Strengthening Community Partnerships
Community engagement is vital to our business success. We work to develop and maintain strong community relations through ongoing communication, active participation, and community investment. Our community engagement efforts are designed to inform communities about our operations in a way that builds understanding and trust, as we clearly understand that our pipeline operations can and do affect them. We strive to identify community needs, interests, and concerns related to our operations and work to address them in a proactive and responsive manner. We also invest in community projects and programs that will have a positive, lasting impact; and we consistently engage with community members to keep them informed of our current, planned, and proposed operations. 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 and Public Perceptions
As part of Equitrans’ efforts to build a more sustainable future, we believe it is important to educate the public, all of whom are energy consumers, about the critical role that natural gas plays, and we believe will continue to play, in the transition to a lower-carbon economy. It is equally important to engage with the public on our many sustainability initiatives.
As the energy transition progresses, we must address public concerns and perceptions about natural gas. We understand that we must listen to and act on community concerns to build trust and long-lasting relationships. The public's apprehension about natural gas pipelines and their related facilities is an understandable sentiment 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 safely and responsibly.
Our government affairs, communications/corporate 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.
- Our government affairs group builds and maintains relationships with policy stakeholders. Both our government affairs and communications/corporate affairs team frequently engage with civic organizations, elected officials, emergency response personnel, business owners, and residents to foster relationships at the local, state, and national levels. For example, the outreach team working on our Ohio Valley Connector Expansion project (OVCX) emphasized identifying and engaging with environmental justice communities near our facilities. Furthermore, to strengthen our community engagement activities and reduce potential community concerns, Equitrans is developing a formal Environmental Justice Policy, which we expect to publish in 2022.
- In the field, our communications/corporate affairs, 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 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 contact Equitrans representatives through our Owner Relations phone number (1-888-613-7848) or via email to notify us of any concerns and obtain answers to any questions they may have before, during, or after construction activities.
Additionally, in 2021, we began evaluating the development of a Companywide issues management and resolution tracking system. The objective of the project is to develop and implement a formal process that will identify and manage general concerns, requests, and specific issues — creating a single repository for historical reference, which can be accessed by various departments across the organization. By maintaining a single issues-management system, we will be better able to: deliver on our commitment to accurately resolve concerns/issues in a timely manner, ensure uniformity in our approach to resolving concerns/issues, and help to minimize issues before they become larger concerns or disputes. We expect to identify a technology solution for the new issues management tracking system by year-end 2022, with implementation targeted for 2023.
Key Topics Raised by Local Stakeholders
Prior to construction, we engage with our local stakeholders to learn of potential issues and diligently work throughout our planning and construction phases to limit potential stakeholder concerns. Once we are granted access to work on a landowner’s property, we want to ensure we are operating in a respectful manner that is aligned with the landowner’s expectations.
The majority of key topics and concerns raised by our local stakeholders are temporary issues. Some common concerns include noise, roadway damage, and increased traffic, most of which occur during the construction phase. When a stakeholder voices a concern, we assign relevant project team members to address and provide solutions. Should the project team member be unable to alleviate a stakeholder’s concern, we escalate the topic to the appropriate management level.
We continuously evaluate the impacts of our operations on local communities and establish best practices to proactively mitigate issues and concerns to the greatest extent possible. As an example, prior to the installation of a compressor station, we evaluate the area around the station and perform sound studies to understand baseline noise levels, which assists in identifying potential noise-related issues that may arise. 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. Construction activities often temporarily impact local roadway conditions, 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. In 2021, Equitrans invested a total of more than $1,265,000 in roadway repairs and upgrades across its operating areas in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Equitrans invested more than $1,265,000 in local roadway improvements during 2021.
In 2021, at a project level, we saw enhanced stakeholder outreach — additional mailings, community information sessions, individual phone and in-person communications, and open houses to ensure we are engaging with affected landowners, community members, and other stakeholders. Maintaining an open and transparent dialogue with our many local stakeholders demonstrates Equitrans’ steadfast commitment to social responsibility and ensures that we are upholding our Core Values and following our 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 believe in investing in our communities, supporting local organizations and giving back to those who need it most. We are committed to being a good neighbor and creating lasting value for our employees, families, and other residents impacted by our operations. Through our Corporate Local Giving and Sponsorship Program, as well as the Equitrans Midstream Foundation, we support a wide range of organizations within these communities. By investing in our local communities, we create a positive impact that extends far beyond our Company, helping to strengthen their foundation for future generations.
Corporate Local Giving and Sponsorships
To ensure legality and appropriateness, Equitrans recently implemented a formal structure and internal review process to evaluate and approve or decline each corporate donation or sponsorship request we receive. The primary objective is to ensure all contributions align with our Core Values and confirm that contributions are not made to local authorities having oversight of our current or future operations, which would raise questions of impropriety. Our internal audit team also audits the process, submission requests, and donations on a quarterly basis.
The review process is managed by Equitrans’ senior community advisor; and members of the review team consist of a cross-functional representation of employees from across the organization, including legal, human resources, government affairs, and communications/corporate affairs. As part of the review, team members ensure the requests are in line with Equitrans’ Corporate Sponsorships and Local Giving Guidelines, which is available for stakeholder reference on Equitrans’ website. The team also categorizes each approved request to align with select UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as applicable. The level of review is based on the dollar amount being requested, with multi-year sponsorship requests and larger regional or national initiatives requiring executive review.
