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Pipeline safety: regulators spar, but public gets no enforcement data

The National Energy Board has responded strongly to recommendations on pipeline safety by the Alberta Pipeline Safety Review. The National Energy Board argues, defensively, that it is already ahead of the game, even as environmental groups savage the Alberta report as a whitewash.

According to the National Energy Board, “the NEB, as the regulator responsible for pipeline safety across Canada, already has in place a regulatory framework that reflects the essence of the recommendations made by Group 10. In noting the recommendations, the Board has identified some information in the [Alberta] report that could be potentially misleading and we would like to clarify some points about NEB regulations.” See NEB.

Entertaining as it is to see federal and provincial regulators criticizing each other in public, Ecojustice has pointed out that both regulators are focusing on what their regulations say. Neither has put forward good data on how much, if at all, their regulations are actually enforced, or on key environmental questions, such as: “What is the root cause of the significant pipeline leaks?” or “What is the condition of the aging pipeline system?”

The Alberta report was issued in consultation with industry, but excluding all public interest and environmental groups. They will now have an opportunity to comment, but without data on enforcement and causation of leaks. The NEB is promising to “release its definition of safety culture including the identification of attributes and indicators for public consultation in October of this year – this will address one of the key recommendations in the Senate Committee report” on on Moving Energy Safely: A Study of the Safe Transport of Hydrocarbons by Pipelines, Tankers and Railcars in Canada.

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