Category Archives: energy

Jackie Bavaro Natural Gas Utilities Make it a Priority to Combat Internal Physical and Cyber Security Risks

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), the 13th annual Department of Homeland Security-led campaign created as a collaborative effort between government and industry leaders to ensure every person has the resources they need to stay safe and secure online. With this in mind, the October issue of American Gas magazine titled, “Inside Out,” discusses the pervasive physical and cyber threats facing natural gas utilities and how companies are tackling a potentially bigger risk—insider threats.

inside-outAt some companies, the majority of cyber incidents are accidental malware infections caused by employees or contractors. Most attempts to lure unsuspecting employees come in the form of phishing scams, which are fraudulent email messages appearing to come from legitimate businesses, including banks, restaurants and telephone companies. An example of phishing scams on a global scale includes the 2015 Ukrainian cyber-attack on the electric grid, where phishing was one of the methods hackers used to gain access to the distribution grid, causing 225,000 customers to lose power for several hours. For this reason, Colorado Spring Utilities implemented a phishing security initiative in 2015. This mandatory training has decreased the number of employees who click on a phishing email by 74 percent.

The move to digital has also made it easier for these threats to occur. Data that used to exist on paper now resides on a server which can significantly increase vulnerability to a breach. In order to prevent unnecessary attacks from happening, it’s important that utilities follow the five-step cybersecurity framework laid out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology:

  • Understand what’s important
  • Install controls and safeguards
  • Monitor and detect anomalies on your network
  • Create incident response capabilities
  • Build capabilities surrounding resiliency and recovery

Most employees don’t realize they are a potential threat, but each time they turn on their laptop, log onto the network or insert a USB thumb drive into their terminal, they could inadvertently be injecting malware, viruses or ransomware into your company’s network. It is important that utilities employ smart cybersecurity processes to protect their employees and systems. Throughout NCSAM, you can share cybersecurity tips and resources on social media by using the hashtag #CyberAware to promote your efforts and join the conversation.

If you are a utility and have a unique and interesting way you’re improving cybersecurity best practices at your company let us know in the comments section below or by emailing Jackie Bavaro at

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Jackie Bavaro Comprehensive Study Explores the Benefits of Expanding Natural Gas Service to the Growing Inventory of Multifamily Buildings

Today, the American Gas Foundation released a study published by ICF International titled, “Expanding Natural Gas Service to Multifamily Buildings,” focusing on ways in which state and local government, natural gas utilities, and other interest groups have worked to improve access to natural gas service in multifamily structures in their localities. The study assesses regulatory or policy barriers to providing natural gas service to multi-unit structures, and presents possible solutions to help bring the benefits of natural gas to the owners and occupants of these buildings.

In the past decade, multifamily construction has risen from less than 25 percent to one-worldthird or more of newly-built residential dwelling units. Notably, if natural gas technologies were applied across all or part of the nation’s multifamily building stock, unit occupants could realize $2.2 billion in reduced annual energy bills, or about six percent of total energy expenditure for multifamily units in the U.S. Additionally, CO2 emissions would be reduced by more than 20 million tons, nationwide.

To that end, multifamily construction is projected to sustain a high share of new housing construction over the next 20 years. This will include enormous benefits for providing access to natural gas in multifamily buildings—both for the environment and the bottom line of the residents that live there. Understanding that multifamily buildings are made up of a wide-range of building types with unique characteristics and needs is critical when looking to expand natural gas service to this growing market.

The study also highlights utility-led initiatives that have demonstrated success, and describe lessons learned through these efforts to provide insight to other utilities with similar goals to serve these communities.

You can view the report along with the case studies here.

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Jackie Bavaro AGA Members Celebrate National 811 Day

On August 11, the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) along with the American Gas Association (AGA) and its member companies celebrated National 811 Day to promote safe digging practices and the national Call Before You Dig campaign.

