Evidence that Enbridge Inc. persuaded the National Energy Board to remove several critical references from an agency report on its safety practices has prompted allegations that the company is misleading the public about the risk of pipeline spills.
Documents obtained by the National Observer under access to information reveal that the national regulator agreed to “soften” a report on the Calgary company, after Enbridge disputed investigators’ findings that it had not demonstrated an ability to detect stress fatigue cracks in its pipelines, similar to those that led to spills in Michigan and Saskatchewan.
In one case, the NEB removed several paragraphs critical of Enbridge’s response to queries regarding insufficiencies in its stress crack monitoring capability. It also edited out references to two private environmental assessments the company had conducted.
The Board rejected other company requests, however, and retained its investigators’ “conclusions that it [Enbridge] was violating a number of pipeline safety rules,” the report says. The audit culminated 15 months of inspections, interviews with Enbridge employees, and document searches.
Critics said the nature of the NEB’s concessions was cause for alarm, and further eroded the credibility Enbridge has struggled to regain after an undetected leak in its Line 6B pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of diluted bitumen into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010. An official inquiry into that incident accused the company of a “culture of deviance” on safety standards.
The lost passages in the NEB report show the agency hiding an “inconvenient truth,” the Observer writes: “Enbridge is struggling to figure out how to stop leaks on aging pipelines, and officials still don’t know the best way to completely clean up after a catastrophic spill.”