Author Archives: Dave McCurdy

Dave McCurdy Enhancing the Safety Culture of Our Employees

Safety is at the core of the work that AGA’s more than 200 member companies do as they deliver clean natural gas to more than 177 million Americans every day. Our customers are our employees, family and neighbors. For generations, natural gas utilities have served communities and supported families through good paying jobs and the opportunity for career advancement.

We have seen an alarming rise in the number of incidents across the nation where individuals have threatened the health and safety of workers building natural gas pipelines. We have received reports of bomb threats, vehicular assault, employee tools and materials being stolen or vandalized in broad daylight and the ultimate tragedies, several homicides.

This is unconscionable. No one should fear that type of violence while doing their job. Further, damaging natural gas pipelines poses enormous risk which could result in harm to people, property and our environment.

The American Gas Association supports a bipartisan letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, led by Congressman Ken Buck, R-Colo. and signed by 84 members of Congress, requesting information on the specific mechanisms in place to prosecute those who attempt to intentionally harm pipeline workers or damage the pipeline infrastructure they are constructing.

America’s natural gas utilities make a commitment to their employees and their families that they will be safe while they are at work. We at AGA are doing our part to help them keep that commitment.

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Dave McCurdy Your Safety is Our Top Priority

There is nothing more important to America’s natural gas utilities than the safety of the customers we serve and the communities in which we operate. Our customers are our friends, families and neighbors and we take every incident involving a natural gas pipeline very seriously.

The American Gas Association and our members are proud of the industry’s overall safety performance and the culture of safety that has been cultivated at each local gas utility throughout the country.

While we see news coverage about specific events, incidents on natural gas pipelines resulting in fatalities and injuries are not common. The United States has seen an approximately 40 percent decline in pipeline incidents over the past 10 years. Any injury or loss of life is tragic and the industry works every day to avoid it. These numbers include causes outside the direct control of the utility, such as people driving into gas meters, damage to the pipelines caused by excavation, customers tampering with their gas meters, appliance failures or incidents that take place within a customer’s home. These, along with weather-related events cause a great number of natural gas incidents—something that is not often included in news coverage.

We believe that one incident is too many and we are consistently looking to make improvements that will continue to enhance safety and reliability. After an incident occurs, utilities work to understand what happened and how to avoid something similar happening in the future. The industry is working with stakeholders such as firefighters, schools and building contractors on a variety of initiatives that focus on protecting customers and raising awareness of natural gas safety.

There are certain actions you can take to help mitigate the chances of a natural gas incident occurring:

1. Pay attention in order to help identify potential signs of a natural gas leak. There are several ways to detect a natural gas leak.

  • Smell: Because an odorant called mercaptan is added to natural gas by the utility to help you detect its presence, the best sign of a natural gas leak is if you smell something similar to rotten eggs.
  • Sight: Look for dirt blowing into the air, persistent bubbling in standing water, or discolored or dead vegetation around the pipeline area.
  • Sound: Listen for any unusual hissing sounds.

In the event you think you smell, see or hear any of these signs of natural gas, leave the home, building or vicinity immediately and call your natural gas utility.

Information about how to respond to a potential leak or these warning signs varies throughout the country based on a variety of factors, including climate and soil condition. To learn how transmission pipelines near you or your distribution utility addresses leaks, contact them directly.

2. Know What’s Below: Call 811 Before You Dig. Be sure to call 811 at least three full days before you perform any digging work, even if it is something as simple as planting a tree in your yard. This will allow the local utilities to come and mark the location of any underground lines so that you can avoid damaging them when you dig. Visit www.call811.com.

3. Help make sure that all those who are performing any excavation work in your neighborhood have notified 811. This would include any work done in the public right-of-way, as well as work done by individuals in their yard. If a call to 811 has been made, underground utilities in the vicinity of the excavation site will come to the site prior to the start of excavation and will mark the location of their buried facility through painted lines, flags or other markers. If a call to 811 has not been made prior to excavation, this could possibly result in damage to underground facilities, including natural gas pipelines.

4. Do not tamper with the gas meter. Use a licensed professional to perform periodic inspections of customer-owned fuel lines delivering natural gas to appliances, equipment and structures.

There are over 2.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines that serve more than 177 million Americans. The ongoing decline in pipeline incidents is due to the dedicated efforts of natural gas utilities and regulators to enhance safety programs and raise awareness about the need for active involvement by customers and communities. Natural gas utilities spend $22 billion annually to help enhance the safety of natural gas distribution and transmission systems. AGA’s member companies work together to identify and share best practices to help enhance safety and reliability.

Natural gas utilities and pipelines deliver over a quarter of the energy used every day in America and more homes and businesses use natural gas today than ever before. Those numbers continue to increase. Whether you are a customer or not, know what to look for and if you see something, say something. Working together, we can make our communities safer.

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Dave McCurdy Sustainable Energy in America Factbook Touts 94% Increase in Investments to Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure

I am proud to once again participate in the launch of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy’s 2016 Factbook. This year, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has put together a detailed report on our nation’s energy outlook, highlighting the simultaneous growth in natural gas, investments in renewables and the US economy.

The 2016 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook proves that natural gas is seeing remarkable growth. In particular, there is a movement happening at the state level to McCurdy Photoupgrade our natural gas infrastructure and extend natural gas service to more consumers. In 2014, natural gas utilities invested $9.7 billion in our nation’s distribution infrastructure, a 94 percent increase compared to the previous decade. This is part of the $22 billion natural gas utilities spend annually to help enhance the safety of natural gas distribution and transmission systems. As a result, there has been an increased prevalence of natural gas replacement and expansion programs across the U.S.

This national trend is due to the record year natural gas had in 2015. More homes and businesses use natural gas today than ever before and the numbers continue to increase because it is comfortable, efficient and affordable. For example, households that use natural gas for heating, cooking and clothes drying spend an average of $840 less per year than homes using electricity for those appliances.

The more than 100-year supply of natural gas in the United States forms the foundation for this clean energy source to heat our homes, run our vehicles, generate power, and support other forms of renewable energy for decades to come. Thank you to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy for leading this dialogue once again, about how our nation’s robust energy supply is helping to meet our daily needs safely and reliably while growing our economy.

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Dave McCurdy More Gas and Less Red Tape

More homes and businesses use natural gas today than ever before and the numbers continue to increase. Natural gas demand is growing rapidly in other sectors as well. Volumes for gas-fired power generation have surged in recent years and the large-volume industrial sector has also increased consumption – all supported by an enormous natural gas resource endowment, production efficiencies and growing infrastructure. 37 states have adopted or considered innovative proposals to expand their pipeline network to get gas to communities and we expect more states to explore this opportunity as the price of natural gas stays affordable and stable for decades into the future.

Last week, congress passed and President Obama signed H.R. 22, the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act”, (FAST Act) which includes a provision (S. 280) sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) that would create an interagency council to serve as a one-stop shop for major infrastructure projects that require federal permits, setting deadlines and establishing best practices for permitting reviews. This is great news for the natural gas industry and our customers.

Anything that speeds up and simplifies the process for pipeline permitting is a positive step. The multi-million dollar pipeline projects that transport gas from our shale-rich regions to areas that need it take years to plan, site, permit and build. This legislation is a recognition of the many benefits of natural gas and an effort to extend those benefits to many more Americans.

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