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B.C. joins legal battles against Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Last Updated Aug 11, 2017 at 5:10 am MST

Pipes are seen at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton, Alta., Thursday, April 6, 2017. Two key British Columbia cabinet ministers are expected to outline the government's next steps Thursday on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion after campaigning against the project. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The British Columbia government wants to join the legal fight against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The province’s NDP government has hired former judge Thomas Berger to provide legal advice to the government as it seeks intervener status in legal challenges to the federal government’s approval of the pipeline expansion.

The NDP has opposed the expansion of the pipeline, which received the blessing of the province’s former Liberal government earlier this year.

B.C. Premier John Horgan promised in the provincial election this spring to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the $7.4-billion project by Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Canada.

Several First Nations and municipalities have filed legal challenges against the expansion, which would triple the capacity of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline and increase the number of tankers in Vancouver-area waters seven-fold.

Trans Mountain has said construction on the project is set to begin in September, but Environment Minister George Heyman says only three of eight environmental management plans that would allow work to begin have been accepted and it is unlikely those remaining will get approval before work was to start.

Here is the release from the NDP:

The provincial government is taking initial action on its commitment to protect British Columbia’s interests in the face of the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and increased tanker traffic.

At a news conference today, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman and Attorney General David Eby outlined both legal and consultation steps the government will take immediate action on.

“Our government made it clear that a seven-fold increase in heavy oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour is not in B.C.’s best interests,” said Heyman. “Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs. We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province’s future.”

The British Columbia government has secured Thomas Berger, QC, OC, OBC as external counsel to government in the legal action related to Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline.

“We are committed to fighting for B.C.’s interests and it is government’s desire to seek intervenor status in legal challenges to federal approval of the pipeline expansion and increased oil tanker traffic off B.C.’s coast,” said Eby. “Mr. Berger will provide legal advice to government on the options for participation in legal challenges, and those hearings are scheduled to begin in federal court later this fall.”

The Province will also fulfil its duty of meaningful consultation with Indigenous people concerning this project, including consultations regarding potential impacts to Aboriginal rights and title – a responsibility that has been identified in a number of court cases. In particular, that duty must be fulfilled as consultation relates to environmental assessment certificate (EAC) requirements. Until these consultations are completed in a way that meets the Province’s legal obligations, work on the project on public lands cannot proceed.

“Going forward we will be reviewing policies to outline how our government expects to further meet our commitments to First Nations as well as to all British Columbians with regard to defending our air, land and water,” said Heyman. “This policy review will clarify government policy for decision-makers as they evaluate future permits and work plans.”

The Province will continue to explore other tools to hold Kinder Morgan’s project plans to the high standards of environmental protection and Indigenous consultation that British Columbians expect.