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B.C. high court: Provincial government should reconsider Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion

This May 3, 2018 photo shows the Kirkeholmen oil tanker anchored outside the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil terminal in Vancouver, Canada, at the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline that begins in northern Alberta.
Jeremy Hainsworth
/
The Associated Press
This May 3, 2018 photo shows the Kirkeholmen oil tanker anchored outside the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil terminal in Vancouver, Canada, at the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline that begins in northern Alberta.

British Columbia’s top court has issued a ruling that affects the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. While it may not stop the project, it could cause a further delay.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal says the provincial government should “reconsider” the environmental certification of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion because it was based on an earlier report that has changed.

To make matters more complicated, the earlier provincial certification happened under a different government and premier. John Horgan, the current B.C. premier, has vowed to do everything to stop the expansion, which could see a sevenfold increase of oil tankers carrying heavy crude oil known as bitumen through the Salish Sea, en route to Asia.

The court’s decision could slow down the expansion. The current B.C. government could add conditions that impact Trans Mountain in how it secures various construction permits. For their part, Trans Mountain says they are continuing to build the expansion, and the B.C. government has been invited to review only a narrow scope of the earlier approval.

In August 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that Canada’s national energy board needed to do further consultation with First Nations and more environmental assessment.

Canada’s National Energy Board again approved the expansion, despite finding it could cause a negative impact on the population of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Several First Nations currently have a case in front of the federal Court of Appeal, arguing that they were not adequately consulted and are seeking to squash that approval. 

In a twist of irony, Trans Mountain, the current pipeline that has been in place since the 1950s, and the expansion project itself are now owned by the Canadian government. 

The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who running for re-election, bought the pipeline from Texas-based Kinder Morgan for $3.4 billion ($4.5 billion Canadian) in May last year.