Federal court ruling leaves Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in doubt

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"Big picture, what we've seen here is that we need to have a robust process".

Activists, lawyers and academics say the decision demonstrates environmental corners can not be cut when governments seek social license for major infrastructure projects - especially in a case where increased tanker traffic and vessel noise are known to be key threats to killer whales. The consultations with First Nations must be re-done before the project can be considered for approval again.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty said the ruling "sends a profoundly negative message to investors both here at home and around the world about Canada's regulatory system and our ability to get things done even after the federal government has declared them to be in the national interest".

"We're going to review today's decision to ensure that we're meeting high standards when it comes to both protecting the environment and meeting our obligations to consult with Indigenous Peoples", Morneau said, adding that the court has "given us some good directions on next steps".

"Here we are, well into this process, and the Trudeau government has no plan whatsoever to get Trans Mountain built", he said in Winnipeg.

"Going forward, we urge politicians and other project proponents to shift their focus away from projects that lock us into dependence on fossil fuels", Ecojustice lawyer Dyna Tuytel said.

The court ruled that the National Energy Board (NEB) review failed to assess the impacts of marine shipping - saying it was so flawed, it should not have been relied on by the federal cabinet when it gave final approval to proceed in November 2016.

Shortly after the court's ruling was released, Kinder Morgan Canada shareholders voted 99 per cent in favour of the Trans Mountain pipeline sale to Ottawa. "They've committed billions of dollars in taxpayers' funds doubling down on a project that the courts have just quashed". That led to a trade war between B.C. and Alberta, which has championed the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.

A Canadian court has overturned Ottawa's approval of a hotly-contested pipeline project - throwing plans to almost triple the flow of Alberta's landlocked bitumen to the west coast into limbo - in a ruling hailed by environmentalists and Indigenous groups.

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An aide looks on as Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau addresses journalists in Toronto on Thursday August 30, 2018, as he talks about the government's Trans Mountain pipeline plan.

"This is a proud moment for us as Indigenous people", he said.

Calling it "the fight of our generation", he condemned the "unholy alliance between the government and the resource sector" and, to the laughter of those gathered for Thursday's press conference, he noted the federal government "actually bought the pipeline that nobody wanted and the prime minister is an incredibly awkward moment".

Christian says the ball is in the federal government's court.

Stewart Phillips, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he had not anticipated a positive ruling. They were supported by the province of British Columbia, which was an intervener, as was Alberta.

The Trans Mountain project involves twinning an existing 1,150km pipeline to ship up to 890,000 barrels of oil every day from the Alberta tar sands to Canada's west coast, for export overseas. It would also increase the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet sevenfold. This was a major concern for organizations and communities concerned about the fate of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales and the threat of a major diluted bitumen spill. Canada has the option to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The pipeline project faces stiff environmental opposition from British Columbia's provincial government and activists.

Its report to the government failed to give Ottawa the information "it needed in order to properly assess the public interest, including the project's environmental effects - matters it was legally obligated to assess", the ruling states.

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