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Protecting Canadians and the Environment:
How Does the National Energy Board Monitor and Enforce Safety, Security and Environmental Protection on Pipeline Systems?

Protecting Canadians
and the Environment

I. Introduction

II. NEB Goals and Compliance Programs

III. Management and Protection Compliance Programs

IV. Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Activities

V. Conclusion

Annex 1 - Regulatory Requirements and Program References

I. Introduction

The National Energy Board (NEB) promotes safety and security, environmental protection and efficient energy infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest. This is done within the mandate set by Parliament in the regulation of pipelines, energy development and trade.Under the NEB’s regulatory framework, the NEB holds those it regulates accountable for safety, security and environmental protection outcomes in the public nterest.

Information about the NEB’s programs is available through the NEB’s reports to Parliament, available on the NEB website and on request from the NEB library. As part of the NEB’s Action Plan on Safety and Environmental Protection, the NEB is committed to providing information to Canadians on the NEB and its management and protection programs. This document explains how the NEB holds those it regulates accountable for results in the public interest. It outlines how the NEB monitors and enforces pipeline system requirements for safety, security and environmental protection.

While this document looks at safety, security and environmental protection of pipeline systems, the NEB also has a mandate to:

  • promote efficient energy infrastructure and markets
  • promote protection of the rights and interests of those affected by NEB regulated facilities and activities
  • regulate construction and operation of international and designated inter-provincial power lines
  • regulate oil and gas exploration and development in some Northern and offshore areas as defined in s.3 of the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act (see map)

Federal Jurisdiction of Oil and Gas Exploration and Development

For more information on these other aspects of our mandate, please refer to the document, Protecting Canadians and the Environment: How Does the NEB Carry Out its Mandate? and the NEB’s website.

II. NEB Goals and Compliance Programs

The NEB sets goals for industry and monitors compliance in a way that promotes safety, security and environmental protection. The two NEB Goals related to safety, security and environmental protection are:

  1. NEB-regulated facilities and activities are safe and secure.
  2. The environment is protected throughout the lifecycle of NEB-regulated facilities and activities.

Flowing out of these goals are the NEB’s management and protection compliance programs. The programs are:

Under Goal 1: Safety and Security

  • Integrity Compliance Program
  • Emergency Management Compliance Program
  • Worker Safety Compliance Program
  • Damage Prevention Compliance Program
  • Security Compliance Program

Under Goal 2: Environmental Protection Compliance Program

III. Management and Protection Compliance Programs

The NEB’s compliance programs provide the means to monitor compliance with legislation and enforce when necessary. The NEB’s compliance monitoring programs involve:

  • a specific purpose and objectives related to its area of management and protection
  • legislation and regulation that define requirements for industry and the public
  • specific processes and procedures for verifying and enforcing compliance

Please see Annex 1 for a discussion of certain legal requirements defining the NEB’s approach to compliance.

Risk-informed approach

The NEB evaluates regulated companies and their facilities to determine appropriate compliance verification activities. This evaluation includes:

  1. identification of potential consequences to people and the environment posed by facilities, based on its location, type, age and operating history
  2. a review of the company’s management of these consequences collected through previous compliance monitoring activities

A risk-informed approach helps the NEB to further understand and assess risk to public and worker safety, and effective methods for environmental protection. In addition, it facilitates efficient use of NEB resources.

Regulated companies must implement mitigative and preventative measures for all risks posed by hazards and threats to the integrity of pipeline systems, the public and workers. The NEB expects those it regulates to use a risk-informed approach and focus resources on areas of highest risk to safety, security and the environment.

Safety and Security

The overarching objective of the NEB’s five safety compliance programs is:

Proactive safety management and a culture of safety are priority values for those we regulate.

The purpose and objectives of each of compliance programs are:

  1. Integrity Compliance Program

    Purpose
    To promote the prevention of spills and releases through operational excellence and sound engineering (generally referred to as Integrity)

    Objective
    Prevention of spills and releases and the resulting harm to people and the environment.
  2. Emergency Management Compliance Program

    Purpose
    To promote emergency preparedness and response management

    Objective
    Systems are in place to minimize risk to people and the environment in the event of an emergency.
  3. Worker Safety Compliance Program

    Purpose
    To promote the protection of workers

    Objective
    Those we regulate foster a positive safety culture where employees can be instrumental in improving workplace safety and can stop work if they are concerned about safety without fear of reprisal.
  4. Damage Prevention Compliance Program

    Purpose
    To promote safe work practices for those who live and work near pipelines.

