Monday, May 02, 2016

National Observer - How Enbridge Manipulated the National Energy Board

The power of alternative media.

Vancouver's own, National Observer, has unearthed evidence suggesting shocking collusion between an energy giant and the industry-friendly federal regulator, the National Energy Board.

Under scrutiny is a NEB audit report released last July.

Both the company and its watchdog delivered positive messages about the published audit, explaining it showed how much Enbridge was improving.

But two things were happening behind the scenes before the public ever got wind of the report. Enbridge initially responded to the draft report by denying there were major problems. Secondly, the final report is different from the draft version that was privately shared with Enbridge in February 2015. The NEB, which is also based in Calgary, changed the conclusions in response to 28 pages of recommendations from Enbridge.

...While both the NEB and Enbridge maintained there were no immediate threats to public safety, two engineering experts told National Observer that they disagreed.

These critics said that the public should be alarmed about how the final report was edited, because the changes show that the regulator doesn’t know how to prevent disastrous spills from happening or how to respond when a catastrophe strikes.

“They don't even understand their limitations and the NEB has no idea what the issues are,” said Don Deaver, a former Exxon pipeline engineer from Texas, who now works as a private consultant after a career that lasted decades.

...The draft version of another section of the audit, describing how Enbridge protects natural ecosystems, included references to two secret environmental reports. But Enbridge said it didn't want the public to know about those reports and managed to convince the NEB to keep them hidden.

“These reports are confidential, internal Enbridge documents,” the company wrote in its 28-page response to the draft audit report, attached to a letter signed by its president of liquid pipelines, Guy Jarvis, on March 6, 2015. “As such, Enbridge requests that the reference to them be removed from the report, or referred to in a more generic fashion.”

Deaver said these disappearing paragraphs show that the NEB was hiding some inconvenient truth about the pipeline industry: Enbridge is struggling to figure out how to stop leaks on aging pipelines, and officials still don't know the best way to completely clean up after a catastrophic spill, such as what happended in Marshall.

“They (the industry and the watchdog) are using the wrong methods to analyze the growth of these cracking areas that they find along the pipe,” said Deaver.

Deaver added that if the two secret environmental reports refer to the aftermath of spills, they would expose one of the “dirtiest, darkest secrets of the pipeline industry" regarding the challenges of cleaning up after a major leak.

“Whenever there’s a lawsuit on a spill or something like that, the agencies allow the companies to hold back the reports until there’s a settlement,” Deaver said. “It could be embarrassing to the regulatory people (to reveal what’s in these company reports) because it could show that they (regulators) failed to take action.”

The NEB refused a request - through federal access to information legislation - to release copies of the environmental reports that it reviewed in the audit, explaining that it had only reviewed them at Enbridge offices and left them behind, without making any copies.

This is the second time in recent months that the NEB has done something like this: In December, it declined to release an internal corporate investigation report into a damaged pipeline buried by TransCanada Corp - Canada’s second largest pipeline company - because the NEB said its staff left that report behind at the company office in the middle of a separate investigation into serious safety allegations that were raised by a whistleblower.

It's not clear why the NEB would leave documents behind since it has full powers of inquiry and full powers of a federal court to investigate pipeline safety matters. These powers allow the NEB, under Canadian law, to take any evidence it needs to complete its investigations.

But the regulator, governed by a board that currently has 13 members - 12 of whom were appointed by the Conservative government of former prime minister Stephen Harper - wasn’t willing to provide a detailed explanation about any of the unusual decisions made in its recent investigations.

...After reviewing what was changed in the audit report, Evan Vokes, a former pipeline engineer who worked for TransCanada, said he was skeptical about the claims made by both the industry and its regulator. He believes pipelines would be safer if the regulators did a better job enforcing the rules.

“I think they’re trying to hide a safety risk,” Vokes said in an interview. “They continue to promise better and better performance on corrosion-related failures and they never manage to stop corrosion-related failures.”

U.S. officials blamed Enbridge for having a “culture of deviance” that contributed to the Michigan spill, which traveled about 50 km downstream on the river that leads to Lake Michigan. But the company and its regulators said that they were taking steps after the 2010 spill to prevent future disasters. Industry and federal officials had made similar statements after the Saskatchewan spill of 2007.

Yet another example of the audacious hypocrisy of the Trudeau Liberals. They freely slammed the National Energy Board while they were in opposition. Since coming to power they find the industry-dominated regulator just fine.


the salamander said...

.. can you spell (or smell) dirtbags .. ?
Unfortunately, aside from the courts, often with weak or unprepared crown counsel
its seems Canadians have no investigation agency capable of going after such collusion..
The vaunted RCMP ? Not a chance.. OPP nope .. Fed pr provincial governments.. ulp.. dirty too

The Mound of Sound said...

It's hard not to question the Trudeau government's integrity when it condones this rigged National Energy Board. They knew the NEB was a scam while they were in opposition. They've had ample opportunity to reformulate the board since coming to power. Trudeau & Co. have instead fallen into league with it.

the salamander said...

.. All part n parcel to the late Saint Jim Flaherty's annual spa & steambath weekend 'retreats' to review Big Energy's submissions for Harper's omnibus budgets.. NEB needs to be junked ASAP & hall of shame entry for its complicit sell outs.. Of course we should remember Big Energy always included in security briefings of RCMP and our spy agencies.. that was looked after on desperate weekend retreats.. Too dirty and entwined to jail ?

The Mound of Sound said...

Why do we still have this industry-dominated NEB? Why?

Anonymous said...

Canadians go around thinking and telling foreigners that Canada is the least corrupt country. They have a good laugh don't they?

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, you're right.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said... 3:15 mp at least there is one person who agrees with me.

Anonymous said...

Why do we still have this industry-dominated NEB? Why?

Because the liberals are Tory light! always have been.
Come on now Mound you have been around long enough to remember Liberal ties to Paribas and all!
We, in Canada, have the same fight that is going on in the USA.
That is a fight against the ESTABLISHMENT.
The Establishment are those govern regardless of political affiliation, big business, big banks, big tax dodgers.
As repugnant as it may seem; that is why I hope for a President Trump!!!!
We will then see an effing shakeup as none before..


The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Trailblazer, a Trump presidency would be a shakeup indeed much like that iceberg shook up the home stretch leg of the Titanic's first and only cruise.