A federal court has overturned the federal government’s approval of the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline.
The Federal Court of Appeal said Aug. 30 the approval, made in November 2016, was based on a report from the National Energy Board that had two major flaws.
The first was not examining the possible environmental effect of oil tanker traffic.
“The report did not give the [government] the information and assessments it needed in order to properly assess the public interest, including the project’s environmental effects – matters it was legally obligated to assess,” said an executive summary from the court.
The second reason: the third and final phase of consultation failed to have responsive, considered and meaningful dialogue coming back from the National Energy Board in response to the concerns expressed by Indigenous peoples, something that’s required from case law produced by the Supreme Court.
“As a result, Canada must redo its Phase III consultation,” the court wrote. “Only after that consultation is completed and any accommodation made can the project again be put before the [government] for approval.”
Scott Moe, the province’s premier, expressed his disappointment about the decision at a press conference later on Aug. 30.
“This is a project that we have always indicated is in the national interest all of Canadians across our great nation,” he said. “We would encourage the federal government to use all of the tools at their disposal to ensure that this nation-building project, this ever-so-important project, can start and continue construction to its completion.”
The premier suggested two courses of action to the federal government: make an appeal right away to the Supreme Court – something, he added, that he was concerned would take a long time, and explore what legislative options they have to get the project moving.
The opposition Saskatchewan New Democrats have held the position the pipeline should move ahead because the federal government approved it after a review by the National Energy Board.
“When a project like this is under review, it’s the federal government’s job to ensure there are clear goalposts,” said Ryan Meili, the NDP’s leader. “We need to hold the federal government to account for their failures on this project and ensure a fair, safe and consistent regulatory environment.”
The NDP called on the premier to keep pipeline-producing steel workers on the job by requiring energy companies to replace their old pipelines based on an evidence-based schedule.
In response to the decision, the Albertan government has pulled out of the national climate plan. Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan shareholders voted to favour of selling their old pipeline to the federal government for $4.5 billion.