Changes made earlier this year to the National Energy Board Onshore Pipeline Regulations include new provisions requiring that the owners of federally regulated pipelines institute policies and procedures for the internal reporting of pipeline hazards.
The revised regulations now require that each pipeline owner implement "a policy for the internal reporting of hazards, potential hazards, incidents and near-misses that includes the conditions under which a person who makes a report will be granted immunity from disciplinary action".
The media has in some cases reported that the revised regulations allow reports of hazards to be made by whistle-blowers without fear of reprisals. In fact, there is no such blanket protection in the regulation: each company's policy must set out the conditions under which whistle-blowers will be granted immunity, but no particular standard of protection is required. A whistleblower will only receive the protection set out in the applicable pipeline owner's policy.
One news report also quoted the National Energy Board as stating that "immunity would not apply in cases of “gross negligence” or “willful violation” of standard operating procedures," This exception is also not provided in the revised regulations. The National Energy Board, in a "Question And Answer" guideline published with the revised regulations, used the gross negligence or wilful misconduct as an example of a circumstance in which immunity might not be granted by a pipeline owner, but this was given only as an example; such an exception is not a requirement of the regulation, and the regulation does not set forth any particular requirements for the contents of the policy or the exceptions.