Full Transcript: AGA Leadership Conference Call March 31, 2020
AGA Host 00:00
Good day and welcome to the AGA Leadership Council conference call. All participants will be in listen only mode. Should you need assistance, please signal a conference specialist by pressing star then zero on your telephone keypad. Throughout the call, there will be opportunities to ask questions. To ask a question, you may press star then one on your telephone keypad. To withdraw your question, please press star then two understand that will be after each segments and at the end of the call. Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to David Anderson, President and CEO, Northwest Natural. Please go ahead.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 00:46
Thank you, Andrew. And good morning. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us. For the spring meeting of the AGA Leadership Council. I’m, again David Anderson, I’m first chair of AGA Board of Directors, started the year second chair. And of course, we had some transitions and one of the responsibilities of the second chair is to chair this meeting, which I’ve always enjoyed doing. And I will continue to do that this period. But then we’ll have Kim Green takeover the meeting in her role now as second vice chair. Obviously, in interesting times here, we really do appreciate your flexibility. And doing this meeting by phone. Obviously an in person meeting was not was not accomplishable. Nor would it be wise to do so. But we do miss seeing everybody and we look forward to being able in the future to meet face to face. Before I begin, I want to remind everybody, of course all AGA meetings are conducted in full compliance with the antitrust laws. A copy of the antitrust guidelines was included in the email from Gary that you have associated with the the other materials that he sent out. Also in those materials were AGA 2020 priorities, and a PDF of the natural gas ban presentation that will be referenced during this session. So since we have a few topics to cover, in a short timeframe, I’d like to go immediately into those. And I really do want to thank everybody. I know we’re all very busy operationally, with the COVID crisis that we’re doing. So I will attempt to run this meeting as efficiently as possible and make sure that you can get back to your day to day operational activities. But speaking to COVID. Let’s start that off with Karen Harbert and Lori Traweek of the leadership team to talk about the priority list and where COVID fits into that in the 2020 AGA priorities. So Karen I will turn it over to you.
Karen Harbert, AGA 02:44
Thank you, Gary, I’m sorry. Can you hear me? Yep. Great. Thank you, David. And as David said, we really thank you for making time in these challenging times to be with us. This is a very important program. And we want to preserve the continuity of this program. So thank you. And David will be running a great meeting that I know. AGA began remote telework on March the 16th. So we are in the second day of the third week. We have stress test every technology platform. And I’m pleased to say that we are fully functioning and are able to accomplish almost everything. With the way that we have structured ourselves, I know that all of you and your companies are doing the same things. And it’s a testament to technology today that we’re able to accomplish so much being in so many different places. I just wanted to give an overview of what AGA has been doing over the last several weeks as this pandemic grew exponentially. And then to tell you where we’re focused right now and hopefully at the end of this call, several hours now you will add to our to do list so that we can be fully supportive of your vital operations. For the last several weeks, we have seen our role as twofold. The first was to establish natural gas utility workers, the employees the workforce as essential personnel. And we worked with the Department of Homeland Security and a number of other departments in the government to support this request. And as you well know, we have been classified as essential personnel, which is really important in order to us maintaining our operability and also at some point to be in the queue behind medical workers for PPE. The second part of our focus has been to be a conduit of information. Conduit of information from the industry to government, to regulators, to state officials and sometimes to the media. The second part of being a conduit was to facilitate the transfer of information and best practices amongst our member companies. So in that category, I’m pleased to let you know that over the last 10 days or so we’ve hosted close to 30 conference calls with our members. And I’ll let you know what those are in just a moment, with a participation of about 1700 different lines. And that doesn’t include today’s call. And that has launched 20 new initiatives to support our members challenges, just in the last 10 days or so. So here’s the different processes that we have set up. And whatever one makes sense for you, I hope you are plugged into If not, please feel free to reach out after this call, we’ll make sure you have all the call and information for these variety of groups. Now, these are all weekly calls, unless I unless I know otherwise, we now have a weekly chief financial officers call. And they are dealing with obviously all things finance and accounting and tax issues. We now have a Chief Information Officers call and that’s everything from the technology challenges that we’re having, but also cyber security, which is obviously a growing concern to each of our companies. We have established for the first time ever a human resources group that is meeting virtually once a week. And they’re dealing with all kinds of employee practices leave vacation PPE, all the things that you can imagine and sharing their information. We have a standing legal committee call with the general counsels of the member companies to exchange not just legal information, but challenges that might be coming with the way that they are currently operating rate cases, etc. We also have a legislative committee that is meeting. It met this morning to talk about not just the stimulus package, but stimulus four so we have as of today established another group to address looming state issues and stimulus four and what we would like to see included in that for our members. So that is a new group that will be meeting on Tuesday. We also have a once a week call with the leadership of NARUC, the regulatory utility commissioners. And we have stood up a new regional call, which is a call with all of the state gas associations as well as the larger, the regional associations, but also the larger state associations. And we held that first call yesterday, and there was over 50 people representing different organizations on that call. So that’s a little bit of what we’ve been, and of course, we have daily calls with DHS, DOE, PHMSA and the White House. So I think we’ve got all our bases covered, and hopefully by my monitoring those calls on your behalf, that frees up your bandwidth to do your work. And we’re trying to address your issues through a number of those calls. So right now we’re focused on working with the State Emergency Operation centers and letters going out this afternoon, paving the way for each of you at all of our member utilities to make the case that you should be a priority when PPE becomes more available. We’re not asking to be put in front of the queue of the medical industry, of course, but since we are critical, essential workforce, and we’ll need to have access to homes and residences that potentially might have somebody exposed to COVID-19. We want to make sure our employees your workers are adequately protected. So we have paved the way for you to have a requested to your EOCs. We have updated the mutual aid checklist to more accurately reflect what should be considered and how to be considered in the time of pandemic. All of these resources that I’m outlining today are up on the AGA website. Things that our members specific are behind the member site. They’re not out to the public, but we’ve assembled quite an extraordinary resource library, public facing then also just for members. We are aggregating now additional relief that we may be seeking from PHMSA and OSHA. We’ve already gotten some relief on non-critical compliance measures. So what would be the next phase of relief that we should be requesting on your behalf. And we are the co-lead with EEI on one of the tiger teams that has been stood up by the electric sector coordinating council. We lead, co-lead the establishment of a very comprehensive resource guide to be made available to the entire membership, which addresses supply chain issues and access to quarantined areas. As of last night, it was over 50 pages. And I believe it’s very close if it hasn’t been already today, been released, and that will be up on our website as well. We do participate in the twice weekly electric sector coordinating calls. And we also have our twice weekly membership calls with the vice presidents of operations amongst others. And I think we’ve had a record over 300 people call in to those phone calls, those conference calls to share practices, best practices, and how they’re dealing in real time with challenges. We will be putting together some best practices coming out of this. A guide to how to best remote work in this situation, because we certainly have a lot more remote work going on than we do, normally, and some type of a disruption of work. We’re looking at best practices of how to deal within your states, and what’s the cadence of communication? And what is the sequential requests for relief from different state obligations. And then at the request of one of our members, today, we’re going to start looking at how do you get back to work, this will be over we will survive, and things will return to normal. So what is the best way to get people back into their routines back into the office back into doing what they do, since some of those functions have been put aside for the moment to address with more pressing issues. In addition, just for AGA side of things, we are certainly having to cancel a number of meetings and calls and moving a lot of them to virtual platforms. But we’re also just like your companies are taking a hard look at our finances, and making sure we’ve got contingency plans in place, I’m pleased to let you know we are in great financial shape. But we certainly want to plan for the future. And looking at whether it be continued canceling of events, or whether it be a change in the economy. We’re on top of that. So maybe I will stop there. That’s a lot to digest. But I strongly encourage you if you haven’t already go to the website, because there’s a lot of things there including a very exhaustive compendium of state actions, both executive actions by the governors, things that have been undertaken by the legislature and regulatory action. So something that you won’t have to go make from scratch. It is all up there. And it’s updated on a daily basis. So a great resource is you’re looking for what might be happening on one of your service territories. So with that, I will up and see if there’s any questions, I’m going to turn it over to Lori to talk about our priorities. Questions, question?
