As local opposition against the highly controversial Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada continues to grow, pipeline construction passed another legal hurdle after the federal Court of Appeal ruled against the government of British Colombia’s latest legal challenge.
Last December, the National Energy Board (NEB) ruled that Kinder Morgan, the company building the pipeline, which will triple the amount of dirty tar sands from Alberta to the coast of BC, could circumvent local bylaws on tree-clearing during construction of the pipeline around the City of Burnaby.
The B.C. government had tried to argue that the NEB was wrong in defining federal jurisdiction too broadly.
But the Court of Appeal has rejected the challenge, leading to the pro-tar sands Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley to state on Facebook that the ruling was a “step forward for market access, the national climate plan, and a strong Canadian economy.” She added: “Your Alberta government will not back down until this pipeline is built and the national interest is secured.”
In contrast, B.C. Environment Minister, George Heyman retaliated said in a statement: “We are very disappointed that the Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed our application to appeal. This, in effect, allows the local permitting process to be needlessly undermined.”
Heyman vowed that his government will continue to try and stop the project. “Our government will continue to explore other legal ways to defend the interests of British Columbians against this unnecessary project,” he said.
As the ruling was made, people continued to protest against the pipeline. On Friday Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party and local New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart were among those arrested.
As she was led away by police, May said: “The commitment to build a pipeline in 2018 when we are in climate crisis is a crime against future generations and I will not be part of it.”
On Saturday, according to local media, dozens of Indigenous youth and other demonstrators gathered at Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby Terminal which has become a flash-point for community action. By the end of Saturday, a further 57 protesters had been arrested. The total number of arrested during last week’s direct action now stands at 172.
One local Indigenous leader, Cedar George-Parker who led Saturday’s march said: “We’re taking a stand against the Kinder Morgan pipeline, we’re standing up against bullies. Justin Trudeau can’t do his job by securing the safety of our future, so we’ll do it for him.” Two Canadian musicians Sarah Harmer and Grimes, who were in Vancouver for the Juno awards on Sunday night, also joined the protest. Harmer said simply that the pipeline “needs to be turned back and stopped.”
As the local community protests grow, it is still not the end of the legal challenges either, with a further court case brought by a coalition of First Nations and environmental groups and some B.C. cities which is fighting the legitimacy of the whole NEB process.
Watch this space.