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Evan Vokes, subject of Tyee series, central to CBC investigative reports on TransCanada pipeline safety

Evan Vokes, the former TransCanada employee that helped the Tyee investigate rising pipeline incidents and regulatory non-compliance in the industry, is now the subject of a major CBC series investigating the performance of TransCanada Pipelines.

The Tyee series, which investigated other companies in the industry, sparked widespread debate throughout the country (and among engineers) about the scale of non-compliance among pipeline builders, Enbridge's poor safety record and the quality of regulatory enforcement for Canada's booming pipeline industry.

Last week the National Energy Board confirmed that it had investigated and verified Evan Vokes' allegations of regulatory non-compliance against TransCanada, the controversial proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The NEB, which regulates some 70,000 kilometres worth of interprovincial pipelines, said TransCanada is now taking "remediation measures" to uphold the law on pipeline safety.

"With respect to these remediation measures, the Board is conducting further compliance verification activities, including a focused audit and inspections to evaluate adequacy of the measures, identify any potential non-compliance in TransCanada's Integrity Management Program, and determine any corrective actions that may be required."

The Board, which until recently didn't post infractions, safety orders or even have a system to impose financial penalties for noncompliance, says that "is concerned by TransCanada's non-compliance with NEB regulations, as well as its own internal management systems and procedures."

The Board's laissez faire approach and lax enforcement record may partly explain why two of Canada's biggest pipeline companies are now embroiled in heated public battles as well as confirmed safety violations on both sides of the border.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board reported in 2011 165 pipeline incidents across the country. That's a significant increase from 145 incidents in 2010 and the five-year average of 95.

-Andrew Nikiforuk reports for The Tyee and other publications on energy issues.

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