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Pipeline Whistleblower Reveals Dangerous "Culture of Noncompliance"

Pipeline Whistleblower Reveals Dangerous "Culture of Noncompliance"
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Published on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by Common Dreams

Former TransCanada employee testifies on pervasive "coercion" with grave risks for public safety

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Evan Vokes stands on the site of the Guadalajara Pipeline in Mexico, a project for a TransCanada subsidiary, in 2010. (Photo: Raul Rodriguez)

Evan Vokes stands on the site of the Guadalajara Pipeline in Mexico, a project for a TransCanada subsidiary, in 2010. (Photo: Raul Rodriguez)

A "culture of noncompliance" and "coercion" dictate building practices at TransCanada Corporation—the company behind the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline—carrying "significant public safety risks," declared former employee Evan Vokes

Vokes who was testifying before a Canadian Senate committee last week warned, "It's organized crime, in my opinion."

Vokes, an expert in pipeline welding and now whistleblower against his former employer, told The Huffington Post after the hearing, "The source of revenue is legal, but how they go about it isn't legal."

Vokes, a five year employee of TransCanada, was fired without cause in 2012 after repeatedly raising concerns about the company's safety practices. In particular, he provided the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources with a number of documented violations of welding and pressure testing codes.

"What I have documented is a mix of politics and commercial interests that has resulted in the false public claims of exceptional industry practice when the reality is that industry struggles to comply with code and regulation," Vokes told the Senate committee.

Reporting on Voke's testimony for Canada's The Tyee, energy industry report Andrew Nikiforuk writes:

During the construction of a natural gas line feeding one oil sands project, Vokes alleged shoddy workmanship resulting in "a 100 per cent repair rate." When the engineer identified the code violations to the company, his superiors forced him to "retract" his statement, Vokes told the committee.

"Coercion were the TransCanada management tools I experienced in my first months at TransCanada, as the written communications were very different from the oral instructions."

In addition, engineering shortcuts associated with the first phase of the Keystone XL project "resulted in substandard material being used in Keystone pump stations," he alleged.

Lynne Peeples of the Huffington Post added: 

Today, Vokes said, he sees the same "breaches of construction quality" in portions of TransCanada's Keystone XL already laid in Texas. The advocacy group Public Citizen Texas posted a video highlighting what it says are dents, faulty welds and other anomalies that have been unearthed in recent weeks.

"What else are they cutting corners on? No one knows," said Vokes 

"I've been on several projects that were very nearly disasters. I'm surprised there aren't more accidents," Vokes said, referring to the company's claim that "99.9996% of oil going through U.S. pipelines is delivered safely."

He added that most pipeline problems aren't discovered until decades later, "long after designers and those that constructed them have retired."

Following his testimony, Sen. Betty Unger said Vokes painted "a very, very bleak picture of the pipeline industry in Canada, and probably by extension, the States."

The anti-Keystone XL protest group Bold Nebraska posted the below video of Vokes' testimony:

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