    Objective
    Those we regulate ensure people know how to safely conduct their operations near pipelines.
  5. Security Management Compliance Program

    Purpose
    To promote the prevention of intentional damage to regulated facilities.

    Objective
    Those we regulate anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate security-related risks and threats.

Environmental Protection

Environmental Protection Compliance Program

Purpose
To promote environmental protection during the construction, operation and abandonment of facilities.

Objectives of the program
Environmental protection is an ongoing process where the Board expects that systematic approaches are used to proactively mitigate the risk that environmental effects will exceed approved levels.

IV. Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Activities

The Board monitors and enforces compliance with requirements concerning the safety and protection of employees, the public, and the environment, as they may be affected throughout the life of a project. This promotes continual improvement and facilitates a deeper understanding of regulated companies' systems and practices.

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Planning and Application Assessment, Construction, Operation and, Deactivation, Decommission or Abandonment

Phase one: planning and application assessment

In the planning and application assessment phase of the project, the NEB assesses whether the project is in the public interest and can be built and operated safely and in a manner that protects the environment. The NEB assessment includes an evaluation of:

  • compliance with design, construction and environmental protection requirements which include:
    • requirements outlined in statutes and regulations
    • commitments by regulated companies including those made during an application process
    • terms and conditions on approvals
    • other direction provided by the NEB from time to time
  • the capacity of the regulated company to develop required safety, security and environmental protection programs and systems.
  • the risks posed to people or effects on the environment by the project plans and whether these risks will be prevented, managed and mitigated through appropriate planning

If a project is approved, the NEB will impose terms and conditions to mitigate the risks and effects posed by the project. 

Phase two: construction

In the construction phase of a project, the NEB monitors and verifies compliance with construction-related requirements. Specifically, the NEB:

  • reviews and approves key company program manuals which typically address:
    • Joining
    • Pressure Testing
    • Quality Assurance/Quality Control of Materials
    • Construction Safety
    • Environmental Protection Plan
    • Emergency Procedures

Manuals are used by a regulated company to communicate requirements to its staff and contractors. Depending on the nature of the project, the NEB may require other types of manuals for the project. The purpose of this review is to verify compliance with requirements. This assessment is often done before a facility is permitted to begin operation; manuals can also be reviewed as part of annual compliance verification activities.

  • conducts on-site construction inspections

    An inspection is an on-site, methodical examination and assessment of regulated activities or operations against requirements. Inspections during construction focus on pipeline integrity, worker safety and environmental protection.

Phase three: operation

In the operation phase of a project, the NEB monitors and verifies compliance with operation-related requirements. Specifically, the NEB:

  • holds compliance meetings with regulated companies to exchange information, verify compliance, assess implementation of requirements and provide critical feedback to senior executives on aspects of their programs and systems
  • audits regulated companies’ management and protection programs and systems to assess the adequacy and implementation of system elements such as:
    • policies and performance objectives
    • proactive identification of hazards, evaluation of risk and risk mitigation
    • clarity of responsibilities and accountabilities
    • training and competency of personnel
    • documentation management, reporting, evaluation and continual improvement
  • inspects facilities to assess compliance with requirements in all program areas
  • reviews and approve key documents (e.g., regulated company program manuals)
  • evaluates regulated company emergency response exercises for the ability to respond to an emergency

Conducting audits, inspections and compliance meetings, are key tools the NEB uses to regulate a company’s safety culture and system effectiveness. Effective systems provide a strong foundation for a pervasive culture of safety and the NEB expects that company safety systems are: forcefully affirmed by the organization’s leadership; rigorously documented in writing; known to all employees involved in safety and environmental protection; and consistently implemented in the field.

