Author Archives: Christina Nyquist

Christina Nyquist

About Christina Nyquist

Christina Nyquist is the Communications Specialist for the American Gas Association. Prior to joining AGA, Christina served as a Writer/Editor and Public Affairs Specialist at the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Christina holds a master’s degree from the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.

Christina Nyquist Announcing the AGA Peer Review Program: Further Elevating the Safety of Natural Gas Delivery

1 200x300 Announcing the AGA Peer Review Program: Further Elevating the Safety of Natural Gas DeliveryOn October 15, AGA announced a new voluntary safety initiative for local natural gas utilities throughout North America. The National AGA Peer Review Program is a peer-to-peer safety and operational practices review program that will allow AGA member companies to observe their peers, share leading practices and identify opportunities to better serve customers and communities. While other industries have implemented various forms of peer review processes as part of their safety efforts, this marks the first time the natural gas utility sector will undertake such an effort at the national level.

How it Works:

Beginning in January 2015, companies from the more than 200 local natural gas utilities that make up AGA’s membership will volunteer to participate in peer groups, sending experienced natural gas operators, engineers and safety experts to visit one another’s facilities and conduct detailed reviews focused on key aspects of safety culture, pipeline and employee safety. As AGA’s Vice President of Operations and Engineering Christina Sames said, the AGA Peer Review Program gives participants the opportunity to “have the absolute best minds in the industry – working professionals who are experts in their field – collaborate with other utilities to help identify what is working well and where there are opportunities for improvement.”

Elevating Safety:

This initiative is just the latest development in the industry’s continuing effort to elevate the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to homes and businesses. Safety is a core value for AGA and its member companies. There is robust oversight and regulation focused on the natural gas industry to help ensure safety and reliability, and utilities work with public officials, regulators, safety advocates and other key stakeholders continually further these efforts. Additionally, the industry advances safety even further through voluntary actions and continued improvements to delivery systems as part of their Commitment to Enhancing Safety. In total, natural gas utilities spend more than $19 billion annually to monitor, maintain and upgrade natural gas distribution and transmission systems.

How You Can Help Enhance Safety:

While the AGA Peer Review Program will add to the industry’s ongoing work to help ensure safe and reliable natural gas delivery, you are an important part of the process. As a customer or member of the community there are a few important ways to stay safe around natural gas.

  • Report the smell of natural gas immediately to your local natural gas utility. Natural gas is odorized with Mercaptan – which smells like rotten eggs – to help detect natural gas leaks.
  • Make sure natural gas appliances and fuel lines are properly maintained.
  • Call 811 before any digging or excavation project – even planting trees or flowers.
  • Spread the word about safe digging. Excavation damage is the leading cause of pipeline incidents in the United States, but progress is being made thanks to public awareness efforts.
  • Pay attention to safety communications from your local utility. Look for bill inserts, ads, or follow their social media channels to stay informed.

Learn more about the AGA Peer Review Program and Natural Gas Safety:

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Christina Nyquist Calling on Congress to Help Low-Income Natural Gas Customers

Senate to Set LIHEAP Funding Levels This Week

This week, the U.S. Senate will make key decisions regarding the ability of vulnerable energy customers to meet their basic home heating and cooling needs. Since 2010, funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has dropped by nearly $2 billion and the President’s budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 calls for just $2.8 billion – less than half of the $5.1 billion allocated in FY2010. Even when LIHEAP was funded at $5.1 billion, that amount was only enough to assist one in five eligible Americans.

Today, June 10, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which funds the LIHEAP program, will mark up their Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations spending bill, setting target funding levels for LIHEAP and other critical programs. The Senate Full Appropriations Committee is then expected to take up the bill on Thursday, June 12.

The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEAUC), AGA and low-income energy assistance supporters are calling on Congress to help ensure that all Americans can access essential energy to support their daily needs. AGA has signed a multi-party NEAUC letter, which will be delivered to every member of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

Are you a low-income assistance organization or a utility representative? Sign the multi-party letter here.

You can help spread the word through social media or by contacting your representatives. AGA and NEAUC are sharing messages on Twitter at @AGA_naturalgas and @liheapcampaign using the hashtag #LIHEAP. Make sure to mention @SenateApprops in your tweets.

LIHEAP funding FY 2004 2014 Calling on Congress to Help Low Income Natural Gas Customers

Photo Credit: Center for American Progress

With U.S. Census data showing that more than 46 million Americans live in poverty and that the average low- and fixed-income family spends 13.5 percent of its annual income on energy – nearly twice the 7.2 percent spent by the average U.S. household – the need for sufficient LIHEAP funding is great.

AGA and America’s local natural gas utilities are committed to helping all customers meet their energy needs through efficiency programs and bill payment assistance. In 2012, utilities contributed nearly $3.7 billion in assistance to low-income customers – roughly equal to the $3.47 billion provided in LIHEAP funding that year. This assistance included discounted rates, arrearage forgiveness, weatherization and efficiency programs, and support to charitable organizations that provide resources for customers in need. Utilities also spent $1.1 billion in natural gas efficiency programs for all customers in 2012, helping homes and businesses reduce their typical annual natural gas usage by an average 16 percent and save $117 in annual energy costs.

You can find more information about LIHEAP in a 2014 report, Investing in LIHEAP, and individual state factsheets detailing funding scenarios, demographic information and the number of households served.

