Dave Appel has always loved the outdoors.


That love has resulted in dual careers for the Environmental Team Lead at Hoosier Energy, who also moonlights as the head coach for Purdue men’s hockey.


Appel recently spoke with GridLines about both.


Q: To start, tell us how you came to be at Hoosier Energy?


A: My original goal was to get into forestry or wildlife conservation management. I got into a program at Franklin College and when the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) was only two years old, I did my first internship. I liked people and loved the outdoors, and it guided my career path.


After college, I spent the next 20 years with IDEM before leaving to join Franklin Quality Mill Supply as a safety and environmental consultant from 2010 to 2017. One day I got a call from my former colleague at IDEM, Angie Lee. She asked me if I would be interested in working for Hoosier Energy.


When I first moved to Bloomington in the early 2000s, I had interviewed to be environmental manager at Hoosiers, so when I got this opportunity, I jumped all over it. I had got out of the environmental side for a few years but this let me get back to my roots and what I went to school for. Now I’m getting into things I never had the opportunity to get into before. After 30-plus years, enjoying what you do is a plus.


Q: Your job at Hoosier Energy is Environmental Team Lead. What exactly is that?


A: The position has morphed quite a bit. Originally, my specialty was in waste management, hazardous and non-hazardous from all facilities, gas plants, energy plants, Merom as well as spill response at substations, underground storage tanks, petroleum countermeasures and cleanup, etc. We had a lot of regulatory programs, but when Merom was sold that took away a large portion of what I did, which needed constant attention.


When that went away, where’s the void? It’s in the environmental reviews for the transmission and distribution process. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has requirements with federal funding, so whether Hoosier is building a tower, a substation, a line rebuild or a new build, there must be an environmental review.


I work with delivery services and distribution services, with engineers and project managers, from the onset of design to completion and environmental restoration. Environmental had not been involved to a great degree, so this has been very valuable.


Q: What are you working on right now?


A: I’m often out in the field, not only with the review process, but for wetlands certification and ground disturbances with stormwater permits. I’m very involved with weekly inspections. We had to do a review up front and a lot of follow-up work with the Spurgeon’s Corner project, which gives me the opportunity to work with more people, from lineman to project managers to contractors to real estate specialists. Everyone has a part.


Most recently, we had a restoration call for Busseron Bottoms, which was a 345 build outside of Merom, a line rebuild, and almost six miles is in a designated wetland, so it’s a sensitive environmental project.


They were almost done with the build when the tornado came through and destroyed the structures we put up. To make the project safe again, they had to drag vehicles through the wetlands with bulldozers. It was a super sensitive environment that had been trashed, but it had to be done carefully. Additionally, that’s a designated land classification suitable for a pollinator habitat. This entire section is adopted acres through the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the monarch butterfly.


The restoration plan includes invasive species control and plugging pollinator plants because it’s a wetland, including assigning a couple botanists to the project. We want to do what we can to leave it better than we found it. The area was literally trashed by the tornado, but we have a year-long approach to this plan and are anxious to see how it’s going to turn out because it’s perfect as a pollinator habitat.


Q: When you’re not visiting various job sites for Hoosier, you’re on the road as a hockey coach?


A: Yeah, I’m kind of nearing the end of my career as a coach. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. The COVID year is the only one I’ve had off since 2005, coaching multiple teams in both hockey and lacrosse. I even helped start the Bloomington High School North lacrosse program.


I took over as head coach of Purdue men’s hockey in 2018, and it has been an example of a 180-degree turnaround. They were suspended for disciplinary reasons and the coach left, so they couldn’t even play any games. The first year back was in 2019. Two years later we won the league and this year won the league again and for the first time in the program’s 60-year history made it to the national championships, finishing as the 10th-ranked team in the country.


Q: What was it like taking Purdue to the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national tournament for the first time?


A: It was a fantastic experience. We had four weeks to organize the trip, do fundraising and plan the logistics of 25 boys with ground transportation in Boston, where there were 70 teams across the three ACHA divisions, men’s and women’s.


The opening game was rough. We were missing our two top scorers, but after that we had two amazing wins, including beating Notre Dame in their green jerseys on St. Patrick’s Day with a bagpiper leading them onto the ice. We didn’t advance out of pool play due to goal differential, but it was a great experience.


Q: How much time does the hockey season take?


A: We’ll start mid-September and run into March, we hope, with the national championships. It’s a 30-game season, and we travel anywhere from Arkansas to Missouri to Florida.


There are some late, late, late nights. We practice one or two days a week on the north side of Indianapolis, so it splits the distance from the team to me and me to the team. Practices are at 9:30 or 10 at night, so the boys don’t get back to campus until 1 a.m. Our games are usually on Friday night or Saturday afternoon, so that makes it a manageable work load, but the late nights during the week are tough.


The Purdue program has been in existence for 60 years and never had a rink on campus, so we play all our games on the north side of Indianapolis. Every game is sort of a road game.


I also am a part of the U.S.A. hockey coaching education program, so I put on at least 30-40 coaching clinics each year.


Q: All in all, it sounds like you’re where you want to be?


A: Hoosier Energy is a great place to pull everything together I’ve done in the past 30 years. In retirement, I’m back out in the woods, maybe find an ice pond. It’s all going full circle.