Who’s protecting the environment around Canada’s pipelines? This guy, for one

This is the first post in our “The human side of environmental protection” blog series.

Daniel Dietrich, a senior environmental advisor for TransGas Limited.

Daniel Dietrich is passionate about issues like landscape protection, clean air and clean water. The Saskatchewan native grew up involved in the family farm, is a professional agrologist and volunteers for non-profit environmental groups. He also works for a pipeline company.

“I always wanted to do something that was of critical importance, and in my mind, this kind of work is,” said Dietrich, a senior environmental advisor for TransGas Limited who helps ensure the environment is protected when pipelines are being planned and constructed.

“Some people might think being passionate about environmental protection and working for a natural gas pipeline company is hypocritical,” he said. “I have always believed you can make more beneficial change from within than outside an organization.”

We talked to Dietrich about how his job helps safeguard the environment, “the most important system society has” (his own words).

5 questions with Daniel Dietrich, environmental advisor

Daniel Dietrich, a senior environmental advisor for TransGas Limited.Q: You help protect the environment when transmission pipelines and facilities are being built. Explain how you do that.

I help and assist in the routing, so there is environmental consideration given to where the pipeline and facilities are situated to reduce environmental impact.

I am also responsible for looking after the environmental assessments, which include looking at impacts on wildlife, vegetation, soils, water and also social impacts – impacts on communities, First Nations and Métis communities and other interested stakeholders, including landowners.

My job also entails managing the construction environmental compliance aspect (to ensure the project is meeting regulations and is in line with industry best practices). During and following construction, we facilitate audits and inspections (these are either ordered by the regulator or are done voluntarily).

We follow the project all the way through to final reclamation in the subsequent years after construction to ensure the pipeline (right-of-way) is reclaimed appropriately and that we are limiting our impact on the landscape.

Q: What part of your job is the most critical in terms of protecting the environment? 

Routing the pipeline is, in my opinion, by far the most critical aspect of environmental protection. Significant adverse impact can largely, in many cases, be avoided by routing the pipeline in a manner that takes into account sensitive habitat, species, soils, terrain, etc.

We pick a route that limits the impact on those landscape features. By doing that we mitigate a lot of the concerns that we would have as environmental practitioners and also that the public and our stakeholders would have. (Our stakeholders are part of that routing process, and we often go out and seek their input into how we route a pipeline.)

Q: Is there a particular type of landscape you generally try to avoid?

In Saskatchewan*, there’s not a lot of native grassland or native prairie still around. So when we route major infrastructure projects, we really strive to avoid those sensitive landscapes. Native prairie is important habitat for many endangered species.

*TransGas operates more than 14,000 kilometres of natural gas pipeline in the Prairie province.

Q: After a pipeline right-of-way has been reclaimed after construction, do you continue to monitor the area to ensure the reclamation is successful?

Our company has a reclamation inspection program for projects that are recently constructed, completed and operational. We’ll go and look at those pipeline right-of-ways years after to look at the condition we’ve left the land in along the right-of-way.

Q: Why is protecting the environment so important to you?

Without a healthy ecosystem, every other system would collapse – everything from social systems to economic and financial systems – so I think it’s probably the most important thing to protect and look after, and I truly believe that if we don’t, we’re headed down a dark path. So I was always interested in working in this sector because I felt like it was very important work.

Learn more about what pipeline companies are doing to protect the environment by checking out our #PipelinesExposed blog series.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 117,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2014, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 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.