Our Corporate Local Giving and Sponsorship 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 places an emphasis on supporting our first responders and local communities. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to participate in several food drives, donate supplies to local schools, provide necessary medical supplies to county agencies, and provide support to local humane societies. As we broaden our sustainability investments, we are especially proud of our ongoing 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.
In 2021, Equitrans also partnered with the Fairmont State University Foundation for the construction of their new Sustainability Shelter, which will be used as an outdoor learning space for students and as a venue for hosting local community and educational events. This donation fully supports many of our ESG initiatives and also aligns with two of the UN SDGs, Quality Education and Sustainable Cities and Communities. The Fairmont State Foundation honored Equitrans with its “2021 Philanthropic Corporation of the Year” award, which represents the demonstration of outstanding commitment through financial support and engagement of others in activities that support and advance philanthropy at Fairmont State University.
During 2021, Equitrans’ corporate contributions totaled $555,000 — supporting more than 65 community organizations.
During 2021, Equitrans made supporting contributions totaling roughly $555,000 (excluding project-related donations). Since our launch as an independent midstream company, our community involvement continues to increase and evolve, including several broader ESG-related initiatives and concerted alignment with select UN SDGs. This is demonstrated in our 2021 donation total, which was more than double that of our previous year’s donations. Corporate sponsorships and donations for the year included programs and organizations such as:
- Fairmont State University Foundation
- Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
- LandForce PGH
- Trout Unlimited
- One Tree Planted
- DigDeep’s Appalachia Water Project
- Fill it Forward
- Three Rivers Youth
- WV Game Changers Education Program
- Junior Achievement
- Eastern Gas Compression Association
- Belmont County Agricultural Society
- Washington County Agricultural Association
- Greene County Department of Recreation
- Governor’s One Shot, Inc.
- Charity Miles
- Multiple county fairs
- Multiple 4-H and livestock events
- Multiple Volunteer Fire Departments
- Multiple emergency response funds
In support of Equitrans’ Inclusion program, our corporate giving program also supported several diversity and inclusion related initiatives, such as:
- The Wounded Warriors Project
- PACE Enterprises
- Dress for Success
- Autism Speaks
- WVU LGBTQ+ Center
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 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 employees representing each of Equitrans’ regional offices. 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. As pandemic restrictions were starting to be lifted throughout 2021, we are pleased to report that our volunteer events tripled, as compared to 2020. During 2021, the E-Train On-Track committee coordinated 24 events to promote local employee volunteerism and community service. Along with activities at multiple parks, gardens, trails, and recreation areas, a sampling of these events included:
- UPMC Walk for Children’s
- Backpack Beginnings
- The Education Partnership
- UPMC Children’s Hospital Firearm Safety Outreach
- Habitat for Humanity
- Dress for Success
- Autism Speaks
Employees also enjoyed participating in a Charity Miles fitness challenge; a Sportsperson’s Challenge, with an emphasis on hunting safety; and a special Redhook Compressor Station tour.
During 2021, Equitrans’ participation in volunteer events tripled and employees logged 1,005 hours of volunteer time.
Equitrans offers a “Volunteer Paid-Time Off” program that allows employees to use regular work hours to engage directly with their community. With supervisor approval, an employee can take up to two business days of paid volunteer time each year to work in the community with a non-profit charity or organization of their choice. In 2021, our employees logged a total of 1,005 volunteer hours through this program.
Equitrans Midstream Foundation
The Equitrans Midstream Foundation is a legally separate 501(c)(3) entity established in 2018, at which time Equitrans Midstream Company became an independent, publicly traded company. Our Foundation partners with non-profit organizations to boost social and economic prosperity in local communities by investing in projects and programs through three focus areas: community development, education, and the environment.
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 Foundation’s environmental investments support organizations that focus on preserving and protecting the environment by:
- 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
During 2021, the Foundation contributed an additional $382,000 in employee matching donations to 501(c)(3) organizations.
Our Foundation made $532,000 in donations during 2021. Additionally, the Foundation matches employee contributions dollar-for-dollar, from $100 to $50,000 annually, and made an additional $382,000 in employee matching donations to 501(c)(3) organizations. Overall, the Foundation increased its giving by 29% in 2021, compared to the previous year, and by 39% since 2019.
In 2021, the Foundation made grants to a number of non-profit organizations that serve underserved and underrepresented populations in our operating areas. Below are a few of the key programs our Foundation supported in 2021:
- Mountaineer Food Bank Veterans Table
- West Virginia University Foundation
- Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation
- Intermediate Unit One Education Foundation
- Girl Scouts Western PA
- The Education Partnership
- Junior Achievement of Western PA
- End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org)
- Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc.
- Focus on Renewal StoRox Neighborhood
- Centers for Excellence in Education
- Innovation Works Inc
- Casey Feldman Foundation
- Saltworks Theater Company
- Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
- Beverly’s Birthdays
- Dress for Success Pittsburgh
- Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Pittsburgh
- Penn’s Woods West Trout Unlimited
Our Social License To Operate
Evaluating and understanding the perspectives of all involved parties allows us to identify key areas of focus and make informed decisions that reflect the best interests of both our Company and the community. 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 overarching business goals. In doing so, 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
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 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.