ARCHIVED - Strengthening Canada’s Pipeline Safety Regime

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Backgrounder


The Government of Canada is committed to protecting both the safety of Canadians and the environment. No development will proceed unless rigorous environment protection measures are in place. These goals are part of the government’s plan for Responsible Resource Development, which aims to create high-quality jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

The Government of Canada has strong environmental laws and standards, a robust pipeline safety regime and an experienced regulator for pipelines in the National Energy Board (NEB).  The Government is committed to the ‘polluter pays’ principle and responsible management of risks under its plan for Responsible Resource Development. Already, under the legislative framework of the National Energy Board Act, responsibility rests with pipeline operators to immediately take all reasonable measures to clean up, remediate and address damages in the unlikely event of a spill.

Recently Amended Onshore Pipeline Regulations

On April 10, 2013, the Government of Canada recently updated the National Energy Board’s Onshore Pipeline Regulations. These amendments reinforce the need for commitment to safety and a culture of safety focused on protecting the public, workers, and the environment. 

These update onshore pipeline regulations ensure that prevention is a key part of our pipeline safety regime.  These updated regulations require:

  • senior company leadership to be accountable for building a safety culture and supporting management systems.  Companies must appoint a senior officer who is accountable to ensure that the company’s management system and programs are in compliance;
  • development and implementation of a security program. A program that anticipates, prevents, manages and mitigates conditions that could adversely affect people, property or the environment; and finally,
  • development and implementation of an emergency management program focused on emergency-preparedness and response requirements.

National Energy Board’s Administrative Monetary Penalties

The Government has now completed the regulations to enable the National Energy Board to issue Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP’s) for companies that violate the National Energy Board Act. These new regulations will come into force on July 3, 2013.

  • The regulations are designed to preventatively address contraventions quickly so that larger issues do not arise in the future.  The penalties can range from $25,000 to a maximum of $100,000. 
  • The regulations outline a suite of pipeline safety infractions that could be subject to a range of monetary fines. 
  • The regulations provide the NEB a tool to correct actions of both the public and industry to help prevent an activity that may lead to a pipeline rupture or other serious incident.

Strengthening Canada’s Pipeline Safety System

While Canada's regulatory regime and environmental record with respect to onshore federal pipelines is strong, the government is working to update and expand legislation to ensure that Canada’s regime for onshore oil and gas pipelines remains world leading.  These changes will help to further strengthen incident prevention and ensure the appropriate response in the unlikely event of a spill. Highlights of the Proposed Legislation:

  • Enshrine in law the polluter pays principle, stating that polluters will be held financially responsible for the costs and damages they cause.
    • This will strengthen the pipeline safety regime in the unlikely event of a major spill or accident, and ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not liable for any cleanup costs.
       
  • Require pipeline operators to maintain minimum financial capacity to respond to leaks, spills and ruptures. 
    • Under current laws, companies regulated by the NEB have various requirements for financial capacity. 
    • The Government will ensure that pipeline companies are ready and able and have the financial resources to respond to an incident. 
    • The Government intends to propose regulations that will require companies operating major crude oil pipelines to have a minimum of $1 billion in financial capacity.
       
  • Provide clarity on the restricted “safety zone” areas along pipelines, helping to increase safety. There are “restricted zones” around pipelines, in which people are not allowed to dig/build without contacting the pipeline operator — the Government will work with the provinces to align the federal and provincial restricted zones
    • This will help to align federal and provincial restricted areas for pipelines without compromising safety. Federal and provincial pipeline regulators have different damage prevention regimes.  For example, federal and provincial regulators have different safety zone definitions for areas in which excavation and other activities are restricted.  This provides a commitment to work with the provinces to harmonize our respective regimes for better clarity and without reducing safety.
       
  • Clarify that the NEB has authorities to undertake compliance audits.
    • Clarify that the powers of the National Energy Board and its officers have the power to conduct audits and enable enforcement for all parts of the Act.  For example, the NEB will be provided with enhanced legal powers to compel pipeline company officers to provide information requested by the Board.
       
  • Ensure that pipeline operators are responsible for abandoned pipelines.
    • Clarify that, even after a pipeline is abandoned in place without being removed, the NEB continues to have jurisdiction over the abandoned pipeline, and can take steps to prevent, mitigate and remediate any post-abandonment impacts, and that pipeline operators remain responsible for any costs and damages from an abandoned pipeline, so long as the pipeline remains in the ground.
       
  • Improve transparency by ensuring company’s emergency and environmental plans are easily available to the public.  These emergency and environmental plans spell out exactly what a company will do, and the sequence of actions, in the unlikely event of a pipeline rupture or spill.   
Media may contact: 

David Provencher
Press Secretary
Office of Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources
613-996-2007

or

Media Relations
Natural Resources Canada
Ottawa
613-992-4447

The general public may contact:

Mon.–Fri., 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. EDT
Telephone: 613-995-0947
TTY: 613-996-4397
(teletype for the hearing-impaired)
E-mail: questions@nrcan.gc.ca