AGA Host 13:02
All right. So if I may, I’ll mention, if you would like to ask a question, you may press star then one on your telephone keypad. If you’re using the speakerphone, please pick up your handset before pressing the keys. If at any time your question has been addressed in this segment, and you’d like to withdraw your question, please press star than two. So once again, that is star than one. If you have a question, please. And just pause in just a moment just to make sure no one’s formulating something or chiming in.
Karen Harbert, AGA 13:45
And I can promise you I will not be offended if we don’t have questions at this point. Because we really want to hear from you in our roundtable session towards the end of this. So if we want to hold questions, I’m fine with that too. And turning it over to Lori.
AGA Host 13:59
We currently do not have any questions. Thank you.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 14:02
Hey, Karen says David, can you hear me? Yes. I’m just curious. And I noticed Andrew said we don’t have any questions.
AGA Host 14:09
But all we do is whenever you’re done.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 14:12
Okay, thank you. Just kind of curious if you could give a little bit more color care on what you’re seeing at all these you know, whether it’s the White House or these other organizations, or are you sensing everybody’s on top of things, or was there panic, and we’re getting back into be good to get a little bit of color about how DC is doing right now with all of this?
Karen Harbert, AGA 14:31
Sure. And like I said daily calls with DHS and FEMA who are sort of our co leads of this along with DOE. I have been extremely impressed with their ability, even with some of the leadership having to work remotely on staying on top of this and the collaboration across government, which is not always seamless. In the critical infrastructure space is working incredibly well. And on top of that their involvement with us the industry partners, ourselves, individual companies, CEOs, has been extraordinary. So I think they understand our issues very well. Of course, some of our issues can’t be addressed at the federal level. And they are at the state level being addressed. And I know those things are more challenging because a lot of that process has taken some time to set up. But between FEMA, DHS, DOE, and the White House, extraordinary collaboration and receptivity to addressing our concerns in real time, and that also extends to PHMSA being willing to waive certain critical requirements, qualifications, etc. So we have found them to be very cooperative partners.
AGA Host 15:51
And we do have a question, if I may it from Ron Bradley of Pico, please, thank you.
Ron Bradley, PECO 15:58
Thank you, not so much a question. But just to comment on Karen, and I wanted you to hear it. And my sense is, everybody feels the same way. You’re right, it’s a busy time, and things are really aggressively moving along. And we’re all trying to get our heads wrapped around certain issues. And what you I just wanted to do, applaud you, Gary, Christina, Lori, Andrew, the whole gang. I know I’m missing some names. But in having the foresight to record calls, that we can’t always get on, but can you know, run back and listen lately later, is a luxury that actually is, I mean, I think I’d miss a lot if I wasn’t able to go do that. I just want, sometimes you just don’t know, you know how much you mean to others. And it’s really important what you’re doing, and I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Karen Harbert, AGA 16:50
Well, I really appreciate that comment, and right back at you, because you guys are on the frontlines keeping this country afloat with energy. And you take that commitment so seriously, and are delivering so well that we have to do the same. So thank you. And Lori, I will turn it over to you.
Lori Traweek, AGA 17:10
Thank you. So Karen has suggested right now we are definitely in an all hands on deck who can help out with COVID-19 mode. However, we also at the same time recognize that as Karen said, this is going to pass and there are other things that we need to be focused on to help on your behalf. So I just wanted to touch on the 2020 priorities that you received by email from Gary, these priorities, many of you are familiar with the advocacy priorities that we have in the past, focused on a rather long list. And at the request of the board, in October, we we took a closer look at it to determine what are our association priorities, and try to make sure that we were able to identify those where we could put the resources to them, and be able to provide value to the membership because of their criticality. And so at the recent board meeting, it’s seems like it was ages ago, but it was really just earlier this year that the board met and, and voted on and approved the priorities that are again, in your hopefully in your inbox and that you’ve been able to take a look at. And there shouldn’t be any surprises there. But again, recognizing that COVID-19 was not the issue when we approved these priorities. And therefore, while that is not represented on this list, as you heard from Karen, we are all in on trying to make sure that we’re providing what you need to be able to respond. That the other priorities that we are still focused on, leading on safety and security. You’re gonna be hearing a little bit more from Christina in a little while, what is going on, with regards to safety, and of course, securing the future of natural gas. Everything we need to be doing there to help to make sure that there still continues to be the recognition that natural gas is going to play an important role needs to play an important role in our energy portfolio today and in the future. You’ll be hearing a little bit more from Sue on natural gas and other activities that we have related to that. And then of course the advancing operational excellence which enables us to continue to develop and deliver programs information In an analytics that help you with your industry operations. So wanting to again, just emphasize that we do have, we have staff who are focused on this, while the others are making sure that we are addressing what we need to with regards to COVID-19 that we are advancing along those lines, what we need to with regards to safety and security. And also with securing the future of natural gas, continuing to hold programs, virtually. As you know, many of those Karen indicated many of our our meetings that were scheduled to be face to face now being held virtually, I would say in a very effective way. And overall being able to advance these priorities that are laid out on that one page in your handouts. So rather than go into much more detail on that, I’ll pause there, I would welcome any thoughts in terms of anything that we’re missing. We are in detail working on the actions associated with each one of those bullets on that page. And as I said, you will be hearing more from Christina and from Sue. And then of course, we can also address any other issues during the roundtable.
AGA Host 21:35
Okay, again, if you have a question, please press star then one on your touch tone phone. Pausing, just to make sure. Currently, we do not have any questions.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 21:59
Okay, Lori, anything else?
Lori Traweek, AGA 22:02
That’s all I have David. And now we can turn it over to to Sue and Christina.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 22:08
Okay, next we and by the way, for those of you that you can ask questions at the end, too, so you don’t have to do it at each one of these breaks. Next, we have Sue Forrester, he is VP of Advocacy and Outreach who will give us an update on natural gas bans we have been seeing gathering momentum across all the regions of the United States. Prior to joining AGA, I think most of you have met Sue, if you haven’t, she was the managing director of the US Chamber of Commerce Global Energy Institute, and has got a ton of experience. And we’re glad to have you on board Sue, so I will turn it over to you.
Sue Forrester, AGA 22:41
Great, just want to make sure you can hear me.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 22:46
Loud and clear.
