Pipeline limbo: Court halts Trans Mountain construction

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On Ottawa's watch, work was halted on other major pipelines, such as Northern Gateway and Energy East. Trans Mountain was left as the one major conduit that could potentially carry Alberta oil to world markets, rather than the USA refineries that are the destinations for every other Canadian pipeline.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the National Energy Board (NEB) regulator wrongly narrowed its review of the project to exclude related tanker traffic.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty said the ruling "sends a profoundly negative message to investors both here at home and around the world about Canada's regulatory system and our ability to get things done even after the federal government has declared them to be in the national interest".

Executive Director of the Georgia Strait Alliance Christianne Wilhelmson says the Trudeau Liberals have been shamed.

In the wake of the Federal Court's bombshell decision to quash cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is pulling her province out of the national climate change plan.

Environmentalists, especially in B.C. have also opposed the construction of the project.

"Our coast was not considered by the National Energy Board and I feel that those citizens have been vindicated today", said Horgan.

The court found that the government's representatives "limited their mandate to listening to and recording the concerns of the Indigenous applicants and then transmitting those concerns to the decision-makers".

A court has overturned Ottawa's approval of the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, halting construction on the project and sending the government back to the review phase to examine the impacts of tanker traffic and consult more deeply with First Nations. It combines almost two dozen lawsuits that called for the NEB's review of the project to be overturned.

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That failure "was so critical that the Governor in Council could not functionally make the kind of assessment of the project's environmental effects and the public interest that the (environmental assessment) legislation requires", says the ruling written by Justice Eleanor Dawson.

About 30 minutes after the landmark ruling, Kinder Morgan had announced construction on twinning the existing pipeline was being suspended, while shareholders voted more than 99 per cent in favour of selling the pipeline to the federal government for $4.5 billion. "The court decision was not a condition of the transaction between KML and the federal government".

"We will analyze this decision and respond promptly", he said.

Canada's finance minister, Bill Morneau, echoed Trudeau's sentiments at a press conference on Thursday, saying that "we are absolutely committed to moving forward with this project", but adding that the government had yet to decide whether it would appeal. The Squamish Nation called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to abandon the proposed expansion.

First Nations are already celebrating this victory, which has the potential to kill the project for good.

"They can say they consulted, but they never, ever, ever got our consent", said Lee Spahan, chief of the Coldwater First Nation, which led the legal challenge. "Trans Mountain has been in consultations with this project for well over five years but just from the outside looking in, I don't see how any reasonable person could say that Trans Mountain hasn't done their due diligence with respect to consultation and educating all affected people of what the impact of this project is going to be".

"Of course we're very happy with the decision", Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said, adding that the ruling is "one that I think reflects numerous issues that we have raised throughout the hearings".

October 26, 2017: Kinder Morgan Canada asks NEB to allow work to begin despite a failure to obtain municipal permits from the City of Burnaby. Earlier in August, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an application to overturn a lower court decision by the City of Burnaby near Vancouver, where the pipe would terminate.