As the devastating impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic destroy not only natural gas and oil demand but people’s livelihoods, the energy industry continues to mount all-out efforts to support communities across the United States and abroad.
Unitil Corp., based in Hampton, NH, is helping its New England customers with a $225,000 donation to the newly established Unitil Customer Assistance & Recovery Effort. Residential customers who have lost their jobs or had wages reduced may receive direct utility assistance under Community Action Programs. Unitil donated $150,000, with $75,000 directed to programs and agencies that aid first responders, as well as those that combat food shortages, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse.
Unitil, like most of its utility peers, also has suspended shutoff and collection activities until further notice, with late payment or nonpayment fees waived.
Delaware’s Chesapeake Utilities Corp. (CPK) donated $200,000 to response and relief organizations assisting communities affected by the pandemic and is providing a one-time grant from its nonprofit SHARING program to assist natural gas and propane customers on the Delmarva Peninsula.
“Our new Covid-19 SHARING grant helps customers facing financial hardships,” CPK CEO Jeff Householder said. “These donations will help support organizations such as Feeding America, United Way and The Salvation Army as they provide food assistance, financial resources and address short-term and long-term community needs.”
Houston-based Phillips 66 is not only contributing to aid in the United States, but stretching its benevolence overseas. It has contributed $3 million to Covid-19 relief efforts, with $1 million for the Greater Houston Covid-19 Recovery Fund, $500,000 to the Houston Food Bank and $1.5 million to support first responders, food banks, health care and other critical organizations.
The Houston Food Bank, serving 18 southeast Texas counties, is the largest hunger relief distribution organization in the massive energy job-rich region. Among other things, it is working to ensure that Houston Independent School District children who once relied on school breakfasts and lunches may receive meals.
Meanwhile, Detroit-based DTE Energy is providing $30-40 million in bill relief to its electric customers for June and July. DTE’s Personalized Service Protection program helps customers experiencing economic difficulties with deposit waivers, payment extensions, and flexible repayment options.
“We know that many Michiganders are experiencing hardships due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” DTE Electric President Trevor Lauer said. “That’s why we feel it is important to apply some relief for upcoming June and July bills to help ease some of the financial burdens being experienced by our customers and the communities we serve."
Sustaining Education, Communities
Making its mark in the coronavirus relief efforts, Duke Energy subsidiaries in Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina are each providing funds to K-12 education organizations through the Duke Energy Foundation, which is funded by shareholders.
The foundation is providing Florida communities with $1 million in education grants and Covid-19 initiatives. Twenty-two Florida-based organizations focused in energy, engineering, and environmental education initiatives are receiving funds from a $550,000 grant. The other $450,000 is being distributed to 50 organizations to address immediate social service and hunger relief needs. Duke Energy Florida also is ensuring service will not be disconnected from nonpayment, with late fees and returned payment fees waived.
Elsewhere, the Duke foundation is granting $382,000 to 23 Indiana K-12 programs focused on experiential learning, reading programs, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The organizations in 15 counties may reschedule programming due to the pandemic.
“These extraordinary education organizations are essential to the well-being and success of our state in these difficult times,” said Duke Energy’s Stan Pinegar, the Indiana subsidiary president. “We are grateful for the work they do to serve our communities, and recognize that flexibility in applying these funds is needed during this time of uncertainty.”
Meanwhile, 33 North Carolina K-12 programs received $810,000 from the Duke foundation including the Marbles Kids Museum, which relies on admission/ticket sales, memberships and events to fund some of the operating budget.
“Since Covid-19 forced us to close the museum to the public, we’ve had to reduce staff and delay major projects,” said museum CEO Sally Edwards said. Duke’s funding “helped us pivot to connect virtually with our community during closure and implement new sustainability practices to ensure we emerge from this crisis viable and ready to spark imagination, discovery and learning through play.”
Duke’s foundation also is directing $150,000 to the company’s Energy Neighborhood Fund and Share the Warmth programs to support about 600 North Carolina low-income households struggling to pay utility bills. In addition, it is directing more than $340,000 in grants to South Carolina K-12 education programs focused on experiential learning, STEM, and summer reading losses.
Meanwhile, The Brighter Future Fund of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) has donated $50,000 to eight different nonprofits to reduce hunger in the state. Fifteen counties, or 70% of the state’s population, are served by the food banks to which NMOGA donated. The fund is supported by NMOGA and the American Petroleum Institute.
