Category Archives: safety

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.

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Lisa Dundon AGA Members Mark 811 Day with Flash Mob, Giant Light Display and Man in Tutu

This past Monday, August 11, marked the Common Ground Alliance’s (CGA)’s annual National 811 Day to promote safe digging awareness and the Call Before You Dig campaign. Excavation damage continues to be the leading cause of pipeline incidents in the United States, though improvement is being made thanks to outreach efforts on the part of local natural gas utilities and other stakeholders.

Every year, as part of their commitment to safety, AGA’s member companies, the local natural gas utilities of America, educate customers and community members throughout the nation about the importance of locating pipelines before starting construction projects, planting or undertaking any kind of digging activity. Here are some highlights from the many activities that took place earlier this week:

  • 811 building BGE 300x199 AGA Members Mark 811 Day with Flash Mob, Giant Light Display and Man in TutuBaltimore Gas & Electric lit up downtown Baltimore with an impressive 811 window light display.
  • Consumers Energy took to social media to share a cute image of a dog digging a hole in the ground, to remind customers to call 811 before beginning any digging projects, big or small. One Facebook fan commented that she had never heard of 811 prior to the posting.
  • Atmos Energy teamed up with Texas 811 to hold the first 811 Day Extravaganza in Plano, Texas. More than 100 city officials, EMS workers and firefighters participated in hands-on digging demonstrations and roundtable discussions focused on safe digging practices. Watch video footage from the event here and view a photo gallery on Atmos Energy’s Facebook page.
  • Columbia Gas of Virginia kicked off the week by participating in several National Night Out events across the state, as well as Home Depot events, promoting 811 and pipeline safety. They also reached out to the public via customer emails, radio and digital ads, and a press release. Employees enjoyed 811 cake during meetings dedicated to safety.
  • Xcel Energy created a new and unique Call Before You Dig video and promoted it on YouTube and across their social media pages. The video, featuring a bearded fairy dressed in cut-off shorts and a tutu,received more than 1,600 views and the Facebook posts reached more than 136,000 people in less than 24 hours.
  • 811 flash mob 300x171 AGA Members Mark 811 Day with Flash Mob, Giant Light Display and Man in TutuAt Nicor Gas – AGL Resources, staff members partnered with the Aurora Junior Woman’s Club to present an 811 Day Flash Mob in front of the Cloud Gate sculpture (a.k.a. “The Bean”) in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Over 50 dancers performed “Bright Lines” to the tune of Robin Thicke’s hit-song “Blurred Lines.”

Can’t wait another year for 811 Day? Every April is National Safe Digging Month(NSDM). Many utility companies air PSAs and TV spots, and carry out social media campaigns to promote safe digging, especially during planting season. In the meantime, you can make sure to urge your customers, friends and family to make the 811 Promise. Let us know about your future Call 811 activities in the comments section below. We’d love to hear what your utility has in the works!

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