Sue Forrester, AGA 22:47
Okay, great. Thanks. Hi, everybody, thanks for the time on today’s call, as both Karen and Lori mentioned, as we have focusing on COVID, we are still working on other activities around the natural gas bans and things to make sure that kind of when we can get back out and get aggressive, we are ready to go. So my presentation is just going to kind of walk you through what we’re seeing and kind of what we were seeing on the natural gas bans and how AGA in partnership with you are kind of fighting back and building out our initiatives to be able to make sure gas is part of our future. So in my slide deck, if you want to start I always like to start with good news. And the good news here is that customers like their natural gas, and we’ve got some polls from late last year that really highlight that people like their natural gas. And so this is what we are trying to preserve and grow. So if you want to flip to the next section, it’s kind of situational awareness. Last year, we noticed a shift in how these deep decarbonisation policies are being talked about for the residential sector. So instead of pro-electrification, we’re really seeing anti-natural gas bans. So it’s the keep it in the ground group has morphed to keep it away from customers, if you think about it, they started trying to ban fracking. And when that didn’t work, they went after the pipelines. And that hasn’t really worked either. And so now they’re going after the end users, our customers. So they figure if you can’t get rid of if they can get rid of their customers, there’s no need for pipelines. And if there’s no need for pipelines, there’s no need for fracking. So we commissioned a, if you want to jump next slide, we commissioned a deep dive look into the opposition and their interconnections. Kind of how their movement is working. And we’ve got some predictive analytics to help us understand the how and where these bans are popping up. Here’s some of what we’ve learned. The environmental NGOs are really taking a holistic approach towards eliminating use of natural gas. So it’s not just a big communication strategy. It’s actually work at the grassroots level. It’s work with studies. And other information as well as working was well taking legislation into legislative as to your state legislators as well as to your city councils. So we kind of wanted to start with the funding of the movement, because it really does kind of explain their holistic approach. Now, what I’m sharing with you today is only a small slice of who’s currently active. And I’m sure as you’re looking at this slide, that you are not going to be surprised to see that the Bloomberg Philanthropies is one of the larger groups in the environmental movement that is backing this campaign. And so if you watch their money then kind of drops down into some of the larger groups. So you have your American Cities Climate Challenge, Beyond Coal, Beyond Carbon, some of the Sierra Club programs as well as NRDC. And so what these, what this money goes to do is it provides legal support and technical expertise to these third party groups. It helps them with drafting of energy codes, regulatory filings, pleadings in amacus briefs. So as they’re working on getting their legal documents together, they also then send money if you see over to the right, and the light blue. Money goes over to the research arms where folks are producing studies and reports that kind of serve as their intellectual property for the electrify everything policy. So it’s these studies that you see from like the Rocky Mountain Institute, EDF and other groups that will pop up in city council’s in as basis for their legislation or as they’re going after state agencies and for their grassroots to use. So then the next piece kind of flows down to the grassroots. So now you have national groups like NRDC and Sierra Club and 350, that have grassroots folks that are now using the research that’s already been paid for as well as the technical expertise. And then this is what they’re using to make their pushes at the legislatures and municipalities. So as you can kind of see, they are working in a holistic manner, their money is being used wisely, to be able to build kind of their credible campaign. And so as you know, this is pulled up kind of on the front line. And if you go to next slide. The question becomes how is AGA responding and so for us, we are looking at, we are looking at our goal, which is to keep natural gas and intergal part of our clean energy future by reframing debate on the value proposition of natural gas and our infrastructure. So we came up with this goal based on looking at a lot of our message testing and strategy that folks understand that the climate is changing, but they don’t necessarily know what to do. And so that void is where AGA is really going to step in to really change the narrative and say that we are part of America’s clean energy future. And we are here to make sure that we can support our customers having choices, and options that are cost effective and reliable. And so in doing this, we’ve created an interdepartmental team, to work on some of our existing initiatives and to build new ones to address these bans. And so we kind of break these into proactive and reactive strategies and tactics if you want to flip to the next side. So on the proactive side, as we’re watching the bans, each one is different. And they are tweaked as they go along the way. So we are being flexible on how to best handle each challenge that we see. There are some overall arching similarities, but again, they are being tweaked to be different. And so we are working with you all our member companies to track the right responses. So on the on the proactive front again, I said we have an interdepartmental working group that includes our comms group, our federal and state affairs folks, our legal department, our code department, our analysis and markets analysis group. And so we’re meeting regularly to continue moving our strategy forward, make tweaks necessary, get social media up where we need to have it but we are again are trying to match what the environmentalists are showing us and attacking this with a holistic approach. We are happy to support our member driven campaigns. And our great example is the Partnership for energy progress, which is a campaign that was built in the northwest by Puget Sound, Cascade, Avista and Northwest Natural. They have stood up a great campaign and a coalition to be able to really talk about the positives of natural gas up in the Northwest. They’ve pulled in great voices. They’re doing all their polling and message testing. And it’s really a strong campaign and we are happy as AGA to really support them. There’s another group considering putting something together in the Midwest to consider how to consider handling legislation that we’re seeing percolating in Colorado, that’s not necessarily great. We are really proud to talk about our model and pre-emptive legislation. This slide, giving you some great updates we launched in partnership with Southwest. Well, they launched it but we were helping on the back end, energy choice language in Arizona that was passed in signed by the governor at the beginning of the year, we’re also happy to announce that two Fridays ago, the Tennessee governor has passed, the legislature, has Tennessee governor has signed legislation. So the idea behind choice is to really get ahead of the localities, the big cities and counties and say we are we are allowing our customers the right to have to be hooked up to any kind of energy they would like. So again, preserving energy choice, because we’re trying to beat counties and localities from passing bans that then forced the hand of governors and state legislators to pass something nationwide. So we’ve got two wins on that so far, which is great news. The legislation has been introduced in several other states, including Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. However, COVID has kind of closed down our legislators, as you all know. So we are a bit on wait and see on how things are moving forward there. We also have positive legislation in Minnesota in Colorado, on RNG. Trying to make it part of the fuel mix and to keep electrons moving through our infrastructure, which is great news on that front. We are creating communications toolkits for influencers and stakeholders. Our markets and analysis group is really putting together some great top line information on natural gas in in your state and being able to really tell a complete story of the number of people that use gas, how much they pay in revenue, how many jobs are involved, what how we’re spending on energy efficiency in any specific state, and we are sharing that with influencers, decision makers, stakeholders and our coalition partners. Speaking of Coalitions, we have convened the national group of end users and consumers to help carry our message. Again, we keep hearing from our message testing the industry talking about industry isn’t effective. We really need our end users like AARP, the restaurants, home builders, laborers, and agricultural agriculture farmers specifically, are the are the more effective voices for us out there. So we talked twice monthly. With our coalition partners, we have used them to testify in cases in front of in front of the legislators as well as at city councils. We are also increasing our outreach to include local mayors, legislators, African American groups, and all kinds of different folks so that we have more friends on our side willing to talk about how great natural gas is. We are creating a new platform that will have an opportunity for us to recruit some grassroots as well as work with our Coalition’s to really drive more people. It’ll be a site on our website that will again talk to the 30,000 foot like our playbook, good messaging on natural gas. And then our buildings and standards codes group is monitoring any changes that are happening in the codes world. As a matter of fact, we’re having a call this Thursday on indoor air quality that our codes and standards group is going to be leading as we see that as one of the new angles that the environmental groups are using. On the responsive side we are being we’re continuing to respond to member requests. We’re doing one on one calls or operating calls with anybody who’s operating in a state. Again, trying to be flexible working with you all on what’s comfortable bringing our grassroots and coalition partners to bear fact checking opposition and analytics that we are hearing, we want to make sure that we are responding in time for things that you are hearing and seeing in your state. Mike Murray and his legal team are doing a lot of analyzing state municipalities, and kind of developing talking points around data infrastructure and other legal arguments which are going to be helpful for us currently, and possibly in the future. Again, we want to be able to be as responsive to you all and to what we are seeing out there. Then we’ve got if you want to go next slide, member company engagement options, with our help. We’re suggesting kind of that you’ll create an interdepartmental team similar to ours to kind of work on this issue. You know, we’re seeing this happening, you know, across the board in the legal shop is involved the comm shop, your federal and state affairs, folks, as well as your community affairs, people should all be kind of engaged on what’s happening, because they all have a stake in this building your internal analytics, while I’m sure you all have this, but thinking about it in the way of how many hospitals do support? How many homes do you all power? How many charitable groups do you give money to these are fun facts and figures that we should be able to use as we’re building our advocacy messaging and how your companies are so engaged in the communities. On your government affairs and communities teams if they have not left the state capitol in a while. And since we’re kind of in the pandemic time, nobody’s really going anywhere, but they should be monitoring what’s happening in your larger cities, it’s not just at the state capitals, it’s in your larger cities in some of your larger municipalities. Really engaging your staff and your retirees on the benefits of natural gas. The more those folks hear our messaging and can turn around and feel comfortable saying it out to their neighbors and out in the community. That’s great news. And as your teams are working in, in the state capitals, and large municipalities really pulling in the local state stakeholders and influencers to make sure everybodys on the same page, and we’re helping with that. And engaging lots of different folks to make sure they are following along with our messaging. And with that, that’s kind of. Well, we’re also doing, sorry, I forgot we were also doing a bunch of monthly calls, some joint meetings as well. Karen mentioned one of them, we’ve got our state folks engaged, we’re getting them going. As I mentioned, our coalition group is twice a month. And we also have on our website, a great section that is behind the member login sign that has all of our natural gas ban information. It includes our state compendiums on who’s got bans out and about if there’s legislation moving it has samples of it has our sample legislation that’s passed in Arizona and Tennessee. It includes some legal documents and got best practices for things that we’ve seen that have worked in other places that we think other folks should use as they are considering pushing back on pushing back on these bans. But again, we are here to help you and work in partnership with you. So if you need anything from us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. And with that, I’ll throw it back for questions.
