• Carmen Marie Fabio

Pipeline transmission company membership group pitches at UMQ


MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges Prefect Jean Lalonde (left) and St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo

raised a number of pipeline safety issues at the May 22 Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

(CEPA) presentation at the Montreal general assembly of the Union de Municipalités Québécoises


Besides the usual assortment of Christmas lights, road maintenance and repair booths, and legal and financial services, this year’s annual three-day general assembly of the Union de Municipalités Québécoises (UMQ) held at Montreal’s Palais de congrès last weekend, hosted a series of one-hour seminars, including a presentation by the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA). “Pipelines have a long history in Canada,” said CEPA Chief Operating Officer Jim Donihee, “a history of secure (oil) transportation and the industry is still working on improving pipeline security.”

Donihee described CEPA’s 12 companies - that include TransCanada which has plans to build in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region and Enbridge that is seeking to transport oil through the region with its 9B reversal plan - as large companies with advanced, secure systems and said the limited number of players allows for a more direct involvement of the CEPA.

Though the 45-minute presentation was given in dulcet tones accompanied by photos illustrating how the oil and gas pipeline industry is focusing on a cycle of operational improvement, reportedly incorporating transparency to the public and the identification of gaps in performance and policies, some off island elected officials were not reassured. Without citing dollar amounts, Donihee talked about the economic benefits the pipelines bring to the country, describing them as an essential infrastructure and said the industry has a zero-incident goal based on collaborative efforts.

All CEPA members have agreed to sign and follow an ‘Integrity First’ policy. “Are you getting ready to prepare a flow reversal policy?” asked St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo in reference the plan to transport diluted bitumen eastward through a 40-year-old pipeline Enbridge’s Pipeline 9B project. “It’s not on the books at the moment,” said Donihee, classifying the question as being ‘very technical.’ Grimaudo pointed out specific policy had been adapted in the United States following serious accidents following flow reversal. “We know that it’s going to happen in Vaudrueil-Soulanges with 9B,” said Grimaudo. “Wouldn’t it be logical to prepare yourself for an eventual problem knowing very well what flow reversal is going to do?”

Donihee said the mandate of the CEPA was not to instruct companies to operate in a certain manner but rather to make recommendations on the best way to operate with the decision to comply ultimately lying with the individual pipeline company and Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB). Among other area elected officials in attendance, including Pincourt Councillor Sam Ierfi no and Kirkland’s André Allard, Ste. Anne de Bellevue Councillor Ryan Young broached the topic of pipeline sensors in light of last week’s Plains All American Pipeline oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. “The citizens were the ones that identified the actual leak and had to notify the government and the oil company. If we’re going to transport oil safely in a pipeline, it would make sense that there would be sensors everywhere possible along the line so that as soon as there was a leak like this, it would be the company that would know about it first.”

Young asked if basic economics determined the presence of sensors, and while Donihee did not provide a straight yes or no response, he reiterated CEPA’s mission statement of working together and said millions of dollars have been invested into leak detection and is one of CEPA’s greatest priorities. Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) Prefect Jean Lalonde questioned Donihee on the emergency measures plans requested from Enbridge 18 months ago that he says still have not been provided.

“I’d like you to give that message to Enbridge and also to TransCanada Pipelines, and I would like to finally have a good answer.” Grimaudo further pressed the issue in pointing out the industry’s self-regulation did not inspire public confidence and the continued communication breakdowns from the pipeline companies, despite resolutions from all the municipalities in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM).

“We’ve also asked for hydrostatic testing for 9B,” said Grimaudo. “We don’t get any responses, or they tell us ‘hydrostatic testing is not the only test, there are other tests.’ The relationship between the pipeline companies and the local municipalities and residents is not good because we’re not getting answers.”

Citoyens au courants citizen group spokesperson Lorraine Caron lamented the $720 price tag of the UMQ attendance saying it prohibited community and special interest groups from taking part in the event.

“I only hope all the delegates attending the CEPA conference were savvy enough to read between the lines and to understand it was essentially a sales pitch.”

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