Agricultural Activities Near Pipelines
Table of Contents
- Who is this information for?
- Where do the pipeline damage prevention regulations apply?
- Activities and Equipment
- What is a ground disturbance?
- Pipeline information
- Driving across a pipeline
- Constructing a facility
- How to make changes to plans after you get consent
- Your duty to inform others
- Agreeing to activities and costs
- If you don’t follow the regulations
The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) has regulations to protect Canadians, the environment, and damage to pipelines. We regulate natural gas, oil, and commodity pipelines that cross provincial, territorial, or national boundaries.
In this publication, we explain how to work in the prescribed area, (including the right-of-way), crossing a pipeline with vehicles or mobile equipment and building facilities on or near a pipeline.
Who is this information for?
Damage prevention is a shared responsibility and we all have a role to play. This information is for, but not limited to, the following groups who live and work near federally regulated pipelines:
- agricultural producers
- market gardeners
- tree farmers
- sod growers
- vineyard operators
(residential and commercial)
- lease holders
- Indigenous rights holders
- any others with property rights near pipelines
This document refers to the following regulations:
- Canadian Energy Regulator Act (CER Act, section 335) (available on the Justice Laws, Government of Canada site)
- Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Authorizations (DPR–A)
- Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Obligations of Pipeline Companies (DPR–O) (available on the Justice Laws, Government of Canada site)
Where do the pipeline damage prevention regulations apply?
The prescribed area – the zone where safety precautions are required for work near pipelines
The prescribed area is a strip of land measured 30 m on both sides of the centreline of the pipe. If there is more than one pipeline in the right-of-way, the prescribed area is measured from the outermost pipelines on each side.
For more details, see DPR–A section 2.
Working in the prescribed area
In the prescribed area, you must take extra precautions and get written consent from the pipeline company (or an Order from the Commission) before you can do certain activities.
Activities and equipment in the prescribed area are regulated for safety and to prevent contact with and damage to the pipe. You must have written consent from the pipeline company for:
- any project that digs 30 cm or deeper within the prescribed area
- any cultivation that is 45 cm or deeper within the prescribed area
For examples, see activities and equipment.
The pipeline company must make sure your activities won’t damage the pipe before they give consent. If the pipeline company gives consent, they must give you written information to do your activities safely. You need this information not just for your own safety, but also the safety of the public and the environment.
Know what’s below
In addition to federally regulated pipelines, there may be provincially and locally regulated facilities such as pipelines and cables in your work area. These facilities may include oil and gas field gathering pipes, gas distribution systems, fibre optic telecommunication cables, water and sewer lines, and electrical cables.
Before you start your activities, contact Click Before You Dig.
The right-of-way (ROW) is the strip of land for which a company has obtained the right to construct and operate a pipeline. The width of the right-of-way varies according to the size, routing, and number of pipelines. The area of the right-of-way is usually smaller than the prescribed area. On the pipeline ROW, you must get the pipeline company’s written consent before you dig or build anything, such as a fence, garage, or even a shed.
The prescribed area is measured 30 m outwards from the centreline of the pipe and is present whether or not there is a right-of-way.
Activities and Equipment
There are some activities and equipment types that the pipeline company needs to know about before you start your project to make sure that you, the public and pipe are protected.
Activities in the prescribed area that require consent from the pipeline company:
- disturbing the ground 30 cm or deeper
- cultivation that is 45 cm or deeper
Examples can include, but are not limited to:
- deep tillage
- sodding, topsoil stripping
- laser leveling
- drain tiling
- ditch clearing
- clearing land, felling trees, stump removal
- building fences, driving posts, augering holes
- building structures (pool, retaining wall, shed, garage, etc.)
- digging, excavating
- pile driving, post pounding, installing bollards
- planting or removing trees
- land levelling, grading, road projects
- building a driveway, private road, lane, parking lot or pad
- crossing buried pipelines with heavy vehicles (off a roadway)
- installing or maintaining overhead lines
- manure/burrow pit
Certain activities are prohibited. Learn about them in the CER Act, section 335(1).
