Category Archives: safety

Christina Nyquist Protecting Critical Energy

President Obama and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have declared November to be National Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month to “reflect on the important role our infrastructure plays in building a safe and prosperous Nation,” and to “recommit to strengthening and protecting these important assets.”

Comprising more than 2.4 million miles of pipelines throughout the United States, the nation’s natural gas delivery system is robust, extensive and resilient. It is a vital component of America’s critical infrastructure. Every day, more than 177 million Americans depend on the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas to run hospitals, schools and industrial facilities, heat and cool their homes and businesses, cook their meals, wash and dry clothes and fulfill many other essential needs. The men and women of the more than 200 local natural gas delivery companies that make up AGA’s membership work vigilantly to monitor, maintain and strengthen natural gas infrastructure to help ensure that natural gas can be safely and reliably delivered to the homes and businesses that depend on it for daily life, and to mitigate interruptions from storms and other severe weather conditions, physical and cyber threats and other disruptions.

word map US 300x168 Protecting Critical Energy

Image Credit: DHS.gov

Natural gas utilities are consistently upgrading and modernizing existing infrastructure to help ensure safety and reliability. In addition to continued infrastructure investment, AGA and its member companies have a number of programs in place to draw on the resources and expertise of natural gas utilities nationwide to help ensure that utilities can plan, prepare and respond to threats to security and energy delivery.

Mutual Assistance

During extreme weather events or other disaster scenarios, natural gas utilities can call on the AGA Mutual Assistance Program to reach out to other utilities throughout the nation for additional crews, resources and support. This program sent more than 400 personnel to help New Jersey utilities prepare and respond during 2011’s Hurricane Sandy, assisting those affected and restoring service to the homes and businesses impacted by the storm.

Threat Information Sharing

Natural gas utilities also work to enhance the security of natural gas operations against cyber threats that could result in service disruption, financial, property or information loss, or even injury or loss of life. In October 2014, AGA launched the Downstream Natural Gas Information Sharing Analysis Center, which allows natural gas utilities to access and share the information they need to understand cyber threats, protect their systems and customers and respond.

How You Can Help

We all have a part to play in natural gas safety and in protecting ourselves and critical infrastructure from security threats. As customers or members of communities where natural gas is used, you can help by:

  • Making sure natural gas appliances and fuel lines are properly maintained
  • Reporting the smell of natural gas immediately to your local natural gas utility
  • Calling 811 before any digging or excavation project to make sure utility lines are marked and you can avoid damaging them
  • Paying attention to safety communications from your local utility
  • Reporting suspicious activities to your local law enforcement officials
  • Engaging in smart online behavior and password protection to defend yourself and others from cyber intrusions or attacks. Learn more about cybersecurity at staysafeonline.org.
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Christina Nyquist Announcing the AGA Peer Review Program: Further Elevating the Safety of Natural Gas Delivery

1 200x300 Announcing the AGA Peer Review Program: Further Elevating the Safety of Natural Gas DeliveryOn October 15, AGA announced a new voluntary safety initiative for local natural gas utilities throughout North America. The National AGA Peer Review Program is a peer-to-peer safety and operational practices review program that will allow AGA member companies to observe their peers, share leading practices and identify opportunities to better serve customers and communities. While other industries have implemented various forms of peer review processes as part of their safety efforts, this marks the first time the natural gas utility sector will undertake such an effort at the national level.

How it Works:

Beginning in January 2015, companies from the more than 200 local natural gas utilities that make up AGA’s membership will volunteer to participate in peer groups, sending experienced natural gas operators, engineers and safety experts to visit one another’s facilities and conduct detailed reviews focused on key aspects of safety culture, pipeline and employee safety. As AGA’s Vice President of Operations and Engineering Christina Sames said, the AGA Peer Review Program gives participants the opportunity to “have the absolute best minds in the industry – working professionals who are experts in their field – collaborate with other utilities to help identify what is working well and where there are opportunities for improvement.”

Elevating Safety:

This initiative is just the latest development in the industry’s continuing effort to elevate the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to homes and businesses. Safety is a core value for AGA and its member companies. There is robust oversight and regulation focused on the natural gas industry to help ensure safety and reliability, and utilities work with public officials, regulators, safety advocates and other key stakeholders continually further these efforts. Additionally, the industry advances safety even further through voluntary actions and continued improvements to delivery systems as part of their Commitment to Enhancing Safety. In total, natural gas utilities spend more than $19 billion annually to monitor, maintain and upgrade natural gas distribution and transmission systems.

