VICTORIA – As the dispute over the Trans Mountain expansion continues, the province has submitted its question to the Court of Appeal asking for clarity on its jurisdiction over oil transported through BC.
But it doesn’t sound as if the pipeline dispute will end one way or the other, with the court’s eventual decision.
Premier John Horgan is non-committal about whether the BC Court of Appeal’s eventual decision on this will bring this feud to an end.
“I believe we are on the track that we set out to be on. We’ll have to see what other people do and respond, accordingly. I don’t want to say this is the beginning of the end — his is another step,” says Horgan.
The province confirms this could eventually go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
As for this specific question, Attorney General David Eby says he doesn’t expect this issue will be resolved by May 31st, which is the date by which Kinder Morgan says it needs for certainty on whether this project can go ahead.
Horgan says Kinder Morgan’s decision to impose the deadline has nothing to do with the province’s decision to take the issue to its highest court.
“I don’t work for Kinder Morgan. I work for the people of British Columbia. We said in February we’re going to refer this question to a higher court to confirm our jurisdiction. The fact that a press release was issued from a Texas boardroom, giving a deadline to parties in British Columbia is entirely their business, and I have no quarrel with that. We have set ourselves on a course to protect and defend the interests of the people of BC.”
The reference question the government is filing today seeks to affirm the province’s right to protect it from the threat of a diluted bitumen spill as it tries to thwart the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
In addition to asking the court to review proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act that would give the province the authority to regulate the impacts of heavy oils, it will also ask if federal legislation would override its changes to the law.
BC Green and Conservative parties react
“I am pleased to see the government is continuing to stand up for British Columbia,” says Green leader Andrew Weaver in a statement, who argues the approval process for the Trans Mountain expansion is “flawed.”
“It’s clear that the federal approval of this project was based on political calculation, not on evidence or the best interests of the public.”
BC’s efforts to stop the expansion of the pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby caused Kinder Morgan Canada to curtail spending on the $7.4-billion project earlier this month.
BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson claims the province is simply waiting for the feds to pass a law stating BC has no power to stop the project from going ahead.
“They first said they wanted to stop tanker traffic using every tool in the toolkit,” says Wilkinson. “They realized that was illegal. They then said that they wanted to protect British Columbia’s environment. Now it turns out they’re going to exempt tankers and shipping. This has been a giant sham and it’s time for the NDP to be called to account for it.”
Meanwhile, federal environment minister Catherine McKenna is proposing a joint Ottawa-BC panel of scientists to study oil spills.
“We did make the offer of a joint scientific expert advisory panel that we could work together with the government of British Columbia to explain the federal measures in place and to do any additional science,” says McKenna.
Kinder Morgan has halted all non-essential spending on the project until it is certain all governments will allow the pipeline to be built.