Important note on mechanical excavation:
You must NOT use mechanical excavation to cause a ground disturbance within 3 m of the pipe, unless you follow the measures in the regulations.
For more details, see DPR–A section 10.
Heavy equipment and machinery, as well as heavy loads, can negatively affect the pipe. All heavy equipment needs to be carefully assessed by the pipeline company. Examples of heavy loads include water, liquid fertilizer, manure, grain, etc.
You must get consent from the pipeline company to use some equipment within 30 m of the pipe. Equipment requiring consent includes, but is not limited to:
- fence post pounders
- deep tillage / rippers
- tiling equipment
- grain trucks
- super B trains
- haul trucks
- trailers carrying heavy loads
- laser leveler
- skid steer
- tree spade
For more details, see Driving across a pipeline
Read about prohibited operation of vehicles and mobile equipment in the CER Act, section 335(2).
What is a ground disturbance?
Broadly, a ground disturbance is any activity that moves or penetrates the ground. In the CER Act, ground disturbance is specifically any activity within the prescribed area that involves any of the following:
- agricultural cultivation to depths of 45 cm (18 in) or deeper below the surface of the ground
- activity (other than cultivation) to a depth of 30 cm (12 in) or deeper
- activity resulting in a reduction of the earth cover provided over the pipeline to a depth that is less than the cover provided when the pipeline was constructedFootnote 1
For more details, see DPR–A section 10.
See more information about ground disturbances in the CER Act section 2.
What does cultivation refer to?
Cultivation refers to producing crops. It includes activities such as:
To prepare land for producing crops, farmers may perform shallow cultivation, such as disking, without consent unless otherwise advised by the pipeline company.
Note: cultivation does not include activities such as building fences and sheds.
For more details, see DPR–A section 13.
Depth of cover
How deep is the pipe? Depth of cover is the depth of the soil measured from the top of the pipeline to the ground surface. The depth varies for each pipeline, depending on ground conditions and situations when the pipeline was first constructed. Depth of cover changes over time due to issues like compaction, activities, soil removal, ground settling, wind erosion, flooding, etc. Other pipes and cables may be built at shallower depths than federally regulated pipelines. Damage prevention regulations restrict ground disturbances such as digging or augering 30 cm or deeper in the prescribed area to protect you, the pipe, and other buried infrastructure.
For more details, see DPR–A section 10.
The pipe can be placed anywhere within the right-of-way, and it is often not in the centre of the right-of-way, and often not in a straight line. Pipeline signs (or markers) are placed at locations along the pipeline route (in the right-of-way), where roadways and waterways intersect with pipelines. The signs indicate that there are pipelines in the area, but do not show the exact location of the pipeline.The signs contain the name of the company, the product, and pipeline emergency numbers. Pipeline signs are there to inform you of the presence of the pipeline. You are to contact the One-Call centre prior to working on the right-of-way.
When you request consent to undertake an activity causing a ground disturbance, the pipeline company has 10 working days to inform you if it consents to the activity.
You must have the pipeline located and marked by the company before you start your activities. To do this:
- Contact the pipeline company to get consent
- Once you get consent, contact the One-Call centre at least 3 working days before you start
If your work involves a ground disturbance, you are responsible for making the locate request. You must have all buried pipelines and cables identified and have their location marked before you start.
Don’t just start digging or building.
It takes time to locate pipes and cables and to get consent.
The person doing the ground disturbance work is responsible for ensuring that the locate request has been made, so that all buried facilities have been identified and their location marked before you start.
The pipeline company’s locator will come to the site with locate equipment. The locator will mark the pipe location on the ground with paint, temporary stakes or pin flags. You may be required to meet the locator at the site so that they can explain the meaning of the markings and to give you information or instructions that may be necessary to work near the pipeline safely.
Federally regulated pipeline companies locate and mark their pipes at no cost to you. It’s free, and it’s the law.
For more details, see DPR–A section 3.