How You Can Help Enhance Safety:

While the AGA Peer Review Program will add to the industry’s ongoing work to help ensure safe and reliable natural gas delivery, you are an important part of the process. As a customer or member of the community there are a few important ways to stay safe around natural gas.

  • Report the smell of natural gas immediately to your local natural gas utility. Natural gas is odorized with Mercaptan – which smells like rotten eggs – to help detect natural gas leaks.
  • Make sure natural gas appliances and fuel lines are properly maintained.
  • Call 811 before any digging or excavation project – even planting trees or flowers.
  • Spread the word about safe digging. Excavation damage is the leading cause of pipeline incidents in the United States, but progress is being made thanks to public awareness efforts.
  • Pay attention to safety communications from your local utility. Look for bill inserts, ads, or follow their social media channels to stay informed.

Learn more about the AGA Peer Review Program and Natural Gas Safety:

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Kathryn Clay Our Focus on Safety Benefits the Environment

This article originally appeared on the SXSW Eco website as a special guest blog post by AGA Vice President of Policy Strategy Kathryn Clay.

SXSW Eco logo Our Focus on Safety Benefits the EnvironmentAccording to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the pipeline network that carries natural gas to more than 177 million Americans is the safest energy delivery system in the nation. Even with the historically excellent performance of our distribution network, safety is our top priority and natural gas utilities remain vigilant and committed to continually upgrading this crucial infrastructure. Natural gas utilities are regulated by state utility commissions which are charged with balancing the need for investments in infrastructure to provide safe and reliable service with ensuring affordable energy bills for customers and fair returns on equity that will attract capital at reasonable costs.

Over the course of the last three decades, natural gas utilities have installed modern plastic pipes at a rate of 30,000 miles per year and installed catholically protected coated steel mains at 1,500 miles per year, both connecting new customers and upgrading existing pipeline infrastructure. Pipes that may no longer be fit for service are being replaced with ones made from more modern materials. This concerted effort by America’s natural gas utilities to upgrade and modernize our nation’s pipeline network to enhance safety has contributed to a declining trend in emissions from natural gas distribution systems.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 19th Annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks released in April 2014, only 0.24 percent of produced natural gas is emitted from the delivery systems operated by local natural gas utilities. In fact, natural gas emissions from utility-owned distribution systems have dropped 22 percent since 1990. Moreover, nearly 90 percent of the emissions declines from distribution systems since that year are due to pipeline replacements.

The effort to modernize infrastructure by replacing pipe no longer fit for service will continue to grow. Of the 38 states that have accelerated infrastructure replacement mechanisms, 9 states and the District of Columbia were approved in the past two years. As those programs ramp up, we will see more investment in enhancing safety and further emissions declines.

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Lisa Dundon October Marks National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2014

In this day and age, nearly every aspect of our lives has become digital. Even when we’re not directly connected to the Internet, our critical infrastructure — the vast, worldwide connection of computers, data and websites supporting financial transactions, transportation systems, healthcare records, emergency response systems, personal communications and more — is and it impacts us all.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) – celebrated each October – was created to help engage and educate public and private sectors about the importance of staying safe online through special events and initiatives. Since its inception 11 years ago, NCSAM has grown exponentially, and information about online safety continues to adapt to the changing threats that exist, reaching consumers, small and medium-size businesses, corporations, educational institutions and people across the nation.

banner 300x250 October Marks National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2014

According to the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCSA), securing cyberspace, including the devices and networks we use, is a shared responsibility. Individual actions have a collective impact and using the Internet safely makes it more secure for everyone. If each person does their part by implementing stronger security practices, raising community awareness, educating family and friends, and training employees, our digital society will be safer and more resistant from cyber-attacks.

This year, each week of NCSAM has a theme to help focus on core issues:

  • Week 1 (October 1-3) – Stop. Think. Connect.
  • Week 2 (October 6-10) – Secure Development of IT Products
  • Week 3 (October 13-14) – Critical Infrastructure and The Internet
  • Week 4 (October 20-24) – Cybersecurity for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses and Entrepreneurs
  • Week 5 (October 27-31) – Cybercrime and Law Enforcement

AGA will once-again be an active participant of NCSAM by posting blog articles related to the weekly themes, as well as daily content on our Facebook and Twitter pages using the official hashtag, #NCSAM. Let us know how your organization is informing utility customers about how to stay safe online in the comments section below. AGA will feature your efforts on our blog and social media accounts.

Posted in cybersecurity, education, events, safety, technology | Leave a comment