassionate human being. We need more people like Adam in our world and less greedy, self-serving corporations like Dominion Energy.

  3. It seems that Dominion is strictly following highly flawed regulations. The regulations need to change to protect the wildlife, not insure their demise.

  4. I would be willing to contribute a small gift or even host a gofundme for Mr. Roich if I were assured that he could be legitimatized as the receiver of funds. I Looked for one and was unable to find.

    I am unclear on whether unemployment benefits are an option when one is fired rather than laid off, but right before Christmas would be a difficult time to find work. Many businesses are operationally defunct for a couple weeks of winter holiday.

    I could only make a modest gesture, but I don’t think that I’d be alone in the desire to support somebody who resisted an authority that told him *not to help* creatures that were in need of aid that he could provide. People go into Forestry, Fish and Game for different reasons. Some are called to respect and protect. If I had a kid, I’d hope I could raise them to have these values.

    It makes me uncomfortable to imagine this man may not understand how deeply other people appreciate walking the same earth as him.

    Celeste F
    Cambridge, MA

    1. This sounds like a wonderful idea for such a kind man with so much compassion for the wildlife he saved. Dominion is so wrong – they do need to update their policies. Allowing innocent wildlife to die because of their outdated policies is wrong.

      1. It was the Trump Administration that gutted the century’s old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a one hundred year old law that Republicans and Democrats in previous administrations had upheld. The Trump Administration is shameless.

  5. Seems like environmentalist groups and animal rights groups should be making a fuss about this. Surely they could give this man a job, maybe even a job rescuing birds in other oil spills.

    1. Environmentalists HAVE been “making a fuss” about this for years and years. you just don’t hear about it because that’s not where the money’s at. They’ve taken a ton of companies to court and gotten them to pay their measly fines for killing hundreds of birds over the years. There is only so much they can do. They have gotten companies to put netting a falcon cries over their disgusting “water” ponds but like this article said: it doesn’t help that much. It all comes down to money, Romi, and there isn’t a lot of it in conservation. It’s devastating and wrong but it’s the truth.

  6. Oil companies are the absolute worst when it comes to enviromental issaues. They don’t seem to care about anything except who do we have to put the screws to to get more money. They don’t care about the earth or about the animals or people. For them to say anything about their ethics is laughable. they wouldn’t know ethics if they smacked them in the face. I cannot believe that we cannot come up with better products not made with petroleum. Get rid of all oil companies!!

  7. Leaders of Dominion Energy should be ashamed of themselves, but I don’t think they’re losing any sleep over this. This is hard to believe, but yet it is unfortunately easy to believe. Why does a company do these things? I stand up for the employee, who showed love and caring and ethics, unlike his bosses. He did the right thing, no matter what Dominion Energy wanted. This could have been the “feel good” story of the year for the energy company. But its hapless suits made a big mistake. I know that the former employee will reap rewards for this because kindness always counts. How can we help him?

  8. I would have been a great PR story. Let the guy get a handling permit and make him in charge of rescuing waterfowl. A win win for both the company and employee.

    Thanks to everyone who commented and to those who act on their passion for wildlife.

  9. Federal law MANDATES that oil and gas companies cover ALL wastewater ponds with netting to prevent harm to migratory birds and wildlife. It is not an option. However, the Trump Administration does not believe in environmental laws or protection and will not enforce those laws. Dominion Energy is hardly alone in this fiasco. The oil and gas industry only cares about two things – (1) corporate profits and (2) shareholder equity. Bad publicity about saving birds from tainted ponds is bad for the corporate bottom line and therefore a detriment to shareholder equity.

    I applaud the efforts of Adam Roich. He probably cannot get his job back, and after this he will have a hard time getting another job in oil and gas, but he needs to do everything possible to shine a light on this fiasco so that Dominion pays a heavy price in terms of environmental regulations violations fines and bad publicity that hurts its bottom line. The requirement for netting to protect migratory birds and wildlife MUST be strictly enforced. In fact, open ponds for wastewater should be strictly prohibited in favor of closed loop systems that eliminate any chance of harm to wildlife.

    1. In 2018 the Trump Administration gutted the Migratory Bird Act. I recall hearing a story on NPR about the possible changes to the law. I wrote my Senators and made a public comment but I don’t think enough people knew this was happening to stop it.
      All I know is I agree with Ralph Nader. He said something to the effect that every day Democracy requires every day citizenship. I now read the paper and/or listen to the news every day. What I’ve found is real life is much more interesting than anything on television.

