Our public awareness program works to raise awareness of pipelines in our communities and improve stakeholders’ understanding of the important function that pipelines play in transporting energy. Ongoing engagement furthers a deeper understanding of our operations and right-of-way encroachments, which helps to minimize the risk of third parties creating potential emergencies or accidental releases. We routinely update our understanding of our audiences, including the affected public, emergency officials, public officials, excavators, and state One-Call Centers. Equitrans offers several communication channels to assist stakeholders in understanding what to do if a pipeline incident were to occur, how to prevent pipeline incidents, and how to use their state’s One Call System. Our communications channels may include:
- Pipeline awareness and educational mailings
- Business reply cards to measure understanding of the educational content
- In-person and webinar meetings
- A self-paced, online training platform to provide access to pipeline response training and damage prevention efforts (designed and launched by Equitrans’ consultant, Paradigm)
- An Emergency Response Portal that provides operators with a secure, cost-effective location for publishing and distributing their emergency response plans to local emergency responders (designed and launched by Equitrans' consultant, Paradigm)
We continually communicate with local communities near our operations to raise awareness of our activities, convey key safety information, and address any questions or concerns.
In accordance with the Pipeline Hazardous Material and Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) public awareness program, operators are required to provide stakeholder training sessions regarding their company’s asset locations and operations. During the pandemic, virtual meetings were held to convey the required information and allow for effective stakeholder and operator participation. While these virtual meetings were successful and met regulatory requirements, in 2022 Equitrans resumed in-person operator training sessions and also co-hosted additional training sessions across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.
A crisis is defined as any situation that is critical and/or sensitive to the Company and, if not addressed or managed appropriately and promptly, could have an adverse impact on the Company’s operations, business, and reputation. A crisis may occur at any time and can involve an individual or a group of people; be inside or outside the Company; be created by a sudden, tragic, dangerous, or volatile event that demands quick action; or may develop out of an emerging issue that becomes sustained. Crises come in many forms, including operational incidents, non-operational events, cybersecurity events, and natural disasters. Regardless of the crisis, an appropriate and timely response is critical.
Equitrans recognizes that a crisis requires coordinated efforts for immediate response and corrective action. When executed correctly, an effective response serves to minimize risk and damage, emphasize safety, reduce internal and external confusion, and convey appropriate information to stakeholders.
Crisis Management Plan
Equitrans’ Crisis Management Plan (Crisis Plan) is designed to provide an enterprise-wide management process and structure that enables appropriate levels of communication and response to a range of major events or potential crisis situations. We require that the Crisis Plan be reviewed annually to ensure it provides effective guidance on how to manage and execute a crisis response. The Crisis Plan’s structure aligns with the Company’s six “Crisis Incident Classifications,” which are categorized as follows:
- Operational: fires, explosions, accidents, serious injuries, fatalities, spills/discharges
- Security: criminal acts, workplace violence, landowner threats, protests
- Business/Financial: significant legal disputes, dramatic stock falls, activist shareholders, significant liquidity, credit or capital constraints, customer-related issues
- Information Technology: data loss, system failures, hacking, other cyberattacks or compromises of technology
- Regional/Industry: terrorism, natural disasters, industry and/or competitor-related incidents
- Health/Safety: pandemic, localized natural disaster, building closures, inclement weather
In accordance with the Crisis Plan, Equitrans designated cross-functional crisis management teams (CMTs) and incident commanders that are activated in response to crises. The Crisis Plan outlines the roles and responsibilities, courses of action, delegated authorities, and instructions for various CMT members, as well as communication protocols. In the event of a crisis, the incident commander is responsible for leading the crisis response effort and coordinating with executive management team members. These management team members provide executive level oversight of the Crisis Plan and are responsible for ensuring that the Company’s Board of Directors is apprised of a crisis and related material developments in a timely manner.
We believe an effective crisis response plan serves to minimize risk and damage, emphasize safety, reduce internal and external confusion, and convey appropriate information to stakeholders.
As part of our initial response to an emergency or crisis, an alert is sent out to internally affected parties through the Company’s electronic alert system, or other methods, as appropriate. We also seek to coordinate with the relevant first responders, government agencies, and elected officials, and will engage the assistance of expert third parties, as needed.
Aligned with the Crisis Plan, Equitrans maintains specific incident response plans, which primarily pertain to operational matters (e.g., spills or incidents at compressor or dehydration stations). These specific incident response plans are for reference in the event of a certain type of crisis and provide guidance regarding roles and responsibilities specific to the type of crisis.
