Canada gov't asks pipeline regulator for safety guidelines by 2016

Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:58pm EDT
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By Mike De Souza

OTTAWA, March 26 (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government has given the energy regulator about a year to deliver up-to-date guidelines for pipeline companies to improve safety and protect the environment.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford instructed the National Energy Board to study the issue and report its findings with new safety guidelines by next year, according to a Feb. 5 letter released to Reuters through an access to information request.

The instructions coincide with several major crude oil pipeline expansion projects proposed in Canada by companies such as Kinder Morgan, Enbridge and TransCanada Corp .

The projects face strong opposition from many landowner and environmental groups that have expressed concerns about spills, as well as impacts on climate change from expanded oil and gas development.

Rickford said the regulator could address some of these concerns through a comprehensive study of construction methods, materials, emergency plans and new technologies available in the pipeline industry.

"I firmly believe that technology can and will ensure safer pipelines and protection of the environment," Rickford wrote in the letter, addressed to the board's chairman, Peter Watson. "I also believe that guidance from the NEB ... will contribute towards achieving these important goals."

The Conservatives have promoted expansion of the oil and gas industry, pledging to make the country an "energy superpower" through new infrastructure and policies that increase access to global markets for Canada's exports.

In an interview, Guy Caron, the natural resources critic for the official opposition New Democrats, accused the government of pursuing that goal by weakening environmental laws and safety rules in recent years, making it more difficult for the regulator to do its job.   Continued...