  10. This man did the right thing and should not have lost his job. Oil companies are the most anti environment.
    Wyoming is such a beautiful state they should have more alternative energy companies, windmills and solar, get rid of coal and oil. I’ve vacationed and traveled many parts of this beautiful state and always enjoyed it

    1. We do have wind farms. And there are truck loads of dead birds carted away from those every day.

      1. Claudia- Please attribute your statement that ” truckloads of dead birds are carted away [ from wind farms ] ” Are you talking about Wyoming here, somewhere else , everywhere there’s a turbine ? An assertion like that needs to be fact checked. Should be relatively easy in this case.

        What have you got for us?

  11. Dominion energy is head quartered out of Richmond Virginia . So why would they care what happens to Wyoming’s wildlife? They bought out Questar gas for the pipelines, and to ship cheap gas back to Virginia. It’s a classic case of take the money and run, and if wildlife gets hurt, so be it. They claim core values and ethics., if that were the case, they would have fired his supervisor for lack of.

  12. Thank you for taking the high road.There are no awards for your action only the gratitude of many.

    Peace.

  13. No surprise here. It sounds like corporate/political tactics were used to fire someone they wanted to get rid of anyway and this gave them an excuse. I can only applaud Mr. Roich for his commendable efforts to protect and conserve wildlife.
    I would suggest that any other employee who finds themselves in similar circumstances to document as much as possible via written observations including video or photos if possible. Additionally, get to know the company rules, regulations and applicable laws, regardless of what industry you work in. You will at least have a defensible position, leverage for political maneuvering and evidence in case of litigation. As the old adage goes, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I speak from experience!

  14. This man should be praised not fired. What kind of world do we live in where a guy loses his job for helping some birds. He was doing the right thing and the company is not. Kudos to him especially for standing behind his actions, the world agrees with you and you’re a hero to those birds.

    1. This man was fired for exposing his company’s environmental law violations. Dominion is not going to stand for being exposed!

  15. Is there a petition to have him rehired? Though I suppose maybe he will get a better job out of this with a better company??

  16. ETHICS??? This company owes me $18000.00 for work back in April of 18. They won’t answer phones or return calls. Dominion has no ethics whatsoever.If anyone ever really was to dig in to their business this would be obvious.

  17. Thank you, WYOFILE, for sharing this story of compassion for wildlife. It seems rare that people like Adam risk their jobs to rescue living creatures that would die without a helping hand. Dominion should consider making every effort to provide the training requirements for certain employees to be able to rescue the birds/animals. As Dr. Marc Bekoff has stated: “Many non-human animals have very rich and deep emotional lives and they care about what happens to them, their families, and their friends. They have a point of view, and just like us, they want to live in peace and safety, absent fear, pain, suffering, and abuse.”

  18. What kind of world will soon be living in? No birds or any wildlife in it. It will be like many other species which have become extinct. If the pond was properly covered none of this would be an issue. We need to all work together to protect mother earth and protect all the creatures. Too many of us worship the all mighty dollar and forget to protect other things. I support Adam Roich. Would any one of you watch poor dying birds each day without doing something about it?

  19. Mr. Adam Roich is a hero in my book for doing the right thing. In the 1980s I was a wildlife biologist in the Big Horn Basin for the BLM. I discovered that oil pits in the Basin had oil on them and were killing thousands of birds cumulatively. I reported this to BLM oil and gas inspectors. They denied there were dead birds, bats and mammals in the pits. I photographed the dead animals and brought some dead bats into the office and placed them on the Assistant District Managers desk, yes they stunk. Still I got no action so I went to the press. Then I got some attention. Most people in the office were embarrassed and mad at me for calling attention to a problem they did not want to solve, don’t rock the boat. I felt like I was breaking new ground until I talked to Cal King, the Game and Fish biologist from Thermopolis. He found the same problem in the Grass Creek oil field at least a decade earlier with limited, temporary results. The dead birds I found were on pits with flagging, strobe lights and boom guns. Birds were not deterred by these devices. I calculated that covering these pits with chicken wire worked effectively and was cheaper. Some were already in use. I met with an oil field manager. After looking at my calculations, he told me it was cheaper to place chicken wire over the pits than to replace flags that that broke off. I talked to many oil field managers and the netting idea took off in the basin. Many birds and bats were protected due to the efforts of these considerate individuals. I found the oil field workers to be very concerned and helpful, more so than most of the people in my office. They loved the country they lived in and got enjoyment from watching the wildlife. I find it awful that this is still going on when such a simple solution is available. Mr. Roich should be commended, not fired. His concern for the wildlife that makes this country wonderful should be applauded by Dominion. They could have taken credit for having an environmental conscience.

