Who this page is for
This page is for landowners (residential and commercial), residents, lease holders, Indigenous rights holders, and any others with property rights near pipelines.
On this page
- What is the safety zone
- For those living and working near pipelines
- What activities are allowed in the safety zone
- What activities need consent from the pipeline company
- Using a vehicle
- Constructing a facility
- Agreeing to activities and costs
- Managing disagreements
- If you don’t follow the regulations
- Monitoring the right-of-way
- Terms to know
- Other Resources
- Damage prevention resources
Your activities could include:
- tree planting
- operating vehicles
- building structures
What is the safety zone
The safety zone (called the prescribed area in regulations), defined in the Damage Prevent Regulations (DPR) – Authorizations, extends 30 meters to each side from the centreline of the pipe. It is an area where extra precautions and authorization (written consent of the pipeline company or an Order issued by the Commission) is required before certain activities can occur.
Details about the safety zone and a description of the right-of-way...
Some federally regulated pipelines were buried at least 60 cm (2 feet) below the surface when they were constructed, and at least 130 cm (51 in) below travelled roads. Other pipes and cables may be at shallower depths. However, ground settling, erosion, and other activities can reduce the soil depth over the pipe. As a result, regulations restrict excavation such as digging or augering 30 cm (12 in) and deeper in the safety zone. The pipeline company may also notify you that certain areas must not be crossed with vehicles or equipment because they could affect safety or security.
Before you dig in the area 3 m(10 feet) on either side of the pipe, the pipeline company will provide oversight on how to dig this close to the pipe. Even a small nick in the pipe’s coating can cause corrosion and hazards for your safety, those around you, and the environment. Contact the pipeline company immediately if any equipment contacts the pipe.
Pipeline signs or markers are placed at visible locations along the pipeline route (in the right-of-way). The signs let you know that there are pipelines in the area, but they do not show the exact location of the pipeline.
The pipeline company will give you special instructions and provide oversight on how to dig very close to the pipe. In the regulations, this is within 3 m of the pipe. For safety, the pipeline company may have a larger area.
Even a small nick in the pipe's coating can cause corrosion and hazards for your safety, those around you, and the environment. Contact the pipeline company immediately if any equipment contacts the pipe.
Pipelines, utilities, and governments across Canada support one-call centres. One-call notification centres notify registered members (example: federally regulated pipeline companies), who send out technicians to map and mark all buried pipelines and cables in a planned work area. Go to Click Before You Dig for links to the one-call notification services in your region. Federally regulated pipelines must be located within 3 days.
The right-of-way 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 lines. The area of the right-of-way is usually smaller than the safety zone. The pipe may not be in the exact centre of the right-of-way. If there is more than one pipeline in the right-of-way, the safety zone is measured from the outermost pipelines on each side.
For those living and working near pipelines
Know what's below. In addition to federally regulated pipelines, there may be other provincially and locally regulated pipelines and cables in your area. These facilities may include oil and gas field gathering pipes, gas distribution systems, fibre-optic cables, water and sewer lines, and electrical cables.
See the steps to take before starting any activity that disturbs the soil 30 cm (12 in) or deeper below the surface...
- Don't just dig. Plan ahead. It can take time to locate the pipes and cables and to get written consent, if needed.
- Look for pipeline marker signs in your area, and check land records for easements.
- Contact Click Before You Dig or a one-call centre to locate underground pipes and cables. You may need to be on site when the technician comes.
- Get written consent from the pipeline company before any ground disturbance that is 30 cm (12 in) or deeper.
- You must give everyone the safety information they need: contractors and subcontractors and employees. To learn more, read Your Field Responsibilities.
What activities are allowed in the safety zone
Many activities are allowed in the safety zone under these conditions:
- they disturb the soil 30 cm (12 in) or less
- they involve driving vehicles or equipment on a roadway
- they involve building or placing a structure or facility (such as a playground or storage shelter) on the safety zone that does not prevent access to the right-of-way (get consent from the pipeline company to ensure they can still access the pipeline)
Many agricultural activities are allowed in the safety zone. See the Agriculture page for more information.
What activities need consent from the pipeline company
Any activity that disturbs the soil in the safety zone 30 cm (12 in) or more below the surface requires written consent from the pipeline company. It may take up to 10 working days to obtain consent.
Activities that need consent from the pipeline company...
Activities causing ground disturbance can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- driving fence posts, bars, rods, pins, anchors, or pilings
- topsoil stripping
- land levelling/grading
- plowing to install underground infrastructure
- tree planting
- clearing and stump removal
- blasting/use of explosives
- grinding and milling of asphalt/concrete
- seismic exploration
These activities are listed in the Canadian Standards Association CSA Z247, Damage Prevention for the Protection of Underground Infrastructure. More details are available in CSA Z247.
Using a vehicle
Consent is not required if the vehicle uses an established crossing such as a paved road, a dirt road, or a gravel road.
You must get the pipeline company’s consent for other vehicle use on the right-of-way, including recreational vehicles. See the Agriculture page for exceptions regarding agricultural vehicles and equipment.
Constructing a facility
The pipeline company must consent if you plan to construct a facility on, along, under, or across the right-of-way. (For examples of facilities, read the Facility section.)
