Engagement with stakeholders is one way we demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability. Effective collaboration with groups whose interests intersect with ours provides opportunities for understanding diverse perspectives and priorities and aligning our decisions with the needs and expectations of stakeholders.
Strategic partnerships with industry, governments, academia and NGOs are crucial to advancing innovative, sustainable solutions to the many energy-related challenges we face.
Following are a few examples of partnerships grounded in a shared commitment to sustainability and responsible citizenship. These partnerships illustrate the importance of collaboration and the value of bringing together diverse organizational skills and perspectives to address complex sustainability and citizenship challenges.
In 2011, we joined the Energy Sustainability Interest Group sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an independent, nonprofit center for energy and environmental research. This network of energy-industry companies meets regularly to identify and exchange best practices and emerging sustainability issues and indicators. Some of the topics addressed by the interest group include water resource management, sustainable supply chain and renewable energy impacts on ecosystems, species and human health.
Dominion's award-winning Project Plant It! links company resources with the educational community to offer elementary school students valuable hands-on ecology lessons about the value of trees in the natural world. Timed to coincide with National Arbor Day, the program provides schools with customized lesson plans, materials and blue spruce seedlings for children to plant at home. In 2011, more than 27,000 students in seven states participated in the popular project.
For the past 16 years, Dominion East Ohio (DEO), our natural gas distribution company, has teamed with Inside Business Magazine to sponsor the Community Impact Awards program in northeastern Ohio. This annual awards competition recognizes nonprofit organizations that have made major contributions to the economic and social revitalization of their cities and communities. Examples include local farmers markets, minority business services and historic preservation groups. In 2011, DEO awarded $100,000 to 12 groups located in Ohio. Since 1996, the company has provided more than $1 million in Community Impact Awards.
In 2011, we joined the Environmental Protection Agency's voluntary Natural Gas STAR program to improve operating efficiencies and reduce methane emissions in our natural gas businesses. Methane is a primary component of natural gas and a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Working with EPA and other partner companies, we are documenting our emission reduction activities and evaluating ways to reduce methane emissions through innovative technology applications and practices.