Approach to Community Engagement
As a company, our 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. At Equitrans, these engagements typically involve three primary approaches: communicating impacts and addressing community concerns; 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 is confident in our commitment to operating in a safe and responsible manner. To build trust in us, our Government Affairs and Land and Construction groups frequently engage with our stakeholders. Our Government Affairs group directs our overall approach to community engagement and their duties include establishing and maintaining relationships with civic organizations, elected officials, emergency response personnel, business owners, residents, and other local stakeholders.
In the field, our Land and Construction group serves as our primary point of contact for landowners along our pipeline routes, as well as with other local community members, to report and receive assistance to resolve any concerns both before and throughout the lifespan of the project. These group members regularly attend and participate in public municipal meetings in areas where we have ongoing and future projects in order to establish good working relationships with our local communities and to reinforce clear lines of communication for project questions. Landowners can also contact our Owner Relations group directly by phone, fax, or email through our Owner Relations line. These contacts typically involve payment- and tax-related questions, along with occasional messages pertaining to operational issues. All messages are communicated to the appropriate Equitrans personnel for resolution. We use information collected by these groups’ engagements to develop and refine our policies and procedures, which in turn minimizes or eliminates operational issues before they become larger concerns or disputes. When appropriate, our Engineering group also engages with the public through clear and concise communication on issues that may draw questions or concerns. Across our geographic footprint, 100 percent of our operations involve some amount of formal or informal local community engagement.
We constantly evaluate the impacts of our operations on local communities and establish best practices to mitigate issues and concerns to every 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.
At Equitrans, we are passionate about investing in the communities where we live and work. We support a wide range of organizations within these communities through our corporate giving and sponsorship program and the Equitrans Midstream Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) organization.
To ensure legality and appropriateness, our Corporate Communications or Government Affairs leaders review and approve each Equitrans corporate donation or sponsorship. These employees implement a structured review and a pre-approval process to confirm that contributions are not made to local authorities with oversight of our current or future operations, which would raise questions of impropriety.
Equitrans’ 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. Equitrans made supporting contributions totaling $87,298 to the following entities in 2019:
- Marianna Volunteer Fire Department
- Mon Valley YMCA
- Cecil Township Fire Department
- Forward Township Volunteer Fire Department
- Peters Township Volunteer Fire Department
- Battelle District Fair
- Innovation Works
- Eastern Gas Compression Association
- Women’s Energy Network
- The Mentoring Partnership
- Finleyville Volunteer Fire Department
- Municipality of Union Township
- The Clemente Society
- Keynotes of South Hills
- American Legion Post 90 Community Days
- Governor’s One Shot
- Canonsburg Old Fashioned Christmas
- Energy Mineral Law Foundation
- One Tree Planted
In 2019, Equitrans created an employee activity and community service committee, called E-Train On-Track. E-Train On-Track encourages employees to explore their passions, business skills, and expertise to make meaningful contributions in the communities where we live and work. We 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.
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. E-Train On-Track offers our employees many opportunities to plan, organize, and engage in social and recreational activities that encourage them to grow and celebrate as a team.
In 2019, E-Train On-Track organized multiple holiday gift and donation activities throughout our operating footprint and helped to coordinate Equitrans’ annual United Way Campaign. These activities included two Adopt-a-Family holiday events in western Pennsylvania. At our Southpointe office in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, more than 100 employees participated in adopting 22 families in Washington and Allegheny counties, Pennsylvania. At our Waynesburg, Pennsylvania office, ten employees adopted four families and 20 local children through the Salvation Army’s Treasures for Children program. In Ohio, eight of our employees volunteered in local Toys-for-Tots programs, collecting more than 200 toys donated by fellow employees and contractors for 74 families and 196 children in total.
Equitrans Midstream Foundation
Established by Equitrans, the Equitrans Midstream Foundation is a legally separate entity dedicated to fostering the social and economic prosperity of the local communities throughout our asset footprint. By developing partnerships with philanthropies and non-profit organizations, the Foundation’s efforts aim to create secure futures for local community members through a focus on community development, education, and environmental initiatives.
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 education investments focus on initiatives that help develop a sustainable energy industry workforce by:
- Advancing science, technology, engineering, and arts and math (STEAM) education, with a special emphasis on creating access for underrepresented and underserved groups
- Preparing students to compete in the workforce of the future, giving them the tools to make positive social and economic contributions
- Encouraging the pursuit of trades and vocational training
The Foundation’s environment investments support initiatives that limit our operational impact by:
- Targeting energy education and the stewardship of air, land, and water
- Supporting the preservation of natural resources and encouraging individuals and organizations to implement accepted conservation techniques to minimize adverse impacts on the environment
- Encouraging environmental stewardship
In 2019, the Equitrans Midstream Foundation made $150,000 in donations primarily focused on education and community development initiatives. A few of the initiatives we supported are listed below:
- Pittsburgh Cultural Trust STEAM Residencies
- Pittsburgh Symphony Learning & Community Engagement Programs
- Innovation Works: Startable Greene County
- WQED: Design Lives Here
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh: STEM Career Youth Mentoring
- Corner Cupboard Food Bank: Kids’ Bags Program
- Salvation Army: Food Insecurities Programs
- Donora Historical Society: WWI Exhibit
We are incredibly proud of the positive impact that the Equitrans Midstream Foundation has had and will continue to have on the local communities where we live and work. If you are interested in applying for funding, please visit our online application.
Managing Our Corporate Reputation
As part of our corporate culture, every Equitrans employee is encouraged to maintain and enhance our reputation by operating with integrity, accountability, and transparency. A few examples of these efforts 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, and emergency responders). Through these personal engagements, we directly learn from stakeholders about positive outcomes and receive recommendations regarding how we can better address community matters.
Our Owner Relations group also works to address questions and concerns regarding our operations. The group also tracks and documents all messages that come in via our Owner Relations line through our tracking software system, and messages are closed out of the system once resolved. This data is beneficial in evaluating both the efficiency and efficacy of our landowner communications and helps to mitigate any future concerns.
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 an informed resource 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 General Counsel.
Political Spending & Policy Issues
Equitrans supports fair and balanced regulations that benefit both our company and all of 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. The Equitrans Political Action Committee (PAC) spent $74,500 on local, state, and federal candidates in our service territory in 2019. As 2019 was an off-cycle election year in most of our jurisdictional states, the PAC focused giving primarily in local judicial elections.
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
Policy changes can have a significant impact on our operations and business as a whole. 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, the advancement of our industry and its related initiatives, including policies governing environmental protection, taxes, and natural gas transportation. The PAC Board meets quarterly to evaluate requests and review past expenditures.