On Wednesday, Aug. 28, the National Energy Board (NEB) became the Canada Energy Regulator (CER). For further information please visit our Implementing the Canadian Energy Regulator Act information page

Chapter 9: Safety and Damage Prevention

Under the National Energy Board Act (NEB Act), the responsibility to prevent pipeline damage is shared between anyone who plans to conduct an activity near a pipeline and the pipeline company. Pipeline companies are required to ensure that people know how to safely conduct activities near pipelines, and people planning activities near pipelines are required to confirm the location of pipelines and meet all conditions for authorization before they start these activities. The National Energy Board (NEB or Board) provides regulatory oversight for both companies and people planning activities near NEB-regulated pipelines, and must create the conditions necessary to hold persons and companies accountable for carrying out these responsibilities. The NEB’s compliance verification, compliance promotion and enforcement activities support this framework and are used to promote safety and environmental protection.

The NEB’s Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Authorizations (DPR – Authorizations) , and Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Obligations of Pipeline Companies (DPR – Obligations of Pipeline Companies) apply to anyone planning construction or a ground disturbance activity near a pipeline, or to cross a pipeline with a vehicle or mobile equipment. Guidance on the regulations is available on the NEB website: Guidance Notes – NEB Regulations for Pipeline Damage Prevention.

What is the purpose of the NEB’s regulations for pipeline damage prevention?

The purpose of the regulations is to ensure safety for all involved. The regulations set up a scheme to ensure that the safety of the pipeline is maintained while allowing activities to occur if they can be conducted safely. The NEB Act prohibits construction of facilities across, on, along or under a pipeline (including the right-of-way), ground disturbance activities within a prescribed area, and crossings of the pipeline (including the right-of-way) using a vehicle or mobile equipment. In order for such activities to be permitted, the requirements outlined in the regulations must be met or the Board must order that the activity can proceed.

The regulations also set the prescribed area (the safety zone) where activities causing ground disturbance cannot occur unless the safety requirements in the regulations are met.

What is the prescribed area, or safety zone?

The DPR – Authorizations provides the definition for the prescribed area: it is a strip of land measured 30 m perpendicularly on each side from the centerline of a pipe (see diagram below). This is the safety zone where the safety measures outlined in DPR – Authorizations must be met for activities causing a ground disturbance. The key requirements are to obtain the pipeline company’s consent to conduct the ground disturbance activity and to make a locate request (click or call before you dig) to locate the pipe.

30 Metre Safety Zone

30 Metre Safety Zone

A Pipeline right-of-way may contain more than one pipeline

What is a ground disturbance?

A ground disturbance is any activity that may disturb the ground. The NEB Act provides that the following are not a ground disturbance:

  • cultivation to a depth of less than 45 cm below the surface of the ground
  • activity to a depth of less than 30 cm and that does not result in a reduction of the earth cover over the pipeline to a depth that is less than the cover provided when the pipeline was constructed

If a proposed activity falls within one of the above-mentioned categories and it does not involve other activities requiring authorization (e.g. vehicle crossing or construction of a facility), it may proceed. However, if the activity involves a ground disturbance that does not fall within one of these categories, and that activity falls within the prescribed area (measured 30 m perpendicularly on each side from the centerline of a pipe), the requirements in the regulations must be met, including the requirement to obtain pipeline company consent.

What do I need to do if I’m planning to construct a facility or conduct a ground disturbance activity near a pipeline?

Under section 112 of the NEB Act, construction of a facility across, on, along or under a pipeline and ground disturbance activities within the prescribed area are prohibited unless authorized through the DPR – Authorizations or a Board order. The regulations require that you contact the pipeline company to obtain written consent to conduct any of these activities, and to follow the safety conditions required by the company. The pipeline company has 10 working days to inform a person requesting consent to undertake an activity causing a ground disturbance whether it consents to the activity. Should the pipeline company refuse to provide consent, the company will provide the person making the request with the reasons for its denial. After receiving written consent, you must make a locate request to determine the exact location of the pipeline.

What happens when I make a locate request?

When you make a locate request, the one-call centre contacts the pipeline company who will locate the pipeline, and mark it with flags, stakes or paint, or a combination of these. The DPR – Obligations of Pipeline Companies requires that the pipeline company locate the pipeline within three working days after the date of the request. This period of time may be extended if both you and the pipeline company agree. See the end of this section for a list of one-call centres across Canada.

