The number of pipeline safety incidents is on the rise in Canada and, of all the provinces and territories, British Columbia had the highest number of reported in the past decade, according to information obtained by CBC News.
Data provided by the National Energy Board through an access to information request shows that 279 incidents involving federally-regulated pipelines were reported in B.C. between 2000 and late 2012.
The data also suggests that, nationwide, the rate of overall incidents has doubled in the past decade.
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By 2011, safety-related incidents — covering everything from unintentional fires to spills — rose from one to two for every 1,000 kilometres of federally-regulated pipeline. That reflects an increase from 45 total incidents in 2000 to 142 in 2011.
The types of incidents reported include small leaks, large oil spills, gas ruptures, equipment failures, worker injuries and deaths, and other types of accidents or reportable events along any pipeline that crosses provincial or international borders, which involves about 90 companies that own about 71,000 kilometres of pipelines.
The dataset does not include incidents along smaller pipelines monitored by provinces.
In B.C., most of the incidents reported to the NEB occurred in the Peace and Northern Rockies regions, where there is a high concentration of natural gas extraction sites and pipelines.
Reporting getting better, NEB spokesman says
Though the information may raise questions about pipeline safety, a spokesman with the National Energy Board said there is nothing in the data to indicate the situation is getting worse.
"I don't think when you look at the numbers in aggregate we've seen an alarming increase in significant, serious or major incidents over the last little while," said Patrick Smyth, at the NEB's Operations Business Unit.
Smyth, who worked with the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission prior to joining the NEB, said he instead attributes the rise in cases nationally to more diligent reporting by pipeline companies.
But, he said, the apparent trend is still a concern.
"Oh, we're concerned about any increase in incidents. I mean, we learn from them, companies learn from them. We will always focus on it. Our expectation is that there's zero incidents. So, anything greater than that, causes concern for us," Smyth said.
Nathan Lemphers, an associate of the Pembina Institute, doesn't believe that better reporting is the only reason for the apparent increase in reported incidents.
"The pipelines that are in the ground are getting older and, in some cases, there's more products flowing through them. So you're going to see increasing incidents, and increasing defects," he said.
Lemphers said there needs to be greater transparency around pipeline accidents, large or small.