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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Company walks away from massive oilsands project

VANCOUVER — Teck Resources Ltd. has withdrawn its application for a massive… Continue reading

Fort Macleod, Alta., to get special advance screening of new ‘Ghostbusters’ film

There will be something strange in the neighbourhood of Fort Macleod, Alta.,… Continue reading

Hundreds turn up at Coldest Night of Year walk in Red Deer

It wasn’t the coldest night of the year, which probably helped the… Continue reading

Police in Saskatoon shoot two dogs that attacked man, then advanced on officers

SASKATOON — Police in Saskatoon say officers had to open fire at… Continue reading

Alberta and two First Nations make deal for proposed oilsands mine

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has struck deals with two northern Alberta… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake Wranglers comeback to nab OT win in Game 2 over Red Deer Vipers

The Sylvan Lake Wranglers have a knack for the dramatics early in… Continue reading

Wranglers win wild Game 1 double OT thriller over Red Deer Vipers

The best-of-seven series continues Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Kings and Queens basketball triumph over Ambrose, keep playoff hopes alive

Guard Sandra Garica-Bernal sets new Queens all-time steals mark

Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

View of a longtime economist: Slower growth but no recession

WASHINGTON — In this high-profile election year, the U.S. economy boasts an… Continue reading

Amy, chasing: Klobuchar, already beating odds, faces uphill climb

WASHINGTON — It’s been a running gag ever since she launched her… Continue reading

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s attorney general hopes an inquiry into money laundering… Continue reading

Most Read