Oct 28 (Reuters) - The rate of safety-related incidents onfederally regulated pipelines in Canada doubled over the lastdecade, while the rate of reported spills and leaks was upthreefold, according to an investigative report by Canada'snational broadcaster.
The total number of incidents, which included everythingfrom spills to fires, swelled from 45 in 2000 to 142 in 2011,the CBC reported on Monday, citing data from the National EnergyBoard (NEB) obtained through access-to-information requests.
That translated to a doubling from one incident for every1,000 km (620 miles) of federally-regulated pipeline in 2000, totwo in 2011.
The CBC investigation also found that the rate of productreported releases - spills and leaks - rose threefold, from fourreleases for every 10,000 km in 2000, to 13 in 2011.
The NEB regulates all pipelines that cross provincial orinternational borders, but does not monitor smaller pipelinesthat are only in a single province.
The safety of shipping petroleum products via pipelines hasbecome a hot topic in recent years, with companies like EnbridgeInc and TransCanada Corp developing major newprojects to move crude from Canada's oil sands to markets in theUnited States and Asia.
Opponents say a pipeline leak can cause catastrophicenvironmental damage and often cite a 2010 incident where anEnbridge pipeline carrying crude from Alberta ruptured, spillinghuge amounts of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
But pipeline companies say their operations are safer thanthe alternative - moving oil and gas products by rail or truck.
Indeed, the safety of rail has become a central issue inCanada since a runaway train hauling crude oil derailed andexploded in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July, killing 47people. Earlier this month, another train hauling crude oil andliquefied petroleum gas derailed and caught fire in Alberta.
A recent report by the Fraser Institute, a right-leaningthink tank, found that pipelines are safer for workers and thatthe risk of spill incidents is slightly lower than with rail.
The CBC investigation looked at documents on 1,047 pipelinesafety incidents from Jan. 1, 2000, until late 2012. Companiesregulated by the NEB must report safety issues like deaths orserious injuries, fires and explosions, spills over 1,500 litersand every gas leak.
The NEB attributed the rise in incidents to heightenedawareness among companies about reporting standards, accordingto the CBC. A spokesperson for the regulator was not immediatelyavailable for comment.
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