Sask. Opposition calling for action to remove old pipelines

While the federal government is finding ways to get new pipelines built, Saskatchewan‘s Opposition is calling for action to get old pipelines out of the ground.

"What we‘re proposing is that the [provincial government] step up in this time where we‘ve got this pressure issue with tariffs, pressing issues with ageing pipelines and actually introduce a policy with best before dates for our pipelines that exist in Saskatchewan," Ryan Meili, Leader of the Saskatchewan NDP announced in Regina on Tuesday.

Meili says a shelf life on old pipe would fuel and protect jobs in Saskatchewan‘s steel sector, something the United Steelworkers Union can get behind, especially with constant trade and tariff uncertainty from the United States, and pipeline construction roadblocks in Canada.

"Pipelines seem to be a swear word in Canada mostly," says Mike Day, President of the USW Local 5890. "It‘s that rollercoaster, it‘s tough but we just want to know we‘re protecting good jobs, great jobs for [Regina] and this province."

It‘s a policy the official opposition hopes would be more proactive rather than reactive when it comes to maintaining Saskatchewan‘s pipelines; however, the provincial government is calling this policy "irresponsible and irrational."

"If just Sask Energy alone were to replace all its pipes it would cost about $50 billion dollars which, of course, would be borne by ratepayers," said Bronwyn Eyre, Minister of Energy and Resources. "Then there would be all the private companies that would face massive costs."

Meili admits the policy would require thorough examination, but says not all the pipelines would have the same expiry dates.

"We haven‘t done this before, this hasn‘t been done elsewhere," said Meili. "We need to look and see what the evidence says. What age is appropriate, what materials need to be changed most quickly and what areas?"

But this proposal might just stay as that, as the government says its safety structure around pipelines is effective and has been for years.

"Energy and Resources has regulated pipelines since 1954 and conducted inspections on construction and ongoing operations and Energy and Resources follows up on any incidents that require reporting, maintains 24/7 coverage in the field…and in 2018 [the ministry] conducted nearly 5,000 pipeline, well and facility inspections," said Eyre.