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Christina Nyquist Natural Gas in a Brighter, More Efficient Tomorrow: Natural Gas Utilities Support National Building Safety Month

With its domestic abundance, efficiency and low emissions profile, natural gas has an important role in supporting safe and sustainable homes and businesses throughout the nation. Day in and day out, more than 177 million Americans rely on natural gas for heating, cooling, hot water, cooking and more. AGA and its member companies are dedicated to continually enhancing the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas to America’s buildings, as well as to helping customers understand how to maximize their energy usage, and that’s why AGA is proud to be next week’s (May 26-31) sponsor of the International Code Council’s Building Safety Month.

Building Safety Month 1 Natural Gas in a Brighter, More Efficient Tomorrow: Natural Gas Utilities Support National Building Safety MonthWith the theme “Building a Brighter, More Efficient Tomorrow,” AGA is sharing information on the extraordinary efficiency of natural gas, the benefits of using natural gas directly in home appliances, and tips on how customers can achieve even greater savings for their wallet and the planet. For instance, did you know:

  • When used directly, natural gas achieves 92 percent energy efficiency.
  • A household with natural gas vs. all-electric appliances produces 37 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions and results in 28 percent less energy consumption.
  • Natural gas appliances for home heating can help customers cut their energy bills in half.

While simply converting to natural gas can help consumers save on their monthly utility bills, natural gas utilities are committed to helping their customers save even more. Your local utility can suggest how to weatherize your home or business, how to reduce energy consumption, and may even offer rebates and discounts on energy efficient appliances and home or building efficiency improvements. In 2012, utilities invested $1.1 billion in natural gas efficiency programs that helped customers reduce their typical annual natural gas usage by an average 16 percent and save $117 in annual energy costs – in total saving 136 trillion Btu of energy and offsetting 7.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. You can find more information about energy efficiency and natural gas utilities here.

Building Safety Month 2 Natural Gas in a Brighter, More Efficient Tomorrow: Natural Gas Utilities Support National Building Safety MonthUtilities are focused on the safe and reliable delivery of this foundation fuel to millions of Americans every day, and safety is the top priority for AGA and its members. The industry continues to take action to further enhance the safety and reliability of its systems. The industry has multiple safeguards in place to protect their customers, and they work to spread public awareness messages so that customers can actively participate in the safety of their homes, businesses and communities. Here’s how you can help ensure your safety around natural gas:

  • Properly maintain gas appliances and fuel lines.
  • Call 811 before embarking on any excavation or digging project – even planting.
  • Report the smell of natural gas to your local natural gas utility. Utilities odorize natural gas with Mercaptan – which smells similar to rotten eggs – to help customers detect leaks.
  • Be attentive to safety communications provided by your utility.
  • Help your kids understand natural gas safety with resources like AGA’s Kids Safety Video.

More information on Building Safety Month and Natural Gas:

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Christina Nyquist Natural Gas Appliances Can Cut Home Heating Bills in Half and Reduce Emissions

You could save anywhere from $300 to $1,262 per year on home heating costs and reduce your carbon footprint just by choosing a natural gas furnace, water heater or both.

These findings come with the release of AGA’s 2014 Representative Average Residential Space Heating and Water Heating Costs analysis which compares average annual costs for various types of space and water heating appliances. Based on estimated representative average fuel unit costs published by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, AGA analysts estimated the annual costs for natural gas furnaces and water heaters when compared to their propane, oil and electric counterparts.

A piece of equipment with a higher annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating provides greater savings for customers. For example, a 97 percent AFUE natural gas furnace provides the lowest cost space heating option for homeowners, followed by an 80 percent AFUE natural gas furnace. Both offer significant annual operating cost savings over comparable space heating options.

The charts below break down potential savings by each appliance option. For more detail, as well as information on how these numbers were compiled, view AGA’s recent press release. Heating Water Costs graph 1 Natural Gas Appliances Can Cut Home Heating Bills in Half and Reduce Emissions

Heating Water Costs graph 2 Natural Gas Appliances Can Cut Home Heating Bills in Half and Reduce EmissionsSavings can be attributed to the low price of natural gas driven by its domestic abundance, as well as the efficiency of natural gas delivery systems and appliances. Direct use of natural gas – when natural gas is consumed directly in appliances for heating and cooling, water heating, cooking and clothes drying – achieves 92 percent energy efficiency from the point of production to delivery to the consumer. In typical home appliances, the direct use of natural gas cuts energy consumption by 28 percent compared to a similar home with all-electric appliances and produces 37 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas water heaters, for example, are nearly twice as efficient as electric resistance water heaters on a full-fuel-cycle comparison.

You can work with your local natural gas utility to upgrade your appliances and get more tips to increase your energy savings. As part of their commitment to promoting cost-effective and practical approaches to increasing energy efficiency, natural gas utilities invested $1.1 billion in natural gas efficiency programs in 2012 and budgeted nearly $1.5 billion for the 2013 program year. Here are a few services offered by some utilities:

  • Offering low-interest financing, cash rebates and other financial subsidies for high-efficiency natural gas appliance purchases and whole home or building efficiency improvements
  • Providing home energy audits, weatherization kits and programmable thermostats
  • Supplying information on insulation and high-efficiency appliances
  • Connecting customers with experienced and reliable appliance and service providers
  • Making online information available such as energy usage calculators

Every day, America’s local natural gas utilities safely and reliably deliver savings and solutions like this to their more than 71 million residential, commercial and industrial customers throughout the United States. By providing access to our nation’s affordable, efficient and clean energy source, AGA’s member companies are helping to secure a sustainable energy future.

Posted in appliances, energy, Natural Gas, weather, winter heating | 1 Comment