Alberta to audit pipeline monitoring system
A coalition of groups calling for a probe of Alberta’s pipeline system were all set to install a billboard to turn the heat up on the government when they got good news.
Opposition parties went public later Thursday morning with a letter from auditor general Merwan Saher committing to an audit of the government’s monitoring systems to ensure compliance with pipeline regulations.
Inspection and enforcement measures will also be included in the probe, which has no timetable.
Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Action Group, believes the auditor general got the message of how unhappy many Albertans were with the government’s report on pipeline released the previous month.
“After waiting that long and seeing that kind of report was astonishing to say the least,” said Bester of the 900-page document, which mostly summarized existing regulations but did not look at the pipeline system’s condition or specifically look at recent high-profile spills.
Bester believes pressure from the media and the coalition of more than 50 landowner, environmental, First Nations and labour groups spurred the auditor general to act.
Opposition parties have also demanded action, including the NDP which began calling for a pipeline audit last year.
“I think the auditor general has recognized that fact that this (report) doesn’t satisfy a pipeline safety review.”
He is optimistic the new report will prove to be the in-depth review that many are seeking, and the coalition intends to keep up their scrutiny to try to ensure the right questions are asked and answered.
“I think we have to be saying we’ve got all the faith in the world he will do a proper job. And I think he will, in my mind.
“He seems to be able to stand up (to the government).
Whether the auditor general will be left alone by the government to do his job though may be in question, he said.
Greenpeace’s Mike Hudema was pleased to see that the auditor general plans to step in.
“My initial comment is it’s a good victory that really shows the power that happens when landowners and environmentalists and First Nations all work together.
“It shows that the review that the province did was completely inadequate,” said Hudema from Edmonton
“And we hope that now that the auditor general has picked up the gauntlet we’ll actually get a comprehensive review of pipeline safety that will give us some answers about the many problems that Alberta’s pipeline system is facing.”
He remains optimistic that the review will deliver the goods.
He notes a similar auditor general review was completed in Saskatchewan a few years ago and identified a number of deficiencies.
The auditor general is an independent officer of the legislature, like Alberta’s privacy commissioner, chief electoral officer, ethics commissioner and ombudsman.