Social media key to winning project support, new INGAA chairman says

Better use of social media has become essential for natural gas transmission companies to win public support for proposed pipeline projects, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America’s incoming chairman said.

“Pipeline companies have been well engaged with communities and landowners for 20 years,” said Michael McMahon, senior vice-president, general counsel, and secretary of Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP in Houston. “What’s different now is the advent of social media. Where we used to go out and talk to people around their kitchen tables, now we have to deal with information—sometimes accurate, sometimes not—that they get from Facebook and Twitter.”

Much of that has moved past traditional “not-in-my-backyard” opposition, he told reporters during an Oct. 7 briefing at INGAA’s Washington headquarters. “National environmental groups with a primary goal of seeing natural gas is not produced at all now weigh in on every pipeline project,” McMahon said. “We’re all having to adapt.”

He said INGAA will focus principally on continuing to ensure pipeline safety, educating consumers about the benefits of gas in general and gas pipelines in particular, and enhancing INGAA member companies’ ability to construct much-needed pipeline capacity in a timely manner, and to recover associated costs under an evolving regulatory structure.

“We expect to continue to work with Congress to improve the legal framework for review proposed gas pipelines,” McMahon said. “It is imperative that proposed pipeline projects are reviewed, and necessary permits issued, within the timeline specified by law so that projects deemed to benefit the nation can be constructed and commence service in a timely and predictable manner.”

McMahon said US interstate gas transmission companies have proposed a number of pipeline projects in the past year, and are likely to propose more out of growing supply basins and into markets, given current market conditions.

“Pipelines are the critical link that allows gas to move from supply basins to markets nationwide,” he noted. “Over the next year, INGAA will continue to work with all stakeholders—regulators, local officials, landowners, environmental groups, and pipeline safety advocates—to understand their concerns and explain the benefits and advantages of natural gas pipelines.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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