Four new storage tanks have been constructed at Trans Mountain’s Edmonton terminal to prepare for opening of the oil pipeline expansion from Alberta to Westridge Terminal in Burnaby B.C. (Trans Mountain)

UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses B.C.’s appeal in Trans Mountain pipeline case

Judges decide whether B.C.’s power to protect environment can include impeding a federal project

The Supreme Court of Canada has shut down B.C.’s attempt to regulate what can flow through an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.

The B.C. government wanted to require provincial permits before heavy oil could be shipped through pipelines in the province.

In 2018, it asked the B.C. Court of Appeal if such permits were in bounds. Last May that court said no, ruling they would violate Ottawa’s authority under the Constitution to approve and regulate any pipeline that crosses a provincial border.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed.

“We are all of the view to dismiss the appeal for the unanimous reasons of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia,” Chief Justice Richard Wagner said.

The decision was issued from the bench after several hours of hearings Thursday in Ottawa.

It removes one of the remaining obstacles for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which seeks to twin an existing pipeline running between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.

The twinned pipeline, with roughly twice the capacity of the original, would carry only diluted bitumen, a heavy crude produced in Alberta’s oilsands. The existing pipeline is to continue to ship mainly refined petroleum products like gasoline, and light crude.

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan welcomed the ruling.

“It is a core responsibility of the federal government to help get Canada’s resources to market and support good, middle-class jobs,” he said in a statement.

“We know this is only possible when we earn public trust and work to address environmental, Indigenous peoples’ and local concerns, which we are doing every step of the way on TMX.”

READ MORE: What is being argued when it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline

Federal lawyers argued B.C.’s attempt to require provincial permits for heavy oil to flow through pipelines was a clear imposition on the constitutional authority given to Ottawa over interprovincial pipelines.

Several of the judges on the Supreme Court agreed in their statements and questions throughout Thursday’s hearing, before issuing their quick dismissal.

B.C’s New Democrat government was elected in 2017 partly on a promise to oppose the expansion but the province had limited options because of the Constitution.

Still, B.C. argued it has jurisdiction to protect the environment within its borders and, since its land and people would bear the brunt of any damage from a spill if the pipeline ruptured, it should get a say in what can flow through it.

B.C. Premier John Horgan expressed the province’s disappointment in a statement.

“Our government takes our responsibility to defend the interests of British Columbians seriously” he said. “When it comes to protecting our coast, our environment and our economy, we will continue do all we can within our jurisdiction.”

The case had national implications for any project that crosses provincial boundaries, prompting Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec to all seek intervener status. All but Quebec sided entirely with the federal government.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took immediately to Twitter to express gratitude for the court decision.

“We are very pleased with this outcome and look forward to construction continuing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline,” he wrote.

Ecojustice, an environmental law charity, also received intervener status in the case. Lawyer Kegan Pepper-Smith said the court’s decision will leave “communities and the environment vulnerable to toxic diluted bitumen spills.”

“Ecojustice is also deeply concerned that the court refused to confirm that governments at all levels have both a right and a constitutional duty to protect the environment,” he said.

This case was the catalyst that led to the federal government’s decision to buy the existing pipeline in May 2018 for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan Canada. The company said the political risk that the project would never get built was too much to bear and was planning to halt the expansion.

The federal Liberals argue the pipeline is needed to get more Canadian oil to foreign markets beyond the United States and bought the existing pipeline with a view to completing the expansion once the legal and political challenges were out of the way.

It intends to sell it back to the private sector after the expansion is complete.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack baby is the pancake poster child for provincewide fundraiser

Face of one-year-old patient Sauyer Bell is who IHOP chose for its BC Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Residential Tenancy Branch won’t allow B.C. landlord to evict tenant even though he’s in jail

Landlord baffled at arbitrator decision based on notice of hearing not being served properly

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Central public school principal paints a bleak picture

In 1925, the principal of a Chilliwack school had strong words for a class of Grade 8 students

Fraser Valley couple wins $500K after finding scratch-and-win while moving

  • Robert Walters and Lois Gueret of Agassiz win half a million from Scratch & Win ticket

Stolen truck recovered by RCMP after it was used to commit crimes

Older red Chevy S10 was linked to thefts last weekend from rural and industrial areas of Chilliwack

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read