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Win! Alberta Auditor General announces pipeline review

A network of more than 50 organizations from across the political spectrum in Alberta scored a major victory this week with the announcement from Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher that his office would “as soon as reasonably possible” begin an audit of the safety of Alberta’s 400,000 km of pipeline infrastructure. In a letter sent to the NDP Opposition confirming the audit, Saher wrote, “we will be auditing the government’s monitoring systems to ensure compliance with Alberta’s pipeline regulations. Our audit would also include inspection and enforcement processes.”

The announcement of the Auditor General’s investigation into pipeline safety is a major victory for the network of groups in the province, including the Council of Canadians, that has been pushing for an independent review of pipeline safety since a series of spills last summer, including a Plains Midstream spill of 475,000 litres of light sour crude into the Red Deer River system, brought the issue of pipeline safety to public attention.

When spills first occurred, Alberta Premier Alison Redford refused to commit to a review, but under pressure, including an open letter signed by 54 organizations which called for “an immediate independent province-wide review of pipeline safety in Alberta, similar to the one which was recently conducted for the Auditor General of Saskatchewan’s 2012 report,” the province announced it would look into the province’s pipelines.

The government process, however, came under immediate criticism for its limited scope and the involvement of the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), which many critics compared to sending the fox to look at hen house security.

These critiques were justified when, after sitting on the report for more than eight months, the Alberta government released a report which failed to look at pipeline incidents, enforcement or include input from any of the groups that had pushed for the review. The groups called the report a “failure” and renewed calls for the Auditor General to conduct a more thorough and independent review to answer Albertans concerns about pipeline safety.

The September 9 letter confirming the Auditor General is a major victory for the public, one that came about only after more than a year of sustained grassroots pressure.