AGA Host 38:56
Once again, if you have a question or comment, please press star, then one on a touch tone phone. Again it is star than one to ask your question. And we do have a question or comment from Frank Burkhartsmeyer of Northwest Natural. Please go ahead, please.
Frank Burkhartsmeyer, Northwest Natural 39:17
Hi, Sue. First of all, thank you and your team for all the great work you’re doing on this very important issue for us all. Is in your outreach and working with groups such as, well, you mentioned a number of groups, and now of course I’m blanking. But working with to kind of spread the message. Wondering if you find that certain messaging is more effective than others and if it’s regionally more effective, and how are you testing whether or not our messaging is effective.
Sue Forrester, AGA 39:55
So we’re working on messaging that really, what we’ve seen from several of our partners, including the PEP folks out there in the Northwest, is the messaging we need to be talking about is how we are partnering for the future, that we are part of the energy future, partnering with solar and wind, that we have a role to fill. But it’s not just saying the partnership, it’s showing what we’ve done in the past. But then moving forward, how technology, how we are looking at these kinds of things. That’s what folks need to hear. They also that’s kind of the number one piece for the groups we want to talk to which as you can imagine, is kind of homeowners, it’s women, it’s some moderate democrats and some moderate Republicans, those are kind of the target groups that we’re looking at. And it is the younger age group, as well. And so we really need to say, here’s what we’ve done, here’s what we’re doing. And here’s where we’re going, as well as include cost and reliability in that messaging. So everything is being tested. And we are testing on social media, as well as doing as well seeing testing from some of our other groups and member companies.That help?
Frank Burkhartsmeyer, Northwest Natural 41:25
That does thank you.
AGA Host 41:28
Again, if you have a question, please press star then one on your touch tone phone. And seeing no questions for this segment, I’d like to turn the call back over to Mr. Gardner and Mr. Anderson and the next part of the agenda.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 41:48
Thank you as we transit. This is David as we transition to Christina, maybe Sue and Karen, just one question from you on the last press or for you on the last presentation. What is the plan for getting some of this information public? When I’m not sure everybody knows, Mr. Bloomberg and others? And then I’m curious, in general, I know from our perspective, you know, certain environmental organizations are more receptive to talking about things that are not already, you know, cemented in their answer. So, you know, 350.org, there’s no way to kind of talk about them differently. But have we reached out to Mr. Bloomberg, and make sure that he understands the bare ground? Or do you think that that’s, that’s even doable? So two questions.
Sue Forrester, AGA 42:34
Karen, you want me to take that?
Karen Harbert, AGA 42:37
I’ll take part of it, you can take the other part Sue. On reaching out to Mr. Bloomberg. Now that he’s no longer a candidate, we might be able to. But, you know, we’ve seen the tactic of Mr. Bloomberg in the past when he waged the battle on beverages and, you know, large beverages in New York. And so we’re understanding more of his tactics. He is not interested in understanding our value, he’s interested in trying to put us out of business. And so I remain somewhat skeptical that we could have a breakthrough. I do think that exposing some of his tactics that are sort of repugnant to everyday Americans that he’s funding lawyers, in not only Governor’s offices, but in mayor’s offices that are on his bankroll to form policy that will eliminate customer choice kind of gets people upset. So I think we’re coming at it from a slightly different angle that he’s probably not the best one to directly engage in. But there are other environmental groups that are receptive. And you know, the more the merrier. On the communication side, and those who can elaborate. As she mentioned, a lot of the communication value comes in other people than either ourselves or our member companies out touting our benefits. And so really working hard at the national and regional level, on developing these relationships and these coalitions and empowering them to get out there and be willing and well informed to tell our story. We certainly you’ve seen that out in Seattle, and the value that that brings to have other people help wage your battle, homebuilders, etc, people that really can relate and that they’re local. And that takes a somewhat of a business model change for AGA that had been focused at the national level. And now we’re far more focused in developing those coalition partners and influencers at the regional level. And Sue, I’m sure you want to add to that.
Sue Forrester, AGA 44:48
Actually, not. You kind of covered all that. You got it.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 44:53
Super. Thank you, Karen. Appreciate it. Why don’t we turn it over to Christina Sames as everybody should know Christina. She’s the VP of Operations and Engineering. And she’ll give an update on pipeline safety initiatives, both COVID-19 related in our ongoing PHMSA and state and regulatory initiatives. So Christina, are you on the line?
Christina Sames, AGA 45:12
I am on the line. Thanks, David.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 45:15
And we canhear you loud and clear.
