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 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

Christina Nyquist Natural Gas Utilities Engage Communities to Promote 811, Safety Awareness

Today marks the last day of National Safe Digging Month. All April long, throughout the nation, local natural gas utilities have taken creative steps to spread the word about safe excavation practices. Damage from construction and digging activity is the leading cause of pipeline incidents, so communicating with customers and communities about the importance of calling 811 before starting any digging project is essential to enhancing public safety. Efforts surrounding safe digging have contributed to a nearly 50 percent decline in excavation damages to underground facilities since 2004. Here are just a few of the ways AGA member companies raised awareness about safe digging in their local communities.

North Carolina-based Piedmont Natural Gas teamed with garden centers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee to tag trees and shrubs with reminders to “Call Before You Dig.” Piedmont Natural Gas Managing Director of Safety and Community Relations Timothy Greenhouse explained, “We know people are eager to get started on gardening and landscaping projects after the long winter we’ve had, but calling 811 is a free, easy way to avoid the inconvenience, added cost and potential injury that can result from damaging underground utilities.” At the Gardens of Blackhawk Hardware in Charlotte, N.C., Girl Scouts from the local Hornets Nest Council worked with garden center employees to make sure every customer buying a tree, shrub or bush or digging tool received a “Call Before You Dig” tag.

PNG 2 300x199 Natural Gas Utilities Engage Communities to Promote 811, Safety Awareness

Piedmont Natural Gas employees demonstrate safe digging practices with local Girl Scouts at National Safe Digging Month awareness event. Credit: Piedmont Natural Gas

Atmos Energy, headquartered in Dallas, Tex., engaged social media to launch its “iDig It” campaign. The utility offered participants the chance to win $811 by snapping and submitting photos of clearly marked digging sites in their communities and sharing them on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #iDigIt. Atmos also released a new 811 awareness video at the end of March.

In Fresno, Calif., Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation joined the Fresno City Council, the Fresno Fire Department and the Mayor of Madera for a safe digging awareness rally, where participants wrapped 100 stickers around trees that were given away to anyone who pledged to call 811 before digging. In addition to spreading safety awareness, the event added 100 new trees to the city’s landscape. PG&E also hosted weekly safety events at Home Depot stores throughout its service territory throughout the month, where PG&E employees spoke with shoppers about the importance of safe digging. Attendees and their children also played safety games and observed some of the innovative tools PG&E is using to supply customers with safe and reliable gas and electricity.

598x270 811 home depot 4 Natural Gas Utilities Engage Communities to Promote 811, Safety Awareness

PG&E’s Dan Kalendar, left, and Joe Sutton demonstrated the interactive gas safety board for customers at a Home Depot Safe Digging Awareness event. Credit: PG&E

The team here at AGA developed and released a “Kids and Natural Gas Safety” video designed to appeal to younger audiences to help educate them about all aspects of living with natural gas.

Many other natural gas utilities throughout the nation spread awareness about National Safe Digging Month through news releases, social media, advertisements, community events and more. Safety is the top priority for AGA and its member companies. Along with the industry’s dedicated efforts to enhance the safety of its systems, growing public awareness about natural gas safety is an essential part of helping to ensure Americans can enjoy the benefits of domestic, abundant natural gas for decades to come.

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