Pipeline signs and marker posts do not indicate the exact location of the pipe within the right of way.
ALWAYS click, or call, before you dig!
You can access the nearest one-call centre to make a locate request anywhere in Canada at

What do I need to do if I want to cross the pipeline?

Under the NEB Act, crossing a pipeline (which includes the right of way) is prohibited unless authorized through the DPR – Authorizations or a Board order. The regulations require that anyone wanting to cross the pipeline with a vehicle or mobile equipment must have pipeline company consent unless the vehicle or mobile equipment is operated within the travelled portion of a highway or public road.

If you are operating a vehicle or mobile equipment for agricultural purposes, the regulations provide that you may cross the pipeline if:

  • the loaded axle weight and tire pressures of the vehicle or mobile equipment are within the manufacturer’s approved limits and operating guidelines; and
  • the point of crossing has not been identified by the pipeline company as an area where crossings could impact the safety of the pipeline (DPR – Obligations of Pipeline Companies).

While crossing a pipeline with a vehicle that is used to perform an agricultural activity is authorized if it meets these requirements, if it is causing a ground disturbance, that activity must also be authorized as outlined in the DPR – Authorizations.

How much time does the company have to reply to me?

If you are planning to conduct ground disturbance or construction activities near a pipeline, the pipeline company must inform you within 10 business days whether consent for your project has been granted or refused. If consent has been refused, the pipeline company must inform you why. The pipeline company has three business days to respond to a request to locate its pipeline.

What if the company won’t give me consent to conduct an activity, or if I can’t meet the required safety measures?

If you are unable to obtain the consent of the pipeline company or you cannot meet the safety measures outlined in the regulations or by the company, you may file an application with the Board. You can find information in Guide C of the NEB’s Filing Manual about how to make a section 112 application. You can also contact the NEB by telephone at toll free 1-800-899-1265 or by email at DPinfo@cer-rec.gc.ca.

What are my obligations for conducting work near pipeline?

You must follow the safety measures in the pipeline company’s written consent, and the DPR – Authorizations. If you are planning to conduct a ground disturbance or construction activity, or to operate a vehicle across a pipeline, you must inform anyone working on your behalf, including employees, contractors and subcontractors, of their obligations under the DPR – Authorizations.

If you are renting out your land, you will want to talk to your tenants about the DPR – Authorizations as they will also be expected to abide by them.

What are the pipeline company’s responsibilities?

The company is responsible for the safety and security of the pipeline, the protection of the environment, and the safety of the people who live and work in the area around the pipeline. The pipeline company must comply with the NEB Act and associated regulations in the design, construction, operation and maintenance, and abandonment of pipelines.

Through their damage prevention programs, pipeline companies must assess whether any activities near or across the pipeline are a hazard, and manage and mitigate the hazard. Pipeline companies regularly patrol and inspect the right-of-way, looking for signs of any damage, leaks, or unauthorized activity that could pose a hazard to people, property, or the pipeline. Companies also place signs in the area to alert anyone who is planning to work near a pipeline. Pipeline companies must also manage vehicle crossings of their pipelines within their damage prevention program. Pipeline companies are required to create and maintain public awareness programs These programs tell landowners, land users and other people about the presence of the pipeline and how to work safely near it, as well as how the company will deal with emergencies if they occur.

What can happen if the regulations are not followed?

If the regulations are not followed, critical safety issues may occur, either immediately, or over time. For example, if a person conducting an activity near a pipeline does not make a locate request or contact the pipeline company for details, they may strike the pipe. The pipe may rupture, or the coating on the pipe may be damaged. The coating on a pipe is important because it is the first defense against corrosion. If there is a strike on the pipe, even if you don’t notice any damage, the bond between the pipe and the coating can be damaged, which can eventually lead to corrosion. The more times a pipe is struck, the more its integrity and its protection against corrosion are compromised, which can impact the safety of all involved. Damage to the pipe or its coating, regardless of whether there was a release of product or not, must be reported to the NEB.

If the regulations are not followed when conducting an activity that causes a ground disturbance in the prescribed area, constructing a facility near a pipeline, or crossing a pipeline, it is unauthorized, and illegal. The NEB may enforce against unauthorized activities for environmental protection and the safety of all involved.

