Approach to Community Engagement
Equitrans’ continued success directly ties to our engagement with local communities, as we clearly understand that our pipeline operations can and do affect them. We consistently engage with community members to keep them informed of our current, planned, and proposed operations. We also strive to inform community stakeholders of our commitment to operating with integrity, accountability, and transparency. In February 2021, we published our formal Stakeholder Engagement and Community Investment Policy which captures our efforts to build collaboration and trust with our communities and other key stakeholders. At Equitrans, these engagements typically involve three primary approaches: addressing community concerns and public perceptions; investing in communities; and managing our corporate reputation.
Addressing Community Concerns & Public Perceptions
Public apprehension about natural gas pipelines and their related facilities is an understandable sentiment both locally and nationally. It is important to us, as a Company, that everyone living or working near one of our pipelines or facilities is confident in our commitment to operating in a safe and responsible manner. We understand that to build trust, we must listen to and act on community concerns. Our Government Affairs, Land, and Construction groups serve as the primary liaison for responding to inquiries from our community stakeholders. Equitrans’ Engineering team is also available to assist our external outreach teams in addressing specific concerns related to the technical design of a pipeline or facility.
Equitrans’ Government Affairs group builds and maintains relationships with policy stakeholders. Our Government Affairs group frequently engages with civic organizations, elected officials, emergency response personnel, business owners, residents, and other local stakeholders to foster relationship building at the local, state, and national levels.
In the field, our Land and Construction groups serve as our primary points of contact for landowners and other community members. These group members regularly attend and participate in public municipal meetings in areas where we have ongoing and future projects to establish good working relationships with our local communities and to reinforce clear lines of communication for project questions. The input from our local communities increases Equitrans’ ability to address specific public needs and mitigate operational risks before they become disputes or hazards.
As part of our Land team, our Owner Relations group primarily addresses payment or tax-related concerns and also works with other members of the Land group to address questions and concerns about our operations. Landowners can call, fax, or email Equitrans’ Owner Relations group through our Owner Relations Line. Messages received through the Owner Relations line are tracked using our software system and are closed out by Equitrans’ team members when resolved. The tracking system allows us to gather data and evaluate our efficiency and transparency in resolving issues and concerns. In addition, we use the collected information to develop and refine our policies and procedures, which in turn minimizes or eliminates operational issues before they become larger concerns or disputes.
We constantly evaluate the impacts of our operations on local communities and establish best practices to mitigate issues and concerns to the extent possible. A prime example of this evaluation occurs during the installation of a compressor station. Before installation begins, we evaluate the area around the station to identify potential issues that may arise. After we install the compressor unit(s), we conduct baseline noise studies to check for excess local noise. If these studies identify a noise issue, we proactively install sound mitigation measures, where appropriate, to minimize the impact on neighboring properties.
Our use of roads during pipeline construction is another noteworthy example of our efforts to be responsible community stewards. Our construction activities often temporarily impact the roadway conditions in the communities where we operate, and it is important that we make every effort to minimize these impacts. When starting construction, Equitrans implements established procedures to identify the roads we will traverse in order to assess any maintenance that may be required either before work begins or after it is finished. We communicate this information to the local municipality, and we work with the municipality’s officials to ensure minimal disruption to community members during our use of the roadways.
The input of our Government Affairs, Land, and Construction groups receive from local stakeholders assists in refining Equitrans’ policies, practices, and procedures. We encourage community engagement in all aspects of our business and believe community feedback allows our organization to be more effective and efficient.
Investing in Communities
At Equitrans, we are passionate about investing in the communities where we live and work and are committed to bettering the lives of individuals who live in our operating communities. We support a wide range of organizations within these communities through our corporate giving and sponsorship program, as well as the Equitrans Midstream Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) organization. There are separate local giving and sponsorship programs for our joint-venture projects, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline and MVP Southgate projects, which is not included in this report.
Corporate Local Giving & Sponsorships
To ensure legality and appropriateness, our Corporate Communications or Government Affairs leaders review and approve each Equitrans corporate donation or sponsorship. These employees follow a structured review and a pre-approval process, ensuring all contributions align with our Core Values and confirming that contributions are not made to local authorities with oversight of our current or future operations, which would raise questions of impropriety.
Our corporate local giving program supports a variety of local organizations, non-profit groups, first responders, and municipalities seeking assistance for community projects. Other investments include the active sponsorship of county fairs, community festivals, and other local events. Both our donations and sponsorships present opportunities for us to interact with community members, inform them of our business operations, and most importantly enhance their quality of life.
