Saturday, January 18, 2020

B.C. government, environmentalists ‘disappointed’ over Trans Mountain court decision

 Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline
 is unloaded in Edson, Alta.  on Tuesday June 18, 2019.

The Canada Supreme Court decision on the British Columbia submission was handed down very soon after the hearing last Thursday.  I posted on same a few days ago and expressed hope that the SCC would rule in my province's favour...saying that BC had the right to control huge construction projects such as pipelines being built through its territory.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Yesterday, it was reported that the SCC ruled against British Columbia and supported the legal principle that Canada reserved the right to build such projects in the "national interest".  Here is an op-ed that appeared this morning on MSM that applauds the decision.

While I was disappointed, I was not surprised.  The SCC cannot give a ruling that would result in the provinces all going their separate ways regarding transportation of "resources" across the land.  There needs to be national cohesion regarding such infrastructure projects.  I can see and agree with that principle.  So I do agree with the decision.  However, in the case of TMX, where the so-called "resource" being transported is, in fact, a highly toxic substance [diluted bitumen] and where the route planned for such transportation is in a densely populated, environmentally vulnerable and geographically unsuitable location, this particular project absolutely needs to be stopped in its tracks.

Please read the snippet from the Global news story first linked above, where the environmental lawyers outline the position they will take in the upcoming hearing of the concerns of BC First Nations, a hearing which still needs to take place before the infamous "shovels" can be put in the ground.  I will have final comments to follow:

"...B.C. has also been ordered by the B.C. Court of Appeal to reconsider its environmental assessment certificate and conditions that was awarded in 2017, before the project was briefly halted by the Federal Court of Appeal.

The ruling was made in September in favour of a legal challenge mounted by the Squamish Nation and the City of Vancouver.

It’s through that ruling that the province could still seek to protect its coast while abiding by the Supreme Court decision, West Coast Environmental Law lawyer Eugene Kung said. 
“I would imagine and hope that the provincial government will be looking at those conditions, which don’t need to pass the same constitutional muster in the sense of testing the legitimacy of the legislation, which is what this [reference] case was about,” he said.

Kung said while the province could face difficulty in adding additional conditions without frustrating a federal project, it could still further delay construction as Trans Mountain moves to meet that criteria — creating a new test for Ottawa and the project’s supporters.

“Let’s say it caused a delay of six months to a year,” he said. “You might hear that a delay of that length would be financially challenging for the project. And my response to that would be … if one year of delay to create a safer project would cause it to become a financial hardship, then how much of an actual economic boon is it really?”

B.C.’s original certificate placed 37 conditions on Trans Mountain — on top of the 156 placed on it by the National Energy Board — largely centred on spill prevention and coast protections.

Svend Biggs, a climate campaigner with Stand.Earth, said he’s hopeful the province considers strengthening other conditions like research into how to clean up a bitumen spill, along with health and safety questions for those responsible for cleaning it up.

“There’s plenty more the province could do that would basically make the company do more to protect our coastline and protect us from the risk of an oil spill,” he said.

Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman said the province is continuing to review the conditions, and that the Supreme Court decision “provides some further context for that work.”

“We remain concerned about the risks posed by diluted bitumen, and we will continue to do all we can to defend our environment, our coast and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on them,” he said in a statement."


Greencrow says:  The last paragraph of the above report says it all.  Is British Columbia supposed to sacrifice it's environment, its coast and the tens of thousands of jobs...that rely on the extant resources like forestry, fishing, tourism...just so Alberta can transport its toxic sludge to Texas [where the real oil refinery jobs are]? 

Or, is this legal battle a crossroads for British Columbia, where we can as a province make a choice--to enhance our current environment by declaring [narrow and unsuitable for heavy oil tanker traffic] Burrard Inlet a marine park in perpetuity.  A park with the main focus of restoring the salmon habitat that has already been lost.

IMO, this loss is just a pause in the battle for British Columbia.  We may have lost the battle [SCC decision] but we have not yet lost the war.

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