A pipeline critic’s perspective: CEPA speaks with the Pipeline Safety Trust

Carl Weimer, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust and member of CEPA's External Advisory Panel (EAP)

Carl Weimer, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust and member of CEPA’s External Advisory Panel (EAP)

Carl Weimer is a member of CEPA’s External Advisory Panel (EAP) and the executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, a U.S. based advocacy group formed after three people were killed in a pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Washington, in 1999. As a pipeline critic and a member of the EAP, Weimer is working with CEPA to share his perspectives and concerns about the pipeline industry. To read more about how CEPA is listening to pipeline critics through the EAP, read this week’s blog.

Here is the full text of Weimer’s interview:

1. Why have you chosen to become a member of CEPA’s External Advisory Panel (EAP)?

There are really four reasons I chose to join the CEPA EAP. Mainly, I wanted to ensure that the voice of concerned citizens was well represented on the EAP and that lessons hard learned in the United States are shared with those on the panel and within CEPA. I also believe membership will provide me with new insights to the way the top leadership of pipeline companies think about safety and then implement those beliefs in their companies. It also provides a great opportunity to access the executives of major pipeline companies without being filtered through various layers of public or governmental relations employees. And finally I hope it will allow me to learn more about the way pipelines are operated and regulated in Canada that may be better than in the United States, so I can use those best practices in the future.

2. What do you hope your participation in the panel will achieve in terms of pipeline safety in both Canada and the U.S.?

I believe that only when citizens, industry and regulators are willing to embrace the conflicts that currently keep us apart, and discuss and deal with those conflicts in a constructive way, can true trust in pipeline safety be achieved. To achieve such success around the various conflicts currently in play depends on a good deal more information being available to citizens and local governments. The Pipeline Safety Trust has had a good deal of success in the United States gaining greater transparency of information on pipelines, and it appears this is an area where Canada has some catching up to do. If my participation on the EAP achieves nothing else, I hope I can move greater transparency of information forward in Canada.

3. What has your experience with the Canadian industry been like thus far?

My personal experience with the Canadian industry has been positive, with both CEPA and individual companies saying they are willing to work toward fine sounding commitments to safety, openness and transparency. While I have no direct conflicts with Canadian companies, there are numerous conflicting stories on a nearly daily basis in the news media where companies’ actions seem to be at odds with the commitments portrayed in CEPA’s Integrity First principles. The apparent discrepancy between the commitments made in the Integrity First policy and what is reported in the media and by local citizens is one area ripe for constructive conflict resolution discussions that could help build real trust.

4. Why do you choose to work directly with the pipeline industry to achieve your goal of improving pipeline safety?

The Pipeline Safety Trust works with any of the various stakeholder groups that we believe want to move pipeline safety forward. The pipeline industry is the most direct route for meaningful change since the industry owns, maintains and operates the pipelines. If the industry chooses to make changes they can do so much faster than trying to achieve those same changes through governmental regulations or public pressure.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2013, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.