Supreme Court will not hear First Nations' challenge against Trans Mountain pipeline
First Nations were seeking to challenge federal government's re-approval of pipeline expansion project
The Supreme Court of Canada will not allow an appeal from a group of First Nations in B.C. looking to challenge the federal government's second approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. In April they asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case but today the court refused and, as usual, gave no reasons for that decision.
The country's top court dismissed the nations' application for leave to appeal on Thursday. It did not release reasons for its decision, as is custom. The First Nations successfully halted federal approval of the project in 2018 when the Federal Court of Appeal said Ottawa had failed to properly consult affected First Nations.
The Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Ts'elxweyeqw Tribes and Coldwater Indian Band were seeking leave to appeal a February decision by the Federal Court of Appeal that found cabinet's approval of the pipeline project in June 2019 was reasonable under the law.
The expanded pipeline will nearly triple the amount of diluted bitumen flowing between Alberta's oilsands and a marine port in Burnaby, B.C.
B.C. Nature, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, the Squamish First Nation and a group of four young people then asked the highest court to do it instead. These are the cases the Supreme Court chose not to hear.
As usual, the Supreme Court did not give any reasons for its decision released Thursday.
Misty MacDuffee, a conservation biologist and program director with Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said the legislation aimed at protecting at-risk species requires governments to ensure endangered populations are protected.There are fewer than 75 southern resident killer whales left and MacDuffee said they would be harmed by the noise from the expected increase in oil tankers carrying diluted bitumen due to the expanded pipeline.
MacDuffee said there is currently no technology in existence that can reduce the impacts that noise from the boats would have on the whales, which means forging ahead with the pipeline is inconsistent with upholding the legislation. “The effects have to be mitigated for the project to proceed and none of that has happened in Trans Mountain,” MacDuffee said earlier this year.
The federal Liberal government was unable to convince the company it could overcome the legal hurdles, and in May 2018, bought the existing pipeline for $4.4 billion with a promise to get the expansion done and then sell everything back to the private sector.
That decision was dealt a significant blow just months later when the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the approval, halting construction. Building began anew last summer after the second approval, and continued despite the new legal challenges.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has consistently tried to sell the project as his government's compromise between the economy and environment, arguing Canada can only pay for the transition to a cleaner, greener future if it takes the most advantage of its natural resources, which remain in demand around the world.
Most oil produced in Alberta is sold at a discount because Canada is so heavily reliant on the United States as its customer. The hope is that this pipeline will carry more Canadian oil to the Pacific, where it can make its way to Asia, raising the price companies can get for the oil.