British Columbia

Pipeline transparency: NEB posts all safety inspections, fines online

Canada's energy regulator says it is the first in North America to go public with pipeline safety reports.

'We are now the most transparent energy regulator in North America,' say officials

The National Energy Board will make public oil pipeline safety reports, a move the industry says will help build public confidence in oil and gas projects. (Alex Panetta/Canadian Press)

Canada's energy regulator says it is the first in North America to go public with pipeline safety reports.

All safety inspections, fines and punishments will be posted dating from September 2015 onwards in a clear, accessible way, after years of public demand for more transparency says the National Energy Board.

"Canadians really deserve to have this information. I think what you are looking at is a new NEB," said Darin Barter, a National Energy Board, spokesperson in Calgary.

He said the change is based on a premise that Canadians' right to know about the inner-workings of pipeline safety is more important than shielding companies.

Barter said if disclosing pipeline issues prompt Canadians to lose confidence, "I would say the companies need to step it up then."

This shift towards transparency comes after years of criticism of the energy regulator, especially from U.S. pipeline watchdogs who said Canada lagged far behind America when it came to providing maps and safety information.

Our industry is under quite a spotlight. I think anything that will help build public confidence will help.- Mark Cooper, TransCanada Corporation

Carl Weimer, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust in Bellingham, Wash., a non-profit group focused on improving pipeline safety told CBC in 2013 that he was "shocked" by the amount of information available in Canada.

The NEB's new move toward transparency is earning praise from the oil and gas industry.

"Our industry is under quite a spotlight. I think anything that will help build public confidence ... will help," said Mark Cooper, spokesperson for TransCanada Corporation, a leading infrastructure company in Canada.

"I think the public overwhelmingly understands the need for oil and gas in their everyday lives," he added. "They just want it transported safely."

with files for the CBC's Betsy Trumpener

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