Author Archives: Lisa O'Leary

Lisa O'Leary

About Lisa O'Leary

Lisa (Dundon) O'Leary is the Manager of Digital Communications for the American Gas Association. Prior to joining AGA, Lisa served as Manager of Multimedia Communications for the Senator John Heinz History Center, "the Smithsonian's home in Pittsburgh," and as a Web Producer at WPXI-TV, Channel 11 News in Pittsburgh, PA. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Communications.

Lisa O'Leary AGA Financial Forum 2015: Investing in America’s Energy Future

Nearly 550 attendees traveled to Palm Desert, California earlier this week for the 2015 American Gas Association (AGA) Financial Forum. Energy industry executives, security analysts, portfolio managers, rating agencies, and commercial and investment bankers came together to discuss the outlook for the energy industry and individual AGA member companies.

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In addition to nearly 25 formal company presentations, the Financial Forum offered a structured program of technical workshops, financial community visitation tables and organized company dinners to provide substantial time for assessment of company opportunities.

Chris McGill

During the General Session, AGA Vice President of Policy Analysis Chris McGill moderated a panel entitled, “A Long-Term Energy Market with $50 Oil – Impact to Economy and Natural Gas Sector,” which included executives from Ponderosa Advisors LLC, the Natural Gas Supply Association, NiSource Inc., and Devon Energy Corp.  The speakers on the panel discussed the dynamics of moving from an energy market dominated by scarcity to one of abundance, as well as how this may impact the United States’ energy future.

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At the conclusion of the Financial Forum, the 2014 Chairman of the AGA Finance Committee Andrew Evans, of AGL Resources, handed over the reins to current Vice Chairman Steven Rasche, of The Laclede Group Inc. The AGA Finance Committee looks forward to working closely with Rasche throughout the next year, as well as hosting the 2016 Financial Forum next May in Naples, Florida.

Victor Espinoza preakness stakes

Photo Credit: Associated Press

AGA cheered on Call 811-sponsored jockey Victor Espinoza from the Financial Forum as he rode Derby-winning American Pharaoh to victory in the Preakness Stakes. Thanks in part to more than 30 members of the Common Ground Alliance, an organization dedicated to educating professionals and homeowners about the importance of following safe digging procedures, 10 million viewers around the world were reminded of the importance to “Call 811 Before You Dig.” AGA will be watching Espinoza race for the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, on Saturday, June 6.

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Lisa O'Leary Natural Gas Utilities Spread Message of Safe Digging Procedures

Call 811 Before You Dig

This April marked the eight annual National Safe Digging Month (NSDM), an initiative put in place by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) to remind professionals and homeowners to “Call 811 Before You Dig” and follow safe digging procedures to help prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages. People digging often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked due to concerns about project delays, costs and previous calls about other projects. These assumptions can be life-threatening.

Every digging job requires a call – even small projects like planting trees or shrubs. To get started, dial 811 to be connected to your local One Call Center which will gather information about the project and alert your local utility company. Crews will then locate the utility lines near your planned project and make sure they are properly marked so you can be sure to avoid them. The process is fast, simple and free.

All month long, local natural gas utilities took 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.

Here are just a few of the ways AGA member companies raised awareness about safe digging in their local communities:

Piedmont Natural Gas partnered with garden centers throughout its service territory in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee to tag trees and shrubs with important reminders to “Call Before You Dig.” Piedmont Natural Gas Managing Director of Safety and Community Relations Timothy Greenhouse explained, “Calling 811 is a free, easy way to avoid the inconvenience, added cost and potential injury that can result from damaging underground utilities.” For the third consecutive year, the Gardens of Blackhawk Hardware in Charlotte, N.C., worked with Piedmont and Girl Scouts from the local Hornets’ Nest Council to ensure every tree, shrub and digging tool was properly marked with a “Call Before You Dig” tag.

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Piedmont Natural Gas and local Girl Scouts troops teamed up to spread awareness of Call 811 at a garden center in the utility’s service territory. Photo Credit: Piedmont Natural Gas

 Atmos Energy, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, launched the “Yard Rescue 811” social media contest on its Facebook page offering customers the chance to win a $2,000 yard makeover while raising awareness of NSDM. Participants uploaded photos of their yard at home, church, school or business engaged and the photo with the most votes won.

One of many entries in Atmos Energy’s month-long “Yard Rescue 811” social media contest. Photo Credit: Atmos Energy

One of many entries in Atmos Energy’s month-long “Yard Rescue 811” social media contest. Photo Credit: Atmos Energy

In Fresno, California, Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation (PG&E) worked with a company specializing in 3D art to create a chalkboard painting outside its office that depicted what it might look like if you were to dig just a few feet beneath your yard, including a natural gas pipeline, electric power lines and other buried utilities.

Special 3D artists create realistic chalk drawing of what it may look like when you dig in your own backyard. Photo Credit: PG&E

Special 3D artists create realistic chalk drawing of what it may look like when you dig in your own backyard. Photo Credit: PG&E

PG&E also spread the message of safe digging procedures with a new television spot featuring an employee who locates and marks underground utilities for customers and contractors in its service territory:

The PG&E Damage Prevention Center hosted a free 811 Contractor Safety Training course beneficial for both novice and experienced contractors. Topics included how to use the Call 811 service, excavation laws in California and steps to planning a safe digging project.

In addition, many other natural gas utilities spread awareness about NSDM through news releases, social media, advertisements, community events and more.

By far, the largest event surrounding Call 811 was this past weekend’s 141st Kentucky Derby. Thanks to the sponsorship of CGA and more than 30 of its member organizations, renowned jockey Victor Espinoza once again sported the 811 logo as he raced to victory for the second consecutive year. A record breaking 170,000 spectators at Churchill Downs and an estimated TV audience of 15 million viewers around the world were reminded of the importance to “Call 811 Before You Dig.“ We look forward to cheering on Victor and horse American Pharaoh as they take on the next leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, on May 16. Follow AGA on Twitter and Facebook for updates about the race and Call 811.

