Former Transcanada Engineer Warning to Residents South of the Border — Don’t Trust Transcanada

Evan Vokes worked as an engineer for TransCanada for five years — from 2007 to 2012.

Explosion from TransCanada natural gas pipeline in Otterburne, Manitoba, January 25, 2014

Explosion from TransCanada natural gas pipeline in Otterburne, Manitoba, January 2014

And right from the beginning, it was clear to Vokes that the company had a hole in its pipeline compliance program.

“I found non compliance in the welding specifications at TransCanada,” Vokes told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “By December 2007, it was obvious that we had a huge hole in compliance with welding specifications.”

You don’t mean a hole in the pipelines. You mean a hole in the compliance programs?

“That’s right. There was no compliance.”

When you say compliance you mean — compliance with federal law?

“Yes — federal law in Canada and the United States.

Does that mean the company was out of compliance?

“Yes. At the very beginning, I didn’t realize how bad it was. We had no records of the testing of the Keystone pipeline. We had no records of the testing or even if we made a weld. We had zero in the file.”

There was not testing?

“There was testing.”

But there was no record of the result?

“Correct. We had nothing. We had zero evidence to show that we had a welding procedure.”

In the early 2000s, they started cutting the integrity work. And a few years later when you found out about this, what did you do?

“There were the back and forth emails on how to get this information. Ultimately, I had to go to the contractor to get the information. I did get the information. We were in non compliance.”

How long did you work at TransCanada?

“Five years.”

How many of those years did you spend trying to get them to do the right thing?

“The entire time. Right at the beginning they were going to fire me.”

You worked at TransCanada from 2007 to 2012. You were constantly raising these issues of non compliance within the company and they were coming back at you and saying what?

“More than once, my manager told me how he was disappointed in my performance because I wasn’t doing as I was told.”

They were telling you to ignore your conscience?

“They were telling me to ignore the engineering law.”

Which required this documentation of testing?

“It also required that our primary responsibility was to take care of the public and the environment. And that covers all the engineering TransCanada did.”

Because of your work, there is a stain on TransCanada’s reputation?

“TransCanada has damaged whistleblowers more than whistleblowers have damaged TransCanada.”

How have they damaged you?

“They constantly feed information into the media, trying to downplay the gravity of what they did.”

“The inability to properly complete projects comes from the upper executive. It doesn’t come from where I was working. Where I was, there were plenty of competent engineers. There is incompetence at the top.”

“I had a following of engineers at TransCanada. They knew what we were doing was not right. But when the rubber hit the road, no one supported me. There is nothing quite like a mortgage to keep engineers in line. They know exactly what happens if you say anything. You get fired. I thought I had a fifty fifty chance. Either the CEO was going to do something or continue on the path he was taking. Unfortunately, he continued on the path he wanted to continue on. He thought he would just get rid of the squeaky wheel. But he had a bigger problem. All of this was driven at the executive level.”

“In the early 2000s, they started cutting the integrity work. And a few years later around 2008, we started getting explosions. Everything in engineering takes a few years.”

The integrity program was to make sure the pipes were intact and they wouldn’t explode?

“To make sure that pipes stayed in the ground. And once the pipes degrade, you can’t bring it back. It’s something you have to stay on top of all the time.”

You got no support from any government agency?

“I got no support from the conservative government of Stephen Harper. I appeared before the Senate of Canada. What I said there was absolutely correct. I then got no support from the liberal government of Pierre Trudeau. I got no support from the provincial governments. I got no support from the Obama administration. Everything I said at the State Department hearings in Nebraska in 2013 was correct. Everything including the corrosion of the Keystone Pipeline — all of that was true. TransCanada denied it, but it was true.”

Vokes is something of a superstar among good government and environment groups in Canada. The Council of Canadians even gave him a whistleblower award.

“I have had support from left leaning organizations as long as I’m supporting their point of view. But my point of view is not the same as theirs.”

How is your point of view different from reporters and the Council of Canadians — the group that gave you the whistleblower award?

“I believe that pipelines are an important part of our transportation network for fossil fuels,” Vokes said.

You support the fossil fuel industry and pipelines for moving fossil fuels?

“In general yes.”

Your criticism is that it is not being done safely?


Justin Trudeau is considered a liberal. Stephen Harper a conservative. When it comes to corporate crime, is there a difference?

“Corporate socialism is corporate socialism,” Vokes said. “They both carry the corporate socialist banner.”

“By the way, what happened on Keystone was complete engineering incompetence from end to end. These are engineers that have no accountability.”

“The government will never step in to stop their incompetence.”

[For the complete q/a format Interview with Evan Vokes, see 31 Corporate Crime Reporter 7(13), February 13, 2017, print edition only.]

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