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 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.

Posted in energy, Natural Gas, people, utility, winter heating | Leave a comment

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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Lisa O'Leary AGA Members Recognized in J.D. Power Customer Service Satisfaction Survey

Interaction with a customer service representative on the phone has driven satisfaction up significantly among natural gas utility business customers, according to the 2015 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, created by J.D. Power and Associates.

Now in its 10th year, the study released in February measured residential customer satisfaction with gas utility companies by looking at six factors: billing and payment; field service; communications; customer service; corporate citizenship; and price.

Each utility company included in the study serves at least 25,000 business customers, or 3.4 million in total and were ranked in four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. This year’s study was based on responses from more than 9,000 online interviews with business customers who spent at least $150 monthly on natural gas.

American Gas Association (AGA) members PSE&G (East), DTE Energy (Midwest), Alagasco (South), and Questar (West) ranked highest in overall satisfaction. Additional AGA members who were ranked among the top three in their respective region included: BG&E, National Fuel Gas Company, MidAmerican Energy, Black Hills Energy, Oklahoma Natural Gas, Atmos Energy, NW Natural, and Southwest Gas.

According to the study, satisfaction improves year over year for a majority of attributes that comprise the customer service factor, including courtesy of the representative; the representative’s concern for customer needs; the timeliness of resolving the problem, question, or request; and the promptness in speaking to a person. Another key finding of the study revealed that customer satisfaction with billing and payment is higher when statements include useful information, such as graphs or pictures.

AGA members deliver clean, efficient and affordable natural gas to more than 68 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in the U.S., and are true partners in the communities they serve, some for as many as 100 years.

To learn more about the 2015 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, click here.

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Lisa O'Leary The International Builders’ Show 2015

Nearly 125,000 home builders, remodelers, architects, designers and suppliers packed the aisles of the second annual Design & Construction Week at the Las Vegas Convention Center, helping the city achieve record-setting attendance for the month of January. The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) International Builders’ Show and the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) co-located to offer an exhibition and educational program for all facets of the residential construction industry.

booth day 2

In its 69th year at the show, the American Gas Association (AGA) partnered with nearly a dozen natural gas appliance manufacturers to feature the latest industry technology in our 2,500 sq. ft. exhibit booth, powered entirely by an EcoPower micro CHP unit. Other manufacturers included Rinnai, Navien, Bradford White, Lennox, FiveStar, BSH Home Appliance, Marathon, Bevolo Gas and Electric Lighting and Dettson West. Booth newcomers included BlueStar and Earth’s Flame.

BlueStar attracted a lot of media attention, including HGTV who stopped by on the first day of the show to film their new range in the Pantone Color or the Year, Marsala. Their product was a great tie-in of both shows and attracted builders and designers alike.

BlueStar08

AGA booth attendees had the opportunity to register to win a natural gas lantern by RH Peterson. Since photos just didn’t do it justice, we put together a quick, 15 second video to share to help showcase the natural gas lantern which was used on AGA’s social media platforms. Congratulations to our lantern winner Randy Stovall, of Wichita, KS!

At the start of the second day of the show, AGA had the pleasure of hosting the NAHB Women in Professional Building Council breakfast at our booth. This is a long-standing tradition and we enjoy having this lively group with us each year.

women

This year’s celebrity sighting at the AGA booth was comedian and host of “Catch a Contractor,” Adam Carolla (right). He stopped by to learn about FireMagic Grills from RH Peterson Vice President Mike Waller (left).

Mike

On the third and final day, AGA took a tour of the sophisticated 2015 New American Home. AGA was a sponsor of the home and worked closely with Southwest Gas, who delivered natural gas to the home, while Questar Gas provided a bi-fuel Chevrolet pickup for display in the driveway.

Image Courtesy of www.tnah.com

Image Courtesy of www.tnah.com

AGA looks forward to returning to Vegas on January 19-21, 2016 when IBS and KBIS will join forces for the third year in a row. Last week, the two shows announced that they will continue to co-locate through 2020. For more information about next year’s show and beyond, contact Tracy Burleson at tburleson@aga.org.

For more photos of the Builders’ Show, check out AGA on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Posted in appliances, CHP, International Builders' Show, Natural Gas, Natural Gas Market Indicators, technology | Leave a comment