In the wake of COVID-19, Equitrans placed a heavy emphasis on supporting our first responders and local communities. We participated in several food drives, donated supplies to local schools, provided necessary medical supplies to county agencies, and also provided support to local humane societies during the pandemic. As we broaden our sustainability investments, we are especially proud of our new partnership with the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. Our multi-year investment will support the sustainability efforts of the Tribe by providing for the acquisition of waterfront land within the historic extent of their territory, allowing the Tribe to establish an indigenous environmental education pavilion and a canoe livery that will support the Tribe’s goals of enhancing the financial stability and physical well-being of its members. The investment is also expected to create opportunities for younger generations to remain connected to the waterborne culture that has sustained the Tribe for many years.
During 2020, Equitrans made supporting contributions totaling $265,500 (excluding project-related donations), which included programs and organizations such as:
- Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
- One Tree Planted
- Eastern Gas Compression Association
- Good Neighbor Day Events
- Greene County Department of Recreation
- Governor’s One Shot, Inc.
- Jefferson Volunteer Fire Company
- Rain Day Festival
- Battelle District Fair
- Multiple emergency response funds (PA/OH/WV)
- Charity Miles
- Cokeburg Volunteer Fire Company
- Ohio Oil & Gas Association
- Cecil Volunteer Fire Department
- Multiple animal shelters and humane societies (PA/OH/WV)
Our goals are to operate as a socially responsible company and to contribute in a positive way to the local communities in which we operate. We support our employees in volunteer activities that enrich the lives of others, while at the same time enhancing their own experiences, and we encourage our employees to solicit and recommend community outreach programs in which volunteers can contribute and participate. Equitrans utilizes E-Train On-Track to support the engagement of our employees in corporate-sponsored community service initiatives and social/recreational employee activities that align with our Core Values of safety, integrity, collaboration, transparency, and excellence.
Formed in 2019, our E-Train On-Track committee consists of 10 employees representing Equitrans’ office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Committee members meet monthly to evaluate opportunities for volunteering, community service, and employee social activities that are aligned with our Core Values and promote a deeper connection with the communities where we live and work. During 2020, in accordance with our pandemic working protocols, our E-Train On-Track committee coordinated eight events to promote local employee volunteerism and community service. Volunteer activities benefitted the Western PA Conservancy, the Montour Trail, and various local food pantries. Employees also enjoyed participating in a Charity Miles fitness challenge and several holiday toy drives.
Additionally, Equitrans offers a “Volunteer Paid-Time Off” program that allows employees to use regular work hours to engage directly with their community. Employees request approval to spend work hours volunteering for a charity or agency of their choice and can take up to two business days of paid volunteer time annually. While many external events and activities were cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, our employees logged a total of 458 volunteer hours during 2020.
Equitrans Midstream Foundation
The Equitrans Midstream Foundation is a legally separate 501(c)(3) entity established upon the Company’s inception in 2018. Our Foundation partners with non-profit organizations to boost social and economic prosperity in local communities by investing in projects and programs that better communities through improving safety and well-being, fostering inclusion, celebrating diversity, encouraging cultural heritage and local arts, as well as supporting and developing livable communities. Our goal is to positively impact the future of local community members through community development, education, and environmental outreach programs.
The Foundation’s community development investments focus on initiatives that enhance the fabric of communities by:
- Enhancing community safety and wellbeing
- Supporting the enrichment of arts and culture in the community
- Fostering inclusion and promoting diversity in communities
- Encouraging the development of livable communities that attract and retain residential, commercial, and industrial growth
The Foundation’s spending on education initiatives looks to develop a sustainable energy workforce through projects that:
- Advance science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education, with a focus on accessibility to underserved and underrepresented groups
- Prepare students to compete in the workforce of the future, with tools to make positive social and economic contributions
- Empower students to pursue trades and vocational training
The environmental investments our Foundation supports mitigate our operational impact through:
- Providing environmental education on land, air, and water stewardship
- Empowering individuals and organizations to utilize conservation methods to preserve our natural resources
- Supporting projects that promote environmental stewardship
Our Foundation made $460,000 in donations during 2020, with a special focus on COVID-19 relief grants and initiatives. Additionally, the Foundation matches employee contributions dollar-for-dollar, from $100 to $50,000, and made an additional $385,000 in employee matching donations. Below are a few of the key programs our Foundation supported in 2020:
- Saltworks Theater Company—Drug Prevention & Bullying Prevention Program
- Junior Achievement Western PA—Washington & Greene Counties Student Programming
- Bentworth Blessings – Food Supplies Programs for Bentworth School District
- Intermediate Unit One – 2020-2021 Innovation Mini Grant Program
- The Education Partnership – Adopt-A-School Education Packet Program
- Gwen’s Girls – Academic Support Initiative
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh – Youth Mentoring in Washington & Greene Counties
- WVU Foundation/Institute of Water Security & Science – Drinking Water Education and Testing
- Allegheny Land Trust – Meyer Farm Restoration
- Mid-Ohio Food Bank
- Corner Cupboard Food Bank
- Pittsburgh Foundation
- Your Community Foundation North Central WV
- Community Foundation of Ohio Valley
Faced by unprecedented times, we are incredibly pleased with the positive impact our Foundation had over the past year. This year, more than ever, showed the importance of community engagement and support. We will continue our efforts to assist the local communities around us and encourage anyone to apply for funding via our online application.
