Four new storage tanks have been constructed at Trans Mountain’s Edmonton terminal to prepare for opening of the oil pipeline expansion from Alberta to Westridge Terminal in Burnaby B.C. (Trans Mountain)

UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses B.C.’s appeal in Trans Mountain pipeline case

Judges decide whether B.C.’s power to protect environment can include impeding a federal project

The Supreme Court of Canada has shut down B.C.’s attempt to regulate what can flow through an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.

The B.C. government wanted to require provincial permits before heavy oil could be shipped through pipelines in the province.

In 2018, it asked the B.C. Court of Appeal if such permits were in bounds. Last May that court said no, ruling they would violate Ottawa’s authority under the Constitution to approve and regulate any pipeline that crosses a provincial border.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed.

“We are all of the view to dismiss the appeal for the unanimous reasons of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia,” Chief Justice Richard Wagner said.

The decision was issued from the bench after several hours of hearings Thursday in Ottawa.

It removes one of the remaining obstacles for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which seeks to twin an existing pipeline running between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.

The twinned pipeline, with roughly twice the capacity of the original, would carry only diluted bitumen, a heavy crude produced in Alberta’s oilsands. The existing pipeline is to continue to ship mainly refined petroleum products like gasoline, and light crude.

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan welcomed the ruling.

“It is a core responsibility of the federal government to help get Canada’s resources to market and support good, middle-class jobs,” he said in a statement.

“We know this is only possible when we earn public trust and work to address environmental, Indigenous peoples’ and local concerns, which we are doing every step of the way on TMX.”

READ MORE: What is being argued when it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline

Federal lawyers argued B.C.’s attempt to require provincial permits for heavy oil to flow through pipelines was a clear imposition on the constitutional authority given to Ottawa over interprovincial pipelines.

Several of the judges on the Supreme Court agreed in their statements and questions throughout Thursday’s hearing, before issuing their quick dismissal.

B.C’s New Democrat government was elected in 2017 partly on a promise to oppose the expansion but the province had limited options because of the Constitution.

Still, B.C. argued it has jurisdiction to protect the environment within its borders and, since its land and people would bear the brunt of any damage from a spill if the pipeline ruptured, it should get a say in what can flow through it.

B.C. Premier John Horgan expressed the province’s disappointment in a statement.

“Our government takes our responsibility to defend the interests of British Columbians seriously” he said. “When it comes to protecting our coast, our environment and our economy, we will continue do all we can within our jurisdiction.”

The case had national implications for any project that crosses provincial boundaries, prompting Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec to all seek intervener status. All but Quebec sided entirely with the federal government.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took immediately to Twitter to express gratitude for the court decision.

“We are very pleased with this outcome and look forward to construction continuing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline,” he wrote.

Ecojustice, an environmental law charity, also received intervener status in the case. Lawyer Kegan Pepper-Smith said the court’s decision will leave “communities and the environment vulnerable to toxic diluted bitumen spills.”

“Ecojustice is also deeply concerned that the court refused to confirm that governments at all levels have both a right and a constitutional duty to protect the environment,” he said.

This case was the catalyst that led to the federal government’s decision to buy the existing pipeline in May 2018 for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan Canada. The company said the political risk that the project would never get built was too much to bear and was planning to halt the expansion.

The federal Liberals argue the pipeline is needed to get more Canadian oil to foreign markets beyond the United States and bought the existing pipeline with a view to completing the expansion once the legal and political challenges were out of the way.

It intends to sell it back to the private sector after the expansion is complete.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Work progresses on Clement Centre’s new building in Cobble Hill

Sod-turning ceremony for facility held on Sept. 21

Island Health says York Road only location available for Wellness and Recovery Centre

Health Authority claims no other suitable site available

Survey to gauge interest in connecting Cowichan to Nanaimo by bus

People can fill out the survey until Oct. 16.

Cowichan Valley family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Attorney General of Canada defends Kelowna Mountie involved in rough arrest

Tyler Russell filed a lawsuit against Const. Siggy Pietrzak in June of this year

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Refresh of Liberal government’s agenda comes amid new looming COVID-19 crisis

Lockdowns saw fed spending soar to historic levels in effort to offset pandemic’s blow to Canadians’ livelihoods

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

Most Read