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Tar Sands Pipeline Whistleblower Challenges Claims of Safety

Former TransCananda employee Evan Vokes voiced concern over pipeline safety, inspection procedures

- Common Dreams staff

New revelations from a former employee of tar sands company TransCanda cast further doubt on the public and environmental safety of the company's crude-carrying pipelines.

(photo of Keystone XL protesters in Texas from Tar Sands Blockade) The whistleblower, Evan Vokes, tells CBC News that TransCanada management including the CEO refused to act on his concerns of pipeline safety.

"I wrote a series of emails to a series of project managers saying, 'We can't do this practice, we can’t do this practice, we can’t do this practice,'" Vokes told CBC News. "And I received increasingly pressured emails about how things were OK to do it that way."

After receiving no response, Vokes, a metallurgical engineer, filed a complaint with the federal energy industry regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), on May 1 and was fired a week later.

Vokes' concerns include the way TransCanda directly hired contractors to inspect their pipeline contractors' work, a practice in violation of a 1999 NEB law. TransCanada's excuse seems to be "but everyone's doing it." CBC reports: "TransCanada has publicly admitted it did not always follow this regulation in the past, but said it was industry standard."

Last Friday, the NEB wrote TransCanada and said it was “concerned by TransCanada’s non-compliance with NEB regulations, as well as its own internal management systems and procedures.”

But TransCanada dismissed these concerns. "We are confident that any remaining concerns the regulator has about compliance and pipeline safety will be unwarranted," a TransCanada statement said.

TransCanada has received increased media attention in the past several weeks as "blockaders" have been staging direct actions to prevent the company from completing its Keystone XL pipeline in Texas.