Jake Rubin AGA CEO Dave McCurdy Receives Bryce Harlow Foundation Award

MCCURDY 222On April 25, the Bryce Harlow Foundation bestowed its Business-Government Relations Award upon American Gas Association President and CEO Dave McCurdy. The Business-Government Relations Award is given to a leader in the professional advocacy community in recognition of an exemplary lifelong career in the profession.

Presenting the award was Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council who served with Dave in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Dooley recalled Dave’s leadership in the House and his innovative approach to solving some of our nation’s most vexing problems.

Dave accepted the award paying tribute to his family and those who supported and guided his career when he arrived in Washington, DC thirty years ago as a freshman Representative of the Fourth Congressional District of Oklahoma. He opined on his time on Capitol Hill saying, “I did not see it as a swamp but as the home of democracy and the shining example for the world of how a diverse nation can come together to advance our people, society, nation and collective vision. I loved the House and was inspired by statesmen, motivated by reformers, grounded in history, and humbled by responsibility because we shared a vision that we are Americans first.”

MCCURDY 666Dave offered some advice to the Bryce Harlow Fellows who are students in pursuit of a career in professional advocacy through government relations. The CEO said that the accelerated Internet age will force them to sift through the noise, flood of fake news and so-called opinion on social media to judge the integrity of information. He warned that this onslaught of information can engender cynicism and fear, but he offered a path forward. “I believe very strongly in the capacity of public service and community service to lift up not only your neighbors, but also yourself. Commit yourself to the betterment of those around you or those in lands far beyond yours that are in need. I can tell you – and so can so many others in this room – that it can lead to a life of fulfillment allowing you to see the best of humankind and pushing yourself to achieve things you never thought possible.”

Also honored at the Bryce Harlow Foundation 36th Annual Awards Dinner, was U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) who received the Bryce Harlow Award bestowed each year on a notable individual, most often an elected official, with a career that echoed the work and life of Bryce Harlow and which was built on championing the principles of integrity, dedication and professionalism in the business-government relations community. He was introduced by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO).

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Jackie Bavaro AGA Member Companies Celebrate Earth Day in their Communities

On Saturday, April 22, more than 190 countries across the globe took part in activities commemorating the 47th annual Earth Day. AGA member companies, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Consumers Energy and Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E), celebrated by teaming up with employees, family, friends and city volunteers to help restore their local parks and educate residents about smart energy efficiency options.

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PG&E volunteers restoring state parks in Northern California.

PG&E presented California State Parks Foundation’s (CSPF) 19th Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup, which focused on restoring 40 state parks across California. The company sponsored projects at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area in Sacramento County, as well as several parks in the Bay Area including Mt. Diablo State Park. In addition, PG&E provided a $200,000 grant to CSPF for the supplies and materials needed to complete 10 Earth Day projects in Northern and Central California.

Since its inception in 1998, more than 83,000 volunteers have contributed over 330,000 hours to the Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program. This has saved the state of California nearly $6.6 million in park maintenance and improvement costs. Additionally, nearly $5 million has been raised through the Earth Day program to benefit state parks and the millions of Californians who rely on them for recreation, education and inspiration.

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Consumers Energy volunteers clearing trash for new disc golf course at Ella Sharp Park in Jackson, Michigan.

Consumers Energy employees and the city of Jackson, MI teamed up to clean five different areas within the city. Nearly 100 volunteers dispersed across Ella Sharp Park, downtown Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, Loomis Park and the Inter-City Trail picking up trash and litter in honor of Earth Day. The partnership highlights the first time the two organizations have worked together as part of the company’s cleanup efforts every April.

BGE representatives made it a top priority to speak at several events and share information about energy efficiency and conservation with customers on Earth Day. Employees also participated in an Eco-Challenge where more than 500 participants reduced energy consumption and waste. Through this challenge and other efforts, BGE commended employees with Environmental Achievement awards for their personal dedication to environmental sustainability.

