Tar sands kill, pipelines spill
Tar sands kill, pipelines spill

This is a huge vic­to­ry… for the Pacif­ic North­west, for British Colum­bia, Wash­ing­ton State, and indige­nous peo­ples seek­ing to pro­tect their lands.

The Fed­er­al Court of Appeal dealt a major blow to the Trans­Moun­tain pipeline expan­sion Thurs­day, over­turn­ing the fed­er­al government’s approval and effec­tive­ly halt­ing construction.

The court found the Nation­al Ener­gy Board review of the $7.4‑billion project was so flawed it failed to pro­vide the gov­ern­ment with the infor­ma­tion need­ed to approve the project.

The rul­ing is a major set­back and raised the prospects of a lengthy delay that could kill the expan­sion. The court has ordered the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to include project-relat­ed marine ship­ping in its reviews and to redo con­sul­ta­tions with First Nations.

Short­ly after the rul­ing, Kinder Mor­gan share­hold­ers approved the pre­vi­ous­ly announced sale of the pipeline and expan­sion project to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for $4.5 billion.

Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau made a mas­sive bet on the pipeline back in the spring when he decid­ed to effec­tive­ly nation­al­ize it by buy­ing the project from Kinder Mor­gan, which had con­clud­ed that pro­ceed­ing with con­struc­tion could be too risky for the com­pa­ny giv­en uncer­tain prospects for completion.

Trudeau’s inten­tion in tak­ing over the project was to give it the sta­bil­i­ty and sure­ty need­ed to over­come fierce oppo­si­tion and logis­ti­cal hur­dles to completion.

But that move has now been foiled. The pipeline’s fate is as uncer­tain as ever.

Read the Court of Appeal’s deci­sion against the Trans­Moun­tain pipeline.

“Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, and through him Cana­di­an tax­pay­ers, now own a pipeline that may not be built for years, if ever,” observed The Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason. “While Ottawa will make all the appro­pri­ate nois­es about address­ing the con­sul­ta­tion short­com­ings and oth­er issues iden­ti­fied by the court, don’t be mis­led: This ver­dict has the effect of start­ing over again on many fronts.”

The rul­ing is a huge blow not only to Justin Trudeau and his not-that lib­er­al Lib­er­als, but also to Alber­ta Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley and Alber­ta politi­cians who fierce­ly sup­port build­ing the pipeline at any cost.

“Dis­as­ter. Polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, even con­sti­tu­tion­al. Undi­lut­ed disaster.”

Those were the open­ing words of colum­nist Don Braid’s response to the court deci­sion in the Cal­gary Her­ald, in which he lament­ed the rul­ing and pre­dict­ed big trou­ble for Rachel Not­ley’s NDP gov­ern­ment in Alber­ta. His col­league Jason Wood filed a sep­a­rate sto­ry sug­gest­ing Not­ley’s reelec­tion next year is in grave per­il.

No one in Cana­da has been a big­ger boost­er for the pipeline than Not­ley. She made a bad choice to tie her polit­i­cal future to the pipeline’s con­struc­tion and now she will have to live with that choice. It could mean her defeat in 2019.

Canada’s future, and the Unit­ed States’ future, can­not be based on dirty ener­gy if we’re to have any hope of stop­ping the cli­mate cri­sis from get­ting worse.

Yet Not­ley, just like Trudeau, want­ed to bet big on dirty energy.

Next door in British Colum­bia, how­ev­er, Not­ley’s fel­low NDP Pre­mier John Hor­gan was cel­e­brat­ing the deci­sion, hav­ing staked out a very dif­fer­ent position.

Although Hor­gan and Not­ley are both NDP lead­ers at the provin­cial lev­el and would thus seem to be nat­ur­al allies, they are actu­al­ly at com­plete and bit­ter odds with each oth­er on the ques­tion of con­struct­ing the pipeline. Hor­gan rec­og­nizes the threat the project rep­re­sents… to the Sal­ish Sea, to the south­ern res­i­dent orca pop­u­la­tion, to coastal ecosys­tems, and to the world’s climate.

“This case has always been about First Nations assert­ing their rights and today they car­ried the day,” said Hor­gan. “We joined the case to defend BC’s inter­ests and high­light the risks to the province’s envi­ron­ment and economy.”

“Many British Columbians have been say­ing that the Trans Moun­tain project would cre­ate seri­ous risks to our coast,” the Pre­mier added.

“The Fed­er­al Court of Appeal has val­i­dat­ed those concerns.”

“Today’s rul­ing is a vic­to­ry for First Nations’ rights and for all those who have long held that this project was not approved based on evi­dence,” agreed B.C. Greens Leader Andrew Weaver in a state­ment.

(The B.C. Greens have a sup­ply and con­fi­dence agree­ment with the B.C. NDP that allows the NDP, or the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, to gov­ern the province.)

“I am par­tic­u­lar­ly glad to see the court’s judge­ment that there was an unjus­ti­fi­able fail­ure at the heart of the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s approval of this project: the fail­ure to assess the impacts of marine ship­ping on the environment.”

“This was an out­ra­geous omis­sion on the part of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment that flies in the face of their stat­ed com­mit­ment to evi­dence-based deci­sion-mak­ing. The NEB acknowl­edged that the marine traf­fic from this project posed sig­nif­i­cant harm to the endan­gered South­ern Res­i­dent Killer Whales. The gov­ern­ment must now jus­ti­fy to Cana­di­ans, and to the world, why it is will­ing to her­ald the death knell of this irre­place­able species if it con­tin­ues to pur­sue this project.”

“Com­ing off of the two worst wild­fire sea­sons in B.C.’s his­to­ry, it’s clear that we can­not con­tin­ue down the mis­guid­ed path of expand­ing fos­sil fuel infra­struc­ture. We owe it to our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren to begin the imme­di­ate tran­si­tion to the low-car­bon econ­o­my. B.C. is a leader amongst the provinces, adopt­ing car­bon tax increas­es that are ahead of fed­er­al requirements.”

“Our Cau­cus is work­ing close­ly with the B.C. NDP minor­i­ty gov­ern­ment to cre­ate a clean growth strat­e­gy that will fur­ther advance our efforts. I hope the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will now real­ize that there is an enor­mous oppor­tu­ni­ty to sup­port B.C.’s lead­er­ship, rather than attempt­ing to force our province to shoul­der the huge envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­ic risks that this project presents.”

NPI con­grat­u­lates the Rain­coast Foun­da­tion, Liv­ing Oceans Soci­ety, the cities of Van­cou­ver and Burn­a­by, the Tsleil-Wau­tuth and Squamish First Nations, the Cold­wa­ter Indi­an Band, and all the oth­er indige­nous tribes who have stood up against this mon­stros­i­ty of a project. This pipeline may not be dead, but it looks like con­struc­tion has effec­tive­ly been thwart­ed for the time being. That’s a huge win and one that our coast, orcas, and cli­mate sore­ly needed.

Every­one involved in secur­ing this court vic­to­ry deserves a big round of applause and deep thanks from this side of the border.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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