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AB engineers group wants 'dialogue about how pipeline safety is managed'

The Tyee asked the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta, a professional body representing more than 60,000 engineers, specific questions about the rising incidence of pipeline incidents and complaints about industry practice.

This follows the three-part series published by The Tyee in which a former high level pipeline engineer sounds alarms about inadequate welding, inspections and regulation being commonplace in the field, leading to ruptures.

Here, in part, is the APEGA’s reply:

[R]ecent pipeline incidents in Alberta are a concern to APEGA and its members. In fact, the paramount concern of APEGA and its members is public safety and well-being. APEGA has been a partner in efforts to protect the public in matters related to the regulation of professional engineering and geoscience services since 1920.

On August 1, 2012, APEGA President Leah Lawrence, P.Eng., sent an open letter to Alberta Minister of Energy Ken Hughes in which she expressed APEGA’s strong support of the Government of Alberta’s independent review of pipeline safety in Alberta.

In it she explains that recent pipeline incidents in Alberta are of concern to both APEGA and its members and that the independent review provides the opportunity for a “dialogue about how pipeline safety is managed and how pipeline incidents are handled.”

APEGA has offered assistance with the review process and pointed out that our membership includes a number of experts in pipeline integrity, pipeline design and construction, and pipeline emergency preparedness and response.

As you may well know, on July 20, 2012, Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes asked the Energy Resources Conservation Board to retain an independent third party to examine elements of the province’s pipeline system. The ERCB, in conjunction with an independent third party, is reviewing how pipeline integrity is managed, how safety of pipelines crossing water ways is ensured, and how responses to pipeline incidents are handled.

We at APEGA await with great interest the completion of the review in November, ERCB’s consultant Group 10’s final report at the end of 2012, and the subsequent ERCB report (including ERBC recommendations, if any) to the Minister by the end of March 2013.

We have indicated to Minister Hughes that we are available to participate in any discussions that may be held on any recommendations, and their implementation, made in the report.

In a column in the September edition of our member publication The PEG, APEGA President Lawrence wrote: “While it should not be APEGA’s role to get caught up in the hurly-burly of partisan politics, it should be our role to be a convener of independent, impartial council on science and technology policy, where it is related to the engineering and geoscience professions and to upholding public safety and the public interest.”

With respect to your question about the size of APEGA’s membership and the number of investigations per year, APEGA has approximately 66,000 members and we investigate anywhere between 35 and 50 complaints per year including permit holding organizations.

When a formal complaint is received, we are compelled by the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act to investigate it. We may defer an investigation, however, if the matter is under investigation by another entity or is before the courts.

We received a complaint from an APEGA member about a permit holding organization with reference to pipeline operations. However, the member did not wish to have their name revealed and asked that the information they had not be shared with the organization they were complaining about.

Award winning energy journalist Andrew Nikiforuk is a regular contributor to The Tyee.

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