For pipeline safety reasons, your easement agreement may contain conditions prohibiting the construction of a facility on the right-of-way. Check your easement agreement before proceeding.
Agreeing to activities and costs
The CER encourages pipeline companies and landowners and land users to agree to:
- the terms of work
- projects or work within the safety zone, and/or
- crossing a pipeline with construction equipment
The pipeline company must give written consent for certain activities within the safety zone. Costs that result from authorized projects or work should be addressed by both sides.
If the pipeline company and the landowners or land users are not able reach an agreement on costs or terms of work, they can seek help from the CER.
There are two ways to manage disagreements:
- Using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
- Filing a Section 335 application. (Section 335 is a new section of the CER Act. It deals with how to apportion costs related to the authorized construction or ground disturbance near federally regulated pipelines.)
Read about options for managing disagreements...
How to resolve disputes with the pipeline company
If you and the pipeline company cannot come to an agreement on a dispute:
- you or the pipeline company can contact the CER for assistance
- the CER offers an Alternative Dispute Resolution service outside of the formal regulatory or hearing process
This is a voluntary and confidential way for those involved to resolve disputes. To learn more, visit the Alternative Dispute Resolution page.
Cost apportionment addresses costs directly incurred as a result of authorized construction and ground disturbance. It relates to negotiating terms of work and who pays for associated costs.
If you are working near a federally regulated pipeline, and cannot reach an agreement with the pipeline company, you can contact the CER for assistance. The CER can provide assistance and help parties resolve the matter through either:
- Alternative Dispute Resolution, or
- Adjudication by the Commission (a section 335 application)
For more information, see Guiding Principles for Cost Apportionment.
Administrative Monetary Penalties
The CER may impose financial penalties on individuals or companies for not complying with regulations. For individuals, the maximum daily penalty is $25,000 for each violation. For companies, the maximum daily penalty is $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 financial penalty.
Read more about the Administrative Monetary Penalty Regulations.
Violations of CER can also lead to either a summary conviction or conviction on an indictment. The penalties for these convictions are:
- on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding $100, 000 and or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year or to both;
- on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding $1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.
If you don't follow the regulations
If the regulations are not followed, critical safety issues may occur, either immediately or over time. For example, a person may strike the pipe while conducting an activity near a pipeline if they do not make a locate request or contact the pipeline company for details. The pipe may rupture, or the coating on the pipe may be damaged. The coating on a pipe is important because it is the first defense against corrosion.
Violating the regulations can lead to fines and penalties. 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 damage or contact to the CER.
Ensure you follow the regulations...
An activity is unauthorized and illegal if the regulations are not followed.
You must get consent and safety information from the pipeline company for:
- an activity that causes a ground disturbance in the safety zone
- constructing a facility near a pipeline
- driving across a pipeline off a roadway with vehicles or construction equipment
The CER may enforce against unauthorized activities for environmental protection and the safety of all involved.
Monitoring the right-of-way
Pipeline companies must monitor land use in order to mitigate potential damage that could occur on or near pipelines. The companies must put a process in place to monitor activities near their pipeline.
They must also develop, implement and maintain a damage prevention program. The damage prevention program is to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate damage to pipelines.
Pipeline companies must monitor their pipelines in order to respond to unexpected situations. Monitoring could involve keeping check by air or by land. The pipeline company must take immediate action for anything that could:
- endanger life
- cause substantial property damage
- cause damage to the environment
Pipeline companies must also respond quickly to:
- ground disturbances within the safety zone
- operation of vehicles or mobile equipment across a pipeline
Terms to know
These terms have definitions specifically for damage prevention.
Details on terms to know...
A ground disturbance is anything that moves or penetrates the ground.
Ground disturbance is any activity within the safety zone that involves:
- agricultural cultivation to depths of 45 cm (18 in) or more or deeper below the surface of the ground, or
- the soil otherwise being disturbed or displaced to a depth of 30 cm (12 in) or deeper, or resulting in a reduction of the soil cover provided over the pipeline to a depth that is less than the cover provided when the pipeline was constructed
It may not be possible to determine the original depth of soil cover provided when the pipeline was constructed. If the activity results in the reduction of the current depth of earth cover over the pipeline, it is a ground disturbance.
Activities in this case are anything that cause a ground disturbance. For examples:
- tree planting
- digging fence posts
- plowing to install underground infrastructure
- blasting/use of explosives
For more information about ground disturbance activities, read Pipeline Damage Prevention – Ground Disturbance, Construction and Vehicle Crossings.
When building a facility, if you are digging 30 cm (12 in) or deeper into the safety zone, you must get the pipeline company's consent.
In the regulations, a facility can be:
- structures (more examples are in Structures)
- highway, private road, or railway
- irrigation ditch, drain, or drainage system
- telephone line, telegraph line, telecommunication line
- line for the transmission of electricity
- a pipe for the transmission of hydrocarbons or any other substance
Some examples of structures include:
- skating rinks
- swimming pools
- any other structure
- placing or storing equipment (mobile or otherwise)
You can find more information about facilities in Guidance Notes – National Energy Board Regulations for Pipeline Damage Prevention:
Damage prevention resources
Organizations across Canada have joined to help you plan your work safely. Click any of the logos below to visit their sites and find out how they can help you.
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