Pipeline liability is changing in Canada, with new federal rules set to take effect in June
The “polluter pays” Pipeline Safety Act becomes law in June. Incidents like these will soon become very, very costly
CANADA’S NEW PIPELINE SAFETY ACT is set to become law in late June, enforcing a “polluter pays” principle on costs resulting from spills or leaks from federally regulated oil and gas pipelines. With more than 73,000 kilometers of cross-border pipelines in Canada, the new law is aimed at clarifying who is responsible not only for remediation, but for safeguarding abandoned pipelines, as well. Crossborder pipelines between provinces or into the U.S. account for only a fraction of Canada’s estimated 825,000-plus kilometers of oil and gas transmission, gathering and distribution lines. But it’s those cross-border pipelines that tend to draw the most attention, especially when they involve moving petroleum from a resource-rich region like the Prairies into Eastern Canada or southwestern B.C.
Federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), oversees about 100 companies operating cross-border pipelines in Canada. Legally, those companies are obligated to notify the NEB immediately of unplanned releases from their lines and, in extreme cases, to surrender jurisdiction over spill response to the federal government. Since 2012, federal pipeline incidents have seen a significant drop in Canada, despite an increase in the number of pipelines.