Over the past few years, as President of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, I have met many Canadians across this great country of ours, participated in many debates, and granted numerous interviews to discuss how the pipeline industry fits in the overall context of energy development, environmental protection and social well-being.
When I look back now, the discussions began with a legitimate desire on the part of many Canadians to better understand our industry. Canadians wanted and expected more public transparency and reassurance that our industry was doing everything necessary to remain a viable and safe system. As citizens of a vast nation with a deep history in trade and prosperity, most Canadians I have met know the importance of a reliable pipeline system and have high expectations for it being robust, safe, and always available when it’s needed.
Unfortunately, when I look back over the past two years in particular, it is also troubling to see the degree to which an important national discussion has at times degenerated into a highly political, vitriolic, and ill-informed public discourse. The Canadian debate is falling victim to a world where emotions trump common sense and facts, and public discourse is replaced by propaganda. I believe this trend is dangerous.
Specific to pipelines, for example, some claim that our industry carries products that will destroy, at a cost of billions of dollars, the very infrastructure that we build and maintain. The science says that this belief is false, and common sense would clearly point to it being in the industry’s best interest to prevent any damage to such valuable assets. The fact that negative views resonate and are propagated in some quarters is evidence of a very dangerous context in which facts, science, and common sense are ceding to emotions.
What we began building 60 years ago under the careful stewardship of Canadian transmission pipeline operators has grown to an amazing network of 110,000 kilometres of energy highways crisscrossing Canada’s vast and challenging geography. Our reliability record is extremely high, and these underground pipelines are the safest way to move the energy we all use.
But we need to be very clear: our industry does not shy away from an honest discussion about its performance, particularly as it relates to pipeline safety. I will grant that our historical position of being ‘out of sight and out of mind’ may have helped create the current misunderstandings about pipeline operations. However, the reason we have been ‘out of sight and out of mind’ is that our systems are safe, reliable and underground. Pipelines quietly deliver critical products to our homes and businesses each day. And, our promise to you is that our member companies will continue to unequivocally commit themselves to operate safe pipeline systems and continuously improve whenever they can. o, today, I challenge anyone to find an industry with a more dedicated workforce, an industry that is more focused on improving its performance through technological advancements, or an industry that operates under a more rigorous regulatory regime than the Canadian pipeline industry.
For those of you who are really interested in knowing more about our industry, I invite you to check ‘under our hood’ so to speak. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. We owe it to the public to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep such vital infrastructure reliable and safe for all Canadians.
Brenda Kenny, PhD.
President & CEO
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association