TransCanada Has a Whistleblower

Edward Snowden isn’t the only whistleblower getting attention at the moment. TransCanada, the company that owns the Keystone pipeline and wants to expand it all the way to the gulf coast, has a whistleblower named Evan Vokes who is making life difficult for them.

Former TransCanada Corp. employee Evan Vokes’ impassioned testimony before a Canadian Senate committee last week painted “a very, very bleak picture of the pipeline industry in Canada, and probably by extension, the States,” according to Sen. Betty Unger.

Vokes’ allegations on Thursday against TransCanada, the Canadian company leading the controversial proposal to send tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast via the Keystone XL pipeline, were sobering: a “culture of noncompliance” and “coercion,” with “deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes” and carries “significant public safety risks.”

“It’s organized crime, in my opinion,” Vokes, an expert in pipeline welding and now whistleblower against his ex-employer, told The Huffington Post after the hearing. “The source of revenue is legal, but how they go about it isn’t legal.”

TransCanada quickly came to its own defense after learning of the attack.

“We take great exception to the claims by Mr. Vokes that we do not take safety and compliance issues seriously,” company spokesman Shawn Howard told HuffPost. “Our track record and the safety of our energy infrastructure network shows that we do.”

Really? Less than five years ago, they opened the Keystone I pipeline, which ships tar sands crude oil from Alberta to refineries here in the midwest. They told regulators then they same thing they’re now saying about the proposed Keystone XL expansion, that pipeline technology had improved dramatically and that they were using state of the art equipment and monitoring that would prevent spills. So far they’ve had more than 30 such spills on that one pipeline alone (not to mention the massive million gallon leak of tar sands oil from Enbridge’s Lakehead pipeline here in Michigan in 2010). Their safety track record should be the last thing they want to talk about.

Not that this will change anything, of course. There isn’t a chance in hell that Keystone XL is not approved by the Obama administration. There’s simply too much money to be made by people with too much access to power.

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  • Doc Bill

    Does Snowden really fall into the category of whistleblower?

    I thought all he released were Powerpoints of presentations and details about PRISM.

    It’s not as if he released a cache of secret memos detailing illegal activity. I guess I’m not up to speed on whistleblowerism.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    You might ask yourself, why pipe Canadian tar sands oil through the US? Why not pipe it to Canada’s own coast? For environmental reasons, of course.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Dateline British Columbia, Jun 13 2013: Merritt pipeline spill raises maintenance concerns say B.C. premier

    Bad timing. That was Kinder Morgan, not TransCanada.

  • trucreep

    @1 Doc

    He absolutely is – he exposed partially how the government has been implementing its extremely broad interpretations of law. Through his revelations we’ve found Clapper straight up lied to Congress – a felony.

    What he’s exposed is just the tip of the iceberg as they say. We don’t need to look back very far in our history to know that the government will abuse any powers they think they have, and will do whatever it takes to make sure it stays that way.

    He is absolutely a whistle blower, and we all owe him a great debt.

  • Reginald Selkirk, you might have also been thinking about the proposed Enbridge Pipeline

    B.C. officially opposes Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline

    ‘Our questions were not satisfactorily answered,’ environment minister says

  • Doc Bill

    @ Creep

    Thanks. Yeah, I see your point on that front. I guess if you have a Congress that can’t tie it’s own shoelaces then one can’t expect much in the way of oversight.

    Clapper did do me a great service, though, with his reply that he gave the “least untruthful” answer he could.

    Least Untruthful is brilliant! I’ll try that out on my wife.

    “Honey, are you having an affair?”

    “Not wittingly.”

  • Most non Albertans in Canada want nothing to do with the pipelines. BC decided to oppose a pipeline through their province for saftey reasons, and take a look at this recent goodie;

    9.5 million litres of toxic waste mater spilled from a pipeline there the other day. Tar sands are a toxic blight and should be opposed, both here in Canada and in your country as well. Fight to keep the pipeline out of the US

  • trucreep


    Hahaha also make sure to let her know you’re being “too cute by half” or whatever the heck he said

  • ShowMetheData

    “You might ask yourself, why pipe Canadian tar sands oil through the US?”

    Because there is a processing capacity in Texas that provides real jobs to Americans

    Texas is a wage desert – an anti-union, right-to-work, extract-from-the-poor wage desert

    Except this industry makes so much money, it appears like all of Texas is actually functioning

    I’d prefer we Canadians do the processing, but we are at the limits of low employment(4-5% unemployment) in the the tar-sands area

  • Tangentially OT: There is another Keystone XL-type controversial project brewing in the Pacific Northwest, as proposals are being considered to ship megatons of coal from Montana and Wyoming to ports near or in Seattle via train – an estimated 30 miles of coal trains per day. Below is a link to a fact sheet on the project and its severe environmental and local business and quality-of-life impacts.

    This needs more attention.

  • Francisco Bacopa

    I should point out that tje pipeline is proposed to go to Houston and Port Arthur in Texas. Why? These are actually the closest deep water ports closest to Alberta, Strange to think that Texas is closer to Alberta than either of Canada’s coasts, but it’s true. Plus there’s a LOT of expertise down here in refining weird stuff.

    But the main reason that the pipeline goes to southeast Texas is that Houston is pretty much the most important city for the international oil trade. We understand there is no such thing as “our” oil. There is no US oil, there is no Canadian oil. Oil goes where it is wanted, and we have the infrastructure to send it anywhere it gets the right price.

    I hope I educated a few Occupy Austin members about this when I helped them get to the #D12 Houston port shutdown. They had never seen a port and were in awe of the Old Gates. I told them that the port goes on for miles and that there are two entire cities at the mouth of the Channel that are full of more “dark Satanic mills” than they could imagine.

    Why are the pipelines to Texas? Because we can get that shit to anywhere in the world as fast as possible. There is no such thing as a country’s oil. Oil is international.

    On the plus side, Big Oil doesn’t care that Houston has a lesbian mayor. We also have de facto legal pot.

  • I’ll begin to believe anything that enemanates from the pieholes of Ol bidneth flacks (or fracking or nuke folks) when they’re willing to insure their operations on the open market instead of letting the people whose lives and property they despoil for profits that go into THEIR pockets pick up the costs of clean-ups and decommissioning. When it’s safe enough for that, it will be safe enough for me.

    You want jobs in TX that will result from the pipeline going from there to Alberta? then indemnify the states between you and Alberta when their soil, water and air are ruined by spills and blowouts.

  • House Tleilaxu

    Not that I want to come to TransCanada’s defense, but comparing the environmental risks of the US pipeline to the proposed Enbridge pipeline through BC isn’t really accurate. The chief concerns is the area it is running through is unspoiled wilderness, and where it meets the ocean is a dangerous location for a port that could easily lead to a tanker running aground.

    That said, their safety record in Alberta alone is terrible, but the province is so dependent on oil for jobs that they’ll turn a blind eye to anything.