Demands on Northern Gateway pipeline are less conditions than reporting requirements

Much is being made of the Federal Cabinets imposition of 209 conditions, as recommended by the Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, on the Northern Gateway pipeline. Most experts would consider a ‘condition’ to be a requirement for environmental protection or risk reduction over and above the stated plans of the project proponent. For example, if a company plans to install equipment that emits air pollutants then the regulator might impose a condition that the use of the equipment can only go ahead if it is installed in a building with emissions captured by an air pollution control system.

Even the count of 209 conditions seems to be carried out in a way that maximizes the number of conditions. The same condition applied to two components of the project is counted as two conditions, up to a maximum of five identical conditions for the five components of the project. GallonDaily counted 133 different conditions, not the 209 reported by the Panel.

Most of the NEB ‘conditions’ on the Northern Gateway pipeline are not measures that provide additional protection to the environment. Instead they are requirements that the proponent, Enbridge, report to the Board on the steps that it is taking to do what it has already said it would do. It is as if the NEB does not trust Enbridge to deliver on its commitments, but the ‘conditions’ impose very little. and usually nothing, in the way of pollution control or environmental protection over and above that which Enbridge has already announced its intention to implement. Furthermore, the Board has not indicated what it is that would comprise an adequate report from Enbridge nor is it clear what the Board would do, short of recommending that Cabinet rescind its approval or shutting down the pipeline,  if it decided that a report was not adequate and Enbridge declined to bow to the Board’s wishes. Given the Board’s increasingly limited resources it seems unlikely that much effort will be put into full technical scrutiny of Enbridge’s future Northern Gateway submissions.

Examples of the Panel’s conditions include:

3. Northern Gateway must file with the NEB, within 30 days after commencing operations, confirmation, signed by the President of the company, that the Project was completed and constructed in compliance with all applicable certificate conditions. If compliance with any of the conditions cannot be confirmed, the President of the company must file with the NEB the reason(s) for this and the proposed course of action for compliance.

14-15. Northern Gateway must use a three-layer composite coating or High Performance Composite Coating (a proprietary Bredero-Shaw product) for the pipeline between kilometre post 600 and the Kitimat Terminal.
Northern Gateway may specify a different coating if it will provide superior protection than that provided by the three-layer composite coating or High Performance Composite Coating. Northern Gateway must inform the NEB, at least 60 days prior to commencing pipe installation, of any coating substitution and the rationale for its use.

27-29 Northern Gateway must file with the NEB for approval, within 1 year after the certificate date, a Pipeline Environmental Effects Monitoring Program for the Project’s operational life, in accordance with the Pipeline Environmental Effects Monitoring Program Framework filed during the OH-4-2011 proceeding.

44-45 When strain-based design will be used in accordance with CSA Z662-11 Annex C, Northern Gateway must determine the minimum acceptable Charpy V-Notch toughness (CVN) and crack tip opening displacement (CTOd) values for weld metal and heat-affected zone of mill circumferential, helical (if practicable), and longitudinal welds. At a minimum, testing must account for the lowest installation temperature and the most severe deformation during construction or operation. The CVN and CTOd tests must be conducted for all combinations of pipe steel producers and pipe mill manufacturers and be representative of applicable Project pipe with the maximum carbon equivalent (CE) heat.

b) When weld zone defect acceptance criteria will be established in accordance with CSA Z662-11 Annex K, Northern Gateway must determine the minimum acceptable CVN and CTOd values for field circumferential welds for the lowest installation temperature and the most severe deformation during construction or operation. The CVN and CTOd tests must be conducted at the welding procedure development phase, for all combinations of pipe steel producers and pipe mill manufacturers and must be representative of applicable Project pipe with the maximum CE heat.

c) Northern Gateway must file with the NEB, at least 60 days prior to conducting the tests for a) and b) above, the test procedures it will use.

d) Northern Gateway must file with the NEB, at least 60 days prior to field welding, the minimum acceptable CVN and CTOd values and the test results from a) and b) above.

110-111 Northern Gateway must file with the NEB for approval, at least 90 days prior to commencing construction, a report that includes:
a) a description of the methods and conclusions of Northern Gateway’s investigations for the complementary leak detection technologies described during the OH-4-2011 proceeding;
b) a description of the complementary leak detection systems Northern Gateway has decided to implement and the reasons why; and
c) a timetable for installing and implementing the chosen complementary leak detection systems.

GallonDaily was able to find fewer than a dozen ‘conditions’ that actually required Enbridge to do something that it had not already committed to do, and even this was with some generous interpretation of the concept of a ‘condition’. For example, we included in this category such conditions as:

39-41 Quality Management Plan
Northern Gateway must file with the NEB for approval, at least 6 months prior to manufacturing any pipe and major components for the pipeline (including facilities along the pipeline) or the Kitimat Terminal, a Project-specific Quality Management Plan that includes:
a) material/vendor qualification requirements;
b) quality control and assurance of pipe and components that ensure all materials meet Enbridge specifications (i.e., processes, procedures, specifications, inspection, random testing, inspection, and test reports);
c) mandatory documentation of process conditions during manufacture and verification of the conformance of manufacturer material test reports with Enbridge requirements;
d) mandatory inspection requirements, inspector competency training, and qualifications;
e) non-conformance reporting and correction procedures;
f) change management process; and
g) commissioning requirements.

Hardly something that is likely to make a result in a significant improvement in environmental performance of the project compared to that which would have been achieved had the JRP not developed the ‘condition’. No responsible company would operate a pipeline without all of environmental performance aspects that the JRP has made into conditions. The question is how rigorously these things are done and on that the JRP has mostly been silent.

Fundamentally it is GallonDaily’s view that the Joint Review Panel conditions result in little more than a requirement for more paperwork to be submitted during the lifetime of the project. Unless the NEB becomes an aggressive overseer of pipeline operations, something that has not been seen in the past, one is left wondering how much the JRP actually understood about running a pipeline of this scale. Can it possibly be true the Enbridge knows so much more about running pipelines than anyone else at the hearings that the JRP was unable to find any conditions to impose that would significantly reduce the environmental impacts and risks of the pipeline?

The JRP reports are available at http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/dcmnt/rcmndtnsrprt/rcmndtnsrprt-eng.html

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