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As Keystone Decision Looms, Buried Report Cites TransCanada’s ‘Inadequate’ Pipeline Inspections

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"As Keystone Decision Looms, Buried Report Cites TransCanada’s ‘Inadequate’ Pipeline Inspections"

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Just weeks after a TransCanada natural gas pipeline exploded and left thousands of residents without gas in sub-zero temperatures, a CBC News investigation uncovered a 2011 report, buried by federal regulators, that criticized the company “for ‘inadequate’ field inspections and ‘ineffective’ management.”

The report was prepared in the aftermath of another TransCanada natural gas pipeline explosion — a 2009 blast on Dene Tha’ First Nation territory in northern Alberta. It found that the pipeline in question, the Peace River Mainline, had a rupture rate five times higher than the national average and, when it burst in 2009, that particular section was 95 percent corroded.

The report wasn’t released until this January when the CBC obtained it, an oversight the National Energy Board chalked up to an “administrative error.”

The timing of the error is particularly questionable, the CDC notes, considering the fact that in early 2011, “TransCanada was in the midst of negotiating dozens of U.S. safety requests on pipeline construction, operation and design on the controversial Keystone XL proposal.”

TransCanada is still awaiting a decision on its contentious Keystone XL proposal. After the U.S. State Department released its final environmental impact statement last week, it is now up to President Obama to determine whether the pipeline is in the best interest of the country.

Oil began flowing through the southern leg of the pipeline in January and TransCanada CEO Russ Girling called it “the safest oil pipeline built in America to date.” As of November, TransCanada had already fixed 125 sags and dents in the southern leg of the pipeline, according to a report by non-profit consumer rights group Public Citizen.

On January 25, a TransCanada natural gas pipeline exploded and caught fire in Manitoba, sending flames 300 meters into the sky, according to witnesses, and shut off gas supplies to 4,000 customers for several days as temperatures plummeted to -32 degrees Celsius.

In a press conference following the explosion, TransCanada’s Karl Johannson said the company did not know what caused the explosion and that it “will take several weeks” to determine what happened.

An NEB spokesperson told the CBC that the delay of the Peace River Mainline report “in no way compromised the safe operation” of the pipeline. However, talks to decommission part of the aging line that began in 2010 have not yielded any result and members of the Dene Tha’ emphasize that the portion under consideration for decommissioning doesn’t extend into the northern Alberta region where the explosion occurred.

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