Gerrymandered Regulations (yet again)

September 10th, 2017

We received a voicemail;  “A bunch of us are thinking about a class-action against CSA [the ‘Canadian Standards Association’], we’d like to get your views.”

A series of phone calls and emails with a number of CSA’s victims were spread through the spring of 2017.  We’ve known about CSA’s corrosive influence for years, but it seems that CSA’s been alienating the people of rural Canada at a faster pace than elsewhere.

Fuel oil heating can be quite common outside of urban areas.  For our city dwelling readers, instead of natural gas or electric heating of one’s home, in places where gas line or grid hookup is impractical, or where interconnect is too expensive, houses are heated with fuel stored in above-ground tanks placed adjacent to the building. 

It’s easy, it’s effective, and it’s been the norm for millions of Canadians for most of the last century.  Then CSA got involved.

“They started barking about oil spills and tank corrosion and about the environment and helping us solve it.”  Of course, there was no problem, it didn’t exist, but CSA wanted money so they conjured a problem that only CSA could solve.  Specifically, they started a committee to amend fuel oil tank regulations (B-139 regs).

Committee members paid CSA to be on the fuel oil tank regulations committee and, of course, these committee members were the manufacturers of fuel oil tanks, pumps, piping, etc.  So CSA was already rolling in money before amending anything. 

“The bastards ruled that everything we’d installed in the last fifty years was unacceptable.  Everything to be replaced [with] all new equipment.”  That is, all of the existing infrastructure, safe and reliable for decades, was to be replaced at horrific costs, all born by the homeowner, and all to profit the manufacturers who’d paid CSA to change the regulations in the first place.  For those manufacturers, it was a financial windfall.  Over the next few years a familiar scene unfolded, as the mandated replacement of perfectly good equipment began.

Of course, when CSA ordered that “everybody rip out their equipment and replace with new stuff,” the new stuff being installed wasn’t nearly as robust or long lasting as the previous equipment that was now in the landfill.

“Look, the gauge [of steel thickness] minimum was so low on this new stuff, it lasts only five to ten years at most.”  These replacements were supposed to be better for the environment, but “the old tanks that were pulled out lasted for a lot longer, usually thirty years at least, so they were way better for the environment.” 

So, in the name of the environment, CSA mandated that thousands of perfectly good fuel tanks were thrown away and replaced with lower quality, short-lifespan tanks.  How is that environmentally friendly?  Well, it’s not.  But it is quite profitable for CSA and their members.

As to gauge (thickness), all fuel tanks are exposed to microbial influenced corrosion, or MIC.  That is, when the tank is partially full, the inside walls of the tank above the fuel line are prone to rust.  Eventually an MIC could result in a tank failure.  That’s why a good fuel tank has thick walls, ensuring strength in the presence of corrosion risk.  The new CSA tanks however, were thin walled, to ensure regular purchases of replacement tanks from manufacturers on CSA committee.

And it gets worse.

“On the new [tanks], MIC was starting a few weeks after installation.  Normally we’d see that a few years down, but not right away.”  The tank walls were thin AND atypically susceptible to corrosion, both making oil leaks a lot more likely.  None of this serves the environment, and remember; the environment was CSA’s excuse for all of it.

The new regulations also stipulated the use of CSA approved oil filters.  These were a disaster.  “The old ones were hardy, they were built to take a kicking.”  The new CSA ones, on the other hand, “were so thin you can tear the sidewall just getting them in place.”  Think about your car’s oil filter.  If you’ve ever replaced one yourself, you’d have used an oil filter wrench, which is basically a looped chain or steel band that grabs the filter and twists it into place.  If the sidewall of the filter is weak, the looped chain can tear it, and that ruins a filter, makes a mess, and wastes money.

At one commercial site; “The oil filter was a CSA oil filter that had a fault in it, but most of them are like that now, it broke in place and cost a couple hundred grand in repairs, even though it had a drip pan underneath to catch leaks, it just over-sprayed the lip of the pan.” 

The “thing is that CSA [is] approving equipment without knowing if its suitable.  They just take the money and certify it.”

A couple of hundred grand for something so simple as an oil leak is infuriating to the people who have to pay for it.  “Clean-up of an oil leak costs, at most, $50-$60k for everything, [the couple of hundred grand is] nothing remotely close to what it costs to clean up, [that’s] all the consultants and all the other stuff that’s navigating around there, courtesy CSA.”

The CSA ensures that the costs of CSA’s various gerrymandered mandates are paid for by the little guy.  But the little guy didn’t cause the problem.  “These cost items are all being pushed on the owner rather than the manufacturer and rather than CSA group.”  At CSA, they profit from it; you pay for it.

The irony is that fuel oil heating in rural areas “went from being a standard, safe operation to being very unsafe thanks to all the regulatory changes to sell new products, thanks to CSA committee.”

In the end, CSA takes money from manufacturers in trade for influence over regulations, then their newly minted manufacturer / members change these laws to mandate massive, meaningless infrastructure replacements, trading safe and long-lasting products for risky and throw-away products, then CSA mandates the clean-up of the messes that their mandates caused in the first place, as expensively as possible to give yet more CSA members more money, and all this vast expense is passed to everybody else, flowing like a river of money to CSA and their friends.

“I think a large number of people in this industry want to… I think they’re fed up with this nonsense.”  There’s trouble coming for CSA.  “A whole bunch of people want to start litigating.” 

“My thinking is to name everyone who was setting standards, approving products,” he said.  “What is your opinion of this?”  Well, we furnished an opinion from experience, and we’ll help them again as they move forward. 

Through CSA’s crooked conduct, their bloated bureaucracy is now incredibly vulnerable, though they likely don’t know it.  But they’ll learn it, in time, and not by only our hand, and likely in hard measure.