Environmental

Biodiversity &
Land Stewardship

We acknowledge that our activities can and do impact the surrounding landscape, and protecting and preserving the environmental resources near our assets is central to our mission as a company. From project initiation to completion, and throughout a pipeline’s operational lifespan, we continually evaluate the ways in which we identify sensitive environmental areas; and we work diligently to ensure the approaches we use to protect these natural environments are as effective as possible.

Approach to Biodiversity & Land Stewardship 

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Explanation of the material topic and its Boundary

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The management approach and its components

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Evaluation of the management approach

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Operational sites owned, leased, managed in, or adjacent to, protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas

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Significant impacts of activities, products and services on biodiversity

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Habitats protected or restored

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Description of environmental management policies and practices for active operations

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Terrestrial acreage disturbed, percentage of impacted area restored

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Equitrans recognizes the importance of protecting the biodiversity of the areas in which we operate. Equitrans works closely with local communities and state and federal organizations to ensure we minimize our environmental impacts and protect the native flora and fauna. It is our goal to safeguard the biodiversity and overall health of ecosystems throughout our operational footprint and ensure these important resources are undisturbed and remain in the same condition as we found them, when possible. We acknowledge the responsibility to manage the environmental resources with which we come in contact.

As a member of various industry associations, including the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and the Marcellus Shale Coalition, we participate in working groups that focus on site planning, development, restoration, and other topics that foster land protection. Participating in these discussions bolsters our land stewardship efforts by providing guidance on site development, restoration, and other land protection topics. Equitrans’ transmission and gathering operations are located across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. At present, we operate on nearly 110,000 acres near or within environmentally sensitive or protected areas, excluding the Mountain Valley Pipeline and MVP Southgate projects. Protected areas that may be affected by our operations within the states include, federal and state-owned properties, such as state parks and game lands. The most common species of state or federal concern found within our operating areas are bats, mussels, and various plants.

Prior to the commencement of any construction project, we conduct studies to determine whether threatened or endangered species are present in the region. The review process includes desktop and field studies to identify potential habitat and/or presence of protected species.  If any threatened or endangered species are found, we consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), as well as state and local wildlife agencies to ensure that our construction and operations minimize any impacts to these protected species.

As an example, in 2020, a slide repair project on Equitrans’ BUELS046 pipeline right-of-way required cutting trees within protected bat species habitat. Prior to commencing tree felling, Equitrans consulted with the USFWS to determine an appropriate path forward, in consideration of the presence of bat habitat and the time of year that the tree clearing would take place. Through consultation, the USFWS approved Equitrans’ proposal to conduct emergency surveys, which involved bat biologists observing potential roost trees for presence of protected bat species. The surveys were conducted at dusk when bats are most active. The results indicated no observation of bats, and the trees were felled the following morning. Our advance planning efforts and coordination with appropriate agencies promoted the protection of bat habitat in the areas.

Resource Managment

Prior to commencing any construction activities, we evaluate and identify environmentally sensitive areas along the proposed pipeline route and/or facility footprint. Equitrans’ Environmental team leads these efforts in coordination with our Routing and Project Development team. During the routing process, the team aims to maximize project efficiencies and minimize overall project disturbance by considering factors from all project disciplines, including biodiversity and environmental functions. The Environmental team utilizes field visits, publicly available online resources, and information collected from past projects to identify resources designated as high-quality and exceptional value; potential habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species; and cultural/historical resources. This information is considered in our project plans – taking steps to avoid where possible, as well as proactively plan activities to minimize, any potential biodiversity and environmental impacts.

For example, if a stream or wetland cannot be avoided, we strive to cross the resource perpendicularly and at the narrowest location, as well as efficiently reduce the area of disturbance in the riparian buffer to minimize potential impacts. Additionally, if bat habitat cannot be avoided, we strive to minimize tree clearing and schedule project activities so that necessary tree clearing happens during designated timeframes, during the winter, when bats are hibernating. Through our pipeline routing and facility footprint design efforts, we are often able to minimize temporary impacts and completely avoid permanent impacts. Once the pipeline route or facility site is confirmed to have met the objectives of the routing process, the permit preparation phase further refines the avoidance and minimization of potential impacts related to the project.

