Updated: B.C. court sends Trans Mountain pipeline back for environmental approval

Conditions of federal approval mean need for provincial reconsideration: B.C. Court of Appeal

B.C.’s environmental approval of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline must return to the provincial government for reconsideration as a result of changes in conditions that led to the approval certificate being granted, B.C.’s court of appeal ruled Sept. 17.

Justice Mary Saunders, writing the unanimous decision, said, “I would not quash the certificate but would remit the matter to the ministers to permit them to reconsider the certificate’s conditions.”

She said those conditions have changed in the wake of the Federal Court of Canada’s decision in Tsleil-Waututh Nation v. Canada quashing the federal approval of the project by the National Energy Board (NEB) and the federal cabinet.

Ottawa re-approved the $7.4 billion pipeline in June after purchasing it from Kinder Morgan in early 2018 for $4.5 billion.

In January 2017, British Columbia’s Liberal government issued a 37-condition environmental assessment certificate for the project. The government did so relying on a so-called equivalency agreement with the NEB that could stand in for a provincial assessment in the interests of efficiency.

That approval had adopted conditions recommended in the NEB report on the project.

It is the conditions that the court of appeal has remitted to the Environmental Assessment Office for review.

Two decisions come on appeal of lower court rulings in which the Squamish Nation and the City of Vancouver both applied by petition for an order setting aside the B.C. government’s decision to issue an environmental assessment certificate for the doubling of the pipeline to move petroleum products from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

Justice Christopher Grauer dismissed the petition last year.

Since Grauer’s decision, the Federal Court of Appeal released its judgment in Tsleil-Waututh.

In Tsleil-Waututh, the federal court identified deficiencies in two areas of concern: one being the NEB assessment of the risks inherent to marine shipping and certain environmental effects of the expansion project, and the second being the adequacy of Canada’s consultation process with Indigenous groups in respect to its decision to approve the project.

The court said marine shipping associated to the project is expected to increase nearly seven-fold from current levels.




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