December 2021, Vol. 248, No. 12


APGA Continues Focus on Advocacy of Natural Gas

By PGJ Staff 

Formed in 1961, the American Public Gas Association (AGPA) plays an instrumental role in the operations of more than 700 member companies in 36 states.   


APGA represents its members before Congress and other federal agencies by carefully assembling regulatory and legislative positions. The Washington, D.C.-based association also holds meetings, seminars and workshops throughout the year designed to help member companies improve their reliability, operational efficiency and regulatory environment.  

In this interview, Alonzo Weaver, chairman of APGA and senior vice president and COO at Memphis Light Gas & Water (MLGW), discusses APGA’s priorities for the coming year, helping members who are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and engaging the public concerning natural gas and other topics. 

P&GJ: What led you to a career in natural gas?  

Alonzo Weaver: Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) is the largest three-service municipal utility in the nation. Natural gas is a large part of our business, serving 315,000 customers.   

When I moved to the executive level in the mid-90s, after a career that involved mostly the electric side of the business, I took on the gas matrix responsibilities. This, of course, has evolved and changed with time. Currently, I lead an internal organization that includes engineering, construction and operational responsibilities as we deliver electricity, gas and water to our customers.  

P&GJ: What are your top priorities for the coming year?  

Weaver: APGA will continue its focus on preserving and protecting the critical role that natural gas can and should play in our energy future. More than 175 million Americans use natural gas in their homes or businesses.   

At a time when families and businesses in states across the nation are finding it harder to make ends meet and home prices are skyrocketing, policymakers should focus on energy policies that every family can afford.   

APGA has also worked to help provide its members with tools to address some of the workforce challenges they may be facing now and into the future. Public gas systems play a vital role in their community. In addition to being part of the community, they provide safe, reliable, affordable and resilient natural gas to their customers. Having a successful workforce is an integral part of that effort.   

P&GJ: What are the challenges to natural gas that you are focused on?  

Weaver: We continue to see a growing effort to influence policymakers by groups that think the only way to ensure a healthy and clean environment is to eliminate natural gas. It is critical that we continue to educate policymakers and other stakeholders regarding the undeniable benefits of natural gas and reconsider policies that fail to take advantage of our nation’s natural gas infrastructure. The roadmap to a clean energy future should not depend on a single energy source.  

In addition, we must work to ensure safeguards are in place to protect consumers from the historic price increases we experienced as a result of Winter Storm Uri in February. APGA has released a white paper that outlines potential solutions to protect consumers from these types of events in the future.   

P&GJ: Do APGA and its members see growth potential involving pipelines and hydrogen gas? If so, in what specific ways?  

Weaver: APGA and its members recognize a need to take action to decrease emissions in their operations. There is a focus on reducing leaks. As well, there are new fuels that can be transported through the pipelines to help achieve our country’s clean energy future.   

Hydrogen has the capability to be blended with natural gas or used exclusively; both have decreased emissions. Given this, public natural gas utilities are exploring how to transport blended hydrogen or hydrogen exclusively to be safely used in homes, businesses and commercial applications.   

Low-carbon fuels can be best delivered using the existing pipelines that APGA members operate, as well as the public natural gas utility workforce that keeps this infrastructure safe. APGA looks forward to serving their customers for many, many years by delivering clean, affordable and reliable natural gas now and the low-carbon fuels in the future.  

P&GJ: Does APGA have a way of addressing the opposition to natural gas pipeline expansion that has occurred in recent years?   

Weaver: APGA believes the time is now to educate the public and policymakers that public natural gas utilities are environmental stewards. Natural gas is clean, affordable and reliable, and it is delivered through safe pipelines. In addition, renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen can provide balanced energy solutions, helping Americans lessen environmental impacts, all while still using existing, safe and resilient infrastructure. To ensure this continued energy delivery, pipelines need to be built, so APGA members are stressing their record of safe operation and focus on protecting both the public and the environment.   

P&GJ: How is the pro-natural gas pipeline message being communicated to the public?  

Weaver: We know we must take our message to consumers, policymakers, the media and other stakeholders. We’re refining our messages so we can reach out to all these groups. For example, we’ve developed marketing that’s consumer focused: Natural Gas Genius.  

Our members can use this locally. It drives home the point that families who choose a traditional mix of natural gas and electricity can save nearly $900 a year compared with those using electricity only.   

Our APGA committee oversees other outreach efforts such as media relations, social media and more. They ensure that our messaging and communication protocol are timely, relevant and in line with the association’s goals.    

P&GJ: Are there any new or pending regulatory requirements that are of special concern to APGA members?   

Weaver: APGA anticipates rulemakings from both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) that have the potential to greatly impact their operations.   

At DOE, APGA members are especially concerned with pending appliance efficiency rulemakings. Specifically, there is potential for a new rulemaking on residential furnaces. DOE could potentially force fuel switching from natural gas to electricity through this proceeding. While the furnace effort is likely the most impactful, APGA is monitoring other appliance efficiency rulemakings to ensure DOE is not mandating electrification or taking away consumer energy choice.  

The Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020 provided PHMSA with several mandates for new rulemakings, two of which are of specific interest to APGA: the Safety of Gas Distribution Pipelines Rule and the Gas Pipeline Leak Detection Rule. Both are under development at PHMSA, and proposed rules are expected in 2022. They will each have significant impact on the way many APGA members operate and maintain their pipeline systems.                                   

P&GJ: In the area of pipeline safety, what is APGA placing it greatest emphasis on in the coming year?  

Weaver: The PIPES Act of 2020 also mandates that all pipeline operators update their operations and maintenance plans to include a focus on (1) eliminating hazardous leaks and minimizing releases of natural gas from pipeline facilities and (2) addressing the replacement and remediation of pipelines that are known to leak based on the material, design or past operating history.   

This new mandate has placed a special emphasis on methane emissions; however, for decades, APGA members are dedicated to operating their pipelines safely. This has always included minimizing natural gas releases and leaks. Over the next year, APGA members will be looking for opportunities to identify, highlight and incorporate operations and maintenance activities designed to minimize natural gas emissions.  

P&GJ: What, if anything, about your job keeps you awake at night?  

Weaver: It is disheartening to see policymakers not allow for an all-of-the-above energy approach, ensuring Americans have access to clean, affordable and reliable natural gas. Putting all-eggs-in-one-basket, or forced electrification, is not appropriate for our country. It is a costly and unreliable solution.   

I am looking forward to working with APGA members to educate our congressmen and senators, as well as those in the administration, so they know we need practical policies for our country’s clean energy future.   


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