Pipeline Down

Opponents win this round, but the battle continues

Delores Broten

Photo by Mark Klotz CC, cropped from original

On August 30, the Federal Court of Appeal set jaws agape with its ruling on the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby BC.

In ruling on a case that amalgamated a multitude of complaints against the National Energy Board (NEB) and the pipeline approval by the Trudeau Liberal cabinet, the court dismissed most of the arguments about the failings of the NEB review process.

However, it went on to quash the pipeline’s approval on two grounds: lack of respectful consultation with the affected First Nations on the part of the federal government in the “Phase III,” added by the Trudeau government after the NEB report, and the NEB’s refusal to consider the impact of project-related tanker traffic on the marine environment, specifically the endangered Southern Resident Orcas.

The federal Liberals basically said, in paraphrase, fine, we’ll do the consultations again, but we are going to build that pipeline.

BC Premier John Horgan was restrained but resolute in his response: “Our position is that the marine environment is part and parcel of our vibrant economy and it wasn’t considered by the previous federal government and it wasn’t given due consideration by the current government.”

The federal Liberals basically said, in paraphrase, fine, we’ll do the consultations again, but we are going to build that pipeline. This response was rather puzzling since the judgement was at pains to point out that “Canada failed in Phase III to engage, dialogue meaningfully and grapple with the real concerns of the Indigenous applicants so as to explore possible accommodation of those concerns. The duty to consult was not adequately discharged.”

The Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, pulled out of the national climate action plan in anger at the legal judgement, which is rather ironic, since the bitumen Alberta wants to sell will drastically increase carbon emissions.

An hour after the decision was released, Kinder Morgan shareholders in Texas voted to accept the Canadian federal government’s offer to buy the pipeline for $4.5 billion. The next day, the federal government sealed the deal.

The fury and the frenzy was put into perspective by Kevin Taft, writing in the National Observer: “Canadians need to remember that the requirement to deal with environmental protection and Indigenous issues will be with us for lifetimes to come, while the oil industry will be fading into history within a couple of decades, crushed by the growing crisis of global warming.”


Federal Court of Appeal, Tsleil-Waututh Nation v. Canada (Attorney General), https://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/fca-caf/decisions/en/item/343511/index.do#_Summary_of_Conclusions
Kevin Taft, “Notley and Trudeau: no one to blame but themselves,” www.nationalobserver.com, August 31, 2018

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