Canada’s energy-industry regulator has confirmed many of the complaints of a former engineer about substandard practices at TransCanada Corp., the giant pipeline company which wants to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the United States.
Earlier this week, the National Energy Board (NEB) released an audit of TransCanada’s integrity-management system conducted after the complaints of whistleblower Evan Vokes were publicized through a CBC News investigation in October 2012.
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“The board notes that a number of the allegations of regulatory non-compliance were identified and addressed by TransCanada only after the complainant’s allegations were made and were not proactively identified by the company’s management system,” the NEB audit report states.
“It is not a question of whether or not my complaint was valid,” Vokes told CBC News. “I knew it was valid.”
TransCanada failed several key areas
The board found TransCanada didn’t comply with several key areas including hazard identification, risk assessment and control, inspection, and management review.
But the audit also found the processes now employed by TransCanada have “identified the majority, and most significant, of its hazards and risks.”
The NEB ordered TransCanada to submit, within 30 days, a corrective action plan which details how the company will address the areas in which it is failing to comply.
In a release Monday, TransCanada said it accepted the findings of the NEB audit and has already acted to address many of the issues.
The NEB has previously said it found that Vokes properly took his complaints to the very top of TransCanada management before finally taking his concerns about what he considered to be systemic substandard pipeline welding and inspection practices to the NEB.
The regulator subsequently found many of the allegations by Vokes were valid.
In a public letter published in October 2012, the NEB warned the company it would not tolerate further infractions of regulations related to welding inspections, the training of pipeline inspectors and internal engineering standards.
NEB encourages whistleblowers
In its audit statement earlier this week, the NEB again indirectly praised Vokes for acting in the public interest.
“The NEB recognizes that even with a solid regulatory framework, it cannot be everywhere at a every moment,” the report states.
“That is why the board encourages concerned individuals to voice their safety concerns with companies internally, and, when necessary, to bring them to the attention of the board.”
But that is cold comfort for Vokes.
He was fired by TransCanada a week after he filed a formal complaint with the NEB in May 2011 and has only worked sporadically ever since.
Vokes said he stood up because it was the right thing to do but other engineers at TransCanada did not.
“Nobody stood up,” Vokes said. “Professional engineers have a duty of care to society. People should have stood up. They’re in my (internal TransCanada) emails, showing that people knew there was a problem. But nobody would stand up.”