By Stan Chapman, Chairman, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America
Amid this global public health crisis, when much seems unknown, it’s important to highlight how the transmission of natural gas through our nation’s underground pipeline network is safely and reliably bringing stability to our nation. Our interconnected pipeline grid and diverse sources of supply mean Americans can depend on us to generate the energy they need during this time of crisis.
As the Los Angeles Times put it, “[d]isaster planning is baked into the DNA of electric and gas utilities.” The natural gas community has worked tirelessly to prepare contingency plans for crises and that planning has made us well prepared for the COVID-19 challenge that we face today. Through established continuity plans, coordination along the natural gas value chain and collaboration with government agencies, the industry is prepared for a range of emergency scenarios.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) listed pipelines as one of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors “considered so vital that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” CISA also issued updated guidance in response to the COVID-19 outbreak that aligns closely with the best practices employed by natural gas transmission companies and other essential infrastructure providers for keeping their employees safe and their businesses operational during this crisis.
Though not often recognized, there are thousands of business-critical workers from coast-to-coast reporting daily to various field locations and gas control centers to ensure a reliable supply of natural gas to power homes, hospitals and other essential businesses. These essential businesses relying on natural gas include those manufacturers ramping up production of highly valued respirators and other urgent care products. To minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission, many of these individuals are sequestered away from their families for weeks at a time as they complete their critical tasks.
Still, we know that for some INGAA members, the impacts of COVID-19 may mean fewer personnel available to work control rooms and other essential tasks due to illnesses, quarantine, or family matters. Others may experience resource constraints due to the administration’s National Emergency declaration or local orders. We are working closely with operators and agencies to ensure safety requirements are upheld through any staffing or logistical challenges.
In addition to the industry’s readiness, we’re extremely proud of how our members have responded with charitable efforts during this uncertain time. INGAA members have pledged more than $8 million in support of COVID-19 relief and other community assistance. In addition, many member companies have provided extra financial assistance to their employees for emergency expenses, including unplanned childcare, and donated hundreds of thousands of N95 and surgical masks to hospitals and first responders.
Despite these unprecedented circumstances, our industry is committed to safely and reliably delivering natural gas. I am proud and thankful for the tens of thousands of men and women working around the clock to ensure we continue to meet our country’s energy needs. Thank you for stepping up every day, and let’s keep up the great work!