Lifecycle approach

We protect the environment throughout the life of energy projects like pipelines and power lines. This protection starts in the early days of the development of a project with an assessment of a company’s application. Later, we may hold a public hearing where we engage with Indigenous groups and members of the public. Both help identify and address environmental concerns.

If a project is approved, our inspectors monitor company activities closely during construction, operation, and maintenance, and eventual abandonment. In doing so, they often work closely with Indigenous monitors. We do not hesitate to take action to hold companies accountable by issuing orders or monetary penalties. And if a spill were to ever happen, we make sure companies clean them up to the highest standards and pay for any damages.

Lifecycle of a facility

Here are some of the ways we protect the environment throughout the lifecycle of a facility.


Our oversight starts in the very beginning of project design. We expect companies to engage early, broadly, and often to identify environmental concerns and find ways to address them as part of the development of the application. Our Filing Manual identifies each step we expect companies to follow during this period.

Early Engagement Guide

In preparing their project application, companies must follow our filing manuals for pipeline or power line projects and environmental guidance. Our information requirements relating to environment cover a wide range of factors including water, air, habitats, animals, plants, and farmland. This often means that companies must complete studies and environmental surveys before they submit their application to the CER. Companies can also request a pre-application meeting with CER staff to learn more about the general application assessment process, regulatory requirements, and typical hearing process.

During the pre-application phase, comments or concerns can be directed to the company or to the CER at any time. This may include Indigenous groups, municipalities, companies, and landowners who live along the proposed path of the project.

Assessment and public hearing

Companies are required to submit detailed documentation as part of their project application, including an environmental and socio-economic assessment.

The Commission, with support from our team of experts and scientists, reviews the assessment and environmental studies as part of its assessment. They do this to determine if companies are taking the right steps to reduce environmental impacts or eliminate them. All project-related documents, including environmental studies, are available on our website or through our Library.

For certain applications, the Commission holds public hearings to hear the views of any member of the public and Indigenous peoples. It considers these views before it makes a decision or recommendation on the application. Hearings are open to all Canadians and participant funding is offered to facilitate participation for eligible participants.

If a project is approved, we establish conditions to hold companies accountable to their environmental commitments. These can include specific conditions to perform environmental monitoring of certain habitats and species along the right-of-way and construction techniques to minimize effects on watercourses.

Construction and post-construction

If a project gets approved, our compliance and project managers, inspectors, and expert staff oversee construction and post-construction activities to make sure the environment is protected. They also check that companies follow regulations and the conditions of approval.

Once construction is finished, companies must reclaim and maintain the lands disturbed by construction to a condition acceptable to both the landowner and the CER. This is typically to a state similar to the surrounding environment and consistent with current land use.

On certain major projects, our inspectors often work side-by-side with Indigenous monitors from communities near the facilities. These monitors give insight into the land that someone without Indigenous knowledge and cultural background might not have.

The CER may also require companies to file post-construction reports 6 months after construction and in the years that follow. These reports identify environmental issues linked to construction activities, such as slope movement, erosion, compaction, and weed infestations. They also state how the company is resolving these issues. Our inspectors go back to these sites to make sure issues were dealt with and will not hesitate to issue enforcement action if needed.

Operation and maintenance

Once in operation, we check to make sure companies regularly maintain their facilities like pipelines, pumping stations, and power lines. This may mean us asking for more information or doing an inspection or an audit. For companies that are not meeting our standards and requirements, we will take steps to enforce them and bring the company back into compliance, including orders and monetary penalties.

Spills and emergency response

In case of a spill, we hold companies accountable to notify communities, stop and manage the incident, and clean up and pay for any damage done (see remediation guide). We maintain data on pipeline and facility incidents, including oil and gas releases, and share information about the environmental performance of companies with Indigenous communities and stakeholders across Canada.

Companies are required to test their emergency response plans through simulated emergencies or spill exercises. These exercises are designed to test response strategies and communications systems. They also give field staff an opportunity to gain practical experience in using spill response equipment.


If a company wants to abandon a facility, it must submit an application with an environmental and socio-economic assessment. The Commission, supported by CER staff, will review the application and we may hold a public hearing. If the abandonment application is approved, the CER may impose conditions including the development of a restoration plan for the land disturbed by the removal of the pipeline, facility or power line. Inspectors continue to visit the site and will hold companies accountable to the highest environmental standards and regulations.

What does it mean to abandon a project?

Abandonment is the permanent removal from service of an energy facility. Facilities can be taken out of service, or deactivated, for a period of time without being abandoned.

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