Oil and gas supporters picket outside the National Energy Board, during the release of the board’s reconsideration report on marine shipping related to the Trans Mountain expansion project, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Oil and gas supporters picket outside the National Energy Board, during the release of the board’s reconsideration report on marine shipping related to the Trans Mountain expansion project, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

B.C. argues it cannot stop Trans Mountain, but it can protect environment

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says only Ottawa has the authority to decide what goes in trans-boundary pipelines

A lawyer for the B.C. government says the province knows it cannot stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but it can enact environmental laws to mitigate the harm it may cause.

B.C.’s Court of Appeal is considering a reference case filed by the province that asks if it has jurisdiction to regulate the transport of oil through its territory and restrict bitumen shipments from Alberta.

READ MORE: Governor says Washington will continue to reject Trans Mountain

Joseph Arvay, who represents B.C., told a panel of five judges on Monday that his opponents in the case are essentially saying provinces have no power to bring in laws that reduce the risk of inter-provincial projects.

“They (are all) saying just one thing. It is this: that even if the pipelines or the railways they own or operate create a risk of catastrophic environmental harm because of the substance that they carry, the province is nevertheless powerless to enact laws to prevent that risk from materializing,” he said.

“We say that the province is not required to accept such a fate, and that the province can be proactive in doing what it can to protect the environment.”

The case asks if proposed amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act are valid and if the province has authority to control the shipment of heavy oils based on the impact spills could have on the environment, human health or communities.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have said Ottawa, not the provinces, has the authority to decide what goes in trans-boundary pipelines.

A five-day hearing began Monday and the Canadian government has not yet delivered arguments. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Trans Mountain Corp. and the Railway Association of Canada are among 13 parties that have filed documents supporting the federal government in the case.

Arvay told the judges that B.C. has no “axe to grind” against pipelines and the proposed amendments are not aimed at blocking the project.

“The purpose was never to prevent the construction or operation of the pipeline. The purpose and effect was always to protect the environment,” he said.

He outlined a number of cases that he said have established legal precedent for B.C. to enact laws that mitigate the risks of trans-boundary projects and hold companies liable for the clean up of accidents.

One such case was in 1899, when a court held that provinces and municipalities could require the Canadian Pacific Railway to keep ditches alongside its tracks clear of dirt and rubbish to prevent damage to adjacent properties, he said.

The Appeal Court judges, particularly Justice Harvey Groberman, repeatedly questioned Arvay on his arguments and interpretation of the case law.

The federal government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion. The expansion would triple the capacity of the line that runs from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C., and increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

Arvay told the judges a spill of diluted bitumen in B.C. would have disastrous impacts on Indigenous communities, animals, birds, property and water.

The National Energy Board heard differing opinions about the likelihood of a spill, but B.C. has the right to take precautions, he said.

“We know that things don’t go according to plan. Accidents happen,” Arvay said.

The energy board recently ruled the project is in the Canadian public interest despite adverse effects to endangered southern resident killer whales and related Indigenous culture.

Arvay said the board has concluded that the benefits of the project are national and regional in scope, but that some local communities would shoulder the burdens of the expansion.

READ MORE: Trans Mountain pipeline work destroyed salmon habitat, says scientist

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The West Kelowna Warriors beat the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in BCHL action Friday, April 16, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
West Kelowna goaltender stymies Vernon Vipers for 3-2 win

The Warriors were outshot 44-23 Friday night, but it didn’t bother Johnny Derrick

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Ben Klick is a country music singer living in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Kelowna’s Ben Klick partnering with local country music stations for annual virtual music festival fundraiser

The third annual Music Fest MS will come in the form of a Youtube livestream on May 30

The seventh annual Interior Savings Unplug and Play Family Literacy Week is scheduled for April 18 to 24. (File photo)
Annual Unplug and Play Week scheduled for April 18 to 24

Activities include making craft bags, neighbourhood hidden gems bingo, a scavenger hunt and more

A West Kelowna home was damaged in a fire that occurred overnight on Saturday, April 17. (Photo courtesy of West Kelowna Fire Rescue)
West Kelowna home damaged in overnight fire

The cause of the fire is undetermined and has been deemed unsuspicious

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Most Read