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AER says Plains making progress on safety, but will continue to monitor

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CALGARY - The pipeline company behind two high-profile oil spills has improved its safety practices, but there's still more work to be done, an audit by the Alberta Energy Regulator has found.

The watchdog said in a report this week that Plains Midstream Canada has not met, or just partially met, many of the requirements of a safety audit.

However, it said: "As a result of improvements and initiatives undertaken by PMC over the last year, the AER's overall conclusion is that PMC has and maintains many formal and informal processes in place to ensure that it can operate in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements on a long-term, sustainable basis."

The AER noted Plains has hired experienced staff over the past few years and boosted management oversight.

The AER ordered the audit in July 2013, when it also imposed additional regulatory scrutiny on the company. That included a requirement that even the most routine or minor decisions be cleared by the regulator's CEO, hampering its ability to obtain approvals for its operations in Alberta.

AER spokesman Bob Curran says those enforcement actions have been lifted, but the company will continue to be watched closely and will have to report to the AER twice a year on progress being made.

In June, the company was fined $1.3 million after pleading guilty to environmental charges related to the two spills, one of which was the second-largest in Alberta history.

In April, 2011, the Rainbow pipeline spilled 4.5 million litres of oil in northern Alberta. In June, 2012, the Rangeland pipeline spilled nearly half a million litres in central Alberta.

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