The Northern View: Uncovered Petronas safety audit raising red flags

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September 16, 2015 | Shaun Thomas | The Northern View

A report by the Vancouver Sun raises questions about the safety record of Petronas, the parent company of Pacific NorthWest LNG.

A 732-page internal audit conducted in 2013 found four problems on Petronas-owned oil and gas platforms that could have led to “catastrophic” events, resulting in “multiple fatalities”, “extensive damage” to the facility and “massive” harm to the environment. Included in the audit was the discovery of six pressure valves that were found to have been heavily corroded but had not been inspected in two decades and “systemic” problems related to staff competence and training.

As well, the report also points to a pipeline on Borneo Island being shut down following an explosion resulting from the pipeline being built on unstable soil.

The company said it has invested $10 billion (US) into a program to “intensify and improve process safety and asset integrity” and is working very closely with the federal and provincial governments to ensure it meets the requirements of operating in Canada.

In terms of the pipeline, Petronas noted that aspect of the project will be “designed, constructed and operated by an experienced major pipeline company”.

However, the report is causing concern among officials here on the North Coast.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice says the track record of the company is something the public should have been made aware of well before the proposal reached this point.

“Why wasn’t the public made aware of such concerns before the BC Liberal government signed a 25-year deal with the company? Surely the BC Liberals would have known about this audit. The BC Liberals are either being dishonest with the B.C. public in order to get a deal, or irresponsible by not properly vetting the company,” she said.

Rice said the revelations are particularly concerning given the recent project development agreement.

“The Petronas agreement also allows the company to essentially write their own environmental regulations. If they show such disregard to safety, then how can we trust them to properly protect the environment and the very sensitive salmon habitat in and around Flora Bank?” she asked.

Incumbent Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP and NDP candidate Nathan Cullen said these revelations speak to the importance of adequate monitoring.

“It is something the company is going to have to address, but to my mind it speaks to the importance of having proper oversight. You can’t just have the company police itself,” he said, noting he takes issue with the current environmental assessment process in the country.

“The review policy in Canada has become a farce … the people meant to police and regulate the company are often working for the company and that creates a huge conflict of interest.

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