Victor Espinoza winners circle

Victor Espinoza celebrates his second consecutive Kentucky Derby win. Photo Credit: CNN

If you’d like to share your organization’s recent event or campaign surrounding Call 811, please comment in the section below or email loleary@aga.org.  We’re happy to share your story.

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Lisa O'Leary Advocates Urge Congress to Increase LIHEAP Funding

Nearly 200 advocates from across the United States converged on Capitol Hill last week to support responsible funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) sponsored LIHEAP Action Day 2015 along with member companies of the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Edison Electric Institute. The annual day-long event is aimed at building awareness for LIHEAP, a federal block grant program providing financial assistance to low and fixed-income individuals for fuel and utility bills, as well as low-cost weatherization and energy-related home repairs.

Representatives from Entergy and Atmos Energy met with Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) staff to discuss LIHEAP funding. Photo Credit: Entergy

Representatives from Entergy and Atmos Energy met with Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) staff to discuss LIHEAP funding. Photo Credit: Entergy

According to NEAUC, nearly 300 meetings took place between LIHEAP advocates and members of Congress and their staff, to discuss the need for at least $4.7 billion in LIHEAP funding for FY2016. Advocates in D.C. and throughout the country also took to social media to share important messages about LIHEAP by using #LIHEAPAction.

After many years of underfunding LIHEAP, Congress funded the program at $5.1 billion in FY2009 and FY2010. Since then, funding has declined by almost $1.7 billion and recipients have seen their assistance grants reduced by nearly $95, impacting the program’s effectiveness.  The average grant was estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, meaning that many low-income families and seniors had fewer resources available to meet other basic needs.

This winter was especially hard-hitting in the northeast and southeast with record-breaking snowfall and cold temperatures, serving as a stark reminder of why the LIHEAP program is so critical. Here are just a few other reasons:

  • More than 35 million U.S. households meet LIHEAP’s federal eligibility criteria, yet only 6.8 million households were helped in 2014.
  • States and their charitable partners can serve households earning up to 150 percent of Federal poverty guidelines or 60 percent of median income. For a three-person family in the U.S., that’s less than $29,685, yet most LIHEAP households earn less than that amount.
  • Even with LIHEAP funding at $5.1 billion, the amount was only enough to assist 1 in 5 eligible Americans.
Rep. Peter Welch was presented with this year’s NEUAC Extra Mile award. Photo Credit: http://welch.house.gov/

Rep. Peter Welch was presented with this year’s NEUAC Extra Mile award. Photo Credit: http://welch.house.gov/

LIHEAP Action Day concluded with a Congressional reception and the presentation of the NEUAC Extra Mile award given to Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), recognizing him for his longtime support of the program. In a letter to the House Appropriations Committee penned by Rep. Welch and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), more than 145 lawmakers stressed the critical importance of full funding of LIHEAP.

AGA had to opportunity to interview several advocates in attendance of the LIEAHP Action Day Breakfast. Stay tuned for links to those video interviews next week.

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Lisa O'Leary It Pays to Do Your 360° Walk-Around – Literally

Guest Blogger: Brynnly Schwartz, Senior Communications Specialist, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania & Maryland

Safety is the core value and highest priority for the natural gas distribution and transmission industry. AGA and its member companies are committed to promoting positive safety cultures among their employees, including contractors and supplies. As part of this commitment, employees are trained to perform a 360° walk-around each time they are about to move their vehicle. During this safety procedure, a utility worker walks in a complete circle around the vehicle to ensure all equipment and materials are in the proper place, and the areas beneath and surrounding the vehicle are clear and stable.

John shows off the highlight of his coin collection – a French coin from the mid-1800s.

John shows off the highlight of his coin collection – a French coin from the mid-1800s.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Construction Leader John Welch always knew the important safety benefits to performing a 360° walk-around, but what he didn’t know was how it could pay off in monetary terms.

While performing daily 360° walk-arounds over the years, John noticed the quantity of spare change left on the ground and decided to start collecting it in a jar in in his work truck.

“It initially started as a few pennies here and there. A few times I found dollar bills. Eventually, I decided to save it and turn it into a game for myself just to see what it would add up to,” said John.

And add up it did. John collected nearly $25 in his first jar. He started a second jar and in a four month time period, collected more than $5 as well as a unique 1856 French coin he hopes may be valuable to a collector someday.

“I’m not retiring on this by any means, but as the change adds up, it’s fun to see how much I’ve collected by maintaining safe habits,” John added. “That’s a free lunch or a few free coffees all from maintaining safe habits and taking a few minutes to perform a 360° walk-around.”

It is extremely important to keep the following safety tips in mind while performing a 360° walk-around:

  • Look low to the ground during a 360° walk-around. Be on the lookout for low walls, fire hydrants, landscaping materials, rocks and other fixed objects low to the ground. This is especially important during the winter months when snow and ice can often cover and camouflage such objects.
  • When you get to the back of the vehicle, look over all loaded material and equipment.  Make sure everything is secure and will not fall and strike another vehicle while in motion. Also be sure to check the rear lights, making sure they are working properly and not cracked.
  • Remember that the scenario can quickly change from the time you park, finalize your assignment and complete simple tasks, such as paperwork, making a phone call or adjusting your GPS. Always make sure a 360° walk-around is the last order of business before leaving an area.
  • It’s not just about going through the motions. Be sure to pay attention to details as you perform your 360° walk-around.

While John works to fill his next jar, let us know how much change you think you can collect this year by performing 360° walk-arounds in the comment section below.

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