Appeal Court quashes approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Appeal Court quashes approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

The ruling came within hours of Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. shareholders voting more than 99 per cent in favour of the sale of the Trans Mountain pipeline and its expansion project to the federal government for $4.5 billion.

In May the government of Justin Trudeau agreed to buy the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada Limited for nearly $US3.5 billion ($NZ5.2b), betting it would win the court battle and expand Trans Mountain despite fierce political and environmental opposition.

The decision made Thursday morning concluded the federal government failed to hold meaningful consultations with First Nations before approving it. "The court did its job today, they quashed this project, and this project has got to die". "First, the board's process and findings were so flawed that the Governor in Council could not reasonably rely on the board's report; second, Canada failed to fulfil the duty to consult owed to indigenous peoples".

"It's quite a slap to the government by the court on the grounds of reconciliation with First Nations", said Kathryn Harrison, a professor of political science at University of British Columbia. Canada (Attorney General), No. A-78-17. The case is a combination of almost two dozen cases against the crude oil pipeline, according to the Globe and Mail. "The board unjustifiably defined the scope of the project under review not to include project-related tanker traffic. Until now our rights and our water have been disregarded by Kinder Morgan and the Government of Canada", Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan said in a statement.

"What seems to me is happening in this case is the court is drifting a little more towards saying, 'We're really going to take a hard look at how you engage in that consultation and sometimes we're going to be so demanding that it's pretty much equivalent to a consent type of rule'".

"The Indigenous applicants were entitled to a dialogue that demonstrated that Canada not only heard but also gave serious consideration to the specific and real concerns the Indigenous applicants put to Canada, gave serious consideration to proposed accommodation measures and explained how the concerns of the Indigenous applicants impacted Canada's decision to approve the project".

"This decision takes things further along the path to clarity in terms of what's required to discharge consultation obligations, but some uncertainty remains".

The decision means the country's National Energy Board will have to redo its review of the pipeline.

Houston-based Kinder Morgan earlier halted essential spending on the project and said it would cancel it altogether if the national and provincial governments could not guarantee it.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says they will review the decision as Ottawa plans to push ahead with its purchase of the project.

"What we really saw today was a confirmation that our government's decision to buy this pipeline because of political risks that were hard for a private actor to manage was absolutely the right [one]", he said.

With as few as 75 southern resident orcas left, the population will be unsustainable if the project proceeds, said Paul Paquet, senior scientist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. "I think Kinder Morgan is just glad to be out of Canada on that project".

"We'll see what the federal government decides to do", he said.

The decision also hurts Canada's oil producers, who say the expanded pipeline is needed to address bottlenecks that have sharply reduced prices for their crude.

He added: "This summer's fires, floods and choking smoke make it impossible to ignore the rising costs of climate inaction, so the prime minister should welcome the opportunity created by today's ruling to get on the right side of history".

The ruling was cheered by opponents of the nation's largest resource project in decades, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration suggested it had been dealt a temporary setback and vowed to carry on.

Members of the Indigenous groups that challenged the project gathered on the shore of the Burrard Inlet in Vancouver to celebrate their victory.

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