Interfering with pipelines puts the public at risk

Pipelines are safe, complex systems that are a part of the network of critical infrastructure that includes powerlines, airports and roads. Tampering with infrastructure and utilities is extremely dangerous – not only for the person or people causing the damage – but for surrounding communities, the public and the environment as well. When it comes to pipelines, an unauthorized and unscheduled valve closure or damage to a pipe before it’s in the ground poses serious risks.

This is a serious safety issue. Because safety is the number one priority for members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), they address issues that put pipelines and the safety of communities at risk (such as tampering), and have plans in place to mitigate those risks. As a result of those plans, any time there has been a tampering incident, pipeline operators have quickly been able to respond and manage it safely.

Several high-profile tampering incidents have captured news headlines in recent years. In a 2011 incident, a Canadian Natural Resources pipeline was vandalized near the Alberta/British Columbia border, causing a leak that spilled thousands of litres of oil. In 2016, activists turned off the valves of five pipelines in an effort to disrupt the movement of oil across North America. Another activist used a torch to burn a hole through a section of pipe.

Not only are these incidents dangerous – they are counter-intuitive.

In most cases, the activists or groups involved in the tampering are doing so to raise awareness about their beliefs, whether it’s relating to the environment or safety. However, sabotaging pipelines does the exact opposite of what they are trying to accomplish by creating situations that could lead to spills or other problems, ultimately creating risks for society and impeding the industry’s efforts to safely transport the energy Canadians rely on every day.

CEPA and Canada’s transmission pipeline operators respect Canadians’ rights to freedom of speech and protest, and share the belief that we are fortunate to live in a country where we all have the right to vocalize our concerns. But safety comes first, and when people do choose to protest they must do so safely and legally to avoid putting the public, environment and Canada’s critical energy infrastructure at risk.

CEPA members are committed to delivering energy to Canadians in the safest and most responsible way, and this includes protecting transmission pipelines and the crucial role they play in the Canadian economy and citizens’ daily lives. In fact, CEPA members are continuously improving their safety and security protocols, including guarding against cyber threats and collaborating with first responders.

Find out more about how CEPA members are vigilant about monitoring and protecting pipelines.