The Environmental team employs specialized consultants to conduct field delineations of streams and wetlands, habitat analyses, and geotechnical studies to identify historic landslides and landslide prone areas. The consultants also begin to design temporary and permanent measures to control erosion and stormwater runoff both during and after construction. The permit preparation phase includes coordinating with appropriate regulatory agencies for pre-application meetings to discuss project plans and identification of potential issues. Through ongoing dialogue, the agencies provide guidance to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. After plans are finalized and permit applications are submitted, the Environmental team continues to coordinate with regulatory agencies to answer questions and address concerns during the review process and also engages with other external stakeholders to understand and resolve concerns.

Construction Oversight

2020 Non-Significant Releases to Waterbodies*
19
Total
Pennsylvania7
Ohio9
West Virginia3

*Includes releases for 100% of the Eureka Midstream assets; excludes MVP and MVP Southgate projects.

We work diligently to avoid and/or minimize the potential for any negative biodiversity or environmental impacts. Once construction begins, our teams, including all on-site contractors, receive environmental awareness training to ensure they are familiar with both the environmentally sensitive areas along the pipeline route or facility site, as well as with the regulatory requirements and environmental permit conditions for the project. This training also includes the importance of adhering to Equitrans’ environmental policies and practices.

The project’s environmentally sensitive areas and approved limits of disturbance are clearly marked with flagging and signage to ensure necessary avoidance and awareness. In the majority of Equitrans’ construction activities, erosion impacts from earth disturbances are short-term, temporary impacts. Nevertheless, we aim to limit these impacts to the greatest extent possible. Prior to earth disturbance activities, we install the appropriate erosion and sediment control (E&SC) Best Management Practices (BMPs) that meet or exceed regulatory requirements. These BMPs are regularly monitored and maintained throughout construction until adequate vegetation stabilization is achieved to prevent erosion. For aquatic resources that cannot be avoided along a pipeline route, we utilize construction crews that specialize in aquatic crossings to further reduce the potential for impacts during pipe installation.

During the construction phase, Equitrans tracks all erosion and sediment control BMP failures. We consider BMP failures as any instance when erosion and sediment control structures fail to prevent soil erosion and sediment releases to water and results in an escape of sediment out of the project’s limit of disturbance (LOD). In 2020, we had a total of 19 sediment releases to waterbodies. These releases were not significant and posed minimal, temporary impacts to the waterbodies.

In addition to E&SC BMPs, we utilize another proactive and preventative measure to prevent slope failures that could have negative environmental consequences. Equitrans’ Engineering Slope Design Program helps us proactively identify areas where there is potential for a slope failure to occur. Once an at-risk area is identified, we install preventative measures to maintain the stability of the slope.

Operational Impacts on Land

Although we make every effort to limit any potential impacts, given the nature of our construction and pipeline operations, and the terrain of our operating territory, we realize that both direct and indirect impacts can occur. In most cases, these impacts to terrestrial and aquatic resources are minor and temporary. When impacts occur, we work quickly and carefully to remediate them as outlined in our Spill Reporting & Response Procedure. 

Remediation Actions

The Spill Reporting & Response Procedure involves several steps. First, field staff (environmental inspectors, construction managers or inspectors, etc.) immediately report data and observations regarding the incident to the environmental coordinator. The environmental coordinator reviews the incident information, together with the project’s specific permit and regulatory requirements and makes a recommendation to legal staff regarding whether the incident (spill, BMP failure, or other non-compliance with permit conditions, etc.) should be reported to the appropriate regulatory agency. The environmental coordinator then conducts a follow-up incident investigation to determine whether the incident was controllable. If deemed controllable, feedback is provided to Construction and/or Operations staff and in-depth discussions help to determine what could have been done differently. If the incident is reportable to an agency, the environmental coordinator places the call and documents the report, attends follow-up site visits, obtains necessary permit approvals, and continues to update agency staff until the issue is resolved and compliance is achieved. The environmental coordinator then provides final documentation of compliance to the agency. In addition, Equitrans’ senior management reviews all items of non-compliance and participates in the overall incident evaluation and resolution process.

