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 Safety 

BACKGROUND

Local energy utilities are part of the community. In fact, the natural gas utility industry is built on community; we are part of the thousands of towns, cities and neighborhoods that rely on us to keep the gas on. The extensive pipeline infrastructure that makes this all possible is vital to the services we provide and keeping our customers safe, secure and informed is paramount.

Safety is the highest priority for the natural gas industry and work is continually being done in that area. AGA and its member companies are committed to promoting positive safety cultures among their employees throughout the natural gas distribution industry. All employees, as well as contractors and suppliers providing services to AGA members, are expected to place the highest priority on employee, customer, public and pipeline safety. Along these lines, AGA and its member companies have developed a Safety Culture Statement that clearly outlines principles involved in making a successful safety culture. These principles include:

  • Commitment by Management
  • Speak Up
  • Identify Hazards
  • Manage Risks
  • Plan the Work, Work the Plan
  • Promote a Learning Environment
  • Personal Accountability

You can read the entire AGA Safety Culture Statement here.

PIPELINE SAFETY, AN OVERVIEW

When it comes to safety, the natural gas industry has an excellent record, which is the result of extensive industry safety programs, overseen by state officials and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) under the Congressional  Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. Billions of dollar are spent each year to ensure that natural gas is delivered safely and efficiently.

Natural gas utilities and pipelines undertake a wide range of pipeline integrity, pipeline safety and public education programs. The design, construction, operation, inspection and maintenance of all operating pipelines are subject to state and federal regulations and requirements.

The inspection and maintenance performed by operators takes into account all of the following: incident and leak history, corrosion control records, continuing surveillance records, patrolling records, maintenance history, local conditions, and excavation damage experience.

In order to educate the general public and audiences working with the natural gas industry, operators participate in excavation damage prevention initiatives, install above-ground markers to indicate the location of buried gas lines; maintain rigid requirements for qualification and inspection of construction techniques used in their systems; and support research and development focused on inspection technologies, pipeline integrity, corrosion prevention and construction techniques.

Serious incidents, related to natural gas transmission and distribution, are extremely rare in the United States. Over the past twenty years, "third-party" damage has been the primary cause of serious incidents on natural gas pipelines, accounting for roughly 25 percent of all serious incidents on transmission pipelines and roughly 33 percent of all serious incidents on distribution pipelines.

The natural gas utility industry has worked with regulators, excavators and interested members of the public to augment the effectiveness of joint excavation damage prevention initiatives.

  • In 2011, at the urging of AGA, Congress passed the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 by unanimous consent, which the president signed into law in early 2012.
  • A national 811 "Call Before You Dig" number was launched in 2007, which further strengthened excavation damage prevention programs.
  • AGA and the natural gas utility industry supports the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), a collaborative group of industry and government stakeholders seeking to improve safety and reduce damages to underground infrastructure. Since the inception of CGA in 2004, there has been, roughly, a 40% reduction in excavation damages.
  • Since 2008, DOT’s Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has provided more than $4 million to help states improve their excavation damage prevention programs. Operators strongly support the continued involvement of the regulatory community, excavators and the interested public.
 

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