Executing Our Crisis Management Plan — Rager Mountain Storage Facility Incident
On Sunday, November 6, 2022, Equitrans Midstream was notified of an incident at its Rager Mountain Storage facility, located in Jackson Township, a remote area of Cambria County, Pennsylvania. There were no injuries reported, no mandatory evacuations of nearby property owners, and no immediate public safety concerns.
As part of the Company’s emergency response process, Equitrans technicians arrived on site and observed natural gas escaping from a 1 5/8″ vent on a single storage well, which was working as designed to relieve pressure from the casing. A safety perimeter was established and, in line with safety protocols, the local fire department also responded to the incident.
Upon notification of the incident, an electronic alert was sent to all members of Equitrans’ Crisis Management Team to initiate additional response efforts, and Equitrans immediately notified the National Response Center, PHMSA, the PA DEP, and the PA PUC. Equitrans quickly engaged and contracted the assistance of a specialty well services company to address and resolve the venting, and their expert personnel, along with required equipment, began arriving on-site within a few hours of initial incident notification. All physical flows of natural gas in and out of the Rager Mountain Storage facility were temporarily suspended; and in coordination with the FAA, a no-fly zone was established during response efforts. The flow of gas was stopped on November 19, 2022.
Stakeholder Outreach During the Incident
Equitrans used multiple approaches to efficiently and effectively provide timely updates regarding the Rager Mountain incident:
- At the onset of the incident, Equitrans immediately contacted all relevant state and federal agencies, as well as local emergency services teams and local and state elected officials.
- A dedicated Community Hotline was established to provide regular incident updates, with messaging updated every 24 hours from November 6, 2022, to November 20, 2022. The Hotline remained open through December 12, 2023, and included an option for callers to leave messages with any questions, providing an avenue for Equitrans to personally respond.
- During the first two days of the incident, Equitrans’ land agent team conducted initial door-to-door visits to community members and property owners within a two-mile radius of the Rager Mountain facility. Secondary door-to-door visits were done the week of November 13, 2022, and letters were provided for those not home, and follow-up calls were made to address any questions.
- The land agent team also notified the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and PA State Game Commission, and provided ongoing updates as requested.
- Local township supervisors and local emergency services personnel received daily updates via email, phone, and text messaging, and Equitrans’ government affairs team provided routine updates to state elected officials.
- Equitrans’ customers received routine updates via the Rager Mountain Informational Postings Web Site.
- Media statements were provided on a daily basis to local, regional, and national news outlets, and virtual interviews were conducted on multiple occasions with the local TV station in Johnstown, PA.
In coordination with PHMSA an independent, full root cause investigation is underway and is expected to be complete in summer 2023, and Equitrans will continue to inform the respective state and federal agencies of its activities and findings, including as it works to return the field to injection operations. Other post-incident workstreams are also continuing. Additional information regarding the Rager Mountain incident can be found in the GHG Emissions and Climate Change and the Asset Safety and Integrity sections of this report.
Preparation Is Critical
Adequate preparation is critical for taking quick and effective action during an emergency response. We conduct regular crisis drills and routinely review the Crisis Plan and related individual incident response plans (based on the six Crisis Incident Classifications) to ensure we are prepared in the event of an emergency. We also conduct training sessions for our incident commanders and crisis coordinators to provide updates on our processes and procedures, reinforce existing protocols, and further prepare for potential incidents and crisis events. Additionally, following an incident, Equitrans conducts a reporting and analysis debrief to identify any safety gaps or further precautionary measures that should be evaluated for implementation. Equitrans also evaluates its CMT personnel designations on a quarterly basis to ensure appropriate CMT staffing and to verify CMT contact information.
Externally, Equitrans regularly provides opportunities to meet with local first responders to inform them of our work, discuss coordination, and educate them on midstream industry crisis management practices. To strengthen our collaboration, we offer annual follow-up sessions to first responders and welcome local fire departments to tour our facilities. We often donate to first responder organizations in our local communities to enhance capabilities, increase safety preparedness, and fortify our relationships.
In addition, and as part of our public awareness program, Equitrans reaches out to landowners and homeowners located along a pipeline right-of-way or near our facilities to inform them of the potential risks our operations could have on nearby homes and to review evacuation plans in case of an emergency. Equitrans provides its Community Hotline number to nearby landowners or homeowners, as well as important contact information for local emergency responders. By keeping local community members informed of our practices, Equitrans is demonstrating its commitment to safety as our number one priority.