By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – A Canadian court put the brakes on a CAN$4.5 billion oil pipeline expansion Thursday primarily because Indigenous peoples were not properly consulted before the project was given the green light.
The Trans Mountain pipeline was to have expanded capacity to carry oil west across British Columbia (B.C.) from the oil sands in Alberta. It would then be shipped to Asian markets.
Kinder Morgan, the U.S-based company behind the project, backed away in May because of uncertainty due to legal challenges from Indigenous groups and the B.C. government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the pipeline was vital to Canada’s economic future. After Kinder Morgan pulled out, Trudeau said the federal government would buy the project for CAN$4.5 billion. The pipeline has been valued at anywhere from CAN$7.5 billion down to the amount paid by Canada and even lower.
But Thursday’s decision means the Trudeau government will have to begin the consultation process again.
“Only after consultation is completed and any accommodation made can the project be put before the Governor in Council for approval,” the Federal Court of Appeals ruled. “The duty to consult was not adequately discharged in this case.”
Specifically, the court said the National Energy Board, which reviews energy projects, did not take into consideration the increased oil tanker traffic on the B.C. coast and possible impacts on the environment and marine life, including killer whales.
As well, the court said the board did not properly consult with Indigenous peoples to find out their concerns.
The federal government had not yet reacted to the news by publication time.