This week, AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy participated in the National Journal’s Energy Insiders blog to respond to their question, “What Are the Risks of Transporting Energy?” His response is posted below and you can also visit the National Journal Energy Insiders blog to view the entire comments thread.
“America’s natural gas utilities operate more than 2 million miles of pipelines that deliver our domestic abundance of clean natural gas to homes and businesses. According to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) it is the safest energy delivery system in the nation.
Safety is the top priority for the American Gas Association and the more than 200 local energy utility companies we represent who serve 177 million Americans from coast to coast. That commitment has contributed to steadily declining rates in serious pipeline incidents over the past 20 years. In fact, the number of serious natural gas incidents in 2012 is 57 percent less than in 1993. Importantly, progress is being made in reducing excavation damage – the leading cause of serious pipeline incidents – with an approximately 50 percent drop since 2004. This decrease is due largely to the work done by the pipeline industry in promoting the use of “Call 811,” the national number for people to call before they begin any excavation project, no matter how small.
We invest over $7 billion each year to maintain the safety and reliability of the natural gas delivery system. AGA and its members are dedicated to the continued enhancement of pipeline safety. In 2011, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called upon U.S. pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their oil and gas pipelines to identify areas of high risk and accelerate critical repair and replacement work. Our members have heeded this call to action by successfully moving policies, both within their state legislatures and before their utility regulatory commissions, to accelerate upgrades of their delivery network. In the past decade, natural gas utilities have installed plastic pipelines at a rate of 30,000 miles per year, connecting new customers or replacing older pipeline infrastructure with more modern pipeline technology. Natural gas utilities are a part of the communities they serve and are committed to proactively collaborating with public officials, emergency responders, excavators, consumers, safety advocates and members of the public to continue to improve the industry’s longstanding record of providing natural gas service safely and reliably.
Natural gas utilities were also fully engaged in 2012’s Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act. We believe a strong, safe and smart bill was developed. As a leading voice for safety in the pipeline industry we have taken further action with our “Commitment to Enhancing Safety,” which details actions that are being addressed by AGA or individual operators that go above and beyond current regulation to help ensure the safe and reliable operation of the nation’s pipelines. We are always sharing the newest safety techniques and latest technologies though our robust best practices program. AGA’s annual operation conference is the industry’s premier gathering of natural gas utility and transmission company operations management and continues to break attendance records year after year.
Our domestic abundance of natural gas provides an incredible opportunity to drive economic growth while protecting the environment and enhancing energy security. Upgrading and expanding our natural gas infrastructure is necessary, timely and provides countless benefits for our nation. Natural gas is the foundation fuel for a clean and secure energy future for our nation, capable of working alongside renewables to not only provide energy for homes and businesses, run a significant number of our vehicles, generate power and boost our manufacturing industry. America’s natural gas utilities will continue to provide safe and reliable service to our customers today while building the 21st century infrastructure necessary to serve the nation’s energy needs tomorrow.”