While natural gas utilities are dedicated to enhancing the safety of their operations, public awareness is a critical part of safe natural gas delivery. Finding effective ways to spread safety messages goes a long way toward ensuring that everyone can safely enjoy the benefits of natural gas.
This year, the American Gas Association (AGA) held our first annual AGA Safety Awareness Video Excellence (SAVE) Award, recognizing the outstanding contributions utilities across the country make in advancing natural gas safety communications.
(From L-R: Ronald Bradley, VP, Gas Operations, PECO Energy and AGA Operations Conference Chairman; Michael Haefner, Executive VP, Atmos Energy; Jeff Knights, VP, Technical Services – Mid-Texas Division, Atmos Energy; Christina Sames, VP, Operations & Engineering, AGA)
AGA received many great submissions, and we encourage everyone to check them out on AGA’s YouTube channel by clicking on the “AGA Safety Video Award Submissions 2015″ playlist. Details about the 2016 SAVE Award will be posted on AGA’s website at a later date. In the meantime, share the creative ways your company is spreading natural gas safety messages in the comments section below and you may be featured in an upcoming AGA blog post.
This April marked the eight annual National Safe Digging Month (NSDM), an initiative put in place by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) to remind professionals and homeowners to “Call 811 Before You Dig” and follow safe digging procedures to help prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages. People digging often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked due to concerns about project delays, costs and previous calls about other projects. These assumptions can be life-threatening.
Every digging job requires a call – even small projects like planting trees or shrubs. To get started, dial 811 to be connected to your local One Call Center which will gather information about the project and alert your local utility company. Crews will then locate the utility lines near your planned project and make sure they are properly marked so you can be sure to avoid them. The process is fast, simple and free.
All month long, local natural gas utilities took creative steps to spread the word about safe excavation practices. Damage from construction and digging activity is the leading cause of pipeline incidents, so communicating with customers and communities about the importance of calling 811 before starting any digging project is essential to enhancing public safety.
Here are just a few of the ways AGA member companies raised awareness about safe digging in their local communities:
Piedmont Natural Gas partnered with garden centers throughout its service territory in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee to tag trees and shrubs with important reminders to “Call Before You Dig.” Piedmont Natural Gas Managing Director of Safety and Community Relations Timothy Greenhouse explained, “Calling 811 is a free, easy way to avoid the inconvenience, added cost and potential injury that can result from damaging underground utilities.” For the third consecutive year, the Gardens of Blackhawk Hardware in Charlotte, N.C., worked with Piedmont and Girl Scouts from the local Hornets’ Nest Council to ensure every tree, shrub and digging tool was properly marked with a “Call Before You Dig” tag.
Piedmont Natural Gas and local Girl Scouts troops teamed up to spread awareness of Call 811 at a garden center in the utility’s service territory. Photo Credit: Piedmont Natural Gas
Atmos Energy, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, launched the “Yard Rescue 811” social media contest on its Facebook page offering customers the chance to win a $2,000 yard makeover while raising awareness of NSDM. Participants uploaded photos of their yard at home, church, school or business engaged and the photo with the most votes won.
One of many entries in Atmos Energy’s month-long “Yard Rescue 811” social media contest. Photo Credit: Atmos Energy
In Fresno, California, Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation (PG&E) worked with a company specializing in 3D art to create a chalkboard painting outside its office that depicted what it might look like if you were to dig just a few feet beneath your yard, including a natural gas pipeline, electric power lines and other buried utilities.
Special 3D artists create realistic chalk drawing of what it may look like when you dig in your own backyard. Photo Credit: PG&E
PG&E also spread the message of safe digging procedures with a new television spot featuring an employee who locates and marks underground utilities for customers and contractors in its service territory:
The PG&E Damage Prevention Center hosted a free 811 Contractor Safety Training course beneficial for both novice and experienced contractors. Topics included how to use the Call 811 service, excavation laws in California and steps to planning a safe digging project.
In addition, many other natural gas utilities spread awareness about NSDM through news releases, social media, advertisements, community events and more.
By far, the largest event surrounding Call 811 was this past weekend’s 141st Kentucky Derby. Thanks to the sponsorship of CGA and more than 30 of its member organizations, renowned jockey Victor Espinoza once again sported the 811 logo as he raced to victory for the second consecutive year. A record breaking 170,000 spectators at Churchill Downs and an estimated TV audience of 15 million viewers around the world were reminded of the importance to “Call 811 Before You Dig.“ We look forward to cheering on Victor and horse American Pharaoh as they take on the next leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, on May 16. Follow AGA on Twitter and Facebook for updates about the race and Call 811.
Victor Espinoza celebrates his second consecutive Kentucky Derby win. Photo Credit: CNN
If you’d like to share your organization’s recent event or campaign surrounding Call 811, please comment in the section below or email email@example.com. We’re happy to share your story.
“Our nation is fortunate to lead the world not only in domestic energy resources but also in energy delivery infrastructure. America’s abundance of natural gas, which continues to grow according to the latest Potential Gas Committee report released this month, holds the key to meeting America’s energy needs and growing our economy while improving our environment. As the final link between this game-changing resource and homes and businesses, America’s local natural gas utilities are committed to ensuring that it can be delivered to customers safely, reliably and at affordable prices. While I am pleased to see the Administration’s continued support for natural gas in our clean energy future and their recognition of the critical importance of robust and reliable energy infrastructure, it is imperative to recognize the significant work already underway and the contributions current industry efforts are making.
Every natural gas utility works every day to monitor, maintain and identify ways to expand and invest in smart modernization and enhancements to the more than 2.1 million miles of natural gas pipeline and infrastructure they operate. Since 1990, natural gas utilities added more than 600,000 miles of pipeline to serve over 17 million new customers. This has included installing updated plastic lines at a rate of 30,000 miles per year in the past decade. These efforts have led to an approximately 40 percent decline in pipeline incidents over the past ten years. A recently published study led by a team from Washington State University found that emissions from local natural gas distribution systems in cities and towns throughout the U.S. have decreased in the past 20 years, to levels 36 to 70 percent lower than the 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inventory. The study concludes that as little as 0.1 percent of the natural gas delivered nationwide is emitted from local distribution systems.
38 states now have specific programs in place to foster accelerated replacement of pipelines. We appreciate the recognition that most of the authorities for energy infrastructure reside at the state and local level, and we will continue our efforts on these local fronts, while continuing to work with President Obama, the U.S. Department of Energy and other key stakeholders in addressing the energy challenges that face our nation through the use of clean, reliable natural gas.”
A new study from Washington State University shows that methane emissions from U.S. natural gas distribution systems are 70 percent below current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates of those emissions. Based on data collected from pipeline leaks, meter and regulator stations, and city gates within 13 utility systems across the country, the study’s authors found that emissions from local distribution companies (LDCs) have decreased over the past 20 years due to upgrades, changes in pipeline materials, and better leak detection and survey methods.
As we often report here in the “Market Indicators” blog articles, industry experience and performance exists on a spectrum – one that is often improving in terms of practices and technologies, as well as the regulatory precepts that oversee these activities. This study demonstrates improvements to gas utility system safety and environmental performance, but it is also part of a larger industry trend of better overall performance.