April 18, 2005

NEB reports on environmental activies in 2004

Canada's oil pipeline infrastructure is being strained to the limit, says the National Energy Board (NEB) in its 2004 Annual Report, released earlier this month. While there is some spare capacity on existing natural gas transportation infrastructure, applications for new pipelines to deliver production from new sources continue to be filed. In addition, plans are being made for both expansions and new pipelines to accommodate growing oil sands production. In October, the report notes that the Board received five applications from Imperial Oil Resources Ventures and other applicants for the construction and operation of the Mackenzie Gas Project in northern Canada.

The NEB selected "Protect and Enable" as the theme of its 2004 Annual Report. "In harnessing our energy resources, we must protect the things that are important to Canadians: the integrity of our environment; respect of individual property; public safety and security; and effective market functioning," said Board chairman Ken Vollman.

The concept of enabling implies a responsibility to provide efficient regulatory processes and practices so that projects found to be in the public interest can proceed on a timely basis. To this end, the Board released its NEB Filing Manual in April 2004 to guide companies preparing applications to the Board.

The filing requirements for environmental, socio-economic and lands assessment contained in the new guide are not substantially different from those in the earlier Guidelines for Filing Requirements, says the NEB. They have, however been updated to provide clearer guidance and more specifics relating to requirements. The new manual outlines the environmental and socio-economic assessment process applicants are expected to carry out, including evaluation of cumulative effects as part of the overall assessment. The manual also sets out explicit requirements and guidance on human health.

With regard to monitoring compliance, the report notes that in 2004, 22 environmental inspections were carried out on NEB-regulated projects under construction and 18 post-construction inspections. As part of its work in tracking environmental conditions for compliance and effectiveness, the NEB confirmed 92 environmental conditions as being effective in achieving their desired outcomes, with seven falling short. The conditions that failed to produce an effective outcome were attributed to incomplete company filings or lack of condition clarity, notes the report.

The NEB also completed four management system audits of regulated companies. These included evaluations of company environmental protection programs. Overall, the audited companies were found to have a strong commitment to environmental protection, with environmental policies in place supported by environmental programs. Some deficiencies were noted, for example, pertaining to the development of formal processes for determining and evaluating environmental aspects, the delivery of appropriate environmental training programs, and the implementation of company internal audit programs.

The report provides data on spills and releases, noting a total of 27 gaseous and liquid hydrocarbon spills reported in 2004. Of these, five reportable spills involved quantities of liquid hydrocarbons greater than 1, 500 litres. All but one of the spills were contained within pump station sites or terminals, and no incidents resulted in the migration of liquid product off company property or right-of-way.

The NEB's 2004 Annual Report may be viewed on the Board's Web site, www.neb-one.gc.ca.

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