VANCOUVER – It’s a double victory for Kinder Morgan in court. Two separate rulings today have come down in favour of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion.
The BC Supreme Court has ruled against both of the City of Vancouver and Squamish Nation after they mounted legal challenges aimed at halting the multi-billion dollar project.
“We’re pleased with the Court’s decisions affirming the level of review and consultation on this Project,” Kinder Morgan says in a statement.
That legal action was in response to an environmental assessment certificate issued by the former Christy Clark government for the Trans Mountain expansion.
The certificate was issued in January 2017, about two months after the federal government gave the project the green light.
The city had argued the province failed to engage in proper public consultation or take into account relevant environmental considerations in seeking an order to set aside the certificate. But Justice Christopher Grauer ruled the province’s decision to issue the certificate was reasonable and lawful.
Kinder Morgan’s legal costs in that case must now be covered by Vancouver taxpayers.
The City of Vancouver says it’s disappointed and is currently reviewing the decision, adding it has 30 days to decide whether to appeal.
“The case does not decide the issues relating to the National Energy Board process and the Federal government approval of the project that are currently before the Federal Court of Appeal. It also does not decide constitutional questions currently being considered by other courts,” reads a statement from the city.
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Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr admits she’s also disheartened.
“It absolutely hurts to have the judge award legal costs when we’re pursuing a case in the public interest. What else is astonishing is that the decision of the judge actually runs counter to the decision that was made earlier in the case of the Northern Gateway project. It’s just mind-boggling.”
However, she says more legal action must still be resolved.
“And that bigger puzzle includes of course federal action and that federal action is very much focused on indigenous rights and title and that’s the bigger and more important piece that we believe is more likely to end up with a positive court response.”
Another judge also found the province conducted appropriate and sufficient consultation with the First Nation.
The Squamish Nation is disappointed with the ruling against it, but says “this decision only deals with the Provincial approval of the Kinder Morgan project. We are still waiting on the more significant Federal Court of Appeal decision on the federal approval of the project.”
With Kinder Morgan’s self-imposed deadline to decide if the project should go ahead fast approaching, and the Federal Court of Appeal not yet ruling on another challenge filed by indigenous groups, a councillor with the Squamish Nation is expecting that to be where many jurisdictional issues will be resolved.
“Something that we do take away from this court decision which we kind of knew all along and the courts kind of affirmed is that our challenge in the federal court of appeal is much more significant –that we’ve joined with five other first nations in challenging the federal approval of the pipeline. A lot of the jurisdictional issues need to be settled in that court.”
He says he’s obviously disappointed with today’s ruling, but doesn’t consider it to be a total loss.
“Some of the recent actions and posturing by politicians, it really demonstrates the desperateness in which people who are pushing the pipeline are at this point,” Khelsilem tells NEWS 1130. “Throughout the process, both at a federal level and provincial level, governments haven’t taken our concerns seriously. The process has been a sham.
“We have joined five First Nations in challenging the federal government’s violation of our Indigenous Rights. Our legal team is reviewing the reasons and the Squamish Nation Council will explore an appeal based on legal advice,” Khelsilem adds.
Meantime, Attorney General David Eby says the province will be taking the necessary time to review the judgement.
“Our government has taken a balanced approach to defending our environment and our economy while fulfilling our legal obligations and respecting the rule of law,” he says in a statement. “The court has made clear that these rulings have no bearing on the ongoing federal Court of Appeal case challenging the federal approval of the project.”
Greenpeace has also issued a statement, saying it supports the Squamish Nation, adding this “does little to change the overwhelming obstacles” before the project.