    1. Your experience and solution and voice are so important. May I suggest you try and contact them directly or write an article for publishing? Thank you

  20. So this untrained guy violates federal law and he’s the victim? Companies can’t just ignore laws they don’t like.

    1. Really? The federal government doesn’t even follow their own laws. Just look at immigration. Sometimes a person just has to do what’s morally right But I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that.

    2. Many people rescue birds and other animals from certain death in other situations and they are not licensed veterinarians. It’s a matter of our own personal ethics and morals. The law doesn’t take into consideration the lack of ethics by companies creating these cesspools which endangers all “animal” species and human life as well. Not covering residual waste left in the open for animals to die in, is the largest issue. Allowing industrial waste to be open in this instance should be illegal period. Any law created should be directed to ensuring companies comply in covering their “pools of waste” in totality for all to benefit.

    3. Mr. Blaine, Most of us have come to the realization by now that the government’s laws are not always ethical. In fact the state of government (corporate) morality has gone from bad to worse to completely corrupt. It’s the individual with conscience and true ethics and compassion who stands up for what’s right, no matter what the repercussions who are the heroes and should be admired and supported. Can you comprehend that?

  21. Good for you, Adam. You are a courageous man who refuses to sell his soul for a paycheck.
    Jana Weber, Pinedale

  22. Dominion’s claim of following a code of ethics is as rich and laughable as Trump claiming he was trying to rid Ukraine of corruption! Adam Roich should be recognized, lauded and rewarded!

  23. I’ve seen a version of this movie before. I had a lead role.
    Back in the mid-1980’s I spent a lot of time west of Meeteetse on the Pitchfork Ranch during hunting season . There are a lot of oil wells and tank batteries up the Greybull River that way , the Four Bear Oil Field among them . Most were operated by AMOCO at the time.
    My friend and I were out photo cruising one sunny day in late autumn when we came across an ugly little waste pit alongside a pumpjack and small tank battery. The bermed pit – about 10 ft x 20 ft of indeterminate depth – had several inches of shiny black heavy crude oil floating on it. No fence, no nets, no strobes , no fluttering flagging nor deterrents of any sort to keep birds or anything else out of it. There were several dead Mallard ducks floating in it. My friend and I were fascinated by the rainbow colors, the geometric patterns, the grimness of colored ducks in the throes of black slime amid refracted hues. It was artisitic, if somewhat stark.

    Up the hill I see a guy known to me in his company pickup gawking at us with binoculars . Delbert Long, the AMOCO pumper making his daily rounds. As soon as we started up the hill , he drove away somewhat hurriedly. We had no intention at the time of ratting out Big Oil for their negligence. This kind of stuff went on all the time — the oil field lackeys playing fast and loose up to and maybe beyond what they could get away with when they think nobody is looking. We was looking, With Nikons and Canons.

    I found out later from the Ditchrider that the …very…next. .. day…that waste pit was totally transformed and cleaned up ; festooned with fencing, flagging, strobes and netting and the waste crude oil had been sucked away by a vac truck. AMOCO ‘s response was spectacular and done with a great urgency. It magically became a showcase oil installation overnight. All the corporate flying monkeys had to see was two guys with cameras photographing their obvious negligent violations of EPA regulations , and they got into compliance quicker than the proverbial turpentined hound dog.

    My symp[athies to Adam Roich. Fired for doing the right thing. We all have stories from all over Wyoming of Big Oil, Fat Gas, and King Coal skirting the rules to defend the bottom line when they can get away with it. Then again , thousands of migrating Snow Geese somehow find their way into the acidic waste pool in the bottom of the huge Berkeley Pit in the middle of Butte Montana every year and have for decades.

  24. These companies are required to prevent birds from accessing their ponds. If the company had done so the whole situation could have been avoided.

  25. God Bless this man and his co-workers for doing the right thing. Dominion is flat out wrong and shows an incredible lack of compassion. What can we do to get the rules changed?

  26. thanks for bringing this to light. I wonder if there is a way to put pressure on companies or agencies to change this practice. It seems outrageous to create hazards for wildlife and not allow rescues. The rules the company cites are meant to protect wildlife, not force their demise.