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Enbridge failing to abide safety standards at 117 pump stations: regulator

The National Energy Board has warned Enbridge that it is not abiding by federal safety standards at 117 pumping stations along its extensive crude oil network in Canada, putting the safety of the public at risk.  

A 2011 federal inspection of the Edmonton, Westover and Sarnia pipeline terminals and at the Westover and Terrebonne pump stations found that Enbridge didn't have proper emergency shut-down systems or emergency back-up power in the event of a rupture or accident.

The company, one of Canada's most active lobbyists in Ottawa, responded by giving the federal pipeline regulator an "assurance of voluntary compliance" that it would address the issue by October 2012.

But in October 2012 an inspection of the Enbridge Bakken pipeline construction project found the company breaking the same federal safety rules again.  

At that point the company sent a letter to the NEB indicating that it needed more time to develop a corrective action plan because safety violations existed at 117 pump stations across the country.

(Pump stations provide the power needed to move various kinds of hazardous liquids through pipelines.)

According to a March 15 notice filed by NEB, Enbridge said "that further study was required to complete operability and process hazard analysis to ensure that the implementation of any given solution will not result in residual risks that could compromise the safety and integrity of the pipeline systems nor the public or the environment."

Although the NEB has the power and authority to fine pipeline companies breaking safety laws, it has not exercised that responsibility. It won't have a system to fine pipeline companies persistently breaking the law until July 2013.

Enbridge, which is proposing the controversial Northern Gateway project to the port of Kitimat, claims that it is recognized as "an industry leader in pipeline safety and integrity."

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, however, rebuked the company for a "culture of deviance" on pipeline safety after a 2010 pipeline rupture resulted in the largest onshore spill in U.S. history in Michigan. The 20,000 barrel disaster contaminated the Kalamazoo river with diluted bitumen and cost $1 billion to clean up.

An industry source said the massive number of safety violations at Enbridge's pump stations were but a "manifestation of the culture of deviance documented by the NTSB. An ineffective regulator such as the NEB allows engineers to feel entitled to violate regulations."

Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk is both an Alberta landowner and a reporter. Find his previous Tyee articles here.

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