Do companies have programs for dealing with emergencies that may occur on the pipeline?

Companies are required by the NEB to have an emergency management program that anticipates, prevents, manages and mitigates conditions during an emergency that could adversely affect property, the environment or the safety of workers or the public. Companies are required to have an emergency procedures manual and a continuing education program for the police, fire departments, medical facilities, other appropriate organizations and agencies, and the people who live adjacent to the pipelines. Companies must also have a public awareness program that informs people about how to live and work safely near a pipeline. The programs inform people of the location of the pipeline, potential emergency situations involving the pipeline, and the safety procedures that should be followed in case of an emergency. Companies must also provide a detailed plan of how they will deal with clean-ups if they are required. The NEB assesses these plans and may ask the company to implement additional measures or to conduct practice exercises so they are ready to deal with any emergencies.

How does my easement agreement apply to what I can do in the right of way?

Many easement agreements include a clause stating that the landowner must not do certain activities, without prior consent from the company. This may include: excavate; drill; and install or erect pits, wells, pipelines, foundations, pavements, buildings or other structures, across, on, along or under the right-of-way. Crossing or access agreements may also include clauses around the use of the land and what type of activity or equipment can be used. If you rent or lease your land, you should communicate with your tenant regarding any agreements in place with the company.

The pipeline company is obligated to provide you with the necessary information and instructions to ensure the safety of all involved. It is important that whoever is doing the work on or near the prescribed area (safety zone), such as a tenant or contractor, understands and follows the company’s instructions. See Appendix B for a Safety Checklist.

What happens if I change the use of the land in the right-of-way?

Landowners wanting to change their land use from the use indicated in the easement agreements for the right-of-way should discuss their proposed operations with the pipeline company to determine if permission is needed. Some specialty crops interfere with access to the pipeline system for emergency response and maintenance purposes. Ongoing communication between the landowner and the pipeline company is important to ensure the pipeline is properly protected and people are safe.

One-Call Centres

The purpose of a One-Call Centre is to provide information that will help to prevent damage to buried facilities, such as pipelines and utility lines. Landowners who are planning to conduct a ground disturbance or construction activity, such as installing fence posts, planting trees, installing pools and decks should call before undertaking these or any similar types of activities.

The Customer Service representatives at the call centre will take the necessary information regarding your plans and will notify those companies with underground facilities in your area. There is no charge for this service. The companies will determine if they have buried facilities at your excavation site and, if necessary, will locate and mark their facilities before you dig.

One-Call Centres in Canada

British Columbia
BC One Call: 1-800-474-6886

Alberta One Call Corporation: 1-800-242-3447

Sask First Call: 1-866-828-4888

Click Before You Dig MB: 1-800-940-3447

Ontario One Call: 1-800-400-2255

Info-Excavation: 1-800-663-9228

Atlantic Canada
Info-Excavation: 1-866-344-5463

Contact the pipeline company directly in the Northwest Territories.

What are some common misconceptions about pipelines?

A better understanding about pipelines and where they are buried can go a long way to ensuring the safety of all involved when living and working around them. Here are some common misconceptions about pipelines and the facts that make clicking or calling before you dig an important step.


Myths and Truths About Safety and Damage Prevention


The TRUTH is...
Pipelines are buried so deeply underground that no project could possibly endanger them. Typically pipelines are buried between one and three metres below the surface. The depth of cover over a pipeline can vary for many reasons.
Company pipeline markers show the exact location of the pipeline. Company markers are there to indicate the presence of a pipeline in the area. A professional locate is necessary to know the exact location of a pipeline.
Markers show the exact path of the pipeline. Pipelines do not always follow a straight line between pipeline markers. There could be bends in a pipeline at any location. A locate is the only way to map the route of a pipeline.

If your project extends beyond the limits of your first locate, you need a new locate to continue working safely.
There are always equal amounts of cover across a pipeline. Ground cover across a pipeline can be uneven due to erosion, terrain, or other factors.
The pipeline sits in the middle of the right-of-way.

Pipelines may be located anywhere within the allotted right-of-way. A professional locate is required to know where the pipeline is situated.

If there is no sign - there is no pipeline. Not necessarily, the only way to know for sure is to call before you dig!
field foothills fence
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