National Energy Board to ask Canadians for input on pipeline safety

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – The National Energy Board will launch a tour early in the new year in an effort to strengthen pipeline safety, the chairman of the federal regulatory agency said Tuesday.

Peter Watson said board members and staff will visit every province and the North to hear from Canadians on how it can improve its pipeline safety program.

“We felt there was a lot of need to get out from inside our hearing rooms and have a more fundamental discussion about pipeline safety and protection of the environment associated with pipelines,” Watson said in a speech to a business audience in Saint John, N.B.

The board will also gather input online and hold a technical conference with experts in late spring, to be followed by a report to be released by early 2016, he said.

The board regulates about 73,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. About three million barrels of oil are transported through those pipelines each day.

The board is currently reviewing a number of pipeline projects that have generated controversy, including the Trans Mountain expansion between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., which has triggered environmental protests and anger from some First Nations communities.

It is also going over an application from TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) for the proposed Energy East Pipeline, which would ship more than one million barrels of western crude a day to as far east as Saint John, N.B.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard have said a number of issues including greenhouse gas emissions must be considered in the development of the project.

But Watson said again Tuesday that that’s a concern beyond the board’s jurisdiction.

“There are other jurisdictions that have responsibility for assessing either upstream production or downstream consumption of energy resources and those jurisdictions do their job well,” he said.