Federal Court of Appeal quashes approval of Trans Mountain

Approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion quashed by Federal Court of Appeal

The fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline is in flux after a bombshell decision handed down by a federal court Thursday quashed the project's approval, marking a triumph for Indigenous groups and environmentalists opposed to the pipeline.

The court combined into one case almost two dozen lawsuits calling for the National Energy Board's review of Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.'s project to be overturned.

In a written decision, the Federal Court of Appeal said the National Energy Board's review was so flawed that Ottawa couldn't rely on it as a basis for approving the expansion in 2016.

"The court decision was not a condition of the transaction between KML and the federal government", said president Ian Anderson in a statement.

The NEB didn't consult with First Nations affected by the pipeline in a meaningful way, the court found, failing to engage in real discussion of concerns.

The ruling requires the energy board to conduct a new review including the impacts of tanker traffic and means the government will have to redo part of its consultation with Indigenous groups.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that he had spoken with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and reassured her that the federal government stands by the project and will ensure it moves forward in the right way.

Stewart Phillip, the grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said the ruling took him aback.

Corrigan said he doesn't think this ruling will put the nail in the coffin of the proposed expansion project, but he said it remains a "victory for opponents of the pipeline".

The Trans Mountain pipeline project has been delivered a stunning blow by the Federal Court of Appeal.

The spokesperson for a Burnaby-based anti-pipeline group said Thursday's ruling surprised in its condemnation of the NEB process.

This is not the first time whales have played a role in halting a major Canadian infrastructure project.

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Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith First Nation near Chase declared the project null and void and called on the federal government to halt it.

Lee Spahan, chief of the Coldwater First Nation in the Nicola Valley - which he said is known as the people of the creek - said the ruling helps save water.

Regulatory lawyer Bill Gallagher, author of Resource Rulers and the upcoming book Resource Reckoning, said the ruling was a "benchmark" in the rise of what he called "Native empowerment" over natural resources in Canada, after the demise of the abandoned Northern Gateway pipeline through B.C. amidst protests and lawsuits.

"My sense of it would be that the federal government should get on with the proper consultation and view this as a delay", he said.

Weaver added that with BC coming off the two worst wildfire seasons in the province's recent history, "it's clear that we can not continue down the misguided path of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure".

The long-awaited decision was one of the pipeline's greatest legal hurdles to date - after having been green-lit by both federal and the previous provincial governments - and was released the same day as Kinder Morgan's shareholders vote in Houston on selling the pipeline to Canada for $4.5 billion.

Analysts have said China is eager to get access to Canada's oil, but largely gave up hope that a pipeline to the Pacific Coast would be built.

He also acknowledged that "this decision will be devastating for many in Alberta".

Horgan campaigned against the pipeline before taking office and, afterward, continued to speak on his government's concern about possible oil spills and his determination to protect the province's coastlines, waterways and land. The city of Burnaby unsuccessfully pushed the Supreme Court to stop the project.

The project would increase capacity from five ships a month through Burrard Inlet to a maximum of 34 oil tankers capable of carrying 120,000 tonnes of diluted bitumen at a time.

While the project could allow Alberta to get its bitumen to markets in Asia and reduce its reliance on the USA market, there has been opposition over the potential for oil spills and the impact that a dramatic rise in tanker traffic could have on the region's southern resident killer whales, a population already on the knife edge of extinction.

The court cited two main failures.

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