The British Columbia Supreme Court rejected claims by the Squamish Nation and the City of Vancouver that the province had improperly awarded an environmental assessment certificate for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, in a ruling Thursday afternoon that was just as much about the aspects of the conflict it did not resolve.
“This case is not about whether the TMX [the Trans Mountain project] should or should not go ahead. It is not about whether the TMX is in the national interest, or presents an unacceptable risk of environmental harm,” wrote Justice Christopher Grauer. “This case is not about the adequacy of the consultation that was undertaken through the National Energy Board [NEB] and federal cabinet processes, nor does it resolve or define beyond currently settled law the constitutional limits on what either British Columbia or Alberta can or cannot do in relation to the project.”
Both applicants said they were disappointed in the ruling, but Squamish First Nation spokesperson Khelsilem echoed the judge’s comments about the limited scope of the ruling.
“We have a right to practice our culture, our way of life, and to continue our right to self-determination in our territories,” he wrote. “This is a right that we have never surrendered, and it is a right we will continue to defend.”
Stand.earth noted that Kinder Morgan still faces “immense opposition” to the project from 22 B.C. municipalities, 150 First Nations affiliated with the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, 17 remaining legal challenges, and “growing investor uncertainty” in the face of mounting public protests.
“Kinder Morgan continues to face a significant legal challenge from First Nations on the federal approval of the project. The ruling in a similar case brought down Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. A ruling from the Federal Court of Appeals is expected in the coming months,” Stand added. “Public opposition to the pipeline remains steadfast, with more than 250,000 petition signers and 24,000 people who have pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Kinder Morgan.”
With one court challenge off the docket, another one was added, with the province of B.C. filing suitearlier this week over Alberta’s legislation that would permit it to cut off oil supplies over B.C.’s continuing opposition to the project. B.C. is asking the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to declare the Notley government’s Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act unconstitutional.
“The government of Alberta introduced and supported the act because it asserts British Columbia is responsible for ‘delays’ to an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline,” states B.C.’s statement of claim. “Alberta seeks to utilize powers under the act to punish British Columbia.”
Alberta also refused to sign the final communiqué from the annual premiers’ meeting in Yellowknife, NWT this week, after failing to get unanimous support for a resolution backing Trans Mountain.
“Although the issues discussed at the western premiers’ conference are important to Canadians, it is Alberta’s view that the Trans Mountain pipeline must be built if the country and its provinces are able to fund Canadian priorities, such as pharmacare,” said Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman, who attended the meeting in Notley’s place.
Notley previously said she would be staying in Edmonton to work on her only priority—getting the pipeline built—tweeting that it would be “surreal and exceptionally tone deaf for anyone to think we could politely discuss pharmacare and cannabis when one of the players is hard at work trying to choke the economic lifeblood of the province and the country.”
In a statement Tuesday supporting his province’s suit over the latest Alberta legislation, B.C. Attorney General David Eby asserted that “we have granted permits at the same pace and with the same process as the previous [provincial] government. There has been a mischaracterization of B.C.’s role here.”
Meanwhile, public opposition to the project began to mount. More than 230 international organizations including the Center for International Environmental Law, Christian Aid, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, BankTrack, CoalSwarm, Bold Alliance, the Climate Reality Project, and Sierra Club released an open letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to uphold his commitments on the Paris Agreement and Indigenous rights.
“Your unwavering support for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion runs counter to both of these commitments and undermines Canada’s role as a global leader,” they wrote. “Climate leaders cannot expand or finance major fossil fuel expansion, and climate leaders must begin to plan for a managed phaseout and just transition away from all fossil fuel production. Instead, planned Canadian oil production would use up 16% of the world’s carbon budget to keep temperatures below 1.5°C.”
At home, nearly 200 Vancouver-area high school students walked out of classes Wednesdayafternoon to protest the pipeline, and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath blamed ex-prime minister Stephen Harper for sowing the seeds of the Trans Mountain conflict by watering down federal environmental regulations. “The project that is being discussed between the B.C. government, the Alberta government, and the federal government is something that probably could have been addressed with a better national environmental assessment process.”
Fossil-affiliated independent Senator Doug Black’s motion to declare Trans Mountain a project in the national interest was adopted by the Red Chamber, after senators defeated two amendments recognizing Indigenous rights and acknowledging current legal challenges to the project. “Wednesday morning, the Liberal House leader’s office was unable to say whether it would support Black’s bill. Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr’s office also declined to comment,” The Huffington Post reports. “Black said he doesn’t know whether Grit MPs will support his private member’s bill but he is encouraging the Liberal government to adopt it as its own.”