Regulation of Pipelines and Power Lines


Interprovincial and international oil and gas pipelines and additions to existing pipeline systems under federal jurisdiction require the Commission's approval before they may be built. Public oral or written hearings are held for pipeline construction applications exceeding 40 kilometres in length or any other applications at the discretion of the Commission. Pipelines which lie completely within the borders of a single province are regulated by that province's regulatory body.

In determining whether a pipeline project should proceed, the Commission reviews, among other things, its economic, technical and financial feasibility, and the environmental and socio-economic impact of the project.

To ensure that engineering, safety and environmental requirements are met, the Commission audits and inspects the construction and operation of pipelines. Since February 1987, Commission inspectors have also been responsible for enforcing Part II of the Canada Labour Code, applying to the occupational safety and health of pipeline workers in the field.

The CER shares responsibility with the Transportation Safety Board for incident investigation. The CER investigates pipeline incidents to determine whether its regulations have been followed and if those regulations may need to be changed. The Transportation Safety Board investigates the cause and contributing factors. The CER also monitors excavation activity by third parties near pipelines to ensure compliance with existing regulations.

Power Lines

Most electric power lines and facilities fall within provincial jurisdiction. The Commission authorizes the construction and operation of international power lines and designated interprovincial lines under federal jurisdiction.

When determining the suitability of an application, the Commission reviews, among other things, the technical feasibility of the project, its effect on adjacent provinces and its environmental impact.

Almost all provinces bordering the U.S. have interconnections with neighbouring American utilities.

Environmental Protection

The Commission's environmental responsibility includes ensuring environmental protection during the planning, construction, operation and abandonment of energy projects within its jurisdiction. When making its decisions, the Commission may take into consideration environmental concerns related to air, land and water pollution, disturbance of renewable and non-renewable resources, the integrity of natural habitats, the disruption of land and resource use, and the protection of landowner rights.

Companies preparing an application to the Commission are usually required to anticipate the environmental issues and concerns that the proposed project could create and to discuss these with all levels of government, public interest groups, and affected landowners.

If the project application is approved, the Commission ensures that the company continues to protect the environment and public health and safety by auditing and inspecting the company's construction activities, the operation of its system, and the company's routine maintenance and monitoring procedures.

Environmental Assessment

Under the CER Act, the Commission is required to consider matters of public interest as they may be affected by the granting of an application. The Commission has assumed a mandate for environmental protection as a component of the public interest. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEA Act 2012) provides an additional mechanism to ensure that projects receive appropriate levels of assessment before they proceed. The CEA Act 2012 sets out uniform requirements for environmental assessments by all federal government departments and agencies. As a "responsible authority" under the CEA Act 2012, the Commission ensures that appropriate environmental assessments are conducted for projects under its jurisdiction, according to standards prescribed by the legislation. For more information refer to the FAQs on Environmental Assessments.

Public Safety

Safety is a matter of primary public interest and has been included in the Commission's mandate since 1959. The Commission is responsible for monitoring how companies comply with regulations and commitments concerning the safety of employees, the public, and the environment, as they may be affected by the design, construction, operation, maintenance and abandonment of a pipeline. For the past 45 years the Commission has worked with CSA International to develop technical standards currently in effect for federally regulated pipelines.

In addition, through an agreement between the Commission and Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Commission staff have been designated as Health and Safety Officers for the occupational health and safety of pipeline company field staff. These health and safety duties are usually combined with other inspections.

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