VANCOUVER—As dark smoke billowed from a major fire at a petroleum storage facility in California on Tuesday, a newly released audit had some questioning whether the fire-safety measures in place along the Trans Mountain pipeline are enough to prevent a similar scene from playing out in Canada.
Canada’s pipeline regulator released a 2016 audit by the consultancy PLC Fire Safety Solutions last week — almost three years after it was completed. It found that three Trans Mountain petroleum storage facilities had failed in some cases to meet “industry best practices.”
The report “was shocking,” said NDP candidate Svend Robinson, who is running in the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour. He was the one who requested the audit be released to the public through access to information laws in June.
Now, having read the report, he said it has “raised very serious concerns about safety and security at the existing tank farm.”
PLC was contracted by the National Energy Board, now known as the Canada Energy Regulator, to assess the fire protection systems at three storage facilities for oil and other petroleum products: the Westridge Marine Terminal, the Burnaby Terminal, and the Edmonton Terminal.
The PLC audit concluded that all three locations were generally compliant with the “applicable regulations, codes and standards.” But in some cases, PLC found that Trans Mountain’s fire protection systems failed to meet “industry best practices.”
The regulator took issue with PLC assessing the sites based on industry-best practices. It rejected portions of the findings in part because PLC did not limit its assessment to regulatory requirements, which can be different than best practices.
According to Robinson, holding Trans Mountain accountable to the regulatory requirements, but not best practices shows “contempt for the community”
“Doesn’t this company — which is now owned by tax payers — don’t they have an obligation to make sure that they meet the best practices to ensure safety of people in the community? Of course they do,” he said of the company, which became a Crown corporation in 2018, when the federal government purchased it from Kinder Morgan.
In a statement Tuesday, Trans Mountain said its “facilities are designed and operated to industry best practices and meet the most stringent safety standards.”
The company, which is regularly audited by the Canada Energy Regulator, said it “addressed the potential deficiencies identified by the PLC report and no new areas of non-compliance have been identified.”
But in late 2016, PLC had determined there were “design features or components” of the fire suppression systems — including aspects of the fire pumps, foam systems, and fire detection systems — that did not meet fire protection standards at the Burnaby and Westridge Marine terminals.
At the time, Trans Mountain’s Emergency Management Program stated that in the event of a fire at the tank farm, it would have eight emergency responders on site within six hours.
Since then, the Canada Energy Regulator has directed Trans Mountain to get its response time down to four hours, but the PLC report indicates that best practice is a response time of 30 minutes.
“That makes sense,” said Robinson. “If you’ve got a major fire in a tank farm, why would you wait four hours? MORE