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Court rules half of new challenges to Trans Mountain pipeline expansion can proceed

Last Updated Sep 4, 2019 at 7:47 pm PDT

Pipeline pipes are seen at a Trans Mountain facility near Hope, B.C., on August 22, 2019. The Federal Court of Appeal is to reveal today whether a new set of legal challenges to the Trans Mountain pipeline project can proceed. The federal government has twice approved a plan to twin an existing pipeline from Alberta's oilpatch to the B.C. coast. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Several First Nations say the federal government came into the most recent discussions having predetermined the outcome

The FCA says the challenges will proceed on an expedited basis

OTTAWA — The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled six of the 12 legal challenges to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion can go ahead, after the project was approved for a second time in June.

The federal government has twice approved a plan to twin an existing pipeline from Alberta’s oilpatch to the B.C. coast.

Last year the Federal Court of Appeal tore up the original approval, citing both an insufficient environment review and inadequate consultations with Indigenous communities.

The Liberals say they fixed both problems and approved the expansion for a second time.

The court now says it will take up six of the 12 requests to appeal the June approval, which will proceed on an expedited basis.

Environment groups have said there are not adequate protections for endangered marine species that will be affected by tanker traffic picking up oil from a terminal in suburban Vancouver. Several First Nations say the federal government came into the most recent discussions having predetermined the outcome.

Jim Leydon with Mountain Protectors, a group opposed to the project, is glad the court has agreed to hear challenges related to consultation with First Nations people.

“They’re allowing the Indigenous appeals to go forward, and I think that’s only right. I’m really happy to hear it happened because this is unceded territory and they do have a right,” he says. “We’re really happy that they’re going to look at this.”

The six First Nations applicants that have been granted leave include Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish Nation, Ts’elxwéyeqw tribes, Coldwater Indian Band, and Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation.

Leydon, who is Indigenous himself, is currently awaiting a court date where he expects to be convicted for his role in anti-pipeline protests.

“I think realistically they need to come to a point of understanding that there is no way that we’re going to sell out and accept that there will be supertankers in our harbour,” he says.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation says they’re confident the appeal will bring construction to a stop.

““As I’ve said before, the federal government has again failed to respond to the concerns we have been raising in regards to this project,” Chief Leah George-Wilson says in a statement. “This feels like déja vu. We have no choice but to appeal again and we expect the same results – the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline will be overturned.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the City of Vancouver was one of the twelve applicants.

“We were not accepted, which is really disappointing. However, this doesn’t mean our efforts stop. We’re looking at ways that we can support those who were accepted,” he says.

“This project is still bad for Vancouver, very bad. It’s bad for the environment, it doesn’t help our economy, and I feel like we have to do everything we can to stop it. I’m glad that at least some of the applicants were successful, and I’m going to do everything I can to support them.”

RELATED: Arguments against TMX should be allowed before the courts: environmental activist

The federal government bought the existing pipeline and the unfinished expansion work for $4.5 billion last year, promising to get it over the political opposition that had scared Kinder Morgan Canada off proceeding.

The move disappointed environmentalists, who say the global climate can’t handle more emissions from Alberta’s oilsands and the eventual burning of the petroleum they produce.

And while environmentalists may be hopeful about the court’s decision, the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says his organization is disappointed in Wednesday’s ruling.

“The TMEP has already undergone a lengthy, thorough and extensive regulatory review process, including extensive consultation with all stakeholders,” Tim McMillan says in a statement. “It has been deemed to be in the best interests of all Canadians. Despite this setback, CAPP fully expects construction on the TMEP to begin in September.”

A statement from Trans Mountain says as the cases make their way through the courts, planning and construction on the pipeline will continue.

“The applications are challenging the decisions made by the Canada Energy Regulator and the Federal Government, but do not in and of themselves negate the pre-existing approvals provided by those governmental authorities until and unless the court rules otherwise,” it says. “We’re excited to be in the construction phase of the Project and we’re confident that we will build and operate the Expansion in a way that respects the values and priorities of Canadians.”

The Liberals say they’ll use any profits from the project to fund Canada’s transition to a cleaner-energy economy.

With files from Marcella Bernardo.