What you know about pipelines and the environment might be wrong

Let’s be honest. Pipelines get a bad rap when it comes to the environment. Past incidents in Canada are partly to blame, and we’re working hard to prevent them in the future. However, misinformation has also played a significant role in creating the perception that pipeline companies simply don’t care about the environment. In this post, we want to set the record straight, so Canadians have the facts they need for an informed discussion about the role pipelines should play in our future.

Pipeline being installed by pipe layers.

6 ideas about pipelines that just aren’t true

Misconception 1: The pipeline industry doesn’t care about climate change.

Truth: The facts show climate change is real. That’s why pipeline companies are working to reduce emissions from their operations while delivering energy that is still very much needed (and, according to forecasts, will continue to be needed) by people in Canada and around the world. At CEPA, we think Canada has an opportunity to lead the world in terms of developing innovative solutions for smart and sustainable energy production.

Misconception 2: Pipeline operators don’t protect Canada’s wildlife, forests, waterways or land. 

Truth: From the time a pipeline is planned until after it retires, pipeline companies work to minimize the environmental impact of their projects. Here are a couple examples: When planning a route, companies conduct thorough environmental assessments which identify the fish, wildlife and vegetation that needs to be protected throughout the pipeline’s life. And, after a pipeline is built, companies perform reclamation work to restore the area impacted during construction.

Misconception 3: Pipeline spills happen all the time.

Truth: Pipeline spills are rare. Every day, three million barrels of crude oil are moved by transmission pipelines in Canada, and between 2002 and 2013, 99.9995 per cent of the liquid product transported by our member companies was moved safely.

Plus, Canada’s pipelines are among the safest in the world. According to Natural Resources Canada, the rate of spills on federally regulated pipelines in this country was 57 per cent lower than in Europe and 60 per cent lower than in the United States over the past decade.

Misconception 4: Renewable energy development conflicts with the interests of pipeline companies.

Truth: Many pipeline companies are actually invested in sources of renewable energy. For example, Enbridge is invested in 14 wind farms, and a TransCanada’s compressor station in B.C. provides emission-free electricity for the province’s power grid.

The pipeline industry supports the transition to renewable energy but also recognizes that the world still requires all energy sources (including oil and gas) to support a growing global population.

Misconception 5: Irreparable environmental damage from pipeline spills is inevitable.

Truth: While Canada’s pipeline are some the safest in the world, we can’t guarantee there will never be a spill. However, our number one priority is achieving zero incidents, and pipeline companies are driving towards that goal by continuously improving the technologies, systems and safety culture that protect their lines.

If an incident does occur, companies have sophisticated emergency response plans in place to ensure any incident is dealt with quickly and effectively and damage is minimized. Plus, companies are committed to working at the site until the area is cleaned up and restored.

Misconception 6: Pipeline companies don’t value aboriginal knowledge.

Truth: The industry knows that by building strong relationships with aboriginal communities, companies can better minimize the environmental impact of their projects by learning traditional knowledge about local land, forest, water and wildlife.

Looking for more facts?

Uncover the truth about more pipeline myths here.


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.