Reporting Unauthorized Activities
- How the model works
- Regulatory instruments
- Reporting on Enforcement
- Contact Information
Most pipelines are buried, so unauthorized excavation and construction activity near those pipelines has the potential to cause unintended damage. To protect the safety of people and the environment, there are rules to follow when working near pipelines, and everyone has a role to play.
Pipeline Companies: Are responsible for informing the public about how to work safely around pipelines.
The Public: Is responsible for following the safety laws and requirements when working around pipelines.
The Regulator: The National Energy Board (NEB) is responsible for promoting and encouraging improvements in safe work practices around pipelines. The NEB promotes education and awareness as the primary tools for safe practices around pipelines.
One way to improve safety is to take a closer look at unauthorized activities (UAs) to identify if lessons can be learned and improvements can be made to prevent a recurrence.
In order to determine where safety improvements may be required, the NEB has developed a more consistent approach for addressing unsafe work around pipelines.
The NEB’s response to reports of unauthorized activities will:
- continue to use education and awareness as the primary tools to address unauthorized activities;
- use formal regulatory instruments, when required, for the sake of public safety and environmental protection;
- allow all parties involved in NEB unauthorized activity assessments the opportunity to participate and have their information on the record;
- hold persons and / or companies accountable for safety by addressing underlying causes of unauthorized activities to prevent future unsafe work around pipelines;
- provide a consistent and effective response to reports of unauthorized activities; and
- encourage parties to learn from unauthorized activities and address gaps to prevent events that could put people and the environment at risk.
How the NEB enforcement model works
Step I - Report the unauthorized activity
The National Energy Board Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Obligations of Pipeline Companies, s.11(1) directs all NEB-regulated pipeline companies to report:
- every contravention of the National Energy Board Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Authorizations;
- all damage to its pipe caused or identified during the construction of a facility across, on, along or under a pipeline, the operation, maintenance or removal of a facility, an activity that caused a ground disturbance within the prescribed area or the operation of vehicles or mobile equipment across the pipeline; and
- any activity related to the construction of a facility across, on, along or under a pipeline, an activity that caused a ground disturbance within the prescribed area or the operation of vehicles or mobile equipment across a pipeline that the pipeline company considers could impair the safety or security of the pipe.
Step A - Regulated companies should notify the NEB of the unauthorized activity using the online event reporting system (OERS) to submit the preliminary unauthorized activity report immediately or within 24 hours of discovery.
Step B - The regulated pipeline company is required to submit a final report in OERS for each unauthorized activity near a NEB-regulated pipeline within 30 days of submitting the preliminary UA report.
Please note: Regulated companies are reminded that if they become aware of a hazard to the safety or security of the public or the environment, they must notify the NEB as soon as possible by calling the NEB Incident phone at 403-807-9473.
For the public: If you are concerned that there is unauthorized excavation work taking place on a right of way near you, please contact the pipeline company.
Step II - Classify the unauthorized activity
The NEB will use the criteria below to determine the severity of the unauthorized activity and the appropriate response.
NEB response 3m–30m within the prescribed area
- No immediate hazard exists; and
- Within the prescribed area but more than 3 metres from the physical pipe
NEB response 0m–3m within the prescribed area
- A hazard exists; or
- Within 3 metres of the pipe; or
- Willful contravention of regulations
- Repeated unauthorized activities
LEVEL 1 UNAUTHORIZED ACTIVITY 3–30 metres from the pipe
- NO immediate hazard exists
- Ground disturbance activity within the 30 metre prescribed area (safety zone)
- More than 3 metres from the pipe
- Construction/installation of a facility in the 30 metre prescribed area (safety zone)
- If a party is a repeat offender, the offense will be categorized as high risk in order to identify and resolve underlying issues
LEVEL 2 – HIGH RISK UNAUTHORIZED ACTIVITY 0– 3 metres from the pipe
- An immediate hazard exists
- Within 3 metres of the physical pipe
- Within the right of way
- Unauthorized contact with physical pipe;
- Willful contravention of regulations or Orders
- If a pipeline strike is found to have third party elements, it may be addressed with the Damage Prevention Compliance Enforcement process.
