NEB responds to Équiterre pipeline report

Montréal, July 10, 2018

Steven Guilbeault
Cofounder and senior director
Centre for Sustainable Development
50 Ste-Catherine St. West, suite 340
Montréal, Québec
H2X 3V4

Dear Mr. Guilbeault:

Last month, Équiterre released a report entitled Oil Pipeline Safety Failures in Canada, which was your organization’s examination of the safety track record of oil pipelines in Canada – with a focus on Québec – and your organization’s views on the effectiveness of federal enforcement measures regarding pipeline safety.

The National Energy Board welcomes scrutiny of its work. We owe it to Canadians to provide accurate and relevant information about the pipelines we regulate. Following our review of Équiterre’s report, we felt it important to address a few of the inaccuracies contained within the document – outlined below – and follow up with your organization on this important matter.

  1. Your report stated that since 2008, “...55% of (pipeline) incidents in Québec…occurred in 2017 alone.”

    That statement is incorrect. The actual percentage of pipeline incidents in 2017 is less than one-third that number. If Équiterre had checked its research with the NEB, it would have been informed that most of the events Équiterre reported as occurring in 2017, actually happened in previous years. This is driven by the NEB’s recent efforts to tighten reporting requirements for pipeline incidents.
  2. The report stated that, “…there have been zero Inspection Officer Orders since 2012 and zero Administrative Monetary Penalties at the federal level.”

    Since 2012, the National Energy Board has issued 19 monetary penalties and 27 Inspector Officer Orders on pipeline companies that have not adhered to the NEB’s high regulatory standards.
  3. Your report incorrectly implies that only SCADA technologies are used to detect pipeline incidents and spills in Canada.

    This is not the case, SCADA technologies are only used to detect certain types of events, and this is why the NEB requires pipeline operators to have comprehensive and overlapping systems in place to detect leaks, and to conduct regular visual and aerial inspections.

Where we both agree is that one pipeline leak or incident is one too many. Our job as Canada’s pipeline regulator is to ensure that companies take all necessary steps to prevent harm to people and the environment. The NEB’s dedicated staff regularly conduct pipeline inspections and monitor the activities of companies to ensure they are complying with our stringent rules and regulations. We note that there were no oil pipeline spills from NEB-regulated pipelines in 2017; the last recorded spill in Québec from an NEB-regulated pipeline was in 2011.

We would be pleased to meet with you and your team to discuss the report, share information about pipeline safety, and work towards building an open and positive relationship.

In addition, very soon the NEB will release its 2017/18 Performance Summary and Annual Report and we would be pleased to discuss that document with you as well. This Report will raise awareness about the NEB’s priorities, the progress we have made in accomplishing our goals, and identifies areas for our improvement as well as the direction we have established.

The NEB is committed to accuracy and transparency in all of the data we publish on pipeline safety, this includes inspection reports and audits, incident data, and a safety and environmental dashboard. Helping ensure that Canadians are accurately informed about energy issues is critical for us all, and the NEB is committed to providing correct and relevant information about the pipelines we regulate.

Yours truly,

Marc-Andre Plouffe

Montréal Regional Office
National Energy Board
505 De Maisonneuve Blvd., West, Suite 230
Montreal, Québec
H3A 3C2

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