I promise, Bob: I was not wearing my camos or mask while writing this post.
Tar sands oil and the pipelines that carry them bring unavoidable risks to South Dakota. But TransCanada exacerbates those risks with what a fired engineer with experience on the Keystone pipeline system calls a "culture of non-compliance":
[Evan] Vokes, an expert on pipeline welding practices, worked for TransCanada for five years and was fired without cause in 2012 after persistently raising concerns about the company's safety practices.
In particular, Vokes provided the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources with a number of documented violations of welding and pressure testing codes. The Committee is now studying the safety of pipeline transportation in Canada.
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 [Andrew Nikiforuk, "TransCanada Has a 'Culture of Non-Compliance': Engineer to Senate Committee," The Tyee: The Hook, 2013.06.07].
First phase of the Keystone XL project—that's the Keystone 1 pipeline that runs under East River from Marshall County to Yankton. All four of the pumping stations along that South Dakota stretch of the pipeline sprang leaks in its first year of operation. Those are the pumping stations that TransCanada absurdly tried to exclude from its risk assessment.
Vokes isn't the first engineer to blow the whistle on TransCanada's shoddy work on the Keystone pipeline system. In September 2011, Bechtel inspector Michael Klink found faulty steel, bad construction practices, and pressure from TransCanada to cover up problems on Keystone 1. Of course, it doesn't take an expert to see daylight through TransCanada's welds.
Making mistakes is one thing. Cheating is another. TransCanada's record shows we can't trust them to follow the rulers and take responsibility for the risks their work poses to South Dakota's natural resources.