UPDATE 1-Canada energy regulator is monitoring pipelines poorly -watchdog

Tue Jan 26, 2016 2:01pm EST
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(Adds comments by environmental group)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA Jan 26 (Reuters) - Canada's energy regulator is doing a poor job of monitoring pipeline firms, an official watchdog said on Tuesday in a report that could bolster support for government plans to reform how major oil and gas projects are approved.

Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand said the National Energy Board (NEB) did not properly check whether companies were sticking to the approval conditions for projects and did not consistently check that problems had been cleared up.

The new Liberal government plans to revamp the NEB, which is responsible for approving federally regulated projects and then monitoring them. Critics complain the body is too focused on the needs of the energy industry and does not pay enough attention to environmental concerns.

The NEB oversees 45,300 miles (72,900 km) of oil and gas pipelines and around 100 companies.

"Our audit concluded that the board did not adequately track companies' implementation of pipeline approval conditions, and that it was not consistently following up on company deficiencies," Gelfand said.

An increasingly heated public debate over pipeline safety, the environment and the role of the NEB is threatening to derail major Canadian projects proposed by TransCanada Corp, Kinder Morgan Inc and Enbridge Inc.

The energy industry says new pipelines are needed to ship crude to the seacoast, where it can attract higher prices.   Continued...