Christina Sames, AGA 45:17
Oh, perfect. I was going to be my question. I’ll start with the COVID-19. actions within PHMSA. When it became clear that the COVID-19 was going to impact how utilities operate at a large scale, we began having conversations with PHMSA. And with state regulators, and with the request of please begin considering a stay of enforcement, or modifications, similar to what PMSA does, and states do after a natural disaster. On the 20th, they provided notice that they were providing a stay of enforcement for certain portions of the regulations, operator qualifications, control room management, a little bit on drug and alcohol, but also gave us some flexibility for other items. We had, Karen mentioned the calls or we’re having twice a week with operations executives. One of those calls included PHMSA, and NAPSR representative, state regulator representatives to talk through how they were approaching COVID-19. What they were requesting from operators and on that particular note, I’d like to highlight again, the need for operators to have open and honest conversations with your state regulators. On here’s what we’re doing. Here are the challenges we’re facing, not only today but moving forward. As an example, if the COVID-19 virus impacts our operations, if we continue with a stay at home for that goes into summer. How will that impact the work that you do? If your workforce if you lose 20-30-40-50% or more of your workforce? What actions will you need to take those need to occur in advance of anything that you might do, so that when something does happen, or when you need a bit more leniency, the state’s already expecting it. So please continue. I know many of you are having very frequent open honest conversations with your state regulator, the state regulators, we’re feeding that information up to PMHSA. And so we’re already having conversations with PHMSA. So it looks like we will not have a call either late this week or next week to talk to them about other additional needs, the industry may have. We are working with the other trade associations on our request. So that it’s, it’s a unified request, not an individual request from one, agent, one group. It’s a unified industry request. Some of the things that we’re currently discussing is possibly additional time to implement the new transmission role. Other things that we’re discussing are, are really related to the prescriptive requirements attached to entering homes. As an example, atmosphere, corrosion surveys have to be done on a frequent basis. If the meters inside the home that requires you to get inside the home, and if that home happens to have an individual who has been impacted by COVID-19, we want to make sure that that that we’re being very thoughtful on those inspections. And if we can delay some of those inspections just a bit, it might be prudent to do. So. Those are the conversations that we will be having. PHMSA has indicated said they may be open to additional states of enforcement. Because and I say that because we are having the frequent conversations with PHMMSA. As an example, I’ve already had three emails, text messages with Alan Mayberry today. We are also continuing our conversations with the state regulators. So that again, open honest conversations, here’s what we’re hearing. Here’s what we’re seeing from the industry. Here’s the concerns. Sometimes we hear them before they do. Other times we’re hearing things before we do about but by having the conversations we’re all trying to stay on the same page. Moving on to beyond the COVID-19 actions at PHMSA. We are they have a rulemaking of proposed rulemaking on automatic shutoff valves and remote control valves. Comments are due on Monday. The joint trade associations by joint trade it’s AGA. The INGAA, the American Petroleum Institute, the Association for for Oil Pipelines, and the American Public Gas Association are all working together to submit joint comments. We have a call again, actually tomorrow to walk through our final comments before they get submitted on Monday. AGA sent in three petitions on liquefied natural gas, requesting that PMHSA update their regulations to incorporate the latest standards to and to advocate, you know, the the need really to update the regulations to adress the latest standards. There’s a lot in the newer standards that aren’t in the older that really improves safety. PHMSA has notified us that they’re rulemaking to update their requirements to part one 93, including the recommendations has moved on to the Office of Management and Budget. I’m hoping that they’re also working at home, and we’ll actually be able to see something on this rulemaking sooner rather than later. We’re also getting indications that PHMSA is moving forward with their deregulatory actions. A few years ago, they put out a notice asking, look at our regulation system, my general analogy here. Look at our regulations tell us how we can reduce the burden without reducing safety. And AGA again, worked with the other trade associations provided a list of things that we felt could reduce the burden without reducing safety. And as an example, those atmospheric corrosion surveys that I mentioned, because we now have distribution integrity management requirements, those should be considered as atmospheric corrosion is a risk that is considered under DIMP. Why do we need a separate regulation? Leak surveys are something very similar. We also recommended that for farm taps, if you have farm taps, one of the recommendations we had made was allow operators to either put these under their distribution integrity plants, which is how PHMSA had the regulation initially, or use the current requirement, which is prescriptive that you do an inspection every so many years. Allow the flexibility to do either one. By allowing the flexibility, it reduces the burden on operators. So I’m very pleased to hear that that’s moving forward. We’re also waiting for PHMSA’s second transmission rulemaking. The first rulemaking was focused on regulatory legislative mandates, what Congress required PHMSA to do. The second transmission role will be all the other items in the mega roll. That wasn’t a legislative mandate. And it’s pretty extensive. We’re expecting that out later this year. With that, maybe let’s pause and ask. I’ll open it up for questions that you may have.
AGA Host 53:45
Once again, if you have a question, you may press star then one on a touch tone phone. Again, if you have a question or comment, please press star than one on your touch tone phone. And we do have a question or comment from Jim Eck of Dominion. Please go ahead.
Jim Eck, Dominion 54:08
Hey Kristina, thank you for that overview. I was actually interested in your assessment as we look at you having the engagement with PHMSA. And as we’re having our discussions with our state regulators. Our state regulators let’s say there’s a stay at home guidance in a specific state. They’re encouraging us to bring forward and very quickly provide responses to effectively waivers on various activities. And some interpret some of the PHMSA guidance as more in a sense. When you get to the point where your workforce is impacted, then come ask for stay of enforcement. As opposed to a concept of having a ready reserve, reducing some of these tasks or the frequency of inspections, that is more at the state level, they’re encouraging and supporting a ready reserve if we’re going to ride through the pandemic. But there’s been some interpretation that PHMSA would want you to have had an impact your workforce and then ask for it. But I’m not certain if that’s an accurate read of possibly a difference in perspective between state regulators and PHMSA so I’m interested in your perspective on it?
Christina Sames, AGA 55:35
Yeah, I can tell you that that’s PHMSA’s not waiting for you to have an impact on your workforce in order to ask for the waiver. PHMSA understands, we’ve had from the conversations, we’re making it clear that there were certain regulatory requirements that are putting workers at risk. And therefore we need to do our best not only to ensure pipeline safety, but also our employees safety. So we don’t want to wait until the employees are impacted in order to put in a request for a change in a pipeline safety regulation. We think the two should go hand in hand. Alan Mayberry feels the same way. My my impression is that the state hasn’t had a true conversation with Alan, or his team on this. They may have been just interpreting the the stay of enforcement, they may have heard from somebody, possibly a lower level within PHMSA. So when I have the conversation, when we when the trades have the conversation with Alan, again, it’ll be either later this week or next week. What I’ll do is I’ll bring up, can you put out a message to the states said that they don’t need for operators to wait for their employees to be impacted to request changes, to request waivers, to request different additional considerations? So I’ll take that as a to do.
Jim Eck, Dominion 57:13
Thank you. That’d be very
Christina Sames, AGA 57:15
Welcome. Hopefully the message will then come across, because I know that’s the mentality within PHMSA. At least their leadership. I just needed to be conveyed. And that’s what I’ll tell Alan. Are there other questions?
Sue Forrester, AGA 57:32
Sorry, go ahead.
AGA Host 57:33
Well, no worries against star then one. If you have a question or comment. We don’t have any questions or come to at least at this time. Excuse me, we do have one from Mike Gurmann from Corning Natural Gas. Please go ahead.Your line is open. I’m Mr. German, or German, please go ahead with your question. Maybe you’re line that you’ve actually muted your line go there, I can hear you go ahead.
Mike German, Corning Natural Gas 58:09
We’re not allowing our people in building in homes or buildings anymore. And unless it’s an emergency, so we’re not doing any of the interior meter pipe inspection program, which, which I believe is a PHMSA requirement. I just wondered generally, if most companies are now except in emergencies, stopping their people from going into buildings, residential structures.
