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CER Onshore Pipeline Regulation Overhaul

Jonathan Brun

The Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) (formerly National Energy Board NEB) is currently reviewing the Onshore Pipeline Regulations (OPR). Nimonik has been working with this regulation and many Oil & Gas midstream companies for years, it is great to see the regulator updating it. The CER just released its initial report on the feedback it has received from Industry Groups, Indigenous groups and other relevant stakeholders. The CER OPR report and details can be found here.

The CER aims to deliver regulations that support safety, security, environmental protection, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples while encouraging innovation and providing predictable, timely, and inclusive oversight. The review process is guided by the CER’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration).

The outcome of this initial round of feedback is clear:

The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) initiated a multi-year process in January 2022 to improve the regulatory framework for onshore pipelines. The first phase of engagement saw unprecedented participation, with over 400 people providing feedback on how to improve oversight and engagement. Key themes that emerged from this phase include:

  • advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples,
  • increase Indigenous involvement
  • incorporate Indigenous knowledge in lifecycle oversight,
  • improve clarity and transparency, and
  • update guidance and implementation of the Onshore Pipeline Regulations (OPR).

Feedback from the first phase of engagement highlighted the importance of meaningful engagement and communication with Indigenous Peoples throughout all phases of a project’s lifecycle. Respondents also emphasized the need for incorporating Indigenous knowledge in decision-making processes and involving Indigenous Peoples in compliance verification, monitoring, and emergency management activities.

The CER committed to improved transparency, predictability, and efficiency in the regulatory lifecycle. Feedback suggested that performance-based requirements and flexibility are essential for supporting innovation and competitiveness. Additionally, there is a need for better coordination and alignment with other jurisdictions to reduce regulatory overlap and improve outcomes.

Based on Nimonik’s work with over many midstream operators who are subject to CER regulations (those who operate across provincial or national borders), it is certain that industry welcomes a stronger relationship with Indigenous communities. Industry is also particularly interested in receiving clear and actionable guidance on the OPR and how it is enforced. Numerous companies have struggled to meet the requirements in section 6.5 Management System Processes as different audits by the CER have had different approaches to some of the requirements. Clarity, consistency, transparency are all key elements of the enforcement of the CER. Nimonik welcomes the proposed changes form the CER and looks forward to contributing to its improvement to ensure compliance across the Canadian midstream industry.