The City of Vancouver took Trans Mountain to court over Kinder Morgan

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor

BC residents have been fighting to keep pipelines from reaching the Pacific shore for years. Just weeks after the Energy East pipeline was killed in Ottawa, the debate has intensified over the proposed $7.4 billion Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, which would see diluted bitumen reach a terminal in Burnaby across the Burrard Inlet from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, where it would connect with heavy tanker traffic. Site preparation, pipeline and terminal construction were set to begin in September, but the City of Vancouver is fighting back.

Activists working to combat Kinder Morgan could learn from those who worked against the Energy East pipeline, which would’ve seen the pipeline carrying natural gas between the prairies and Ontario and Quebec expanded to reach St. John, NB, and one of the lines converted to carry oil.

Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians, Andrea Harden-Donahue, explained that Energy East and Kinder Morgan would’ve helped to expand the tar sands market, and in their opposition, they aim to get Canada on a path to producing greener energy. That wouldn’t mean terminating the oil industry, but preventing it from expanding much further.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved Trans Mountain’s Kinder Morgan expansion in November 2016, the same day Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal was halted due in part to improper consultation with First Nations communities in Kitimat where the pipeline would’ve reached the Pacific. On Nov. 6, the Squamish Nation contested Trans Mountain’s environmental assessment certificate issued by the province in court on the grounds that they were not sufficiently consulted, which Councillor Adriane Carr from the City of Vancouver supports wholeheartedly. The City of Vancouver also appeared before the Supreme Court of BC on Monday Oct. 23 seeking a judicial review of the same certificate.

Carr noted that there is no science on how diluted bitumen would act if spilled in ocean waters. Furthermore, the City of Vancouver argued in court that the province didn’t conduct any additional studies or adequate public consultation, and instead considered work to have been done by the National Energy Board to suffice. “The court made it very clear the province has its own obligations in many ways to consult with First Nations, with the general public and it can’t write off its obligations and say what the NEB is doing is equivalent to that,” she said, referring to the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.

“I put forward motions right from the beginning,” said Carr. Her latest motion put forward in January was what saw the City of Vancouver appear in court two weeks ago, challenging the validity of Trans Mountain’s environmental assessment certificate. The assessment was conducted independently of the National Energy Board, which issued its own certificate. “So this judicial review is to say that that issuance of this certificate was improperly done,” she added. They were told initially that the court’s ruling would be announced on Oct. 26, but instead, it was withheld and now Carr expects they will only hear the court’s decision in the coming weeks or months.

If the court rules in Trans Mountain’s favour, Carr plans to protest the decision, and ultimately the City Council would have to decide whether or not to appeal. If the ruling comes back in the City of Vancouver’s favour, the province will have to issue a new certificate and Trans Mountain will have to undergo a new environmental assessment.

“At the very minimum we’re talking a lot of delay,” said Carr. She added that Trans Mountain is attempting to override the Supreme Court of BC’s ruling through the National Energy Board and the Supreme Court of Canada. “I just find that so brazen and so flaunting of due legal process.”

Harden-Donahue, who worked on the campaign against Energy East, noted that several chapters of the Council of Canadian at the BC Regional Office are actively working to combat the Kinder Morgan pipeline as well. “We’ve come to a point in time where we shouldn’t be looking at expanding the tar sands,” she said, “but looking at a plan to actually get us off the tars sands eventually towards 2050 when we need to have an economy and society not reliant on fossil fuels the way we are today.”

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