Phase four: deactivation, decommissioning or abandonment

In the deactivation, decommissioning or abandonment phase, the NEB assesses whether the applied-for plan can be conducted safely and whether risks to people or the environment can be reduced or avoided. Specifically, the NEB:

  • assesses a deactivation plan for maintaining the facility in order that it will be fit for service in the future
  • inspects decommissioning and abandonment activities to assess compliance with requirements

For further information on the NEB’s compliance verification toolkit, please see the document "Protecting Canadians and the Environment: How Does the NEB Carry Out its Mandate?"

All phases: incidents or reports of high-risk activities

An incident is defined in the Onshore Pipeline Regulations, as:

  • the death of or serious injury to a person
  • a significant adverse effect on the environment
  • an unintended fire or explosion
  • an unintended or uncontained release of Low Vapour Pressure hydrocarbons (liquid) in excess of 1.5 m³
  • an unintended or uncontrolled release of High Vapour Pressure hydrocarbons (gas)
  • the operation of a pipeline beyond its design limits

An incident is defined in the Processing Plant Regulations as an occurrence that results or could result in a significant adverse effect on property, the environment or the safety of persons.

  • Incidents: Transportation Safety Board
    The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigates certain incidents that occur on an NEB-regulated pipeline. For these incidents, the TSB is the sole agency that determines the cause and contributing factors leading to the incident. During these investigations, the NEB conducts a concurrent and co-operative investigation to determine factors relating to regulatory compliance, trends within industry, and actions necessary to prevent similar occurrences.
  • Incidents: NEB
    Where the TSB does not investigate, the NEB investigates the incident to determine cause and contributing factors leading to the incident. For serious incidents, such as a pipeline rupture, NEB staff is dispatched to the site of the incident to monitor the regulated company activities, and to assess whether appropriate actions are being taken and when the facility may be safely returned to service. The NEB has authority to direct a regulated company to perform certain actions to demonstrate that the pipeline is safe.
  • High-risk, non-incident activities
    High-risk activities that do not result in an incident and are reported to the NEB will be investigated to determine cause and contributing factors. Such activities are primarily serious violations of the Pipeline Crossing Regulations by regulated companies or the public. The NEB requires parties involved to correct the problems identified.
  • Complaints
    The NEB respond to complaints it receives on any matter for which it has a mandate to conduct activities and may initiate an investigation.

All phases: enforcement

Enforcement has an important role to play in bringing regulated companies into compliance, deterring future non-compliance, educating industry and informing the public. NEB enforcement activities are graduated and range from notification and opportunities for voluntary compliance up to revoking an authorization to operate. Offences may also be prosecuted.

  • Non-compliance situations are handled by obtaining an immediate and voluntary correction. For example, regulated companies are typically asked to submit and implement corrective action plans to resolve, within specific time limits, any audit findings of non-compliance.
  • If non-compliance is not corrected voluntarily, the NEB or an Inspection Officer can order the resolution of existing or imminent threats to safety or the environment. The NEB can also place restrictions on operations and activities (Safety Order) until the non-compliance is resolved.
  • Serious non-compliance that is an offence under legislation can be forwarded by the NEB to the Attorney General Office of Canada for prosecution. Additionally, the NEB may decide to revoke a regulated company’s authorization to operate if the NEB has lost confidence in the capacity of that company to operate safely or in a manner that protects the environment.

The NEB has recently begun posting Safety Orders on its website. These recent enforcement actions can be found here. For further information on the NEB’s approach to enforcement, please refer to the NEB document "Protecting Canadians and the Environment: How Does the NEB Carry Out its Mandate?"

All phases: responding to emergencies

The NEB’s priorities in any emergency are the safety of people and the protection of property and the environment. The NEB has an Emergency Management Program in place and is ready to respond to an emergency situation at all times. The NEB develops working agreements with other government departments and agencies to: coordinate responses; deal with overlapping and adjoining jurisdictions; identify common regulatory objectives; and communicate effectively.

Anytime there is a serious incident on an regulated facility, the NEB will monitor and oversee the regulated company’s immediate and ongoing response and eventual clean-up. The NEB requires that all reasonable actions are taken to protect employees, the public and the environment. Further, the NEB verifies that the regulated company conducts an adequate and appropriate clean-up and remediation of any environmental effects caused by the incident.

V. Conclusion

The NEB promotes safety, security and environmental protection through its compliance programs. The objective of these programs is to monitor compliance with the NEB’s requirements and enforce them as necessary.

