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Westcoast Energy fined $40,000 for blast near Prince George two years ago

Pipeline exploded on Oct. 9, 2018

Westcoast Energy has been fined for failing to prevent a fiery pipeline blast northeast of the city two years ago that led to natural gas shortages in the province through the winter. 

The Enbridge subsidiary was issued the $40,000 fine after the Canada Energy Regulator determined Westcoast did not adequately implement a stress corrosion monitoring program that would have identified the problem section of the pipe. 

In its final report released in March, the Transportation Safety Board said the 90-centimetre pipeline that supplies much of southern B.C. ruptured due to stress corrosion cracks on the outside surface of the pipe.

The safety board said the company didn't follow its own procedures in technical assessment and approvals before deciding to defer the inspection that may have identified the cracks. 

In a statement, Enbridge says they have paid the fine in full and continue to take steps to ensure safety. 

"Enbridge has paid the administrative monetary penalty issued by the Canada Energy Regulator in relation to the October 9, 2018 Shelley natural gas pipeline incident in full," the company said in an emailed statement to PrinceGeorgeMatters. 

"We know this incident has caused concerns and disrupted the lives of many people in the area. We have learned from this incident and have taken steps to ensure the safety of our natural gas system.

"At Enbridge, no incident is acceptable. Since the Shelley incident, we’ve completed a comprehensive pipeline integrity program on our natural gas pipeline system in B.C. to prevent similar incidents from occurring and to significantly improve pipeline safety. This is the most aggressive integrity program ever undertaken by Enbridge on its pipeline system in B.C. It’s part of a new approach to pipeline safety and an ongoing commitment to continually improve the safety of our natural gas pipeline system."

No one was hurt in the Oct. 9, 2018, explosion but 125 people within a two-kilometre radius had to be evacuated as a precaution. 

Two days later, RCMP declared the explosion was not criminal in nature. On the same day, Enbridge received permission to restart the mainline at reduced operating pressure by The National Energy Board. 

In February, The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation announced they had filed a civil claim against Enbridge. The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation wanted the pipeline to immediatley be dismantled and removed from LTFN Territory with reserve and lands being restored to their natural state. 

The First Nation added Enbridge started repairs on Oct. 12, 2018, on the 36-inch pipeline without the approval or consulting the Lheidli T'enneh. They allege Enbridge also started service again to the pipeline on Oct. 31, 2018, without approval.

They also stated the explosion, repairs and return to service are and continue to be an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the Lheidli T'enneh's proprietary interests and are a constitute nuisance. 

Since the blast, Enbridge says it has completed enhanced inspections on its natural gas pipeline system to prevent similar incidents.

- With files from The Canadian Press

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