The truth about pipelines and the environment

When a new pipeline is proposed, the rhetoric for or against the project can become heated and contradictory.


Here are three facts you should know about pipelines and the environment:


Each pipeline project starts with an environmental assessment


This environmental assessment will consider any potential impacts that the project could have on the environment, either during construction or operation. Factors looked for by regulators before the project can be approved include:


  • The terrain
  • Weather
  • Soil
  • Vegetation
  • Wetlands
  • Fish, wildlife and their habitats
  • Species-at-risk and their habitats
  • Heritage resources
  • Traditional land and resource use
  • Human health, aesthetics and noise


The findings of the environmental assessment allow the pipeline company to tailor their plans to mitigate and minimize their impacts.


The National Energy Board (NEB) employs approximately 75 environmental specialists, socio-economic specialists, land specialists and engagement specialists to help ensure that pipeline construction and operations are safe for the environment.


Blocking pipelines will not cure our dependency on hydrocarbons


Much of the debate about pipelines stems from the belief that blocking pipelines will force people to turn to alternative fuel sources.


If oil and gas producers cannot reach their customers or refineries via pipelines, there are two typical scenarios, neither of which is a reduced dependence on oil:


  1. We are forced to purchase refined products from overseas – from countries with much less stringent regulations and standards than Canada’s.
  2. More oil and gas is transported via rail or road, alternatives which have a higher carbon footprint and a lower safety record than pipelines.


Transmission pipelines are intrinsically safe


There are several different types of pipelines, but they can be divided into two primary categories.


  • Gathering and distribution lines are those used by extraction or production companies to transport product from one place to the next.
  • Transmission pipelines are the large diameter pipelines used to transport oil or gas large distances, across provinces, or across provincial or national boundaries.


The pipelines around which much of the debate rages are the long-distance transmission lines, and yet these are among the safest. For a transmission pipeline company, pipelines are their primary business, not a tool. They have a high level of expertise and use up-to-the-minute technology to keep their pipelines safe, because their operations, and their profitability, depend on that safety.


In 2017, Canada’s transmission pipeline companies transported 1.4 billion barrels of crude oil. Of those, a total of just 51 barrels were lost to spills or leaks.


You can learn more about pipelines and the environment from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and at



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