Annex 1 - Regulatory Requirements and Program References

There are numerous specific regulatory requirements for NEB-regulated companies and others. The NEB has listed specific legal requirements for each compliance program area in its NEB Management System and Protection Program Audit Protocol. This Annex is meant to highlight certain regulations that underpin safety, security and environmental management and protection program requirements. It is not meant to be comprehensive in scope. Links to the more comprehensive requirements and guidance can be found on the NEB’s website here. The following also provides links to various references that include material that is relevant to each program area.

Regulatory Requirements

National Energy Board Act (NEB Act) Regulations

Onshore Pipeline Regulations, 1999 (OPR)

The OPR were created under the NEB Act and establish requirements governing design, construction and operation of pipelines. Under the OPR, pipeline companies are required to, among other things:

  • develop a pipeline integrity management program (OPR, s.40)
  • develop and implement a safety program to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate potentially dangerous conditions and exposures to those conditions during all construction, operation and emergency activities (OPR, s.47)
  • develop and implement an environmental protection program to anticipate, prevent, mitigate and manage conditions which have a potential to adversely affect the environment (OPR, s.48)
  • ensure that the pipeline is designed, constructed, operated or abandoned in accordance with the applicable provisions of specific Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards

    If the pipeline transports liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons, it must follow CSA Z662 (OPR, s.4). CSA Z662 requires a pipeline company to, among other things:
    • develop, implement, and maintain a documented safety and loss management system for pipeline systems that provides for the protection of people, the environment, and property (CSA, s.3.1)
  • develop specific elements of an emergency management program, including: an emergency procedures manual; liaisons with persons and agencies that may be involved in an emergency; and education and training programs regarding potential emergency situations and safety procedures (OPR, s.32 to 35 and 46)
  • develop and implement a training program for any employee of the company who is directly involved in the operation of the pipeline (OPR, s.46)
  • develop a monitoring and surveillance program for the protection of the pipeline, the public and the environment (OPR, s.39)

Pipeline Crossing Regulations, Part I and Part II (PCR, Part I and II)

One of the principal threats to pipeline integrity is the damage caused by the public during excavation and construction activities. Part I of the PCR establishes specific responsibilities for persons intending to conduct excavation and construction activities near pipelines. Part II of the PCR state the responsibilities of the pipeline company, including the establishment of ongoing awareness programs to inform the public of the presence of pipelines.

On 22 December 2010, the Board issued an Order [Filing A27788] to exempt landowners from the requirement to seek leave of a pipeline company to cross the pipeline with agricultural equipment in certain low-risk conditions.

Processing Plant Regulations (PPR)

The PPR establish requirements governing design, construction and operation of processing plants that fall within the definition of "pipeline" in the NEB Act. Under the PPR, companies are required to, among other things:

  • develop and implement a processing plant integrity program (PPR, s.41)
  • develop and implement a safety program to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate potentially dangerous conditions and exposure to those conditions during all construction, operations and emergency activities (PPR, s.13)
  • develop and implement an environmental protection program to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate conditions that have a potential to affect the environment significantly and adversely (PPR, s.14)
  • develop specific elements of an emergency management program, including: an emergency procedures manual; liaisons with persons and agencies that may be involved in an emergency; and education and training programs regarding potential emergency situations and safety procedures (PPR, s.35 to 38 and 44)
  • develop and implement a training program for any employee of the company who is directly involved in the operation of the pipeline (PPR, s.44)

Canada Labour Code, Part II (CLC, Part II)

The purpose of CLC, Part II is to prevent work-related accidents in companies and organizations under federal jurisdiction. The CLC, PartII states that employers have a general obligation or duty to ensure that the health and safety of every person employed by the employer is protected while they are working. Employers must ensure that the design, installation, operation, use or maintenance of buildings and equipment meet the prescribed standards set out in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

Program References

A. Integrity Compliance Program References

B. Emergency Management Compliance Program References

C. Worker Safety Compliance Program References

D. Damage Prevention Compliance Program

E. Security Compliance Program References

F. Environmental Protection Compliance Program References

Industry environmental protection management systems and programs are required to comply with all federal legislation respecting environmental protection.  Some of the relevant Acts include:

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Date Modified:
2014-01-22