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More legal challenges ahead for Trans Mountain, lawyers say

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

West Coast Environmental Law reacts to federal government’s re-approval of the project

VANCOUVER, BC, Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories – Environmental lawyers predict more challenges ahead for the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker expansion, after the federal government’s latest announcement re-approving the project.

Despite today’s approval, a broad array of groups and individuals – including more than 150 Indigenous nations and tribes, numerous environmental organizations, citizen groups, municipal governments and labour organizations – stand strong in opposition to the project and say it will never be built.

“Whether it has this approval or not, the path forward for Trans Mountain will not be an easy one,” said Staff Lawyer Eugene Kung. “When the federal government bought the pipeline from Kinder Morgan, they tried to solve one problem and created a whole host of others. The federal government now wears many hats, some of which create a conflict: the proponent, the decision-maker, the enforcer of its own laws, and a fiduciary to First Nations, to name a few.”

“It is nearly impossible to make an unbiased decision without a strong moral and ethical compass. I won’t be surprised if we see more legal challenges arising from today’s decision,” Kung said.

Today’s announcement follows the National Energy Board’s 22-week reconsideration of Trans Mountain, which was launched after the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the project’s approval in August 2018. The reconsideration looked at impacts of marine shipping and included additional Indigenous consultation, but lawyers note that the new review did not consider updated economic evidence or updated climate science.

“The NEB agreed that the project would have significant environmental impacts, and they justified those impacts based on an outdated economic case,” said Kung. “Regardless of future promised investments in clean energy, the reality is taxpayers will be out of pocket for the construction of this costly project that puts lands and waters at risk of oil spills, contributes to the climate crisis, and does not have Indigenous consent.”

In addition to the approval granted today, Trans Mountain still requires hundreds of permits and other approvals before construction can go ahead and over two dozen hearings must occur before officials can sign off on parts of the route.

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For more information, please contact:

Eugene Kung | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
604-601-2514, ekung@wcel.org