Locate mark legend
The colours used to temporarily mark the horizontal alignment of underground facilities should be consistent with the American Public Works Association Uniform Colour Code:
|PINK||temporary survey markings|
|RED||electrical, lighting cables|
|YELLOW||gas, oil, steam|
|ORANGE||telephone, cable, TV, signals, alarms|
|GREEN||sanitary and storm sewer, culverts|
|PURPLE||reclaimed water, irrigation, slurry|
Contact with the pipe
It is very important to avoid contact with the pipe. Even a small nick in the pipe’s coating can cause corrosion and become a hazard to the safety of the pipe, to you, to the public nearby, and to the environment if you cause a release. Corrosion may cause damage that can result in a release of product immediately or years later. Inform the pipeline company immediately if any equipment contacts the pipe or its coating.
If you’re excavating near a pipeline, you must give the pipeline company 24 hours’ notice before backfilling over the pipe. The pipeline company may require that an authorized representative be on site, or provide specific instructions about how to backfill over the pipe.
For more details, see DPR–A section 10.
7 steps to working safely near pipelines
- pipeline signs for phone numbers, and contact the pipeline company
- land records for easements
- CER Damage Prevention Regulations – Authorizations
- For any ground disturbance in the prescribed area that will go 30 cm or deeper, get written consent from the pipeline company.
- Contact the One-Call centre (Click Before You Dig) to start the locate process, and obtain the required safety information from the pipeline company following a locate request.
- Be on site when the company technician arrives.
- Wait until the pipeline company representative is on site before starting, as per their instructions.
- Have the One-Call ticket and written consent from the pipeline company on site.
- Inform the pipeline company immediately if any equipment contacts the pipe.
Activities that do not require consent
- digging less than 30 cm below the surface (for example: planting flowers)
- agricultural cultivation less than 45 cm, unless notified by the pipeline company that it’s unsafe to do so in certain areas
Activities that require consent
- driving vehicles or mobile equipment on the right-of-way (does not include agricultural activities)
- placing a structure on a right-of-way (for example: fence, pool, wood pile, shrub, trees)
- removing earth cover from the right-of-way
- agricultural cultivation 45 cm or deeper in the prescribed area
- ground disturbance 30 cm or more in the prescribed area (for example: digging holes for fence posts or deck footings)
Driving across a pipeline
Operating a vehicle or mobile equipment across a pipeline, including over the right-of-way, is prohibited unless:
- it is for low-risk agricultural purposes such as planting or disking
- there is consent from the pipeline company (or an Order from the Commission)
- it is within the travelled portion of a highway or public road
You may perform shallow cultivation (less than 45 cm deep) in low-risk areas across a pipeline but, if you cultivate to a depth of 45 cm or greater, you must get written consent from the pipeline company.
Moving vehicles or mobile equipment over a pipeline can increase the stresses on the pipe, may cause rutting, and may result in damage to the pipe. Driving with narrow tires or old equipment, especially in damp conditions, may cause ruts. These can reduce cover over the pipe and tires may damage pipe coating.
The factors that must be considered include: type and size of equipment, depth of cover above the pipe, soil type, ground conditions, frequency of crossing activities, what the pipe is made of, creation of pressures on the pipe by static and dynamic loads, and operating stresses experienced by the pipe. This information can only come from the pipeline company.
The pipeline company may use the following to determine if the equipment can be used safely on the right-of-way:
- gross vehicle weight rating (GVW)
- vehicle class
- number of axles
- tire pressure or ground pressure
The pipeline company will advise how and where vehicles and equipment can cross safely. This can prevent damage to both the soil and the pipeline. Review where you can cross with vehicles with your staff and contractors regularly.
DPR–A sections 12 and 13 refer to the activities above.
Read about damage prevention in the CER Act, section 335 (2).
Ruts 30 cm or deeper in the prescribed area are a ground disturbance.
Contact the pipeline company if soil conditions pose a risk of ruts caused by vehicles or mobile equipment.
Constructing a facility
You must comply with the CER Act and DPR–A to construct or place a facility across, on, along, or under a pipeline, including in the right-of-way.
