An independent review into the safety of Alberta’s pipeline network delivered an “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand” finding.
The 900-page government-commissioned audit and conducted by Group 10 Engineering said Alberta passed judgment more on safety regulations rather than actual pipeline safety, it said the province needs to step up its requirements for the inspection of high-risk pipelines and close gaps in rules that allow spills into rivers and lakes.
However, it rated Alberta’s overall pipeline regulatory regime as the most thorough of the jurisdictions it assessed, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alaska and Texas, said that the province has “become a leader in establishing best practices to manage the industry appropriately.”
It also said that while all of the examined jurisdictions conform to pipeline requirements established by the Canadian Standards Association, there is “no one size fits all” approach to ensure pipeline safety.
Hughes: ‘Safe system in place’Energy Minister Ken Hughes said the findings assure Albertans “we have a safe system in place, but it’s important that we not rest on our laurels. As leaders in energy production and regulation, we will make every effort to ensure Alberta’s pipeline safety standards continue to be among the best in the world.”
The degree of faith did not sit well with opposition parties in the Alberta legislature, First Nations, environmental groups and others who forced the government to embark on a review of Alberta’s 250,000 miles of pipelines after a series of high-profile leaks last year by Enbridge, Plains Midstream Canada and Pace Oil & Gas.
Differing viewsRachel Notley, a member of the legislature representing the New Democratic Party, was far from satisfied with the report’s 17 recommendations.
“This report (which cost C$450,000) was supposed to be one that would assure Albertans that our pipeline system is safe. It doesn’t do that. It didn’t ask the right questions.”
She said the NDP will now press Alberta’s auditor general to start his own comprehensive review of safety.
Kent Hehr, energy spokesman for the Liberal Party, said the report underscores his view that Alberta is often its own worst enemy. “We haven’t done enough on this file,” he said.
The recommendations now go to the Alberta Energy Regulator (formerly the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board), which controls oil, natural gas and coal development in the province.
Hughes, who said “there’s no question that our reputation is on the line every single day,” has now called for a 45-day comment period on the report.
David Pryce, vice president of operations at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the report should add to public confidence by identifying that the regulatory system is strong.
Report recommendationsAmong the recommendations covering public safety and the response to pipeline incidents, the report called for:
•A stakeholder education and awareness program targeted at right-of-way encroachment and reaction to emergencies.
•Extension of Alberta’s mandatory “Call Before You Dig” program across Canada.
•Increased AER participation in stakeholder emergency response exercises.
On pipeline integrity management, the report proposed:
•A standardized pipeline risk ranking across Canada.
•Routine audit integrity management programs for all companies.
•Requirements for inspection/testing in high risk areas.
•Personnel certification programs in pipeline safety.
•Performance based regulation.
•A review of staffing levels associated with pipeline safety.
•Clean goals to manage pipeline failure rates to as low as is reasonably practical.
•Harmonization with other regulators.
•Education for the industry and public on pipeline accidents.