Pipeline safety report slammed

Critics are panning Alberta’s new pipeline safety report for failing to provide any in-depth analysis.

Critics are panning Alberta’s new pipeline safety report for failing to provide any in-depth analysis.

“It does not go far enough. It does not talk about the spills that we had. It does not talk about how we could have avoided them. It does not talk about the state of what our pipelines are in currently,” said Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle on Monday.

“It could have been a much better use of taxpayer dollars had it gone where it was suppose to go,” the Wildrose MLA said of the $455,000 report by Group 10 Engineering released on Friday.

The province commissioned the report last summer after a string of oil spills, including a 3,000-barrel spill from a Plains Midstream Canada’s Range pipeline that contaminated the Red Deer River system last year.

Crude leaked into the rain-swollen Red Deer River near Sundre and made its way to Gleniffer Lake west of Innisfail in June 2012.

Towle said everyone — the public, industry and environmentalists — want pipelines to transport oil in the safest manner possible and the report did not provide the direction to make that happen.

Companies that are managing their pipelines in a safe manner should have been given credit and if there are companies that need to be identified as needing help, they should be helped, she said.

“Why wouldn’t we take the opportunity to acknowledge what is going right, areas of weakness, and what we could improve? I don’t believe that industry as a whole wanted a whitewash of the report.”

The province proclaimed the independent review confirmed that Alberta leads in pipeline safety and provides the most thorough overall pipeline regulatory regime of all assessed jurisdictions.

The review had 17 recommendations to further improve safety.

Unsatisfied with the report, the NDP will ask Alberta’s auditor general to launch his own comprehensive review of pipeline safety.

Only industry players were consulted in the creation of the report. Environmental organizations and other public interest groups were excluded.

Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner, said with the frequency of pipeline spills in Alberta, the province has “no legs to stand on to claim that it’s a good jurisdiction.”

“Alberta averages almost two crude oil spills every single day. That is a pretty shocking statistic,” Hudema said.

A lot of people will be disappointed in the report, he said, because Albertans wanted a comprehensive examination of the current pipeline problems and solutions.

“Instead ,what they got was a report that really just looked at regulations on paper. It didn’t actually look at any pipeline incidents at all. It didn’t look at enforcement. It’s like trying to bring crime down by just looking at the Criminal Code of Canada and not looking at whether those laws actually prevent crimes from happening or looking at specific incidents.”

He said a recent study by Peter Lee and Kevin Timoney of Global Forest Watch found less than one per cent of violations at oilsands operations resulted in any kind of fine, sanction or charge from the regulator.

“If that same track record holds true for pipeline companies when they violate Alberta laws or when they have spills they could have prevented, it doesn’t matter how good your regulations are if you don’t enforce them.”

It would take decades, if not a century, to inspect every pipeline at the current rate of inspections, Hudema said.

“I don’t think any landowner feels very safe knowing that the pipeline crossing their property might not get inspected again for the next 100 years. So there is a huge number of flaws with our system that we know weren’t addressed at all in this report.”

The public will be given 45 days to comment on the report.

Hudema said that’s simply ludicrous.

“The Alberta government had over eight months to look at this report and the reason why they held it back from the public was because the report was quite technical. They needed more time to digest it.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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