Operational Disturbances*

2019

2020

Terrestrial acreage disturbed

2,251

2,555

Terrestrial acreage disturbed that was restored

100%

100%

*Includes disturbances for 100% of the Eureka Midstream assets; excludes MVP and MVP Southgate projects.

Habitat Restoration

Once a pipeline project is completed and placed into operation, we continue to deploy strategies to protect biodiversity resources along the pipeline’s right-of-way. We strive to meet or exceed regulatory requirements set forth by state and federal regulatory agencies, and we also work closely with property owners to restore their land as close as possible to original conditions. Additionally, we make every effort to accommodate any special requests or preferences of the landowner, such as fencing, seed mixes, tree species, and areas for heavy equipment crossing. We re-establish contours and revegetate with state-approved, native, riparian, and pollinator seed mixes, and vegetation requested by property owners. We also routinely accommodate property owner requests for topsoil segregation, which preserves removed topsoil for restoration once local work is complete. 

Biodiversity & Ecosystems

Equitrans recognizes the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem maintenance. In 2021, we expect to develop our Biodiversity Policy, which details the procedures and best practices Equitrans uses to preserve biodiversity in the areas in which we operate. We place a strong emphasis on restoration efforts after completing a project because we know areas with strong biodiversity are able to adapt and withstand the negative effects of climate change. Equitrans cares about communities and the natural beauty of the land, and we partner with community leaders and regulatory agencies to ensure our operations do not negatively impact our communities.

At the completion of a project, our goal is to leave a site better than when we arrived. Equitrans works with local nature experts to understand the ecosystem and identify potential risks and mitigation strategies before we begin operations. We take considerable effort to plant native flora, protect keystone species, and create the smallest environmental footprint possible.

Evaluating Our Approach to Biodiversity & Land Stewardship

Our operational footprint in primarily rural areas means our pipelines traverse intrinsically and economically valuable natural environments, and we work diligently to ensure the approaches we use to protect these natural environments are as effective as possible. From project initiation to completion, and throughout a pipeline’s operational lifespan, we continually evaluate the ways in which we identify sensitive environmental areas and how we avoid and protect them. One of our main goals is to avoid permanent impacts to biodiversity. Equitrans evaluates the best locations for our pipelines, facilities, and transport vehicles before, during, and after a project to ensure we are operating in an as environmentally conscious a manner as possible. For more information regarding our approach to biodiversity and land stewardship, please visit the sustainability webpages of our website.

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Our Sustainability Progress During 2020

As part of our sustainability journey, we embrace the opportunity to enhance the accountability and leadership mechanisms we leverage to ensure responsible practices across our operations. To reinforce our sustainability commitment, in 2020 Equitrans appointed its first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), Todd Normane.

Through his work, and together with several working groups, our CSO is advancing our management practices across our business. He sets our sustainability strategy, with a special focus on climate change given that it is one of the most critical topics our world is facing. During the past year, he has led the development of policies formalizing our commitment to responsible practices. Additionally, he collaborates with subject matter experts by leading our sustainability working groups to implement our strategy. To promote transparency regarding our initiatives, our CSO collaborates with our Communications team on our annual corporate sustainability report, disclosures on our corporate website, and our CDP Climate Change response.

In line with our commitment to strong sustainability practices, Equitrans recognizes the importance of transparency and continues to improve and expand on our related disclosures. We have always taken our environmental, social, and governance practices very seriously and we work to ensure that our stakeholders have access to information regarding our sustainability efforts. Most recently, we developed our new, sustainability-focused web pages that are prominently available on Equitrans’ corporate website, with associated topics easy to locate by using our new Sustainability navigation menu.

