On August 22, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the City of Burnaby’s legal challenge against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.
This is a big win for Alberta’s petroleum industry but a dismayed Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema promised to fight on.
“Burnaby is not going away. We intend to continue to oppose this project with all legal means available to us, and will be continuing with our other legal challenges,” says Corrigan, quoted in an August 23 Edmonton Journal story.
“We’re disappointed by today’s decision as what we are seeing is the federal government railroading over municipalities just trying to protect the health and safety of their citizens,” says Hudema.
The Journal story also says a National Energy Board’s ruling allowed Kinder Morgan, the key owner of the project until the federal government bought Trans Mountain Pipeline in May, to bypass local bylaws regarding plan approvals and tree-cutting permits during construction in the Burnaby area, ensuring that the expansion was built.
Premier Rachel Notley has also promised that Alberta would invest in the pipeline if required.
This is a major setback for those who opposed the TMP, including B.C. Premier John Horgan, who is using every legal means they can to stop it.
However, the legal battles are far from over as other parties mount their challenges, including First Nations in B.C., who are still seeking to block the federal government’s 2016 decision to approve the TMP.
Unfortunately, on August 30, the Federal Court of Canada ruled unanimously against the project. The court stated that the National Energy Board’s review of the project is “flawed” and that the federal government didn’t adequately consult with First Nations before approving it.
While I’m not privy to the process that the Federal Court of Canada used to come up with its decision, I am disappointed with it because I wanted a sense of finality with the federal government’s role in the process. Now, the legal battles at the federal level could go on far longer than they should.
But no one has the right to prevent the development of Alberta’s petroleum industry, especially when the TMP has theoretically met federal and provincial regulatory requirements.
And I would not condone anything less than extreme vigilance in terms of protecting the environment. Strict oversight should be a key factor in all aspects of the project from initial construction until the TMP carries its last drop of oil to the West Coast. Meanwhile, with the City of Burnaby’s defeated legal challenge we have scored a big win against those opposed to TMP.
We should savour that victory, but avoid complacency by continuing to pursue a positive public relations exercise to ensure that Canadians remain supportive of TMP until the last legal battle is decided. And with a final victory for TMP, maybe we can start thinking about getting the Energy East pipeline and make Canada less dependent on foreign oil.