Christina Sames, AGA 58:37
This seems to vary from operator to operator. And I know this because of some of the conversations we’ve been having on those biweekly calls. I have some operators saying that they’re still going in homes. They have very set guidelines on for the employees going in keeping social distancing, having conversations, either actually starting at the call center, and then again on site. Making sure the individuals keeps there distance that they protect themselves as much as possible once they enter the home, washing hands before they go in washing hands after they go in, if absolutely needed, having COVID-19 protective gear, whether it be the gloves, the mask. Hopefully, if you keep a social distance of six feet, you shouldn’t really need it. But if you’re touching substances, we want to make sure that if you have the gloves, you can dispose of them afterwards. So some companies still going in. Other companies have chosen not to go in unless it’s an emergency on the inspections inside the home I’m hearing most operators differing that the regulations have flexibility a built in so that it’s not a, a an absolute set date, it’s you know, within three years you’re doing your surveys. So for most operators, they have time and can wait a bit. Other operators probably need to speak with their regulator if the enforcement deadline is coming up.
AGA Host 1:00:33
Okay, and once again, if there is a question, you can press star than one on the touch tone phone. And so, at this time I believe we’re coming up to the roundtable portion of the call, so I’d like to turn the call back over to Mr. Anderson. Unless there any other comments?
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:00:56
Christina, Are y’all done?
Christina Sames, AGA 1:00:59
I am, sir.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:01:01
Okay. Thank you. And thanks for the questions, everybody. I think we’ve Gary informs me, we have over [unaudiable] people on the call, which is, which is outstanding, and also want to thank our small member council for being on the call. I’ve got quite a few folks from that. So good to have you. Good to have you as part of this. Chuck, Curt and others. So let’s, let’s open it up to the roundtable. We’ve got more than enough time here. We’ve been very efficient with our timing. And we’ve been good about asking questions along the way. So Andrew, why don’t we just open it up, see if anybody’s got questions for the good of the order. And then you know, Gary, if there’s certain ones of that you would like to make sure that we cover from the the questions that people sent in advance, of course, that was pre COVID-19. And we touch on some of these, I’d be happy to turn over to you to focus on ones that you might want to get out there. David certainly can do that as well.
AGA Host 1:01:59
Yes. All right, then what I’ll do is I’ll just remind everyone, if you have a question or comment, you can press star then one on your telephone keypad. If you’re using the speakerphone, please pick up your handset before pressing the keys. If at any time your question has been addressed, and you’d like to withdraw your question, please press star than two. So once again, if you have a question, please press star then one on a touch tone phone. And we do have a question from Scott Doyle of Centerpoint energy.
Karen Harbert, AGA 1:02:37
Please go ahead.
Scott Doyle, Centerpoint 1:02:39
Hey, good afternoon, everyone. And maybe this is for Sue and Karen. Going back to the Bloomberg discussion as we think about, excuse me, the future and the possibility of a Biden Administration. You know, how does AGA think about the climate debate? Where perhaps, Bloomberg may have been sidelined just a little bit politically, potentially, you know, do the the Democrats feel a little bit more separation from Bloomberg or a little less beholden to Bloomberg at this point that maybe creates a maybe kind of a third, more centrist view around theenvironment if a Biden president presidency comes along, or do we have a view into that at all, as we think about this, knowing that the debates gone very local, as we’ve seen over the last several years, you know, how does that change the debate? If Bloomberg’s not sitting in the White House?
Karen Harbert, AGA 1:03:38
Sure, that’s a great question. I’ll, I’ll give some broad thoughts. And then I’m sure Sue has some as well. We are right now doing scenario planning at the policy and regulatory space, if there was a Biden presidency, a Republican Senate, and a Republican house or if there’s a Republican president and a Democratic senate and a Democratic house. So we are running all these scenarios now so that we can better align ourselves going forward on what policy analysis we need to do now to get prepared for any one of the scenarios that we don’t have. And so that we can preempt some of the really negative things that could come out of, of the election, and advocate early on. And even before the elections for the positive impacts natural gas can have irrespective of who’s in the White House. And clearly our economy is going to be front and center with this election. And so we’re doing a couple of things on a state by state, municipality by municipality basis, coming up with the impact of natural gas in these areas, and what would happen and what would happen to the industries that depend on that, should it be removed from the equation. So being able to prove the positive and the negative and then we are in the process. Right now of commissioning a fairly detailed study on sort of the pathway to 2050, and how natural gas fits in there with a more aggressive, you know, carbon policy, whether you want to say zero net zero, whatever is the nomenclature, and proving that with natural gas as part of the equation, you can do it faster, better, cheaper. And so being prepared for lots of different scenarios and hoping that with the economy front and center demonstrating our positive impact, and that we have a plan and commitment to continue to reduce our emissions, that we will remain part of, obviously, any thoughtful energy discussion, and really want to engage people with facts and new friends. Sue you want to add to that?
Sue Forrester, AGA 1:05:55
Sure kind of the follow up, I mean, looking at Biden, while he is a bit more moderate, understand that what he has said thus far on natural gas has, has been a mixed bag at best. And I think you can expect that if he wins the pressure from the progressive wing and the environmental wing of their party, it’s certainly going to be on him full force. So again, to Karen’s point, that’s why we are doing a lot of our policy testing, and what’s going to happen right now. I think, for us, the for AGA the the launch of our climate principles is really was a great piece for us, because that really shows our commitment to the future to a clean energy future with us is as part of that role. And that gets us a seat at the table a lot of the times to show that we are serious and concerned about this. So I think that will also help our cause on opening doors with a new administration.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:06:58
Karen, this is David as Andrew is queuing and other folks up. I’m curious what you’re hearing about the election, the politics of situation, as I think about, you know, I think a lot of us know, this is a marathon, not a sprint. And you know, my I even wonder, are we going to have a Democratic or Republican convention? What is voter turnout look like, even if we are through all of this are people who are going to get together? Because I think most states don’t have vote by mail. What are you hearing in DC about all this? And what the implications? I know it’s early could be for the election.
Karen Harbert, AGA 1:07:34
Thanks, David. That is certainly an ever changing environment just like this, this virus. The DNC, the Democratic National Committee and the Republican Nationa Committee have both said as recently as yesterday, they are still planning to hold their conventions in July and in August, we will see if that happens or not. But they’re still going forward with planning. Secondly, you’re already seeing obviously a number of the primaries being pushed off to later in the summer. So it’s in June, specifically a number of states have pushed their primaries into into June, because they can’t wait too much longer after that, because the Democratic Convention is in July. We did see a discussion begin today with Nancy Pelosi talking about we should switch to an all paper ballot. So a mail in ballot, that will be extremely contentious. Well, paper. Sorry, go ahead. No, no, go ahead, Sue.
Sue Forrester, AGA 1:08:43
Well here are several states that already go vote by mail. Washington State being one of them. And most states are now themselves looking at a vote by mail option as well. As Karen mentioned, Pelosi is considering it. It is tougher to do than you think it takes I know that Washington state for my political years in the past, they spend a lot of time energy and money on making sure ballots get out and then chasing those ballots. Do people actually fill them out and send them in? Folks in Washington State know how to do it, but trying to really change the usage for people will be interesting because a lot of the population still enjoys voting in person. So this is going to be a topic that is going to be on everybody’s mind for easily the next four months.
