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Nova Scotia’s Pipeline Regulatory Regime

Map of Canada


2 pipeline companies regulated


120 km of provincial pipelines


0 provincial crude oil pipelines


68.6 billion cubic feet/year of natural gas transported (2015)

A product of the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference

Provincial Pipeline Regulator

Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) is an independent, quasi-judicial body which has both regulatory and adjudicative jurisdiction for pipelines in Nova Scotia.


The NSUARB has control over the manner in which oil and gas pipelines in Nova Scotia are constructed, tested, maintained, and operated. It regulates pipelines in accordance with Nova Scotia's Pipeline Act, Regulation, and applicable Canadian Standards Association standards. No company may construct and operate a pipeline in the province without receiving the NSUARB’s approval.

Any proposed pipeline greater than 5 kilometres and any natural gas pipeline operating at greater than 3,450 kilopascals must register the project under the provincial Environment Act. Through an environmental assessment, all valued ecosystem components are identified, risks assessed, and mitigation measures discussed.

Projects are only allowed to proceed if they demonstrate that any significant adverse effects on the environment can be adequately mitigated. Two nesting seasons of baseline data are needed before pipeline construction can begin.

Companies are required to establish and implement a pipeline integrity management program, including monitoring and surveillance, for the protection of the pipeline and the public. Companies report on compliance and spill data semi-annually or annually, and all reports are public.

The NSUARB may direct any company, at that company’s own cost and expense, to test, inspect, or assess a pipeline. The NSUARB inspects and audits facilities, emergency manuals, exercise evaluations, integrity management programs, training manuals, emergency plans, and response manuals. The NSUARB may also issue orders and directives, including penalties up to $100,000 and imprisonment terms up to two years.

Preparedness and Response

Pipeline operators are required to develop and regularly update an emergency plan, contingency plan, emergency procedures manual, and an emergency response training program. The plan must include provisions covering the accessibility and maintenance of equipment for emergency repair and response.

Companies are also required to conduct exercises to verify their capabilities to respond to incidents, with frequency depending on the facility. The NSUARB participates in these exercises through a third party representative.

In accordance with the Nova Scotia Environment Act (PDF, 194 KB), the NSUARB is to be notified immediately following the discovery of an incident relating the construction, operation, maintenance, deactivation, reactivation or abandonment of a pipeline. An incident includes the death of or serious injury to a person, a significant adverse effect on the environment and an unintended or uncontained release of hydrocarbons in excess of 1.5 cubic metres.

The NSUARB ensures that steps are taken to respond to a pipeline incident, and may enter the spill site and conduct operations as it considers necessary to repair the leak or break, to contain the escaped substance, and to prevent further escape. Rehabilitation of a contaminated site is required under the Environment Act.

Liability and Compensation

Nova Scotia's Environment Act (PDF, 194 KB) embodies the polluter-pays principle. It is a term and condition of every license to construct or operate a pipeline that each licensee shall carry adequate personal injury, property damage, and third party liability insurance for losses suffered in the construction and operation of the pipeline, in such amounts as is determined by the NSUARB.

Offences under the Environment Act are liable to a fine between $1,000 and $1,000,000 or to imprisonment for up to two years, or both. If the NSUARB takes control of emergency response, it can direct by whom and to what extent the costs of such operations must be paid.

Contravention of the Pipeline Act is an offence and liable on summary conviction to a penalty of up to $100,000 or imprisonment for up to two years.


Users are reminded that this publication has no legislative sanction.  It has been consolidated for convenience of reference only.  Original Regulations should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting the law.

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