Groups call for broader, more independent pipeline review
Two groups that are part of a coalition that called for an independent pipeline review would like to see the pipeline safety review announced by the provincial government have a broader scope and be more independent.
On July 20, Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes announced a review to be conducted by the Energy Resources Conservation Board and a third party. The review is to examine three areas: pipeline integrity, water crossings and spill response plans.
“We feel the scope should be into the ERCB’s investigating practice … the whole ballpark,” said Don Bester of the Alberta Surface Rights Group. He said the review should be broader and include regulations, enforcement, all pipelines, and more.
He said his members are “not satisfied” with the ERCB contracting the third party that will be part of the review.
“You cannot investigate yourself,” Bester said. “It has to be a neutral party.”
The Alberta Surface Rights Group is part of a coalition of more than 50 organizations that campaigned for an independent pipeline review. Greenpeace Canada was another one of those groups.
Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, agreed with Bester that a more expansive review is needed.
“Now we need to ensure the review is truly an independent one,” Hudema said. He suggested the provincial auditor general could do the review or a “fairly prominent scientist” leading an independent body.
Meetings have been requested with the minister by the groups and have gone without response. Hughes said during his press conference on July 20 he welcomes environmental group input.
Hudema pointed out that during that announcement, it was said industry had been consulted as part of the lead-up. He said he’s “very concerned the oil industry can have an open door with this government but none of the 54 groups that called for this review (do).”
Hudema questioned who the review is meant to benefit and whether it might turn out to be a “PR exercise.”
Hudema and Bester both said there was surprise at the minister’s announcement and credited the public pressure the coalition’s campaigning had created.
That campaign was launched after multiple spills occurred during the month of June. Those spills include one in early June that saw reportedly up to 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil released into the Red Deer River north of Sundre and make its way into the Gleniffer Lake reservoir.
Cleanup efforts from Plains Midstream, the company that owned the pipeline, continue. According to the July 20 information update, plans and preparation are underway to remove the affected section of pipeline.
Bester called the minister’s call for review an “about-face.”
Janice Schroeder, director of communications for Alberta Energy, said the minister is new to his role and has the prerogative to ask for reviews.
She said there is no timeline in place yet for an announcement of who the third party reviewer will be. She said the ERCB is selecting the third party.
The ERCB will be involved with the review along with the third party, Schroeder said, but the elements of the review “go well beyond the ERCB.”
When asked about the lack of response to the coalition’s request for meetings with the minister, she said personally she was unaware of any requests but pointed out the minister would not be conducting the review.
“The minister’s not an active participant in the review process,” Schroeder said.
The report that comes out of the review will be available to the public, she said.