Karen Harbert, AGA 1:09:35
And I think what you’re going to see is obviously, impeachment is now in the rearview mirror, and it’s going to be all about the handling of of the crisis for sure. And if you think about it, the stimulus four stimulus three and four will be really what either gets the economy back and humming again by the election or not, which will have a big impact on people’s appetite for big changes. I think it’s really early to tell I hate to say that, David, but we don’t really know what the barometer of the American public is going to be. In times of crisis, they tend to want two things either change or no change. And we’ve seen a change election, this could be a no change, stick with what we know and who we’ve got or could be, you know, throw the bums out. And let’s start with with a completely different set of characters. But it is certainly no longer about impeachment. It’s all about the management of this current crises. You are staying on the senate races crystallizing and I’m happy to send around something after the call about which races are going to be pivotal in the Senate to either the republicans losing or maintaining the Senate.
AGA Host 1:10:58
Okay, and if it’s all right, we have another question from Don Rendall from Vermont Gas. Please go ahead.
Don Rendall, Vermont Gas 1:11:06
Thank you. If I could, I’d like to return to COVID. This is my question. For those who are dealing with COVID in the hotspots around the country, and have had to adjust incredibly fast and intensely. Do you have any advice for those of us in parts of the country that are a week or two or three behind you? Is there anything that you wish now you’d done earlier that that would benefit us as we as we continue to gear up and get ready for the surge? Yeah, this is David Anderson. I’ll start maybe Christina, you can chime in from the operations calls that you’ve been on. But from a Northwest Natural perspective on the west coast, obviously, Oregon and Washington are, are in the sights of this. I would, I think the good news is I think our at least our industry, in general is very good about an incident command structure. I’m assuming you’re one of those employees, we instituted that very early in the process here and handled this like an emergency, whether it was a pipeline, event or explosion, etc. That proved valuable. I will also tell you, it was our local governments. It’s one of the reasons I asked Karen about how DC is doing. In both of our jurisdictions, again, they were they were kind of the front end of this. They were a little bit behind in doing things and so there was a little bit of haphazardness coming from the top levels of government, at both Oregon and Washington. So be prepared for that maybe that won’t be the case, now that you’ve seen others take more dramatic action early on, I would also focus on your supply chain. I think everything you read in the news about the wipes, and all that kind of stuff is true. But I think you should also very seriously be looking at various operations information you have, I think we had one person on this call so that they’re only doing emergency work only. We started off trying to do normal work for a period of time, we went into what we call phase two, which is essential services only, which does include compliance work. We have not moved to a full emergency state yet. And then last in all, in a probably not remembering everything here. Well, I guess two items, one, internal communication is absolutely paramount. And I have been personally very pleased at our company, of how the work from home has has worked, and that we were prepared for that because we coincidentally, were moving to a new headquarters and we needed to change up our systems anyways. So we might have been more lucky than not. But we are now moving call centers home, and things like that. So those are some high level comments, at least from my perspective, Christina, anything that you’ve learned from the calls that you would like to share operationally?
Christina Sames, AGA 1:14:27
Yeah, I’ll add to your list. Some of the things that I’ve heard from operators, you know, taking a very close look at who are your most critical of your critical employees, and then figuring out how best to protect those workers. And now the most critical of critical could be individuals that are so specialized, that if you lose a few, it impacts your entire workforce, the workstream. It could be individuals like your call center, your controllers. So take a look across the board at who’s the most critical and then how best to protect them. And by protection, it can be things like the remote working. I know companies that are testing out running control rooms from remote locations, or at least monitoring control rooms from remote locations, separating control rooms as much as possible. changing how you’re the timing of staffing. I think everyone at this point has put in place, keeping your control rooms off limits to everyone unless it’s deemed absolutely essential that they be in the room sequestering in place where needed. But figure out ways to protect them. The supply chain, I think is definitely something that I’ve heard from operators. If you’re able to still get gloves and hand sanitizer, masks, the this tevlar suits, the booties. Get them if you don’t need them, you can possibly provide them to others at a later date if they need them. But at least you have them on hand. And then I’ll emphasize the communications. The companies that seem to be doing really well through all of this are the ones that have set up really good communications. And that ICS. So those are my additional thoughts. I’m sure others that are on the line can also weigh in, because there’s been some great lessons learned through all of this.
AGA Host 1:16:57
And we do have a. Thank you. We have a question from Marc Huestis of Con Edison. Please go ahead. Mr. Huestis, just your line is open on this side to come out of Senate they might be muted on your end. Perhaps please go ahead with your question.
Mark Huestis, Con Edison 1:17:24
Good afternoon, everybody. Don, in response to your question, obviously, New York City, we’re in the epicenter of this right now. There’s over 66,000 positives in New York State. I think we’re pushing 30,000 in the city. But similar to what David said, and Christina said, just think about staying ahead of it. And if it seems aggressive today, in terms of that decision, you’ll probably be glad you made the decision next week. So we stood up an ICS structure led by our pandemic team, which is primarily our emergency response group or employee play wellness group, our human resources group because this emergency is so much different than what we usually respond to, but we stood that up four weeks ago, it’s been key in terms of communications, messaging, or information sharing across the various industry, trade groups icluding, the AGA, as well as the electric based groups. Focus early on on as Christina mentioned, protecting critical dispatch and control center personnel. We started limiting access on March 4, we implemented social distancing guidelines. Then, by March 11, we moved to virtual turnovers. A few days, a few days later, we expanded the footprint of our alternate dispatch center and split our shift up into two separate physical locations. We’re making sure we we frequent cleaning, deep cleaning periodically to the shifts. We’re really emphasizing again, again, and again, this is both for the field crews, but particularly in the control room, social distancing, so one positive outcome doesn’t wipe out an entire shift. We are have created plans for sequestering personnel either on site or in nearby hotels in the event we start to realize high levels of absenteeism. And I will nore so far we have not we knock on wood in that regard. But across the company, we have more than 125 positive cases of COVID-19. At this time, we’re a company of about 14,000. And we currently have close to 500 personnel quarantined because of COVID-19 in those numbers fluctuate obviously every day, and we expect the numbers to accelerate over the next week to 10 days. Similar to what David mentioned. We’ve kind of gone through three phases very quickly. We started off in early March, pretty much business as usual. A week later, we reduce certain work activities like main replacement, we stopped abandoning cast iron mains, we would not have to do service transfers that would bring us into a premise in basically stopped all work that would bring us into a premise that would include service line inspections, high pressure regulator inspections, we’re pretty unique in terms of the assets that we have inside buildings compared to others, that has been communicated to our regulator to tell them that we are minimizing our activities, including compliance based inspections that bring us into a premise. And that’s a combination of protecting our employees, as well as protecting the public, quite frankly, they do not want our employees in their homes doing things that are not emergency related. And as of last week, we even pulled back on installing new main as part of our capital main replacement program, because we didn’t want people traveling unnecessarily in the region, even working in the street, because of the situation that we’re in, in New York City. And we quite frankly, feel like we stayed about one half step in front of where we needed to be. So again, I would say, if what you’re thinking about today seems a little aggressive. Give it a week in is gonna seem like the right decision. So that’s my comment.