By disclosing information through our corporate site, and linking to our annual corporate sustainability reports, we enable more stakeholders to learn about our management practices and key data points, which are reflective of our commitment to sustainability.

To view sustainability information on our corporate website, please visit: www.equitransmidstream.com.

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Commitment to Global Sustainability Frameworks

Like many other companies, Equitrans considers external sustainability guidance in determining the best management practices and methods for communicating information to our stakeholders. Last year, we incorporated the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standard and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Standards in our 2020 Corporate Sustainability Report. Since then, we have also committed to the inclusion of two additional frameworks as part of our management and reporting practices.

In 2021, we will submit our first CDP Climate Change response to provide additional transparency about our climate governance, strategy, risks, and opportunities. Providing this information to our investors, customers, and other stakeholders demonstrates our focus on mitigating our climate impact and preparing for the transition to a lower-carbon economy. Once published, a full copy of our CDP Climate Change response can be accessed on the Sustainability pages of our website.

Additionally, our recently released Stakeholder Engagement and Community Investment Policy signified our intention to operate in the spirit of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the near term, we intend to focus on the seven SDGs listed below, which we believe are most aligned with our business and operational footprint. We will continue to evaluate opportunities to focus on additional, relevant SDGs in the future.

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Safety – Above All Else

In January 2020, Equitrans’ construction personnel were tasked with excavating a pipeline asset at an Equitrans’ compressor facility that was built in the early 1900s.

Following industry-recognized best practices, a One Call was placed, and our Operations team marked the location of the underground gas lines in the area. Additionally, station drawings were examined to identify any potential underground utilities. During the line excavation process, an unidentified conduit that was supplying power for lighting was struck. The conduit separated at a coupler and exposed 110-volt wiring inside. Two spotters were present at the time of the strike and the crew was utilizing a probe rod to assist in identifying unknown objects in the area.

The event underscored the need to always remain vigilant when conducting excavation work, as well as during any type of construction or operational activity, and was a reminder that there are inherent risks in excavating older, legacy stations. For example, there is a potential for imprecise drawings and/or unknown underground utilities. Because of the implementation of our Incidents with Serious Potential (ISP) concept, we undertook a review process and evaluated procedural changes in light of the incident, even though the incident only involved the accidental striking of a conduit with 100-volt wiring and the crew was following applicable procedures and policies.

To mitigate excavation-related risk in the future, a more comprehensive process was designed and implemented for excavating in not only legacy facilities, but all Equitrans facilities. In addition to our standard One Call, drawing review, and pot-holing techniques, an extensive Simultaneous Operations (SIMOPS) procedure is now being used in conjunction with soft digging techniques to further minimize the risk of striking unidentified underground assets. This new process was the catalyst for our 2021 Instrument Air Conversion Project safety plan that is in the final stages of completion, exemplifying our commitment to Safety—above all else.

For more information on Occupational Health & Safety, please visit: Occupational Health & Safety.

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Protecting Endangered Species

The United States has the highest biodiversity of freshwater mussels in the world and is home to more than 300 species of mussels. The aquatic organisms benefit their ecosystem through filtering water. As sedimentation, pollution, and climate change increase, the United State Fish & Wildlife Services (USFWS) has noticed a severe drop in mussels. Approximately 70 percent of American mussels are extinct or at risk of becoming extinct and 78 species are classified as federally endangered.

The linear nature of pipelines sometimes requires the crossing of aquatic resources, and Equitrans is mindful of the impact our projects could have on various sites and species and seeks to utilize additional precautionary measures to mitigate potential aquatic impacts. Certain of Equitrans’ pipeline assets in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are located in an area known for its abundance of mussels.

