Pipeline safety is the top priority of Canada's National Energy Board and in the coming weeks the board will focus on Enbridge Inc.'s operations, NEB Chair and CEO Gaétan Caron said in an open letter Aug. 1.
"The board takes a proactive approach to preventing spills and releases, with the ultimate goal of seeing none at all," Caron wrote. "We require pipeline companies to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate potentially dangerous conditions associated with their pipelines."
Caron said the NEB is reviewing the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board's report on Enbridge's 2010 Michigan oil spill to see what Canada can learn in the interests of public safety and environmental protection. Even prior to the release of the final report, the board has been reviewing Enbridge's management practices, Caron said.
In the coming weeks and months, the NEB will conduct safety audits to review and confirm that improvements, especially to Enbridge's control room practices in Edmonton are satisfactory, Caron wrote.
During its Aug. 2 earnings call, Enbridge said it welcomed the board's audit. The company considers the facility state-of-the-art, and said it will be interested in the NEB's assessment of it.
Many in the environmental community have expressed concerns about the federal streamlining of the energy regulatory process this year, particularly the provisions that minimize the role of environmental review preceding development projects. But the NEB noted that the bill also gives the board the ability to use administrative monetary penalties for enforcement, with daily maximums of C$25,000 per violation for individuals and C$100,000 per violation for companies. The board is also drafting new regulations to more clearly establish fineable offenses, slated to be implemented in July 2013, the letter said.
"The board is committed to continually improving the way we do business and we welcome any opportunity that allows us to do so in the interests of pipeline safety and environmental protection," Caron said.
Copyright 2012 SNL Financial LC. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published August 6, 2012, in SNL Daily Gas Report.)