Evan Vokes

Tue, 2014-06-03 13:15Julie Dermansky
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Questions Raised About Integrity of Keystone XL's Southern Route After Conditions Added for Northern Leg

The Keystone XL pipeline's southern route passes under Eleanor Fairchild's Texas property, so she got angry when she learned that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has added two new conditions to the 57 already required for construction of the pipeline's northern route.

“My fears were confirmed,” Fairchild told DeSmogBlog. “The regulators knew the southern route wasn’t built safely. It is like they have said to hell with us in Texas and Oklahoma.”


Eleanor Fairchild was defiant when TransCanada started installing the pipeline on her land. She kept a watchful eye during the installation and repair of the pipeline. ©2012 Julie Dermansky

Julia Trigg Crawford, another Texas landowner who fought TransCanada in the courts, shared a link to an Associated Press story that focuses on the two new conditions. “Read this ASAP to see why Texans and Oklahomans were so outraged about TransCanada's abysmal construction record on the southern leg of the Keystone XL,” she wrote.

Julia Trigg Crawford
Julia Trigg Crawford was labeled an activist by TransCanada attorney James Freemand. She considers herself a patriot for standing up for all Americans' property rights. ©2013 Julie Dermansky

The conditions require TransCanada to hire a third-party contractor chosen by PHMSA to monitor the construction and make reports to the U.S. government on whether the work is sound. Additionally, TransCanada must “develop and implement a quality management system that would apply to the construction of the entire Keystone XL project in the U.S. to ensure that this pipeline is — from the beginning — built to the highest standards by both Keystone personnel and its many contractors.”

The Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group that independently monitored the pipeline installation after failing to stop it, wrote on its blog that the new conditions suggest there are serious problems with the southern route.

“TransCanada’s internal quality management and PHMSA’s external inspection program were inadequate, if not fatally flawed. The failures implied by these new conditions beg the question: If TransCanada wasn’t adequately inspecting its own work, and PHMSA didn’t have the third-party inspection company it needed for effective oversight, was anyone actually watching TransCanada?”

Fri, 2014-03-07 13:51Julie Dermansky
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Whistleblower Evan Voke’s Evidence Against TransCanada Whitewashed By Regulators

Pipeline safety regulators in North America have done nothing but write warning letters to TransCanada in the two years since former employee Evan Vokes revealed evidence indicating the company had been breaking the rules.

A recently released report by the Canadian National Energy Board on TransCanada's integrity management programs stated: “There are areas where the company was found to be out of compliance.” The board gave TransCanada 30 days to come up with a plan to fix things internally.

In response, Vokes released a statement through the advocacy group, Public Citizen stating:

The Canadian government's audit criticizing TransCanada’s failings is a start, but leaves numerous safety concerns unaddressed. An audit based on paper and interviews only cannot catch non-compliance in the field. In my experience, TransCanada’s management failings are systemic and won’t be fixed simply by reviewing what TransCanada says its policies are on paper. These kind of reviews have not fixed the problem in the past and they aren’t sufficient now. Time and again, TransCanada’s internal and third-party audit systems have failed to catch the repeated substandard practice of engineering in the construction and maintenance of its pipelines. Unless regulators in Canada and the United States step up to the plate to ensure compliance in the field, future ruptures and risks to Americans are inevitable.”

The Canadian Senate held hearings in 2013 about the transport of hazardous materials after Vokes went to the media with what he said was proof that TransCanada was breaking the law. During the hearings the National Energy board testified they had verified much of the evidence Vokes provided.

The Senate’s report cites the National Energy Board's conclusion that TransCanada's incidents of non-compliance do not represent immediate threats to the safety of people or the environment. The report notes the board advanced its previously scheduled audit of TransCanada to include the specific concerns raised by Vokes, but recommends no further action.

“The lack of accountability with regulators is appalling,” Vokes told DeSmog Blog. He says he came forward because the oath he took to become an engineer requires him to put public safety first.

Sun, 2013-09-22 14:47Julie Dermansky
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TransCanada Whistleblower Evan Vokes Details Lack of Confidence in Keystone XL

Originally published by The Progressive

Evan Vokes never gave any thought to whistleblowers before realizing he would need to blow a shrill blast against his former employer, TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. As an engineer he takes his oath to protect public safety seriously.

Like Jeffery Wingand, the former tobacco industry insider-turned-whistleblower, Vokes is motivated by the consequences that industry's reckless actions can have on society, rather than by any personal vendetta against TransCanada. But Vokes hasn't had the satisfaction of seeing the insider information he shared have an effect on the pipeline industry, so his work is not yet done. 

Environmental groups have been pressuring President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, a high capacity, high pressure line that would transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Tar sands crude is more carbon intensive than conventional crude oil, as well as more corrosive, creating the potential that dilbit will erode pipelines faster. Spills can cause irreparable damage to water supplies, land values and ecosystems.

Vokes, in the pro pipeline camp, has grave reservations about this too. But he is primarily concerned about the pipeline itself, so shoddily built that it may well poison aquifers and harm people's health. President Obama has told the nation that his decision on the Keystone XL  pipeline will be based on whether or not it significantly increases carbon emissions.

Vokes hopes that after TransCanada's code violations become public knowledge, the President will also give weight to the project’s integrity and address the risks of catastrophic consequences.

Wed, 2013-02-06 11:31Carol Linnitt
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Is TransCanada Laying Defective Keystone XL Pipe in Texas?

TransCanada, the company currently constructing the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, claims to use “top quality steel and welding techniques” throughout its pipeline network. 

Last week, however, activists fighting the construction of the pipeline released images of what they claim are improperly welded pipeline seams. The photos were released by Keystone XL blockader Ramsey Sprague at the Pipe Tech Americas 2013 conference in Texas and were taken by blockader Isabel Brooks.

Brooks took the photographs from inside a pipe segment on December 3, 2012 to document what they say was daylight pouring through weld seams between segments. “All of us looked at it,” Brooks told DeSmog, speaking of the defective seam, “and it was clear light was coming in from the outside…It was definitely clear what it was.”

An hour after the protesters were extracted from the pipe segment, says Brooks, it was in the ground. “[Other protestors] told me that it was in the ground that day and buried. So they didn't test it again,” she said. “I know exactly the piece of pipe that it's at, so if we were to dig it up I know it would be right there and as clear as that day.”

These two images from inside the pipe were released by Sprague last week:

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