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B.C. ordered to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last Updated Sep 17, 2019 at 7:05 pm MST

Pipeline pipes are seen at a facility near Hope, B.C., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. The Federal Court of Appeal says it'll reveal Wednesday whether a new set of legal challenges of the Trans Mountain pipeline project can go ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

B.C.'s government has been ordered to reconsider its approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline

The highest court in B.C. brought the ruling after challenges from the Squamish Nation and the City of Vancouver

The environmental certificate issued by B.C. in January 2017 is now invalid

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province’s highest court is ordering B.C. to reconsider its approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled the province must re-issue the environmental certificate, because it was approved based on a report by the National Energy Board that has since been quashed by the courts.

RELATED: Construction of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion still faces hurdles

The Squamish Nation and City of Vancouver brought legal challenges against the certificate.

Khelsilem with the Squamish Nation says they are prepared to weigh in on any new conditions the project imposes with a new certificate.

“We’ve been battling in court with the NDP government and the province on this through the court system, and I think this presents a new opportunity for the province to really step up, and we’re looking for some leadership,” he says.

The Appeal Court says in its decision released Tuesday, that in light of changes to the original report made by the energy board when the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was reconsidered, the province needs to revisit its own approval of the project.

After the National Energy Board reviewed the project for a second time, the federal government approved the pipeline expansion again.

Ruling may not give B.C. power to block project

Eugene Kung with West Coast Environmental Law says the ruling doesn’t necessarily mean B.C. will be able to block the project from going ahead, but it could slow it down.

“I think it certainly will result in more delay, exactly how much is not exactly clear,” he says. “But like I said, any permits that are reliant on the B.C. certificate, which would be pretty much any permit in B.C. for construction, now has to wait.”

RELATED: Vancouver mayor ‘not giving up’ Trans Mountain fight after city’s court challenge denied

B.C.’s environment minister seems to agree. George Heyman says aspects of the pipeline approval are outside the province’s jurisdiction.

“We’re not able to stop the project, that’s in federal jurisdiction. Only the federal appeal court can stop the project. All the parties in the recent case, including the Squamish Nation were in agreement with that fact,” he says.

“The project does not legally require a B.C. certificate to move forward. That is a matter of law that was explained to us when we took government.”

Meantime, the federal ministry of natural resources says B.C.’s environmental certificate is still valid.

“Today’s B.C. Court of Appeal ruling, as confirmed by Trans Mountain Corporation, does not impact construction, which will continue. The B.C. environmental assessment certificate for TMX remains valid,” reads a statement from Minister Amarjeet Sohi. “The court invited the Government of B.C. to review the conditions in the certificate under provincial authority in light of the 2019 report of the Canada Energy Regulator. The Government of Canada continues to move forward with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”

B.C.’s former Liberal government approved the expansion with 37 conditions in 2017, while relying on an agreement with the energy board that would stand for a provincial environmental assessment.

The three-judge panel said in its unanimous decision that through no fault of the provincial government, what is now Canada’s environmental assessment of the pipeline was not the same assessment used when B.C. approved its certificate.