We are committed to working to preserve our nation’s mussel population and we take extra precautions in respect of freshwater systems near our operations. For example, prior to construction of one of our pipeline assets in Monongalia County, West Virginia, we reached out to the USFWS and discussed the procedures and additional precautions necessary to ensure our pipeline project would not affect mussel habitat in a particular locale. At relevant crossing locations along the pipeline route, Equitrans enlisted qualified malacologists to conduct mussel surveys. Immediately following the surveys, mussels were relocated to suitable habitat locations upstream. We also trained our employees on aquatic safety and the value of mussels to the area. Our efforts helped to preserve approximately 41 protected mussels in the area.

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Supporting the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe

Strong community engagement is the cornerstone of Equitrans’ social license to operate. We recognize the importance of empowering the communities we serve and giving back to the populations with whom we are fortunate to connect with through our work. And we are not limiting our stakeholder engagement efforts to only our local communities – instead, we reach beyond our local footprint to identify opportunities to engage with additional cultural, historical, and environmental organizations.

As part of our ongoing commitment to community engagement, and in alignment with Equitrans’ Inclusion Program, we identified an opportunity to support the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. The Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe is located in King William County, Virginia, and boasts a strong history of caring for its local population.

“I and the citizens of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe are ecstatic to finally have a piece of property along the banks of the Mattaponi River, a river that made it possible for us to survive for thousands of years by offering bountiful fish and wildlife to feed our forefathers for so many generations,” said W.Frank Adams, Chief, Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. “It has been at least two hundred years since the tribe has owned property along our beloved river and I want to thank Equitrans for helping to make this dream come true.”

Chief Adams continued,“We have a lot of ideas and plans for this property, including a nice escape for our tribal citizens, as well as being able to offer a sacred place for some of our tribal rituals. Our long-term goal is to establish a kayak launch and cabins along this section of the river to provide our citizens a place to connect with the river that was our namesake.”

Equitrans provided support for the Tribe’s ongoing social programs and environmental resource preservation, which efforts promote the health and strength of the community. Through our relationship, Equitrans hopes to be a trusted community partner and to support the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe’s continued well-being. We look forward to further developing similar types of important partnerships and connections in the future.

For more information on the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe, please visit: The Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe.

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Physical Security of Our Operations

The safety and security of our employees, our contractors and vendors, and our communities is of primary importance to Equitrans. Our security personnel work to be well-prepared to manage disruptive incidents and with safety as our top priority—above all else.

Since 2019, there has been a notable increase in opposition related to the fossil fuel industry. In response, in 2020 we launched a new training for all employees on what to do in the face of protests, sabotage, and vandalism. Individuals are directed to prioritize their safety and that of their co-workers, including contractors, and to report incidents and obtain help, including by calling Police, Fire, or EMS, as required. In addition, certain of our security guards received additional training on appropriate opposition response, such as legal requirements for the usage of body cameras; and the role law enforcement plays, if needed, in a response. We consistently evaluate opportunities to provide additional trainings as appropriate.  

Vigilance and proactive measures are critical to our maintaining security. We ask employees to pay attention to suspicious persons or vehicles, be mindful of broken locks or gates and the appearance of equipment that may have been tampered with or damaged, and to always remain vigilant about their surroundings. As a result of our safety trainings, we have increased our equipment inspections and continue to improve the overall safety of our assets and facilities.

As an example, a potential opposition incident occurred in October 2020 at a facility in Pennsylvania. At the end of the workday, staff leaving the facility observed several fully masked persons on the access road to the facility, and the group’s vehicles were observed to have out-of-state license plates. In recent years, there has been a trend regarding opposition groups—with observations noting that several site protests and/or equipment tampering incidents are being orchestrated by persons outside of the local communities.

In response to this incident, Equitrans security notified operations leadership and dispatched guards to provide fixed and roving patrol coverage of the facility. The Pennsylvania State Police were also notified and patrolled the area for additional support. It is also standard practice to share information regarding possible threats—and Equitrans released a message to the Marcellus Security Operators Coalition, a working group representing the physical security teams of member companies in the area. As a result of our security training and preparedness approach, no people were harmed, no equipment was damaged, and no further actions ensued from the potential threat incident.