811 is the national telephone number that initiates the process of marking the underground utility lines in a homeowner’s yard. Whether you’re planting a tree, building a deck or installing a fence, a call to 811 is legally required before you are scheduled to begin any type of digging. Due in large part to the work done by the pipeline industry in promoting the use of Call 811, excavation damages for all underground facilities have decreased by approximately 50 percent since 2004.


PHMSA and AGA employees celebrate 811 Day at Nationals stadium.

As part of the CGA’s National 811 Day, AGA member companies and many companies that build, operate and maintain underground pipelines and wires held events and promoted awareness to alert the public about this important service. This year, AGA staff joined representatives from Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration at a Washington Nationals baseball game where Call 811 was the sponsor and messages about calling before you dig could be seen throughout the stadium.

Columbia Gas of Ohio: Ground is officially broken with City of Gahanna with Pat Tiberi and Mayor Kneeland on 811 Day.

Columbia Gas of Ohio: Ground is officially broken with City of Gahanna with Pat Tiberi and Mayor Kneeland on 811 Day.

Additionally, Columbia Gas of Ohio, which has responded to a report of a damaged line more than 750 times this year alone, has asked communities across the state to pledge a simple promise to call 811 at least two business days before digging any project. Meanwhile, South Jersey Gas hosted its first 811 Day ‘Dig Safe Fair’ to inform local contractors and community members about safe digging best practices. Also, in partnership with National Grid, Dig Safely New York hosted a live demonstration on a mark out of underground utility lines at an active construction site in its Eastwood neighborhood.

Excavation damage continues to be the leading cause of pipeline incidents in the United States. Though improvement is being made, thanks in large part to the outreach efforts of AGA member companies, industry leaders and other stakeholders on this issue. If you are a utility and have a unique and interesting way you’re promoting Call 811, let us know in the comments section below or by emailing Jackie Bavaro at

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Jackie Bavaro Natural Gas Utilities Working through Differences and Overcoming Cultural Barriers

The cover story for the August/September issue of American Gas magazine titled, “Working through Differences,” explores how a diverse workforce can encourage innovation and overcome cultural barriers, especially as women and minorities begin to make up a large part of the energy workforce.

A report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute indicates that by 2035, the energy workforce, with its retirements and expanded growth in the industry, will create 1.9 million direct jobs. More than a half million of these new jobs are projected to be filled by minorities over the next decade and a half.

augcoverFostering a dynamic and inclusive work environment starts with attracting talented and diverse employees. To that end, Con Edison of New York has set the groundwork for new diversity and inclusion strategies in 2015. Recently, the company has helped area colleges with large minority populations align its courses with industry needs and even helped found Energy Tech, a grade 9 to 12 career technical school in Queens, New York that focuses on STEM classes. Con Edison has also worked with National Grid to create a natural gas boot camp for returning veterans looking for entry-level work and mid-level mechanic positions. It has also sponsored internships for college and high school students with 114 co-op students hired in 2015.

In addition, Nicor Gas has been working on bringing more women into the engineering field. The company recently hosted the Society of Women Engineers at its Naperville, Illinois office to discuss why women are still vastly underrepresented in the engineering field, and even more so in the gas and oil industries. Cultural shifts at companies where diversity is woven into the fabric have been a key component in developing a successful method to embracing change in the workplace.

Take for example Public Service Electric and Gas Co., who have partnered with other New Jersey utilities and organizations to offer a career awareness program, developed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development, called Women in Sustainable Employment Pathways. This program helps participants prepare for fields in the trades that they may not have seen themselves in previously. Women work on resumes, team building, conflict resolution, networking, interviewing and applications throughout a 40-hour course and then interview for a desired position at the end of the program.

One advantage of having an inclusive workforce is improved customer service when dealing with an increasingly diverse customer base. This lends itself to fostering different perspectives among leadership and ultimately leads to better solutions for ratepayers. Please let us know in the comments below how your company is implementing ways to create a more inclusive and diverse work environment.

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