A five-judge panel agreed unanimously that the amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act were not constitutional because they would interfere with the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Court says B.C. can’t restrict oil shipments in key case for Trans Mountain

VANCOUVER — A court has ruled that British Columbia cannot restrict oil shipments through its borders in a decision that marks a win for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Alberta’s efforts to get its resources to overseas markets.

The province filed a constitutional reference question to the B.C. Court of Appeal that asked whether it had the authority to create a permitting regime for companies that wished to increase their flow of diluted bitumen.

A five-judge panel agreed unanimously that the amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act were not constitutional because they would interfere with the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.

Justice Mary Newbury wrote on behalf of the panel that the substance of the proposed amendments were to place conditions on and, if necessary, prohibit the movement of heavy oil through a federal undertaking.

Newbury also wrote that the legislation is not just an environmental law of “general application,” but is targeted at one substance, heavy oil, in one interprovincial pipeline: the Trans Mountain expansion project.

“Immediately upon coming into force, it would prohibit the operation of the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline in the province until such time as a provincially appointed official decided otherwise,” she said.

“This alone threatens to usurp the role of the (National Energy Board), which has made many rulings and imposed many conditions to be complied with by Trans Mountain for the protection of the environment.”

B.C. argued that the proposed amendments were meant to protect its environment from a hazardous substance, while the federal government and Alberta said the goal was to block Trans Mountain.

Newbury wrote that even if the legislation was not intended to single out the expansion project, it has the potential to affect — and indeed “stop in its tracks” — the entire operation of Trans Mountain as a carrier and exporter of oil.

She said the National Energy Board is the body entrusted with regulating the flow of energy resources across Canada to export markets, and it has already imposed many conditions on Trans Mountain.

She added that the expansion is not just a British Columbia project because it affects the whole country.

The proposed amendments would have meant that Trans Mountain Corp., and any other company wishing to increase the amount of heavy oil it transported through B.C., would have had to apply for a “hazardous substance permit.”

The permit application would have had to detail the risks to human health and the environment from a spill, plans to mitigate those risks and financial measures, including insurance, that ensured payment of cleanup costs.

A provincial public servant would have had the authority to impose conditions on a hazardous substance permit and cancel or suspend the permit if the company did not comply.

B.C. announced the legislative amendments in January 2018, sparking a trade war with then-Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who retaliated with a ban on B.C. wines in her province.

Premier John Horgan eased the tension by promising to file a reference case asking the Appeal Court whether the amendments were constitutional, prompting Notley to suspend the wine ban in February 2018.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion. Construction was paused last August after the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the federal permits.

The project would triple the pipeline’s capacity to carry diluted bitumen from the Edmonton area to Metro Vancouver, and increase the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

Just Posted

Keep an eye out for animals on the highway: Blackfalds RCMP

Animals wandering onto highways can put drivers at risk, says a Blackfalds… Continue reading

Report finds many birds in decline but co-operation works to rebuild populations

The bad news is that the populations of more than one-quarter of… Continue reading

Raptors coach Nick Nurse says meeting in the works with Prime Minister Trudeau

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse says a meeting is in the… Continue reading

Trade, China sure to surface as Trudeau meets Trump, congressional leaders

WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau is headed back to the White House today… Continue reading

Oil shippers boost security after mysterious attacks in Gulf

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A series of attacks on oil tankers… Continue reading

VIDEO: Avengers: Endgame to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Quebec’s biggest French school board postpones applying religious symbols law

MONTREAL — Quebec’s largest school board has voted to delay application of… Continue reading

B.C. Conservative MP Mark Warawa dies after cancer diagnosis

OTTAWA — Conservative MP Mark Warawa has died after being diagnosed with… Continue reading

Trump promises help with Canadian detainees in China as Trudeau visits D.C.

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump says he will raise the issue… Continue reading

VIDEO: Avengers: Endgame to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

‘He gets it’: Bowen Byram set to hear name called early at NHL draft

VANCOUVER — Bowen Byram’s bantam coach knew almost immediately the defenceman would… Continue reading

Guardado scores 2 as Mexico beats Canada 3-1

DENVER — Andres Guardado had two goals in the second half, Roberto… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews on cover of “NHL 20” video game

Toronto Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews will be on the cover… Continue reading

Opinion: Trans Mountain pipeline proceeds should be invested in Alberta

By David Marsden There’s a much-expected sigh of relief now that the… Continue reading

Most Read