Provincial auditor general Merwan Saher has agreed to conduct an audit of oil pipeline safety in Alberta, responding to requests from a coalition of 54 public interest groups dissatisfied with the provincial government's third-party report released in August.

"We will be auditing the government's monitoring systems to ensure compliance with Alberta's pipeline regulations. Our audit would include inspection and enforcement processes," Saher wrote in a letter to Alberta's Opposition parties Wildrose and the NDP, which were among the groups demanding the review.

The government-commissioned pipeline safety review, conducted by Group 10 Engineering, was announced by Energy Minister Ken Hughes in July 2012 after several major pipeline oil spills in the province, including a 475,000 litre leak from a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline in Central Alberta in June. The final report was made public a year later, in August 2013.

James Wood writes for the Calgary Herald, that the Group 10 report "did not – as many expected – review the actual physical condition of the 400,000 km pipeline system or investigate a spate of recent spills" despite declaring Alberta to have "the most thorough overall regulatory regime of all the assessed Canadian jurisdictions."

Following the release of the report last month, a coalition representing 54 environmental, First Nations, labour and landowner groups wrote to Premier Alison Redford requesting another review. The letter stated that "Albertans deserve to know the real scope of the province's pipeline problems and they deserve real solutions," leaving the group "no choice but to begin to petition the Alberta auditor general to take on such an examination."  

 

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said “Oil spills pose a major threat to our community, which depends on clean air, water and soil to sustain our way of life. We are pleased that the Auditor General will be looking into pipeline safety, as we feel the provincial government hasn’t been doing enough to prevent spills from happening.”

“It’s been a long road pushing for this review but hopefully the Auditor General will finally give Albertan’s some answers to Alberta’s pipeline woes because the Redford government definitely hasn’t,” said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner. “Groups from across the political spectrum joined together to push for this review because of the growing threats pipeline spills are posing to Alberta’s communities and environment. I hope this review will give the government time to pause on its pipeline-pushing ways because all is not well in Alberta.”

Jennifer Grant, director of the oilsands program at the Pembina Institute, applauded Saher for "showing leadership on this important issue," saying that the "audit presents an opportunity to restore Albertans' confidence in the provincial regulator's ability to manage pipelines and the associated risks."

"With 400,000 square kilometres of pipelines crisscrossing the province, and an average of two crude oil spills a day for the past 37 years, ensuring the integrity and safety of Alberta's pipeline network is absolutely critical and could set an important precedent for other jurisdictions," Grant said in a news release.

Global News reports that the auditor general "has been considering a pipeline safety audit for much of the past year" according to spokeswoman Kim Nishikaze. Nishikaze added that they "will be looking at pipeline safety in the foreseeable future" but "can't say when."

Saher wrote in his letter that the pipeline safety audit would be undertaken "as soon as reasonably possible."

Image Credit: Jasonwoodhead23 / Flickr

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