Christina Sames, AGA 1:21:35
And if I could add one more item that I heard on a recent call that I thought was great if you could do it, one of the operators and I apologize for not remembering who has set up a dedicated line where employees can speak directly to somebody from the medical profession, to walk through symptoms, that they may have concerns that they have questions. And that’s translating to freeing up supervisors and others who normally would get those calls. Our supervisors are not medical professionals, they are not able to answer medical questions. But they’re getting the calls from concerned employees on you know, I have somebody that is infected in my home or might be infected, allowing them to have a pathway to a medical professional should free up time. So just something else I thought of.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:22:33
Thanks for the questions Don and Excellent. Excellent recap there, in addition, and thank you, Christina, by the way is Christine, I’m just curious, is there are you recapping all of these operations calls, that there might be something on the website that folks like Don can go see? Have you thought about doing that? And maybe you already are, so people know what others companies are doing lessons learned, etc? Yeah,
Christina Sames, AGA 1:22:59
Two things, we have recorded every one of the calls that we’ve held, so that individuals at their leisure can go on AGA’s website, pull up a listing, listen through the conversation, capture lead leading practices. We’ve tried to identify as some information on what’s on the call or who’s speaking. So you have that. The second thing is, is the O&E team is working to create a document to try to pull some of those items we’ve heard from the calls into a document. So we’re working our way through that should have it available. I’m hoping to have a draft this week. We’ll need to get it through a few individuals and then we’ll get it on our website.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:23:48
Awesome. Thank you. Andrew, do you have anybody else in the queue?
AGA Host 1:23:53
Yes, the next question comes from Joe Foreline of PSEG. Please go ahead.
Joe Foreline, PSEG 1:24:00
Can you guys hear me?
AGA Host 1:24:04
Joe Foreline, PSEG 1:24:04
Please go ahead. Yeah, this Joe foreline from PSEG we’re right across the river from Mark in northern New Jersey. We also have a million customers on Long Island. So just to build on what Mark said, we’re right in the throes of it we’ve got about 30 cases across the company, I’ve got four in gas. Couple of the things that are important are having all your safety protocols in place, what type of PPE you’re employes be wearing in certain situations, especially when they’re going into homes. I think one of the most important things you could do is get as many people home base report as possible. We have 95% of our call center people at home really 95% of all of our customer operations, department billing, call center, collection, or working from home all of our our customer service centers closed our entire general office is closed and the only people working in The field are the people that are actually out in the field, we have about 12 hubs which are like depot’s where we have maybe 250 employees, at each one in the gas department. We’ve broken them up, we’ve got sub-headquarters and direct job site reporting. We’ve actually negotiate with the union to have employees use their own vehicles that just this week, we went to one vehicle per person. So we’ll never put two people in a vehicle. We decentralized our dispatch offices completely, we’ve quarantined our GSOC operation. Because calls that Christina and Andrew are putting together awesome, I would suggest that you jump on them, almost every call one or two companies are sharing information on what they’re doing. But the biggest thing is the separation because we had one department we lost one person and we lost 40 because of the close interaction of the group. And so for my department, I lost four people, and I lost a total of seven because there you’re the we’re independent workers, so forth. Homebase reporting is a great tool to use. You want to track everything you want to set up trackers right away in the beginning, so you can track your availability on a daily basis, meaning your attendance, you want to track all your escalated calls, you got to have your suit up process all separate going into homes. And Christina mentioned that, but we set up a separate medical hotline, anyone, so there’s no subjectivity to deciding who stays home and who doesn’t stay home. And that that line gets about three to 400 calls a day. And so those are a couple of best practices that we’ve implemented. And I think getting as many people as home to home as possible and getting people separated, is one of the biggest things, you also want to shut down your collection quickly shut down all of your inside work your inside meter set inspection, your age changes your obviously, if you still have meter reading, any type of inside work that you can shut down, we had one case where you know, if you have a meter reader or a service tech that becomes positive, then you got to go back and contact all the customers opens up Pandora’s box. So you really want to separate and limit your interactions as possible. We’re still doing our outside work on like, unlike mark, we’re still doing main all of our main replacement work. We’re doing all of our leak surveys, we’re doing everything we can outside, we maintain a minimum six foot difference distance on the on the cruise, and they have to record and report when they interact with another employee. But we’ve been able to keep pretty much our whole street operation going by continuing outside work and moving inside workers on to outside work. And that’s all I have. Thank you.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:28:11
Excellent additional information. And I’ll just tag on to that real quickly and then see if Andrew has any more. The bad bad debts. I think all of us are not doing collections or turning people off. Or I’m assuming that’s the case, you might want to prepare for that. And obviously the markets are a little bit more tame now. But in the throes of this. We were greatly in trying to increase our liquidity position financially. And we were able to accomplish that. I would also encourage it on to be looking at that. But it does look like now the markets a little bit better with the actions that DC has taken. Andrew, anybody else in the queue?
AGA Host 1:28:51
We do have a question from Alicia Knapp at Mid-American Energy. Please go ahead.
Alicia Knapp, Mid-American 1:28:58
Okay, thank you, Alicia Knapp with Mid-American just quick question. I think we heard from I believe it was Mark mentioned getting everybody off the street and not doing any new main work. And then I apologize. I don’t know if it was Andrew from New Jersey said you still have people out in the field doing work outside work that doesn’t involve going inside. So what do you see as the trigger point for when you do pull everybody off the street? For those of us who do still have work going on in the field, so long as we can keep employees separated and not do any work that causes us to have to go inside and do relights or anything what what’s your trigger point for pulling people off the street?
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:29:55
Wait for Andrew to see if anybody wants to chime in there but for us It was the governor instituting the order, mandating stay at home. She was voluntary to begin with. And then she ended up mandating only except for essential services. That’s what triggered us to go to the next phase.
AGA Host 1:30:15
And we do have mark, who says from Con Edison, please go ahead.
Mark Huestis, Con Edison 1:30:24
Yeah, I would, similar to David so we had a stay at home order as well originally did not affect essential services, including construction type activities. But it was a judgment call at the time. And actually, the day after we made the decision to stop the capital main replacement program, there was modifications to the governor’s order to make certain segments of construction activity non essential as well. And then it’s, you see it in the challenging challenges from your local politicians, members of the public. You know, why is this activity going on in the streets when they’re supposed to be home, etc, etc. See, some of it’s a taking a pulse of your service territory. And just to clarify, we haven’t stopped all outside work wraps up all what we’ve considered non essential construction work that we can pick up later. So for example, or outside and the survey program continues, we and we just we are basically boiled our work down at this point to leak investigations, leak repairs, leaks survey and customer initiated requests on an evaluated basis, because obviously, if they need to reconnect, or they even the loss of cooking in the current environment is a serious impact to people that are under stay at home orders. So it’s, it’s really the policy put in place by the government as well as you know, reading the pulse of your community that drove us to do it. And we were probably a day ahead of being ordered to do it. That’s it.
AGA Host 1:32:04
Once again, if you have a question, please press star then one on the touch tone phone. Currently, at this time, we do not have any questions or comments. And if you so I would like to hand the call back over to Mr. Anderson, for any other comments, unless other questions come in.
David Anderson, Northwest Natural 1:32:27
Great. Thank you, Andrew. And thanks, everybody for joining us. The roundtable for these as those always been the best part, no offense to anybody here. But that was a very healthy discussion. Our next meeting is Monday, October the 12th. And it is an in person meeting, hopefully, at the monarch Beach Resort and Dana Point California, which is also the site of the AGA executive conference that will be held the next day on October 13th, along with the board meetings on the 14th. So until then, thank you for your attendance. AGA, thank you for all you’re doing. And we’re all living in interesting times here. And I guess most importantly, thank you for what you’re doing for your employees and for the customers that we have the honor to serve. With that we are adjourned please be safe and healthy and have a great day. Thank you everybody.
AGA Host 1:33:22
The conference has now concluded thank you for attending today’s presentation. You may now disconnect