Managing Our Corporate Reputation
At Equitrans, our Core Values of safety, integrity, collaboration, transparency, and excellence are the principles that guide our employees’ behaviors and decisions. A few examples of our employees working through our values include:
- Gathering information to help identify local concerns before they inconvenience neighbors
- Advocating for the community by affirming that issues or concerns are addressed at the appropriate level within Equitrans and are ultimately resolved
- Acting as a channel of information for suggesting ways to strengthen Equitrans’ processes and procedures
- Providing opportunities for residents to learn about current or future projects and how they may affect their communities
- Building relationships prior to the start of activity in new areas
Evaluating Our Community Engagement
To meet and exceed community expectations, we thoughtfully evaluate our engagement approach to determine what is working well, what can be improved, and how to enhance our interactions with local communities. We continually consider how to best engage the public in understanding our operations and the measures that we take to maintain public safety and mitigate environmental impacts during all phases of our operations. Our primary means of engagement is through direct communication and relationship building with all involved stakeholders (landowners, community members, elected officials, emergency responders, etc.). Through these personal engagements, we directly learn from stakeholders about positive outcomes and receive recommendations regarding how we can better address community matters.
We believe that by taking a proactive stance regarding stakeholder engagement and community investment, we are better able to enhance and/or build thriving communities, while also achieving our other overarching business goals.
Political Involvement & Public Policy
It is imperative that we engage policymakers on matters directly related to our operations, and the natural gas industry as a whole, to remain informed of changes that may affect our business. Our natural gas gathering and transportation expertise enables us to be subject matter experts for policymakers when considering associated policies. We stay informed and actively involved in policy developments by regularly connecting with local, state, and federal officials through constructive energy policy dialogues.
We maintain our high standard of integrity while engaging with policymakers on matters that impact Equitrans. We conduct our public policy activities in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws applicable in every operational jurisdiction in which we make political contributions. These laws include federal and state campaign finance laws regarding political spending in support of political parties, politicians, and related institutions. Our political engagement activity is strictly limited to the United States, the only country in which we operate. To assure compliance internally, we developed policies to guide our interactions with lawmakers and regulatory agencies. These governing policies stipulate that no Equitrans employee may engage in lobbying activities on behalf of Equitrans nor use corporate treasury funds for political purposes without explicit permission from the Government Affairs leader or the General Counsel.
Political Spending & Policy Issues
Equitrans supports fair and balanced regulations that benefit both our Company and all its stakeholders. We are dedicated particularly to working with policymakers on opportunities to promote stable investment climates for natural gas transportation and storage. Policies preferred by Equitrans involve the governance of environmental protection, taxes, and natural gas pipelines, as well as expanding the use of natural gas in sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, and electricity generation. In 2020, the Equitrans Political Action Committee (PAC) contributed $103,600 to local, state, and federal candidates in our service territories. Disclosures and public information for Equitrans PAC contributions and disbursements can be found on fec.gov.
Since the initial development of the Marcellus and Utica Shales, the states in our operational footprint have strived to promote a stable investment environment. Equitrans works closely with federal, state, and local policymakers to develop a regulatory framework that promotes a stable business environment for our operations and the economy of the regions where we operate. In recent years, we have noted increased efforts by third parties to oppose, by legislative means, the natural gas industry. While the states in which we operate have different political landscapes, we consistently overcome what we view as onerous legislative proposals that would have negative economic consequences.
Evaluating Our Political Involvement
Equitrans recognizes the impact policy changes can have on our operations and business. Therefore, it is vital that we continuously evaluate our approach to political involvement to maintain its effectiveness. The Equitrans PAC Board reviews and approves all PAC disbursements, taking into account a focus on our operating regions, and the advancement of our industry and its related initiatives, including policies governing environmental protection, taxes, and natural gas transportation. The PAC Board meets on a regular basis to evaluate requests and review past expenditures.