$16K fine for Apache pipeline spill not even a slap on wrist by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press, July 7, 2015, Edmonton Journal
An energy company with a history of pipeline problems has been fined and warned by Alberta’s regulator for a 2013 spill that sent millions of litres of salty water into the muskeg.
But environmental groups say Apache Canada’s $16,500 penalty isn’t even a slap on the wrist.
“It’s more like a wave in the general direction of a wrist,” Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said Tuesday.
Sometime during the first week in May 2013, an Apache pipeline in the Zama region of northern Alberta began to leak process water heavily contaminated with salt. That leak continued until it had released 15 million toxic litres into the surrounding muskeg.
The company finally reported the leak to the regulator on June 1 of that year.
It was the latest in a series of problems for the company. The regulator reported 12 “high-risk enforcement actions” between 2009 and 2013, most of which involved the release of hydrocarbons or other fluids.
“The AER investigation revealed that Apache lacked adequate procedures, training, communication, and supervision that contributed to the failure to detect, evaluate, and take immediate action concerning the pipeline leak and subsequent release of produced water,” the regulator said in its report.
Apache was fined on June 27. [Two years and a month to fine the company? Can’t Ex-Encana, Ex-CAPP Gerard Protti and his “no duty of care” staff work faster than this? Are they charging 19% interest like credit card companies charge?]
On Tuesday, the regulator ordered the company to hire an independent auditor to check how it maintains pipeline safety. The auditor’s recommendations must be in place by the end of the year. As well, Apache has until October to tell the regulator how it plans to prevent future releases. [What hog wash! Companies are to have spill prevention in place BEFORE receiving approvals!]
Apache has already complied, the regulator said.
But Stewart pointed out the penalty amounts to about one-tenth of a cent per litre. That type of administrative fine isn’t enough to deter companies from cutting corners, he said. “If they don’t actually proceed with prosecution, they’re sending the message that this is no big deal. What they’re saying is that you can mess up badly and there’s no real cost.” Stewart also said the amount of water in the spill throws doubt on industry assurances that modern, high-tech tools allow crews to spot leaks immediately. “They keep telling us they have this fancy technology which they can detect spills in 10 minutes, yet this one went on for 27 days.”
In a release, the regulator points out it is investigating other Apache incidents and that further enforcement is possible.
Late Tuesday, Apache issued a statement saying it will comply with the enforcement action and is working closely with the Alberta Energy Regulator to meet the obligations outlined and to ensure the integrity of Apache-operated pipelines. “Apache takes its environmental and regulatory responsibility very seriously,” said the release from media relations advisor Paul Wyke. “Pipeline integrity on our gathering systems is a critical component of meeting that responsibility.” He said prior to the enforcement action, the company had set up a group to look for ways to improve its pipeline operations. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Subject: Change for the Company-Owned Regulator!!
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 2015 12:15:56 -0600
Apache Canada Ltd subject to AER enforcement action
For immediate release
It’s just far too late for the AER to start issuing cash fines as a means to bring pipeline operators to compliance!! Many Albertans including myself offered this method for years to no avail. The measly $16,000 fine would not cover much in land and environmental damage in today’s Alberta!! This spring and early summer we have had a noticeable lack of reported pipeline failures—is this a matter of reporting failures, or were pipeline failures starting to decrease? Certainly many many Albertans are awaiting the changes the NDP have in mind for the AER!! All chores around volumes, audits, production reporting must be removed from the AER, and placed with a true governmental organization operating out of Edmonton to benefit the government and public ownership!! A Crown Corporation that would represent solely the public owners– at especially federal NEP hearings, would be very very useful. Moving government arms length from managing the public interest in petroleum property they own and allowing a Professional Crown Corporation to manage the largest business in Alberta, could pay dividends! With the AER insisting they have no responsibilities in managing the care of citizens affected by petroleum operations, we must have a governmental organization that does have this capability??
Calgary, Alberta (Jul 07, 2015)…
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has directed Apache Canada Ltd. to address the integrity of its pipeline management system, implement recommendations from third-party audits, and submit plans for future action. These directed actions are a result of a comprehensive investigation into the company for its failure to follow provincial legislation and AER requirements.
Between January 23, 2009, and November 6, 2013, the AER issued twelve high risk enforcement actions to Apache for noncompliances with the Pipeline Act and Pipeline Rules. Between June 1, 2013, and October 29, 2014, Apache reported six pipeline incidents that caused loss or damage to public lands and resulted in or had the potential to impact the environment. The company failed to appropriately report and remediate some ofIt’s just far too late for the AER It the sites as required by the AER.
The AER has directed Apache to take steps necessary to address issues with its internal pipeline management system. The AER has issued an administrative penalty of $16 500 and four orders:
-Oil and Gas Conservation Act section 22 order
-Public Lands Act enforcement order
-Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act enforcement order and environmental protection order
The orders direct the company to
-complete a third-party audit of its pipeline integrity management system by December 31, 2015, and implement recommendations by December 31, 2016;
-submit for AER approval a plan to prevent future releases for all its high risk pipelines by July 31, 2015, for implementation by September 31, 2015;
-implement recommendations specific to the Zama operating field by December 31, 2015; and
-submit for AER approval a communication plan that describes, at a minimum, monthly progress updates on its website.
The Compliance Dashboard has been updated; two incident investigations remain open and may be subject to enforcement actions.
The Alberta Energy Regulator ensures the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of hydrocarbon resources over their entire life cycle. This includes allocating and conserving water resources, managing public lands, and protecting the environment while providing economic benefits for all Albertans.
– See more at: http://www.aer.ca/about-aer/media-centre/news-releases/news-release-2015-07-07#sthash.eyUkxyfL.dpuf