Reporting Unauthorized Activities
- How the model works
- Regulatory instruments
- Reporting on Enforcement
- Contact Information
Most pipelines are buried, so unauthorized excavation and construction activity near those pipelines has the potential to cause unintended damage. To protect the safety of people and the environment, there are rules to follow when working near pipelines, and everyone has a role to play.
Pipeline Companies: Are responsible for informing the public about how to work safely around pipelines.
The Public: Is responsible for following the safety laws and requirements when working around pipelines.
The Regulator: The National Energy Board (NEB) is responsible for promoting and encouraging improvements in safe work practices around pipelines. The NEB promotes education and awareness as the primary tools for safe practices around pipelines.
One way to improve safety is to take a closer look at unauthorized activities (UAs) to identify if lessons can be learned and improvements can be made to prevent a recurrence.
In order to determine where safety improvements may be required, the NEB has developed a more consistent approach for addressing unsafe work around pipelines.
The NEB’s response to reports of unauthorized activities will:
- continue to use education and awareness as the primary tools to address unauthorized activities;
- use formal regulatory instruments, when required, for the sake of public safety and environmental protection;
- allow all parties involved in NEB unauthorized activity assessments the opportunity to participate and have their information on the record;
- hold persons and / or companies accountable for safety by addressing underlying causes of unauthorized activities to prevent future unsafe work around pipelines;
- provide a consistent and effective response to reports of unauthorized activities; and
- encourage parties to learn from unauthorized activities and address gaps to prevent events that could put people and the environment at risk.
How the NEB enforcement model works
Step I - Report the unauthorized activity
The National Energy Board Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Obligations of Pipeline Companies, s.11(1) directs all NEB-regulated pipeline companies to report:
- every contravention of the National Energy Board Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Authorizations;
- all damage to its pipe caused or identified during the construction of a facility across, on, along or under a pipeline, the operation, maintenance or removal of a facility, an activity that caused a ground disturbance within the prescribed area or the operation of vehicles or mobile equipment across the pipeline; and
- any activity related to the construction of a facility across, on, along or under a pipeline, an activity that caused a ground disturbance within the prescribed area or the operation of vehicles or mobile equipment across a pipeline that the pipeline company considers could impair the safety or security of the pipe.
Step A - Regulated companies should notify the NEB of the unauthorized activity using the online event reporting system (OERS) to submit the preliminary unauthorized activity report immediately or within 24 hours of discovery.
Step B - The regulated pipeline company is required to submit a final report in OERS for each unauthorized activity near a NEB-regulated pipeline within 30 days of submitting the preliminary UA report.
Please note: Regulated companies are reminded that if they become aware of a hazard to the safety or security of the public or the environment, they must notify the NEB as soon as possible by calling the NEB Incident phone at 403-807-9473.
For the public: If you are concerned that there is unauthorized excavation work taking place on a right of way near you, please contact the pipeline company.
Step II - Classify the unauthorized activity
The NEB will use the criteria below to determine the severity of the unauthorized activity and the appropriate response.
NEB response 3m–30m within the prescribed area
- No immediate hazard exists; and
- Within the prescribed area but more than 3 metres from the physical pipe
NEB response 0m–3m within the prescribed area
- A hazard exists; or
- Within 3 metres of the pipe; or
- Willful contravention of regulations
- Repeated unauthorized activities
LEVEL 1 UNAUTHORIZED ACTIVITY 3–30 metres from the pipe
- NO immediate hazard exists
- Ground disturbance activity within the 30 metre prescribed area (safety zone)
- More than 3 metres from the pipe
- Construction/installation of a facility in the 30 metre prescribed area (safety zone)
- If a party is a repeat offender, the offense will be categorized as high risk in order to identify and resolve underlying issues
LEVEL 2 – HIGH RISK UNAUTHORIZED ACTIVITY 0– 3 metres from the pipe
- An immediate hazard exists
- Within 3 metres of the physical pipe
- Within the right of way
- Unauthorized contact with physical pipe;
- Willful contravention of regulations or Orders
- If a pipeline strike is found to have third party elements, it may be addressed with the Damage Prevention Compliance Enforcement process.
Failure to comply with regulations (and company instructions) when working on right of way
Step III - Communication with interested Parties
For all reported unauthorized activities, the NEB will notify all parties involved by letter or email within 10 business days of receiving the full report and will provide the interested persons with information on safe work practices around pipelines.
Step IV - Assessment of level 2 high-risk unauthorized activities
When an unauthorized activity is classified as level 2 high risk, the NEB may conduct an assessment that will begin with the issuing of a letter to all parties involved requesting information related to the event. During the assessment, the NEB will review all relevant information submitted by interested persons, will determine the underlying cause(s) of the event, and will identify what needs to be done to prevent a recurrence. Typical information to submit includes:
- completed UA report;
- emails exchanged regarding the event;
- photos, maps;
- documentation related to the event;
- site instructions provided (if issued); and
- statement to be taken by phone.
Within 21 business days from the last day of the information review, the NEB will notify all parties involved of the results of its assessment.
The NEB will follow up with parties involved to verify that all prescribed actions resulting from the assessment are addressed.
There are a range of possible responses to unauthorized activities. For example, the Board may seek a voluntary commitment to undertake corrective measures. The Board may also issue a Board or Inspection Officer Order to address certain issues that were deemed deficient. Follow-up may include written submissions, meetings, or site visits. For each situation, the NEB will carefully consider what, if any, form of regulatory instrument to apply, depending on what is considered to be the most appropriate way to address underlying causes and to promote safety.
The NEB’s approach to enforcing regulatory requirements under its mandate is based on the principle of a compliance and enforcement continuum, which includes ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, and escalating matters of non-compliance for appropriate action when required.
Where non-compliance occurs, the NEB will take necessary compliance and enforcement action to bring companies back into compliance, and/or deter any future non-compliance based on a graduated enforcement model. The Enforcement Policy also provides guidance to NEB staff, industry and the public on guiding principles, processes and tools supporting all NEB enforcement actions.
To learn more, see the NEB’s Enforcement Policy.
Reporting on Enforcement
The NEB will publish:
- the number of unauthorized activities reported and the provinces where they occurred;
- the number of level 2 high-risk unauthorized activities; and
- the number and types of regulatory instruments issued.
For more information, email request to DPInfo@neb-one.gc.ca or by mail to the NEB at:
Suite 210, 517 Tenth Avenue SW
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