Failure to comply with regulations (and company instructions) when working on right of way
Step III - Communication with interested Parties
For all reported unauthorized activities, the NEB will notify all parties involved by letter or email within 10 business days of receiving the full report and will provide the interested persons with information on safe work practices around pipelines.
Step IV - Assessment of level 2 high-risk unauthorized activities
When an unauthorized activity is classified as level 2 high risk, the NEB may conduct an assessment that will begin with the issuing of a letter to all parties involved requesting information related to the event. During the assessment, the NEB will review all relevant information submitted by interested persons, will determine the underlying cause(s) of the event, and will identify what needs to be done to prevent a recurrence. Typical information to submit includes:
- completed UA report;
- emails exchanged regarding the event;
- photos, maps;
- documentation related to the event;
- site instructions provided (if issued); and
- statement to be taken by phone.
Within 21 business days from the last day of the information review, the NEB will notify all parties involved of the results of its assessment.
The NEB will follow up with parties involved to verify that all prescribed actions resulting from the assessment are addressed.
There are a range of possible responses to unauthorized activities. For example, the Board may seek a voluntary commitment to undertake corrective measures. The Board may also issue a Board or Inspection Officer Order to address certain issues that were deemed deficient. Follow-up may include written submissions, meetings, or site visits. For each situation, the NEB will carefully consider what, if any, form of regulatory instrument to apply, depending on what is considered to be the most appropriate way to address underlying causes and to promote safety.
The following tools can be used to obtain compliance, deter future non-compliance, and prevent harm:
The NEB will often provide notice that certain activities could lead to non-compliance or that it intends to investigate suspected areas of non-compliance. The most common form of this type of notice is the Board’s Safety Advisories.
- Corrected Non-Compliance (CNC)
A CNC is used when non-compliances observed in the field were addressed while the inspection officer was on-site. This tool is used when there is minimal safety risk or environmental harm as a result of the non-compliance and it is corrected immediately in the field. The non-compliance will be noted in the inspection report along with the corrective measures that were taken to return to compliance.
- Notice of Non-Compliance (NNC)
An NNC is a written undertaking issued by the inspection officer to a NEB-regulated company or third party when non-compliance with a low probability of harm to people or the environment is observed, and time is required to address the issue. It is intended to bring compliance issues to the attention of the company/individual, in order to generate the necessary action to return to compliance. The inspection officer will determine an effective corrective action, consult with the regulated company, and propose a reasonable timeline to correct the non-compliance. It is not a finding of guilt or civil liability, but will form part of the NEB’s records when planning its compliance verification activities and determining what enforcement action to take for future or re-occurring non-compliances.
- Corrective Action Plans
Corrective Action Plans are developed by regulated companies in response to audit findings of non-compliance or specific requests of the NEB. These plans must contain time commitments and be approved by the Board.
- Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP)
An AMP is a financial penalty imposed on individuals or companies in response to contravention of legislative requirements to promote safety and environmental protection.
The NEB has authority to enforce certain requirements or restrict operations through the use of Board Orders. Orders that restrict operations are commonly referred to as Safety Orders. In addition, designated Officers have the authority to direct and, in some situations, order parties to correct non-compliance.
- Revocation of authorization
If the NEB has lost confidence in the ability of a company to operate safely or in a manner that protects the environment, it may consider revoking an authorization that enables the company’s operation.
- Disallow or Suspend Tariff
If the NEB finds that the tolls and tariffs applied for or in place are not just and reasonable or are unjustly discriminatory, the NEB has authority to suspend or disallow the toll or tariff.
It is an offence to contravene certain provisions of the NEB Act, COGOA and CLC, Part II. If serious offences are discovered, the NEB may refer the details of the offence to the Office of the Attorney General of Canada for prosecution. A Board Order can also be made an order of the Federal Court for the purpose of enforcement.
Reporting on Enforcement
The NEB will publish:
- the number of unauthorized activities reported and the provinces where they occurred;
- the number of level 2 high-risk unauthorized activities; and
- the number and types of regulatory instruments issued.
For more information, email request to DPInfo@neb-one.gc.ca or by mail to the NEB at:
Suite 210, 517 Tenth Avenue SW
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