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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.