Category Archives: energy

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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Christina Nyquist New Data Shows Natural Gas Customers Saving More Money, More Energy and Reducing Environmental Footprint

Natural gas customers are saving more money, more energy and emitting less carbon than ever before.

That’s the takeaway from the latest data in the freshly updated 2015 American Gas Association Playbook, released today. The go-to guide for natural gas information shows that natural gas customers saved an average of $693 per year from 2012-2013 while reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by half a million metric tons. In addition, emissions from distribution pipelines dropped an additional six percent in 2014 as utilities continued to upgrade and modernize infrastructure to enhance safety.

The updated Playbook highlights several key national trends, including:

Natural gas customers are saving more money, more energy and emitting less carbon than ever before.

Average yearly savings for households using natural gas appliances increased $40 between 2012 and 2013. From 2012-2013, households using natural gas appliances saved an average of $693 per year compared to households using other energy choices. Utilities helped customers save 136 trillion Btu of energy and offset 7.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2012, an increase of 11 trillion and 0.6 million from 2011 respectively.Nat Gas Means Savings for Consumers

Safety remains a core value for natural gas utilities.

Pipeline incidents have declined approximately 40 percent over the past three decades as natural gas utilities continue to work to enhance safety. Natural gas utilities spend $19 billion annually and take a number of voluntary actions to help enhance the safety of natural gas distribution and transmission systems.

Safest Energy Delivery System in the Nation

Emissions from natural gas distribution systems continue to decline.

Emissions from natural gas systems dropped another 6 percent from 2014. In total, emissions from natural gas distribution systems have dropped 22 percent since 1990, even as the industry has added more than 600,000 miles of pipeline to serve over 17 million more customers.Cleaner Air and Reduced Emissions

Natural gas utilities continue to increase investments in energy efficiency programs.

Utilities invested $1.1 billion in energy efficiency programs in 2012 and 2013, an increase of $100 million from 2011.

Residential Nat Ga Use - Efficiency Success Story

More states are pursuing strategies to expand and enhance natural gas infrastructure.

Eight additional states are pursuing natural gas growth through innovative expansion proposals, growing the number from 17 states in 2014 to a total of 25 today. Meanwhile, 38 states have adopted specific rate mechanisms that foster accelerated replacement of pipelines no longer fit for service, supporting enhanced safety, reliability and performance of natural gas delivery systems.

Expanding the Reach - 25 StatesCheck out the complete AGA Playbook for more facts and information, and visit http://www.aga.org/ to learn even more about all that goes into delivering affordable, reliable, efficient and safe energy solutions.

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Pam Lacey Natural Gas Emissions Deserve Closer Study

The study by Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of methane emissions in the Boston area looked at only that area and confirms much of what we already know, that methane is being emitted from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, without identifying the specific source of the emission it is difficult to draw any conclusions from it.

Safety is a core value for natural gas utilities. AGA member companies in the Boston area and throughout the country are part of a concerted effort to upgrade and modernize our nation’s pipeline network to enhance safety that has contributed to a declining trend in emissions from natural gas distribution systems.

We believe that this issue deserves closer study to better understand emissions associated with the distribution and delivery of natural gas. AGA and thirteen of its member companies have been participating with the Environmental Defense Fund in a nationwide field study conducted by the Washington State University to measure emissions from natural gas distribution systems. The results should be more instructive because this study used direct source measurements and was able to isolate emissions specifically from distribution pipes and equipment.

More than 177 million Americans continue to use natural gas to cook a hot meal, heat their water or warm their houses. Our nation’s abundance of this clean energy resource has driven affordable and stable prices throughout the country.

The Obama Administration recently announced regulations on emissions from the natural gas industry which did not include recommendations for local distribution companies. Natural gas utilities are committed to systematically upgrading infrastructure, driven by risk-based integrity management programs, and there is a growing effort to accelerate the replacement of pipelines no longer fit for service. Proactive efforts from natural gas utilities, along with involvement in important programs like the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR program, have contributed to the fact that natural gas emissions from utility-owned distribution systems have dropped 22 percent since 1990, even as the industry added nearly 600,000 miles of distribution mains and service lines to serve 17.5 million more customers, an increase of 32 percent. Nearly 90 percent of the emissions declines from distribution systems since 1990 are due to pipeline replacements. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 0.24 percent of produced natural gas is emitted from systems operated by local natural gas utilities.

In 2014, AGA released a set of voluntary guidelines to serve as a resource for AGA members to assist in evaluating potential options that may lead to further emissions reductions for distribution systems, and AGA is working with EPA to develop a new voluntary Gold STAR certification for the natural gas distribution sector. The natural gas industry is actively engaged in this discussion along with rigorous, science-based analysis to ensure natural gas continues to be a leading solution for our nation’s clean and secure energy future. AGA members are committed to continuing this positive trend of declining emissions, and we look forward to continued collaboration with key stakeholders in this effort.

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