Category Archives: energy

Dave McCurdy The Future of Gas in the City of Light

It was an extraordinary honor to attend the 26th World Gas Conference – the largest and most prestigious conference in the global gas industry calendar – in Paris, France last week. More than 4,000 natural gas industry professionals – leading energy players and decision makers from 100 countries from all over the globe – gathered to discuss current and future industry developments.

Much of the conference took place in the Palais des Sports at the Porte de Versailles. The opening ceremony was truly a sight to behold as was the venue the Grand Palais. Conference attendees were also invited to a concert at Sainte-Chapelle, featuring the Orchestre Classik Ensemble.

More than 500 speakers were on hand, including several from the United States delegation:

  • David Carroll, President Gas Technology Institute and IGU President
  • Terry D. McCallister, AGA Chairman and chairman & CEO, WGL Holdings, Inc.
  • Colette D. Honorable, Commissioner, U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Robin Dunnigan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy, U.S. State Department
  • Dr. Paula Gant, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas, U.S. Department of Energy
  • John S. Watson, Chairman of the Board, Chevron Corporation
  • Rex Tillerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exxon Mobil Corporation

Numerous American Gas Association (AGA) staff members participated in panel discussions, including Lori Traweek, Chris McGill, Kimberly Denbow, Andrew Soto, Tracy Burleson and myself.

At the conclusion of the conference, the U.S., through AGA, accepted the Presidency of the International Gas Union (IGU). The U.S. will lead the organization for a three year term which will conclude with the 27th World Gas Conference in June 2018 in Washington, D.C. This conference will be an incredible opportunity to showcase the American natural gas industry and I am pleased to serve as chairman of the 2018 World Gas Conference National Organizing Committee.

The IGU is made up of the gas industries of 91 nations and its mission is to advocate natural gas as an integral part of a sustainable global energy system, and to promote the political, technical and economic progress of the gas industry. The more than 140 members of IGU are associations and corporations of the gas industry representing over 95 percent of the global gas market.  The organization provides opportunities for more than 1,000 members of the global gas community to share best practices and engage in discussions relating to all segments of the natural gas value chain.

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Christina Nyquist Joining Together to Elevate Natural Gas Delivery – More than 2,000 Attend 2015 AGA Operations Conference & Biennial Exhibition

From May 19-22, more than 2,000 attendees gathered in Grapevine, Texas for four days, more than 120 presentations and sessions, and more than 200 exhibitions – all focused on delivering our nation’s domestic abundance of natural gas even more safely, reliably, efficiently and affordably.

The annual AGA Operations Conference is the premiere gathering for the natural gas utility industry, providing a forum for operations professionals and experts from AGA’s more than 200 member companies throughout North America to come together and discuss current issues, share best practices and work toward raising the performance of the industry nationwide. This year, the Operations Conference coincided with the Biennial Exhibition, which featured a record 218 exhibitions showcasing the latest in natural gas utility technology and innovation.

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AGA Chairman Terry McCallister, Chairman, President & CEO of WGL Holdings, Inc. and Washington Gas addresses AGA Operations Conference attendees in Grapevine, Texas.

A Focus on Safety

This year, safety remained the core theme of the conference, with topics covering excavation damage prevention, disaster response, pipeline maintenance and materials, emissions measurement, environmental management, worker safety, workforce development and more. AGA member company executives discussed safety culture and gave an update on the new voluntary national AGA Peer Review Program. Attendees also heard presentations selected from AGA’s Best Practices Program on topics including infrastructure replacement programs at Consumers Energy, damage prevention at Washington Gas and redefining leak management at Pacific Gas & Electric.

AGA Operations Conference attendees participated in more than 120 presentations, panels and discussions on enhancing the safety and performance of natural gas operations.

AGA Operations Conference attendees participated in more than 120 presentations, panels and discussions on enhancing the safety and performance of natural gas operations.

Recognizing Excellence

AGA awarded 21 companies with Safety Achievement Awards in both worker and vehicle safety, and presented individual awards for contributions to natural gas operations including emissions management, using GPS technology to map infrastructure and enhance records management, and furthering research and development in safety, delivery, design, construction, maintenance, operations and efficiency. AGA also granted the first annual AGA Safety Awareness Video Excellence Award to Atmos Energy for their video, “Do you Dig It? Always Call Before You Dig.”

 Recipients of the 2015 AGA Safety Achievement Award

Recipients of the 2015 AGA Safety Achievement Award

Saving Lives

Natural gas utility employees serve their communities every day, in all weather, often going above and beyond their basic duties. Every year, AGA recognizes a member company employee who “has performed the most meritorious act in the gas industry in saving a human life during the prior year.” This year, AGA presented the Meritorious Service Award to Kacee Rogers of SourceGas, who rescued a woman after she had lost control of her vehicle and drove into a frozen pond. Rogers’ heroic action is an example of the qualities so often seen in natural gas utility employees – quick action, selflessness, a calm demeanor and a desire to help. Every day, local utility employees put those qualities to work, helping to ensure that homes and businesses can safely access the energy they need when they need it.

AGA Chairman Terry McCallister, Chairman, President & CEO of WGL Holdings, Inc. and Washington Gas presents Kacee Rogers of SourceGas with the 2015 AGA Meritorious Service Award.

AGA Chairman Terry McCallister, Chairman, President & CEO of WGL Holdings, Inc. and Washington Gas presents Kacee Rogers of SourceGas with the 2015 AGA Meritorious Service Award.

Giving Back

Natural gas utilities are part of their local communities and are focused on service. This year, AGA staff and conference attendees continued that tradition by helping to assemble bikes with the Texas-based Bikes for Goodness Sake Foundation. The AGA team, assisted by a contribution from host utility Atmos Energy, assembled 20 bikes, which were delivered to the Grapevine Police Community Outreach Center to be distributed to local children at the start of the summer reading program.

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AGA Staff and Operations Conference attendee volunteers pose with bikes assembled for Bikes for Goodness Sake.

By joining together and learning from each other throughout the year at events such as the Operations Conference, America’s local natural gas utilities are raising the bar and elevating the safety and performance of the entire natural gas industry. For more highlights from this year’s conference, visit us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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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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