Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Keystone proponent found 'non-compliant' again

The Calgary proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has spent millions telling North Americans that "pipelines work," continues to break federal pipeline laws, says the national regulator.

A comprehensive 2013 audit that looked at the company's take on public safety, emergency management, public awareness, pipeline crossings, and environmental protection reported nearly two dozen examples of non-compliance this week.

The audit again confirms allegations made by former TransCanada employee Evan Vokes that the firm supported a "culture of non-compliance."

Major instances of non-compliance were highlighted in five categories. Pipeline companies, for example, must have in place a crossing program so that they can prevent "unintended damage" and problems when third parties dig around pipelines.

But the audit found that TransCanada's program, which oversees 42,000 kilometres of pipelines, was weak and often non-compliant.

The board noted, for example "that TransCanada's Crossings Program does not have developed goals, objectives and specific targets relevant to its hazards and risks at the Program level."

Furthermore, TransCanada "did not demonstrate that it has an established, implemented and effective process for identifying and monitoring compliance with all legal requirements that are applicable to the company in matters of safety, security and protection of the environment."

Nor was the company conducting adequate aerial patrols.

According to the audit, the Keystone proponent didn't have one senior executive "accountable" for following and respecting Canada's Onshore Pipeline Regulations until 2013.

That reform happened after whistleblower Vokes, a materials engineer with the company, raised multiple concerns with company executives about the company's safety practices several years ago.

When they failed to act, Vokes took his concerns to the regulator. Shortly afterwards, the company dismissed the expert on pipeline-welding practices without cause in 2012.   

The complaint lodged by Vokes against his employer claimed the company routinely cut corners, let business decisions undermine engineering practices, and did not uphold the law governing pipeline safety, such as Onshore Pipeline Regulations.

The board confirmed many of these practices and noted "that a number of the allegations of regulatory non-compliance were identified and addressed by TransCanada only after the complainant's allegations were made and were not proactively identified by the company's management system."

A recent Toronto Star report found that newly-released company records show that TransCanada managers were dismissive of employees who raised concerns about public safety.

On all five categories examined in audits released this week, the regulator found that the company did not have a program to protect whistleblowers who identified systemic problems or managerial failings.

"It is not clear from TransCanada's Code of Business Ethics that TransCanada staff who report hazards, potential hazards, incidents and near-misses would be granted immunity from disciplinary action as required by the board's expectations."

The board found that TransCanada's preparation for emergencies was also non-compliant on a number of issues.

For example, the company "was unable to demonstrate a documented and comprehensive management review process of the Emergency Management Program describing activities for adequately and effectively undertaking management reviews on a consistent basis and for ensuring continual improvement."

On all five audited components, the board found that company did not have a process for managing changes in regulations, technologies or operating environments.

In terms of environmental protection, "TransCanada did not demonstrate that it has established and implemented a process for identifying and managing change that could affect safety, security or protection of the environment, including new hazards or risks, changes in design, specifications, standards or procedures, and change in the company's organizational structure or the legal requirements."

In all fields, audited TransCanada lacked a "documented, established and implemented processes that correspond with the Management System requirements as required by the Onshore Pipeline Regulations."

An earlier audit, released February, found that the company was non-compliant on issues designed to prevent and predict pipeline failures, including hazard identification, risk assessment, operational control-upset, inspection and management review.

Despite several TransCanada pipeline incidents over the last two years, the regulator, which is 90 per cent funded by company levies, says "no enforcement actions are immediately required to address these non-compliant findings."

The company has 30 days to produce what the regulator calls a corrective action plan.

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus