PO BLOG

Insist on Independent Construction Monitors

Published in November, 2019

 

“You may spend years seeking remediation and compensation for garbage buried along the right-of-way or for weeds and pathogens introduced to your lands.”

“Independent construction monitors verify that the promises made to you by companies and governmental agencies are promises kept.”

We are literally your eyes, ears and boots on the ground

By Dave Baspaly

How can landowners be sure their interests are protected during the construction of major pipeline projects?

You might trust companies like Trans Mountain Pipeline and the oversight of the National Energy Board (NEB) to protect you and your lands. But the now-government-owned Trans Mountain is under great pressure to recoup huge capital costs as quickly as it can. The NEB, meanwhile, is subject to so many interest groups that the voices of private landowners are too often drowned out.

This is why agricultural property owners need the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAEPLA) and its independent construction monitors. Because if you trust either a federal government Crown corporation or the federal government’s energy regulator, without any means to hold them to their promises, you do so at your peril.

You may spend years seeking remediation and compensation for garbage buried along the right-of-way or for weeds and pathogens introduced to your lands due to inconsistent application of bio-security practices. You could fight a similar long and dissatisfying battle over loss of soils and land fertility. Most of these injuries can never be adequately made whole with money.

Pipeline companies hire many experts to advise and supervise their environmental practices. These people know what quality work looks like. They know how to keep adverse impacts on your land to an absolute minimum.

But, when schedule and budget concerns mount during the course of a project—due to poor weather, equipment breakdowns, operator error or stakeholder opposition—these experts’ voices are quickly quieted by contractors who have a schedule to keep and financial targets to reach.

Who suffers? You do. Your interests take a back seat. Promises made to you are not kept with the kind of vigilance you experienced at the start of the project.

The situation is not unlike what occurs at the professional levels of our national sport. Any hockey fan knows that an infraction that might be called as a penalty during November is often overlooked in the spring and playoff run to the Stanley Cup. Officials accept a “grittier game”—a less-safe game for players and a less-fair playing field. Smaller, skilled players who brought extraordinary speed and beauty to the game in the regular season are marginalized in the playoffs.

Perhaps you enjoy your hockey with a generous dose of brute force. But brute force exercised over your lands will leave you suffering every time.

What can you do?

Demand that a team of trained, experienced and vigilant independent construction monitors oversee the pipeline work on your lands. And insist that every entry onto your property—from initial survey and fencing till the last shovel of topsoil is replaced and producing a vibrant crop—is observed and documented by those monitors.

Independent construction monitors verify that the promises made to you by companies and governmental agencies are promises kept—as faithfully in the 12th, 18th and 24th months of the project as they were in the first.

These independent monitors observe every activity—from washing and bleaching equipment and removing and segregating soils to burying pipe and replacing the soils and vegetation above it. They take photos and submit descriptive reports every day to verify quality procedures and to catch any slip-up in accepted practices. The reports are provided to landowner oversight committees who meet regularly with representatives of the company. These groups have the power to correct practices and even halt the project until remedies are made.

Most often, operators at the field level respond to the reports of the independent monitors and remedy bad practice immediately—before a one-time error becomes habit and then turns into a systemic problem affecting acres of land and hundreds of landowners.

Enlightened companies realize that this quick identification and remedy of sloppy practice saves them time, resources and money. Repairs made while crews and equipment are on-site saves costly remobilization to tear up and repeat work.

Perhaps the most important savings achieved through independent monitors is not strictly financial. It is the savings to the company’s public prestige. Monitors’ reports verify that all conditions were brought to the agreed-upon standard during the project. All parties win.

Since the spring of 2017, Infocus Management and Consulting has supplied independent third-party monitors to the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project (L3RP) in order to ensure the 125-page settlement agreement between CAEPLA and Enbridge is being followed.

Independent Construction Monitors are literally your eyes, ears, and boots on the ground—the ground you’re counting on for the prosperity of your farm and family.

Dr. Dave Baspaly is an experienced corporate leader and a Certified Management Consultant with a remarkable ability to help people increase performance and achieve strategic goals.

To learn more about independent monitoring or inquire as to how you can become a partner in advancing responsible pipelining, contact CAEPLA or Infocus Land Management (www.infocusconsulting.ca).

Published in PIPELINE OBSERVER FALL 2019