To view security information, please visit: Security & Cybersecurity.

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Emergency Response & Preparedness

In early December 2020, a dehydration unit ignited in the early morning hours at the Equitrans Callisto Compressor Station, a natural gas gathering facility located in Greene County, Pennsylvania. No injuries were reported, and, in an abundance of caution, one home was temporarily evacuated. 

Upon notification of the incident, the Equitrans Crisis Team quickly convened. Our Operations and Safety and Compliance teams, working in conjunction with the Equitrans Crisis Team, determined that the ignition occurred due to an over-pressurization of one of the station’s dehydration units. This was confirmed by a review of the scene, as well as surveillance video at the station. 

As part of our response, Equitrans technicians were immediately dispatched and, once on site, began to implement necessary safety procedures, including the closing of appropriate valves to isolate the facility. The local volunteer fire department was also on site to assist with fire safety protocols.

Equitrans’ emergency procedures and closing of valves successfully allowed the primary fire to self-extinguish and all residual flames were extinguished by the fire department. Within a short time, the unit was fully isolated and depressurized and the incident was brought under control and the station locked down. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was notified, and, as a courtesy, local township officials and the PA PUC received notification of the incident.

Once it was safe to do so, internal and external teams conducted a root cause investigation of the incident, as well as an environmental assessment of the facility and surrounding area. Our Crisis Team, with the assistance of our Legal department, also retained an independent third-party to assist in evaluation efforts and certain equipment was shared with the relevant vendor for further analysis. 

After reviewing the internal and external analyses and understanding the cause of the incident, the Crisis Team enlisted the assistance of our Corporate Compliance and Internal Audit teams to determine what measures, if any, could be implemented to minimize the risk of similar incidents from occurring in the future. Our Corporate Compliance group completed a full investigation of the processes that led to the incident and made recommendations to Internal Audit, which allowed for the refinement of existing procedures, such as valve inspections, valve repairs, and record keeping.

For more information on Pipeline Safety & Integrity, please visit: Pipeline Safety & Integrity.

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Adapting to Change During the Pandemic

In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have proactively undertaken and continued a number of companywide measures intended to promote the safety and health of field and office-based employees and contractors. Through these measures, the Company’s operations have been able to maintain a consistent level of effectiveness. In early March 2020, we established an Infectious Disease Response Team to manage our pandemic response efforts; implemented a mandatory work-from-home protocol for a significant majority of the Company’s employees; and instituted stringent pandemic-related working protocols, including mandatory face coverings and social distancing for field operations, where feasible. We also shared our Infectious Disease Response Plan with suppliers and contractors to ensure alignment of required working protocols across our operations.

Additional Company-wide efforts included eliminating non-essential business travel; implementing self-declaration forms to further protect our workforce; providing certain medical benefit enhancements; implementing strict office and fleet vehicle sanitation measures; and offering a list of preferred items for employees’ home office set-ups. In preparation for the future, post-pandemic, we conducted a Workplace Modernization Survey in June 2020, which had an outstanding 84% participation rate. The survey asked employees to rank their workplace preferences based on a set of three “workplace personas” (anchor, flex, and remote). The results of the survey have helped us to understand how and where our employees prefer to work, which is critical for the development of a long-term plan for Equitrans’ office needs.

Since implementing our many pandemic protocols, our E-Train employees have not missed a beat in continuing to safely operate our assets and our business. We have taken steps to ensure employees are actively engaged and informed by continually providing communication updates; producing a variety of video messages by our executive team; encouraging team-building events via our technology platforms; and delivering COVID-19 care packages to employees’ homes. The Company’s Infectious Disease Response Team continues to monitor and assist in implementing mitigation efforts in respect to potential areas of disease-related risk for the Company.

To learn more about employee safety, please visit: Occupational Health & Safety.

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