Front Line Support
Some companies are putting their efforts toward providing personal protection equipment, or PPE and other necessary healthcare items.
Headquartered in West Whiteland Township, PA, Omega Flex Inc. is distributing its newly designed flexible medical gas tubing to New York City’s Central Park temporary field hospital. The medical gas tubing, MediTrac, may be installed five times faster than typical rigid copper gas pipe systems in new or renovated medical facilities, directly to a patient’s bedside, Omega said.
Eastman Chemical Co. has also been innovating its products to support the medical industry. Eastman joined hands with Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and Austin Peay State University to reach their goal of producing 10,000 face shields for medical personnel in Nashville.
Eastman and THEC are working with colleges and universities using their 3-D printers to produce the 10,000 face shields. Materials typically used for medical packaging can be 3-D printed into face shields.
“The Eastman team that made this happen has my thanks, and I find this work and numerous other efforts like it happening around the world to be inspiring,” said Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer Steve Crawford. “The need here is very real and life-changing. Health care workers are in dire need of help as they are on the front lines of battling Covid-19, and I’m proud to be part of an Eastman team that always steps up when help is needed.”
Con Edison Energy Co. (ConEd) also worked with its Bronx machine shop in New York City to manufacture face shields for Westchester County health-care workers and nursing homes. The company has already passed its goal of creating more than 40,000 face shields. The reusable face shields were manufactured in a multi-purpose machine shop in the Van Nest section of the Bronx.
“The folks working on this take great pride in it,” ConEd construction manager Nurrani Alli said. “The fight against coronavirus requires a collective effort with every one of us contributing. We’re happy to play a role by providing health-care workers with equipment they need to take care of us.”
ConEd has also shown its support through dedicating more than $300,000 to nonprofits feeding New Yorkers and $50,000 to the New York City Healthcare Heroes Fund to provide food, household cleaning, and personal care products for healthcare professionals. In addition, employees have contributed more than $100,000 to groups, with all donations matched by ConEd. Another $40,000-plus has gone to assist local police and fire departments, and the USO foundation.
ConEd crews also have run electricity lines to emergency hospitals in Central Park, the Westchester County Center, and a drive-through testing center in Coney Island.
Wisconsin’s WEC Energy Corp. subsidiary We Energies, as well as Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPS) are contributing $1 million through their charitable foundations. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Brown County United Way, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee have already received donations from We Energies and WPS.
"At a time like this, our commitment to the safety and welfare of our employees and the communities we serve has never been more critical," said WEC President Kevin Fletcher. "Our foundations have supported organizations serving our communities for decades. It is in that tradition that we are driven to support these vital services as they face unprecedented challenges."
One of the leading innovators in truck fleet business analytics, equipment foundation, and lifecycle management cost, Fleet Advantage, is donating $10,000 through its Kids Around the Corner to the First Responders Children’s Foundation. The children’s foundation provides financial support to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty and to families enduring significant financial hardships.
“Community involvement, charitable giving and support are a tenet of Fleet Advantage, and essential to bringing our communities together as we are all deeply affected by this virus,” Fleet Advantage CEO John Flynn said. “We want to show our greatest appreciation for First Responders who are risking their personal health and the health of their families to help others in need.”
Overseas efforts also are underway to help U.S. and global work during the pandemic.
Petrochemical giant Indorama Ventures Public Co. Ltd. (IVL), headquartered in Thailand, is manufacturing hand sanitizers and has provided 50 tons to government and public sectors across the United States. The process, headed by IVL’s Integrated Oxides and Derivative (IOD) branch, joined with experts in Australia, India and the United States.
“We are very proud of our teams, who have worked on a global platform, to rapidly bring these products to our local communities and front line workers, to help them fight the spread of this virus,” said IOD President Alastair Port.
IVL Chief Recycling Officer Yash Lohia said the company is “determined to support the medical staff who are carrying a huge workload during this Covid-19 outbreak. We have partnered with Thai Plaspac Public Co. Ltd., to donate 650,000 bottles of Yanhee Vitamin Water to public medical institutions and hospitals in Bangkok and vicinity...to support and thank medical personnel dealing with Covid-19 cases and patients.”
IVL and its subsidiaries also are providing aid across the globe to Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, India, Lithuania and Poland.