Acting on our Ideals
Ours is a long-term business dedicated to delivering North Americans secure and reliable energy supplies. This means that TransCanada will be an integral part of hundreds of communities across the continent for many years to come. We want to be considered a good neighbour within those diverse communities from the start of a project until the day we decommission a facility and reclaim the local environment.
When we are planning a new project, we usually involve affected parties as soon as possible. Our stakeholders are a diverse group, including landowners, regulatory officials, Aboriginal communities and Native American Tribes, local governments, emergency response agencies, and our industry peers. Through one-on-one discussions, public open houses, web pages, written materials, toll-free telephone access and media releases, we lay out our intentions to these stakeholders, solicit their comments and advice and seek solutions that are as mutually beneficial as possible. We bring our respect and a clear sense of our long-term corporate responsibility to these important discussions. Typically, the approach works very well.
This year, we thoroughly re-examined this approach with a view to making it even better. In November, we hosted a two-and-a-half day summit involving 70 practitioners from across North America who shared their knowledge and experience. Our new Stakeholder Engagement Framework uses this expertise to consolidate, optimize and, where necessary, fill the gaps in our existing stakeholder engagement process. As a result, we will be aligning our new engagement efforts in accordance with these principles:
- We identify and consider the perspectives of our stakeholders;
- We are visible, present and approachable in the community;
- We recognize that diverse thoughts, opinions and experiences contribute to better decisions and outcomes;
- We take ownership and accountability for our decisions and outcomes; and
- We track, measure and publicly report on our performance to learn and improve.
In 2011, as the Framework is finalized and implemented, TransCanada employees will have access to a number of new tools as well, including a Commitment Statement, Stakeholder Engagement Intranet Page and a Network of Stakeholder Engagement Practitioners.
Our Halton Hills Project — a $700 million natural gas fired power plant in Ontario — is a good example of how TransCanada currently interacts with stakeholders. When we first announced our plans to build a high efficiency power plant near Halton Hills some three years ago, a number of local residents expressed their concern about the negative impact it might have on the rural setting and their quiet way of life. Because we realized that TransCanada would be the first to locate in the new Halton Hills industrial park, we understood their perspective on what seemed to be a significant change to the community. We were clear that the construction phase of the project would bring some disruption to their lives, usually in form of noise, traffic and dust, but that the disruption would be temporary. We also gave them as much advance notice as possible of all project events, so there would be no surprises. With help from representatives of the rural community and from the towns of Halton Hills and Milton, we established a Community Liaison Committee to optimize the flow of information to all stakeholders. And when we received complaints, we responded quickly and to the point in order to resolve outstanding concerns. As the project continued, residents came to see TransCanada as a responsible and respectful member of the community.
Not every project proceeds so smoothly. Another Ontario project — the Oakville Generating Station near Toronto — was opposed from the start by a local group called Citizens for Clean Air that expressed concerns about matters of public safety. To address those concerns, TransCanada released a Pre-construction Safety Report from top safety experts in the United Kingdom. This report found that the proposed plant would surpass the most stringent safety requirements of the Major Industrial Accidents Council of Canada and of similar international bodies by a wide margin. We also offered to fund a completely independent review of our safety report by the Town of Oakville. In short, TransCanada always takes stakeholder concerns seriously and works hard to address them objectively and transparently. Unfortunately, the Government of Ontario determined not to proceed with construction of the Oakville plant.
We're pragmatic as well, recognizing that it is sometimes difficult to reach consensus on major projects. That is certainly the case with our $7 billion Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion Pipeline Project (KXL), designed to transport crude oil from Alberta to the U. S. Midwest and Gulf Coast. There, the issues range from landowner compensation to continental energy security and from environmental impact to public safety. With regard to these issues and more, our team members have consistently provided clear, honest answers to all interested parties for several years now in one of the largest public engagement initiatives we have undertaken in North America. We work very hard to explain the extraordinary measures TransCanada routinely takes to ensure responsible development and operation.
For example, we have explained how TransCanada developed state-of-the-art systems for monitoring the integrity of our operational Keystone pipeline and developed comprehensive emergency response plans that minimize threats to the public and the environment. Located in Calgary, Alberta, our Operations Control Center (OCC) is designed to meet needs like these:
- Monitoring the entire pipeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via satellite technology that sends data every five seconds from 16,000 individual points along the line;
- Should a leak be detected, Keystone personal will activate their Emergency Response Plan (ERP) to protect people and to minimize damage to the environment and property — the ERP was developed and presented to regulatory bodies before pipeline operation began;
- The OCC can isolate a suspected leak within minutes by closing nearby valves;
- Trained personnel will visit the scene of the suspected leak, determine its nature, and identify the best course of remedial action;
- Our plans always include appropriate means of handling worst-case scenario spills, although such spills are exceedingly rare.
Keystone has prompted changes to our emergency response protocols as well. These related to the fact that oil pipeline incidents tend to be of longer duration. Accordingly, we increased the level of training among our Incident Command personnel to ensure a closer working relationship with first responders over an extended period of time. We also conducted numerous wet and dry land equipment deployment and training exercises with employees, regulators and the community.
Such detailed planning is not simply necessary to ensure public and environmental protection; it is also vitally important in reassuring members of the public about our recognition of their concerns and our expertise in keeping them safe. Our community relations specialists work hand-in-hand with our technical experts to make sure that stakeholders are kept well informed with current information.
TransCanada’s commitment to safety in communities does not end with construction of a facility; in fact, that is merely the beginning of a relationship that extends throughout the life of the project. We keep our emergency response plans up to date, regularly remind residents about the Call Before You Dig program and have our employees participate annually in both table-top and simulated field emergency response exercises. Our approach is similar to that promoted by the Common Ground Alliance, an independent North American association of all stakeholders dedicated to ensuring public safety, environmental protection, and the integrity of services by promoting effective damage prevention practices.
Whatever the issue, TransCanada is committed to keeping people informed, allaying their concerns by offering objective information and ensuring that our relationship with all stakeholders is always based on mutual trust and benefit.