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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pipelines, Politics, and Social Responsibility

Those of you in Wisconsin are likely quite concerned about the recent Enbridge pipeline that leaked over 1000 barrels of oil into a pristine area of Wisconsin, just two years after a ruptured Enbridge line fouled part of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan (cite Vancouver Sun, July 30, 2012, Mike Hager).

The Enbridge pipeline for Keystone XL, which would transport petroleum product from Western Canada south through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, has been prominently debated during the US Presidential primaries as a divisive "wedge" issue, pitting free enterprise energy advocates against big government regulators.

I have a personal interest in this because I have direct professional experience with Enbridge and its corporate culture, as represented by my former peers and colleagues who were long-term employees of Enbridge.  Without disclosing personal viewpoints, I will only express that the journalistic accounts are accurate and consistent with my own experiences, and the anecdotal account of tactical responses by Enbridge in Michigan was received with neither shock nor surprise.

At this point, I will insert one of my favorite quotes from the George Clooney movie, Michael Clayton, where he sets the expectation that when there is an unfortunate situation, the best approach is not a cover-up but a quick response.
"There's no play here. There's no angle. There's no champagne room. I'm not a miracle worker, I'm a janitor. The math on this is simple. The smaller the mess the easier it is for me to clean up."

In light of this, the Premier of the Canadian westernmost province, British Columbia, is contemplating the correct response to the proposal of a "Northern Gateway" which would permit Enbridge to build a petroleum pipleline across the pristine interior, through reservations segregated for First Nations (a.k.a Native Indians), to an expanded port along the beautiful but treacherous Pacific Coast for shipment to China.

As a politician facing election, Premier Christy Clark has to find a workable balance between the fervent, dogmatic energy capitalists and the raging, righteous environmental protectionists.  From her detailed position published nationally at Globe and Mail - Pipeline Conditions to define the acceptance criteria.  The genius of this is that the conditions raise awareness of the potential risks created from the Northern Gateway, and impose obligations on Enbridge to explicitly address those risks.

A review of the ISO Social Responsibility guidelines reinforce the positive position taken by Premier Christy Clark, and emphasize the importance of diligent governance.  History has established that no technology nor engineering outcome is perfect, and a geography cannot un-collide a derailed container nor un-leak a defective pipe. The emphasis for this type of gateway or pipelie has to be on accurate monitoring, rapid response, and immediate containment.

The point of this article is to acknowledge the controversy associated with pipelines, and the divisive polarization of politics that inhibit progress and solutions.  The proper application of Social Responsibility has the potential to engage all stakeholders, determine areas of concern, identify mitigations, and ultimately generate a workable solution.

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