Pipeline construction on Trans Mountain line twinning, already completed in Alberta. (Kinder Morgan Canada)

B.C. seeks court ruling on new pipeline regulations

Province wants to require permits for any new bitumen transport

The B.C. government is applying to court to see if it can impose new environmental permits on inter-provincial projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The new permits would be required by any company seeking to increase transport of bitumen through B.C., by pipeline, rail or truck. Existing shipments, such as diluted bitumen sent down the original Trans Mountain pipeline, would not be subject to the new rules.

Premier John Horgan’s government switched to the reference case option after Environment Minister George Heyman’s January proposal to consult the public on new regulations triggered an angry reaction from Alberta. Premier Rachel Notley ordered wine shipments from B.C. stopped and insisted that B.C. has no constitutional right to interfere with the twinning of the 64-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline to the B.C. coast.

“We have asked the courts to confirm B.C.’s powers within our jurisdiction to defend B.C.’s interests, so that there is clarity for today and for generations to come,” Horgan said.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the government’s submission makes no reference to existing bitumen transport, or to tankers, over which the province now admits it has no jurisdiction. The court reference is “a sham,” part of a strategy to drag out opposition for as long as possible, Wilkinson said.

Lawyers for the B.C. government filed an application in the B.C. Court of Appeal Thursday seeking a ruling on a new set of regulations. It would require anyone increasing bitumen shipments above the 2017 level to provide a spill response plan and guarantee the financial ability to clean up a spill.

Lawyers for B.C. will argue that the province has already imposed regulations on federally regulated pipelines and rail lines, requiring them to get a permit before applying herbicides on their rights-of-way. B.C.’s Environmental Management Act has also been used to regulate composting facilities, including those on federal land.

Alberta and the federal government, which have insisted the Trans Mountain project will be completed even if they have to provide financial backing, are expected to be represented in the latest court case.

Alberta and Saskatchewan governments have also proposed legislation to regulate inter-provincial trade in petroleum products, which Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has indicated may be used to restrict refined fuel shipments to B.C.

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