Federal Court of Appeal quashes approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Federal Court of Appeal quashes approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Canada's Federal Court of Appeal on Thursday halted the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would almost triple the flow of oil from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast - a setback that comes just as the government is buying the project.

The court found the National Energy Board review of the $7.4-billion project was so flawed it failed to provide the government with the information needed to approve the project.

In a statement, Robertson said the "double-whammy decision" against the Trans Mountain Pipeline "validates the strong concerns of the City of Vancouver... that Indigenous peoples were not adequately consulted - and marine impacts of oil tankers were ignored - in the federal review pipeline approval".

First Nations, including the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish on British Columbia's south coast, argued that Ottawa did not adequately consult them before the review or the cabinet decision to approve the project.

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.

In late May, Canada announced it would spend $3.5bn to buy the pipeline from Kinder Morgan, in essence nationalising the project.

Thursday's ruling puts the government in a hard position, said Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

Trans Mountain started to take measures Thursday to suspend construction-related activities on the pipeline.

Under the Constitution, Canada has a "duty to consult" and accommodate Indigenous people when a project may impact their Aboriginal or treaty rights.

Weaver added that with BC coming off the two worst wildfire seasons in the province's recent history, "it's clear that we can not continue down the misguided path of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure".

"We are absolutely committed to moving forward with this project", Bill Morneau, Canada's finance minister, told reporters on Thursday, saying that the government had yet to decide whether it would appeal.

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Taylor said the pipeline and its associated infrastructure are likely to have impacts on many species, but because of the popularity of killer whales, they tend to act as a "flare" for numerous issues associated with the project.

Describing the decision as a "massive victory", Greenpeace Canada noted that the ruling offers the federal government a second chance of sorts. Critically endangered southern resident killer whales face a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through their critical habitat if the project is built. Liberals "inherited a flawed environmental review process" from the previous Tory government, he said, and have worked to improve things.

"We believe this project is in the national interest, we believe that it's critically important for our economy, critically important to allow us ... to get to worldwide markets", said Morneau.

McLeod said twinning the pipeline would be safer than transporting oil by rail, opining in a social-media post that the federal government "botched the process".

The court decision does not affect Canada's purchase of the project from Kinder Morgan, Anderson said in his statement.

Some environmental groups said the ruling should give Canada all the reason it needs to walk away from the controversial project for good.

The B.C. government acted as an intervener in the case and also filed a separate reference case to the B.C. Court of Appeal to determine if it has the right to restrict bitumen shipments from Alberta.

Premier John Horgan said: "This case has always been about First Nations rights" in a press conference.

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.

"The unjustified exclusion of marine shipping from the scope of the project led to successive, unacceptable deficiencies in the board's report and recommendations", Dawson wrote, noting that the Governor in Council "could not rely on the board's report and recommendations when assessing the project's environmental effects and the overall public interest". Canada has the option to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

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