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Russ Girling, president and CEO of TransCanada, talks to a shareholder before the company's annual general meeting in Calgary, April 27, 2012.

TODD KOROL/REUTERS

The National Energy Board has launched a major audit of TransCanada Corp., after a whistle blower's revelations about problems in the pipeline company's operating practices.

In a letter sent to Calgary-based TransCanada, the NEB said it will examine the integrity management programs at almost all of the company's pipelines, including its natural gas systems and Keystone pipe.

Integrity management programs, or IMPs, are used by pipeline firms to maintain safe operations and typically include inspections of the pipe, as well as procedures to fix potential problems.

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"The board expects TransCanada to demonstrate, and provide adequate supporting documentation of, the adequacy and effectiveness of its integrity management program," the NEB wrote in its letter.

NEB audits are not unusual; using new federal financing, it now conducts six comprehensive audits a year, and an audit for TransCanada had already been scheduled.

Still, having it look at TransCanada is welcome news to Evan Vokes, the former TransCanada engineer who detailed concerns about the company in a letter to chief executive Russ Girling before going public.

"The NEB is finally having a serious response," Mr. Vokes said in an interview Wednesday.

The TransCanada audit will be broad, covering corporate management, pipeline inspection and measurement as well as systems designed to identify hazards, assess risk and maintain operational control in both normal and unusual situations.

In mid-October, Mr. Vokes told the CBC he had raised concerns about the competence of TransCanada's pipeline inspectors as well as its "lack of compliance with welding regulations."

In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Vokes said the company suffered broader systemic issues. "We were always laughing at the other pipeline companies. And then when we went and found out what we were doing wrong, I was so ashamed," he said. "It was gross what we had done."

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Part of the problem included the company's approach to construction, he said: "When you're building things to the code you're supposed to follow the code. You don't look at the code and decide whether or not you think it constitutes a risk to your project."

In an e-mail, TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the company makes "clear to all of our staff and contractors that we will not tolerate anything that undermines the safety and reliability of our facilities."

TransCanada spent more than $800-million on maintenance and integrity in 2011, he added.

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About the Author
Asia Bureau Chief

Nathan VanderKlippe is the Asia correspondent for The Globe and Mail. He was previously a print and television correspondent in Western Canada based in Calgary, Vancouver and Yellowknife, where he covered the energy industry, aboriginal issues and Canada’s north.He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award and a Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. More

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