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Pipe sections for the Trans Mountain pipeline are unloaded in Edson on June 18, 2019.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Trans Mountain Corp. has permission to keep secret the name of its insurer, after a Thursday ruling by a commission with Canada’s energy regulator.

The federal Crown corporation told the Canada Energy Regulator in a filing last month that “certain parties” have already used public filings in the regulator’s database to try to press insurance companies to drop their pipeline policies. Trans Mountain argues that revealing its insurer would therefore result in higher premiums, because fewer companies are willing to insure the pipeline.

Trans Mountain said while the information was public in the past, “increasing pressures on insurers to avoid insuring pipeline assets” made confidentiality necessary.

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The CER commission, which makes decisions independently from the regulator, agreed with Trans Mountain.

The commission of the CER operates similar to a court of law and makes decisions on a broad range of issues. Although it is a part of the CER, it makes its decisions independently of the CER and government departments such as Natural Resources Canada.

In a ruling posted on the CER website Thursday, the agency said that revealing the name of Trans Mountain’s insurer “could reasonably be expected to make it harder for Trans Mountain to get insurance at a reasonable price and prejudice its competitive position.”

Further, it said the name of the insurance carrier is “commercial information that should be kept confidential.” It pointed out the public has access to other insurance information concerning the company, including the amount of coverage provided.

The decision also noted that the commission has granted requests from other companies for confidential treatment of information contained within their insurance certificates, and the same standards are applied “to all regulated companies, regardless of ownership.”

The ruling only applies to the Trans Mountain pipeline currently in operation, not the expansion project, which is still being built. That’s because financial resource requirements, which include insurance details, don’t apply to pipelines that are under construction.

Thursday’s decision follows a two-week comment period in March, during which the CER commission heard from members of the public. It received 30 letters about the application, with 17 opposed to granting Trans Mountain’s request for confidentiality and 13 in favour.

Trans Mountain said in an e-mail Thursday it was pleased with the decision and “is committed to providing the CER with full information about our financial resourcing and ensuring Canadians know that we are sufficiently insured,” it said.

But those opposed to the pipeline say the decision sets a dangerous precedent.

Charlene Aleck, a spokesperson for the B.C.-based Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative, said in a statement that the decision amounted to the CER “expanding Trans Mountain’s culture of secrecy when it should be doing the opposite, especially for a government-owned company during a climate crisis.”

Keeping the identity of the insurer confidential removes a layer of transparency, she said.

Sven Biggs, oil and gas programs director with Stand.earth, an environmental group which also opposed the company’s application, said a project that can only be insured secretly “has lost its social licence to operate.”

“The fact that Trans Mountain is struggling to obtain adequate insurance makes clear that this pipeline system is too risky, and the Canadian government must shut it down and cancel the expansion project,” he said.

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