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Energy East pipeline company found non-compliant in safety audit

Stop Energy EastA National Energy Board audit of TransCanada – the company behind the proposed 1.1 million barrels per day Energy East pipeline and the 830,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline – has found that the company is non-compliant in four areas:

1- Hazard identification, risk assessment and control

“TransCanada developed a new management program for high pressure piping in gas facilities. This new program has been assessed and is adequate in terms of its content, but has not yet been fully implemented throughout all of TransCanada’s facilities.”

2- Operational control in upset or abnormal operating condition

“The Board has determined the NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd (NGTL) system is not conducting sufficient inspections or audits of its customer installations to ensure that the system is operated in compliance with the OPR-99 and CSA-Z662-11 requirements.”

3- Inspection, measurement and monitoring

“TransCanada’s inability to produce sufficient evidence proving the adequacy of its ongoing integrity management programs for corrosion on unpiggable sections of the NGTL system;

and background descriptions for the facility pipe inspection program that were too generic and did not provide the level of specificity required for adequate, effective and consistent implementation.”

4- Management review

“Some of the non-compliances identified during the audit, such as insufficient overpressure protection and management of hazards associated with external corrosion, illustrate the results of a management review process that was not entirely effective.”

The National Energy Board cited TransCanada for an “over-reliance on lagging indicators; inadequate consideration of NEB safety advisories notifying where hazardous conditions existed and regulatory requirements were not being met; and ineffective implementation of internal practices to address the complainant’s issues prior to board notification.”

Audit prompted by whistleblower

The Canadian Press reports, “The NEB had scheduled an audit on TransCanada’s integrity management programs to begin last spring, but decided to move on it sooner after a then-employee of TransCanada came forward with allegations of safety lapses.”

In June 2013, the Huffington Post explained in greater detail that, “Former TransCanada Corp. employee Evan Vokes’ impassioned testimony before a Canadian Senate committee last week painted ‘a very, very bleak picture of the pipeline industry in Canada… Vokes’ allegations against TransCanada were sobering: a ‘culture of noncompliance’ and ‘coercion’, with ‘deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes’ and carries ’significant public safety risks’.”

That article also noted, “Vokes worked for TransCanada for five years until May 2012, when he said he was fired without cause. …He provided the Canada Senate with evidence supporting complaints of what he said were shoddy safety practices, including management pressure to retract a welding code violation on a natural gas line feeding a tar sands project in Alberta, and the use of ’substandard materials’ in the original Keystone pipeline that carried the heavy, molasses-like oil into U.S. Midwest markets.”

National Energy Board unrepresentative

It should be noted too that the National Energy Board is a weak, non-representative board that most often rubber-stamps major energy projects, which could explain the somewhat timid rebuke of this report.

The Globe and Mail reported in July 2010 that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is relying for advice on the National Energy Board, many of whose board members come straight from the energy sector. …There are no environmentalists or northern residents represented on the National Energy Board. …Several current NEB members worked in the industry before their appointments, or with Alberta provincial regulators that have green-lighted resource projects.”

And the Montreal Gazette has noted, “Since the Conservatives took power in February 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet has made 25 appointments to the boards of the National Energy Board and the two federal-provincial agencies that regulate drilling off the East Coast… Most of the individuals appointed by the Harper government to the agencies that oversee offshore-petroleum drilling in Canada are former industry insiders or government officials with no stated experience in environmental issues.”

What’s at risk?

Much can be said here given the 4,400-kilometre length of the proposed pipeline. But as Matt Abbott and Stephanie Merrill have commented, “In New Brunswick, we have a long way to go in coming to terms with the risks as the 400 kilometres of new pipeline is proposed to cross 195 waterways, provincially significant wetlands, 3 Natural Protected areas, a number of municipal aquifers and unceded Wabanakai territory.”

Watershed concerns have also been noted in numerous communities along the route of the pipeline.

Taking action

From April 7-16, the Council of Canadians, with local partners, will be visiting six communities across Ontario to talk about the Energy East pipeline. The tour will feature Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation, a local speaker, and a video presentation about the diluted bitumen pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Tour dates

April 7 – Kenora

April 9 – Thunder Bay

April 12 – North Bay

April 13 – Ottawa

April 15 – Kemptville

April 16 – Cornwall

The admission to these events is free. To RSVP on Facebook please click here.