This year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy presented BGE with its ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year–Sustained Excellence Award. BGE has also been recognized by industry leaders such as the Audubon Society, Wildlife Habitat Council and the National Wildlife Federation and spends Earth Day educating our local communities about ways to preserve and protect our planet.

These are just a few highlights of the efforts underway in AGA’s members’ communities. Let us know in the comments section below what you’ve been doing to celebrate Earth Day this year. We’d love to highlight your efforts on AGA’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Please send your stories to Jackie Bavaro at jbavaro@aga.org.

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Jackie Bavaro National Safe Digging Month: #Call811 Before You Dig

April marks the 10th annual National Safe Digging Month, an initiative put in place by the Common Ground Alliance to raise awareness about safe digging practices and the importance of calling 811 to prevent accidents, property damages and outages. As part of National Safe Digging Month, AGA encourages homeowners to take the following steps when planning a digging project:
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  • Call 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
  • Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
  • Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines are not marked.

Striking an underground utility line while digging can cause harm to you or those around you, disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, and potentially result in hefty fines and repair costs. A call must be placed to 811 before every digging project, from simple landscaping projects like planting trees or shrubs, to building a deck or installing a rural mailbox. Every six minutes an underground utility line or pipeline is damaged because someone decided to dig without first calling 811.

Throughout this month, AGA will be highlighting the creative ways local natural gas utilities are educating the public about this crucial, and potentially life-saving program on TwitterFacebook and the True Blue Natural Gas blog. Let us know what your utility has planned by posting below or emailing Jackie Bavaro at jbavaro@aga.org.

For more information on National Safe Digging Month, please click here.

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Jackie Bavaro Natural Gas Utilities Explore the Latest Trend in Utility Customer Engagement: Journey Mapping

The April issue of American Gas Magazine titled, “That Aha Moment!” explores how Ameren Illinois, Southern Co., and Vectren began facilitating customer journey mapping, the latest trend in utility customer engagement. The three utilities discovered how journey mapping can help illuminate key touch points in the customer experience, improve engagement and lead to a successful long-term relationship with consumers.

At Ameren, nearly 35 staff members participated in the customer journey mapping sessions, which took place for four days over a two-week period. The group used E Source’s JourneyHub, a web-based tool that allows utilities to map customer touch points, along with flowchart maker and diagramming software Visio, to integrate the customer experience with the operational flow.

Employees examined the process—from both a customer-facing and operations Captureperspective. By using Journey Mapping the staff members in the group shifted their way of thinking about when they should provide information about outages. As a result, Ameren saw a 30 percent reduction in calls during its most recent outage by providing more effective messaging to customers.

While Ameren’s work was geared toward electricity restoration, gas companies can also take advantage of journey mapping for customer’s needs including gas emergencies/leaks, outages, starting or transferring service, bill payment, disconnections for nonpayment, nonemergency service inquiries, meter exchanges or participation in energy efficiency programs.

In 2015, Southern Co. Gas also engaged E Source to help revamp its Customer Experience strategy. The company interviewed more than 60 leaders and employees with the goal to improve overall customer engagement.  Journey mapping became a key component of that effort, revealing customers’ emotions—both good and bad—when doing business with the company. It allowed Southern Co., to focus not only on internal operations but on the customer experience aspect as well.

Similarly, in 2015, Vectren’s focus on journey mapping became a part of its continuous improvement and value stream analysis to better understand its process flows. Vectren’s greatest revelation came when the utility noted that not only do customers have different touch points, but they also have different “personas.” Vectren identified six personas including college students, new residents and retirees on fixed income, and looked at touch points for each group. Vectren is not far enough along to have garnered metrics about how changes are working, but the company  believes the right processes are in place to achieve better results when it comes to successful long-term relationships with customers.

The process of journey mapping brings together employees from the call center, the field, IT and the back office to reveal crucial information and learn from one another. That process can be extremely helpful in improving customer touch points—every point of contact with the utility from start to finish—and the increasing customer engagement. For more information, you can read the entire article here.

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