Construction of any facility across, on, along, or under a pipeline, including in the right-of-way is authorized only if you:
- Get the pipeline company’s written consent
- Make a locate request
- Follow safety information from the pipeline company
Examples of facilities can include, but are not limited to:
- a structure (anything built or installed), for example: a fence, concrete conduit structure, swimming pool, retaining wall, shed, rink, shed, gazebo, sign, tree, or any structure on the right-of-way
- vehicles parked on the right-of-way (cars, boats, trailers, RVs and buses)
- a highway, private road, lane, parking lot, walkway
- a railway
- a drainage or irrigation system, including dykes, ditches and culverts
- a telecommunication line or power line
- a pipe, for example: a water main, a sewer, a gas line, an oil line
Read about prohibited construction and ground disturbances in the CER Act, section 335 (1).
Maintaining an existing facility
If you own a facility such as a shed or irrigation line on the pipeline right-of-way, you must maintain it in good condition so it does not affect the safety of the pipeline. Maintenance activities that disturb the ground less than 30 cm in the prescribed area are authorized.
If you need to disturb the ground 30 cm or deeper to maintain an existing facility, you must contact the One-Call Centre to have the pipeline located, and get the instructions on working safely near the pipeline from the pipeline company.
Follow the 7 steps to working safely near pipelines.
Read more on DPR–A section 8.
How to make changes to plans after you get consent
If your activity goes deeper, or there are changes to your plans, this is called scope change. Scope changes can include changes to depth, location, and type of facilities or structures to be built. To make sure that the changes do not affect safety, and that your project is still authorized, you must contact the pipeline company before you start.
Bid requests and contracts should include the fact that there’s a federally regulated pipeline in the work area and all work must be done in accordance with the DPR – Authorizations.
Your duty to inform others
If you hire or contract people to do your cultivation, agricultural, or excavating activity near a pipeline, you must inform them of these regulations before the project starts.
You must tell anyone working on your behalf or helping out (such as employees, contractors, or family members) the following:
- there is a pipeline on the land
- the requirements under the DPR–A, including the requirement to contact the One-Call centre
If you are contracting someone to cultivate or excavate in the prescribed area, or operate a vehicle or mobile equipment across a pipeline, you or they must:
- contact the pipeline company
- make the locate request (contact Click Before You Dig)
- have all of the information from the pipeline company to do the work safely
For more details, see DPR–A section 4.
Agreeing to activities and costs
Get help from the CER to reach agreements
If you and the pipeline company cannot reach an agreement, the CER can help. Options include:
- Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to negotiate an agreement.
- Filing a section 335 application to address:
- ground disturbance and associated cost apportionment;
- facility construction and associated cost apportionment;
- vehicle or mobile equipment crossings near federally regulated pipelines.
For more information and to get started, visit the CER website and look up:
- Guiding Principles for Cost Apportionment
- Section 335 Applications – Process Guidance for Applicants
If you don’t follow the regulations
Damage prevention regulations exist for safety reasons. You must comply with regulations, or you could be reported for contravening regulations and the CER may take enforcement actions. If you do not follow regulations, critical safety issues may occur.
The coating on a pipe is the first defense against corrosion and, if you contact the pipe, the coating may be damaged and could eventually cause a rupture. Damage to the pipe or its coating, regardless of whether there was a release of product or not, must be reported to the pipeline company. The pipeline company must report these events to the CER.
Violating regulations can lead to CER enforcement, fines, and penalties. If a person or company does not comply with regulations, the CER may use a variety of tools to ensure compliance and keep non-compliances from being repeated. A contravention of the Canadian Energy Regulator Act or Damage Prevention Regulations is an offence and can be subject to a monetary penalty under the Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations.
Administrative Monetary Penalties
Maximum daily penalties:
$25,000 per violation
$100,000 per violation
Each day a violation continues is considered a separate violation. This means that separate penalties could be issued per infraction, per day, with no maximum total fine.
For more information, visit the CER site and look up Administrative Monetary Penalties.
For information on what the pipeline companies must do, see Damage Prevention Regulations – Obligations.
For more information on damage prevention regulation, see Damage prevention.
Find out more
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