Canada’s top court to hear B.C. case attempting to halt Trans Mountain expansion

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

The Supreme Court of Canada is shown in Ottawa on January 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Supreme Court of Canada is shown in Ottawa on January 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The B.C. government will ask Canada’s high court Thursday to give it authority over what can flow through the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.

The case is a make-it-or-break-it affair for the multibillion-dollar project: If B.C. is allowed to prevent heavy oil from flowing through the pipeline, it would crush the expansion’s entire reason for being. It is also a significant case for the federal government, which bought the pipeline in 2018 when B.C.’s court challenge convinced Kinder Morgan Canada the political opposition created too much risk that the project would never be completed.

The federal government will argue that letting B.C. regulate what can flow through the pipeline would give the province a veto over interprovincial projects it doesn’t like, counter to the constitutional authority given to Ottawa over any transportation project that crosses provincial boundaries.

B.C.’s NDP government, which was elected in 2017 in part on a promise to oppose the expansion, acknowledges the Constitution but says B.C. has authority to protect its environment. There, the province argues it should be able to restrict heavy oil flows in the pipeline because it is B.C. that will bear the environmental brunt of any spill if the pipeline ruptures.

B.C. specifically wants to be able to require companies to get permits before shipping heavy oil through pipelines in B.C. A permit could be withheld if a company can’t show efforts to prevent a spill and policies to clean up and compensate if one does occur.

In a factum filed with the Supreme Court of Canada, the B.C. attorney general says “the heart of the Constitutional questions before this court” is whether B.C.’s authority to protect its own environment can include interfering in a federal project.

Last May, the B.C. Court of Appeal said it cannot.

B.C. is appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and the hearing is set for Thursday morning in Ottawa.

The expansion involves building a new pipeline roughly parallel to the existing one that runs between Edmonton and a marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C. The existing pipeline would continue to carry mostly refined products like gasoline, and light crude oil. The expansion, with almost twice the capacity, would ship diluted bitumen, a heavy crude oil produced in Alberta’s oilsands, to be loaded onto tankers for export.

If B.C. can prevent heavy oil from flowing through the new pipeline, there is no reason to build it.

KEEP READING: B.C. First Nation alleges feds withheld information in pipeline consultation

The expansion has been in the works for almost a decade and has become a political lightning rod for Canadians advocating for the phasing-out of fossil-fuel production in Canada to curb climate change and those fighting to support an industry that is a critical part of the economy.

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

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake man charged with fraud totalling more than $100,000

Sylvan Lake RCMP have been investigating two companies owned by the same man since June 2019

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy,’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make