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New legal action launched against Trans Mountain over protecting orcas

Last Updated Jul 8, 2019 at 6:40 pm PST

FILE: A aerial view of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tank farm is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., is shown on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward

Protect Southern Resident killer whales is the focus of new legal action against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Conservation groups led by Ecojustice want the Federal Court of Appeal to conduct a judicial review of the re-approval

Construction was delayed last summer by the same court --following another challenge mounted by lawyers with Ecojustice

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Environmental groups are launching new legal action against the re-approved Trans Mountain pipeline, this time over protecting endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Environmental law charity Ecojustice, acting on behalf of conservation groups Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, is asking the Federal Court of Appeal for leave to launch a judicial review of the federal government’s decision.

RELATED: Ottawa won’t rush into sale of Trans Mountain to Indigenous groups: minister

The group is arguing that, in approving the expansion, the federal government is shirking its responsibility to protect the endangered whales.

Trans Mountain has not disputed that the pipeline will likely have significant negative effects on the environment, including to Southern Resident Killer Whales. However, it has argued the damage to the environment is justified.

RELATED: Trans Mountain says significant environmental effects of marine shipping are justified

Margo Venton with Ecojustice says even the federal government has acknowledged the species is at risk.

“Cabinet cannot justify approving a project that will lead to the extinction of a critically endangered population — legally or morally,” she says in a press release.”This iconic population simply cannot handle increased, unmitigated threats from the Trans Mountain expansion.”

She says significant additional strain for killer whales will be felt in the Salish Sea.

“This year, the Southern Residents didn’t actually show up in the Canadian portion of their habitat until just this past week. Historically, they’re here in May and June. It’s a real sign that the Salish Sea environment is under stress. The time is really now to protect that.”

This is the second time lawyers from Ecojustice have challenged the pipeline in court. It won its first case in August 2018 when the Federal Court of Appeal struck down the federal government’s original approval of the pipeline expansion project.