Appeal Court quashes approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion quashed by Federal Court of Appeal

Approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion quashed by Federal Court of Appeal

On Thursday, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Trudeau government's 2016 greenlight of a contentious expansion of the pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. The decision cited a flawed review by the National Energy Board and the failure of Ottawa to meaningfully consult First Nations.

The court combined into one case almost two dozen lawsuits filed by First Nations, environmental groups and the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby calling for the energy board's review to be overturned.

A Canadian court blocked a major oil pipeline project, ruling that the country's federal government didn't properly consider the impacts of the controversial C$7.4-billion, 715-mile pipeline.

Justice Eleanor Dawson found that the National Energy Board's review was so flawed that the government shouldn't have relied on it to approve the expansion.

British Columbia is keeping the door open to continuing its own legal challenge of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite Thursday's major court setback for the project.

On the heels of the ruling, Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. announced construction-related activities were being suspended.

When asked if the pipeline project is dead, he said it will no longer be "top of mind for British Columbians".

The environmental groups involved in the case also cheered the ruling, with Ecojustice, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation calling it a "critical win" for the climate and coastal ecosystems.

"The big takeaway is the duty to consult (indigenous people) is still the most important step in any major project", said Andrew Leach, associate professor of business economics at University of Alberta.

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Bill Morneau, Canada's finance minister, said the government is reviewing the court's decision carefully, but it has not yet decided what its exact response will be. "This pipeline is not in the best interests of Canada".

Morneau told BNN Bloomberg that the government is "taking in" the court's 275-page ruling but noted that the decision "reinforced the importance that the government needs to get engaged" in the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Some First Nations are celebrating the ruling.

Since the NDP came to power last summer, Horgan said B.C. has used the rule of law to argue its position against the pipeline.

According to the ruling, the shortcut, or "critical error" made by the NEB, was to define the scope of the project as only the pipeline and the marine terminal for the purposes of its environmental assessment.

"The project should never have been approved, and we are greatly encouraged that the Federal Court of Appeal has recognised the need for Canada to uphold Indigenous Title and Rights on projects on their territories, and fulfil their commitments to true reconciliation", Chamberlin said in a statement. "So I believe that the arguments about where the environment rests in terms of jurisdiction in Canada is still important". That led to a trade war between B.C. and Alberta, which has championed the Kinder Morgan pipeline project. Premier John Horgan said Thursday the province will continue to pursue the reference case. It said approvals must be based on facts. Trans Canada, for example, abandoned its Energy East project past year when the NEB abruptly announced it was including downstream emissions of the pipeline in its environmental review.

The proposed expansion would almost triple the flow capacity through the Canadian mainline pipeline so that oil could be exported from British Columbia to California and Asia. It would also increase the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet sevenfold.

While the project could allow Alberta to get its bitumen to markets in Asia and reduce its reliance on the USA market, there has been opposition over the potential for oil spills and the impact that a dramatic rise in tanker traffic could have on the region's southern resident killer whales, a population already on the knife edge of extinction.

"The NEB acknowledged that on the facts there were significant adverse effects of the project on southern resident killer whales - but the board, by defining the project narrowly, was able to say that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse effects".

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