Long-standing errors showing up now

“How old are those pipes?” asks an Advocate story on June 12 about Alberta’s petroleum infrastructure.

“How old are those pipes?” asks an Advocate story on June 12 about Alberta’s petroleum infrastructure.

Five years ago, in February 2007, Dave Core, president of the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations, spoke on this question at meetings across the Prairies, with five stops in Alberta. These meetings were co-sponsored by the Alberta Surface Rights Group, Council of Canadians and some local landowner groups.

Among his points were those dealing with oil and gas pipelines half a century old and more in Alberta. He based his presentation on the experience of much earlier oil drilling and transport in Ontario, much of it around Sarnia, the major refinery and distribution centre.

Pipelines laid across Alberta accelerated during an era when landowners had little experience dealing with petroleum companies. Farm machinery was much smaller than today, weighed much less, and could cross pipeline that today would not stand up under the behemoths that cruise the fields.

Competing land uses were relatively simpler to deal with. Pipeline issues were largely obscured by access rental fees paid to landowners, creating a false sense of security and money in pocket, while leaving huge liability responsibilities to a distant future. That future is now here.

The recent pipeline spills near Sundre, Innisfail (a fracking misadventure) and in Northern Alberta illustrate how little oversight is provided by the Alberta government, the Energy Utilities Board, the Energy Resources Conservation Board or Alberta Environment. Petro-corporations bask in an atmosphere of self-regulation, using rules that range from weak to non-existent.

So Mountain View County Reeve Bruce Beattie is right to ask why the Sundre pipe failed. Maybe it’s pipeline age, but lack of effective rules, monitoring and enforcement also played their roles.

Derrick Callan

Council of Canadians, Red Deer and Area

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