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

Students/staff evacuate Rossland Summit School due to smell of smoke

SD20 says students in different learning groups didn’t come in contact with each other in evacuation

Man whose crime spree began in Nelson pleads guilty in death of female passenger

Anthony Cortez scheduled to be sentenced for 2017 incidents

Castlegar Rebels hold three-day camp before upcoming season

The camp looked a little different this year due to COVID-19 protocols

City of Rossland looks to secure $4M in funding for major infrastructure projects

The funds would help city complete museum renewal and Second Ave. project

Totem pole considered cultural appropriation removed from Nelson’s Hume School

The pole had also become rotted and was seen as dangerous to students

B.C.’s top doctor thanks supporters after revealing threats over COVID-19 measures

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 has caused some people to lash out in anger and frustration out of fear

NDP, Greens divided on pace of child care improvements in B.C. election campaign

NDP Leader John Horgan recommitted to $10-a-day child care and blamed the Greens for not supporting his efforts

Category 2 open burning prohibitions rescinded throughout Southeast Fire Centre

Category 3 open fires, as defined in the Wildfire Regulation, remain prohibited

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Pandemic derails CP Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific will work to get donations to food banks while also producing an online music concert

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Interior Health reports five new COVID-19 cases

Across the region, 34 cases are active

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Most Read