By Gaétan Caron
Pipeline safety is and always has been of paramount concern to the National Energy Board and we recognize it is of growing concern to Canadians. Given recent events, it is important that Canadians understand how we hold companies accountable for public safety and protection of the environment and take swift and appropriate action when they do not.
The Board takes a proactive approach to preventing spills and releases, with the ultimate goal of seeing none at all. We require pipeline companies to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate potentially dangerous conditions associated with their pipelines.
To do this, we conduct compliance verification activities which include things such as inspections, compliance meetings, emergency exercises, audits and investigations on a regular basis with all companies we regulate. In the specific case of Enbridge, in recent years the NEB has conducted approximately 25 compliance verification activities per year, focusing on every aspect of their management system. In addition, the NEB imposed two precautionary pressure restrictions on Enbridge pipelines, one in 2010 and another in 2011, which remain in effect.
When the NEB identifies deficiencies in a company’s systems, projects or programs, we require the company to immediately implement changes to correct those deficiencies or to develop a corrective action plan for NEB approval. It is important to note that we aim to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place and we will take all available actions at our disposal to protect the environment and the public. The NEB may revoke authorizations, impose safety orders that restrict operations, issue stop-work orders and monetary penalties as well as pursue criminal prosecution.
The NEB has also reviewed the synopsis of the National Transportation Safety Board’s report on Enbridge’s Line 6B rupture in Michigan in 2010 to see what we can learn in the interests of public safety and environmental protection. A thorough review of the final report will be conducted in order to identify all lessons that may be applied to pipelines and companies under the Board’s jurisdiction, however even prior to the release of the final report, we have been reviewing Enbridge’s management practices. In the next weeks and months, we will be conducting safety audits to review and confirm that improvements, particularly to their control room practices in Edmonton, are satisfactory.
With the recent passing of the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act (formerly known as Bill C-38), the Government of Canada will be adding another tool to our compliance and enforcement toolkit: administrative monetary penalties (AMPs). The new AMP sections in the NEB Act set out the maximum daily penalties for both individuals and companies. For individuals the maximum daily penalty is $25,000 for each violation and for companies the maximum daily penalty is $100,000 per violation.
The Act stipulates that each day a violation continues is considered to be a separate violation. This means that separate penalties could be issued per infraction, per day with no maximum total financial penalty.
Some of the details of the AMPs design are described in the government amendments to the NEB Act, but other details, such as what activities will be considered violations, will be written in a new regulation. We have committed to have these new regulations ready to use by July 6, 2013.
Finally, it is important for Canadians to know that the NEB makes enforcement measures taken against companies available to the public so that they know what actions the Board is taking to protect Canadians and the environment. As a part of our Action Plan on Safety and Environmental Protection, we began posting all documents related to Board-initiated safety and environmental compliance actions to our website in fall of 2011.
The Board is committed to continually improving the way we do business and we welcome any opportunity that allows us to do so in the interests of pipeline safety and environmental protection.
Gaétan Caron is Chair and CEO of the National Energy Board of Canada.