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Oil pipeline and tank storage facilities in Hardisty, Alta. (Larry MacDougal/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Oil pipeline and tank storage facilities in Hardisty, Alta. (Larry MacDougal/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

CHRIS BLOOMER

The pipeline industry needs clarity about Canada’s regulatory process Add to ...

Chris Bloomer is President and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.

Recent polling suggests Canadians recognize that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, that the National Energy Board garners a significant amount of public trust and that Quebeckers would rather get their oil from Alberta than Saudi Arabia. And still we find ourselves engaged in a political debate around public acceptance and regulation.

The recent discourse around pipelines has focused on the regulatory process and the NEB itself. This has led to a policy expanding the regulatory process for two new pipelines intended to bring Canadian oil to world markets. The changes would allow for additional consultation and input on upstream impacts on climate change – key considerations Canadians want addressed. However, it’s unclear how these new processes will be factored, along with the NEB’s findings, into the decision that would follow from cabinet.

Recently, in Calgary, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr clearly stated that the decision ultimately will be a political one. Not long afterward, however, comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seemed to be signalling some welcome pragmatism. Mr. Trudeau indicated that he is responsible for ensuring Canadian resources get to world markets and that there does not need to be a complete consensus on pipelines decisions.

Industry needs to trust the fairness and predictability of this process to continue to risk billions of private investment dollars dedicated to building critical national infrastructure projects. This lack of clarity, potentially setting aside a stringent regulatory assessment and recommendations, would erode confidence in an overall process essential to capital markets.

Enhancing the NEB’s mandate to include both climate change considerations and comprehensive consultation with indigenous peoples are necessary steps. The level of resources used in management systems, as well as a reconsideration of the governance model, are both timely and necessary as Canada seeks to modernize its energy regulator. A credible, well-funded, independent regulator, enforcing a strong set of regulations, is essential for public trust and business confidence.

However, Canadian values and our way of life will not be well served by balancing the interests of our nation as a whole against short-term political considerations. While there is always room for continuous improvement, Canada has a robust and rigorous regulatory framework that has worked well for almost 60 years. The “one project, one review” approach places accountability for the science and fact-based review of project proposals in a single regulatory agency. This is a proven model the world over.

There is a deep need to have a rational and unified, national dialogue on energy, the environment and the economy, setting out a long-term vision for our country. This should start with areas where Canadians agree – the need for a strong, diversified economy, the need to protect the environment, and to better engage and to be fully inclusive of First Nations considerations.

Our country will make the transition to a more sustainable and diverse energy economy. In the interim, Canadians must receive full value for our oil and natural gas resources to ensure we can sustain our way of life today and to fund our transition to a lower-carbon economy in the future. This is not an either/or conversation – we can do this.

Pipelines have been fundamental to the development of Canada’s way of life, to our energy sector and to Canada’s economic success for more than 60 years. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) represents 12 major pipeline companies operating 117,000 kilometres of existing mainline transmission networks across Canada. These companies transport 1.2 billion barrels of oil and almost three trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year with a 99.999-per-cent safety record. In 2015, Canada’s mainline transmission system had zero significant incidents. That’s why pipelines are recognized as the safest way to transport energy and why new transmission pipelines will also be safe.

CEPA and its member companies are committed to a goal of zero incidents. We hold each other accountable and collaborate through the “CEPA Integrity First” program, where industry experts and communities come together to define, share and implement leading practices. Through this program, we are continuously improving in the areas of safety, emergency response and environmental protection, while building a strong safety culture.

We are committed to pipeline integrity and maintenance, having invested more than $2.4-billion in pipeline maintenance and $23-million in research and development in 2014. Our industry also stepped up its commitment to accountability and transparency in 2015, when CEPA published its first annual pipeline performance report.

Our industry will continue to be safe, transparent and accountable. We will continue to work to earn the public’s trust. And we stand ready to engage in the dialogue as a critical contributor to Canada’s energy future.

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