VANCOUVER — Environmental legislation proposed by British Columbia is specifically targeting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and would significantly impact it, the project’s proponent and the Alberta government argued Thursday.
The B.C. Court of Appeal is hearing a reference case that asks whether the government can amend its Environmental Management Act to create a permitting system for companies that increase the amount of heavy oil they’re transporting through the province.
B.C. has argued the amendments are not intended to block the project, but rather to protect the environment from spills and require companies to pay for damages. However, a lawyer for Trans Mountain ULC said B.C.’s motive is to obstruct the expansion.
“Trans Mountain will be directly and significantly impacted by the proposed legislation. Indeed, we say it is the target of the proposed legislation,” Maureen Killoran told a panel of five judges.
Killoran said Trans Mountain, which has operated since 1953 and runs from the Edmonton area to Metro Vancouver, is the only pipeline that transports liquid petroleum to the West Coast and the only pipeline to which the legislation would apply.
The proposed law presented more risk than private-sector proponent Kinder Morgan was willing to accept, prompting it to sell the pipeline to Canada for $4.5 billion last year, she said.
Since the plan to triple the pipeline’s capacity was first proposed in 2013, it has been through the largest review in the National Energy Board’s history, a number of court challenges and faced protesters and blockades, Killoran said.
The energy board ruled the expansion is in the public interest because the country cannot get all its available energy resources to Pacific markets, she said.
The government of Canada opposes B.C.’s proposed permitting system because it says Ottawa — not provinces — has exclusive jurisdiction over inter-provincial infrastructure.
The new rules would allow a provincial public servant with expertise in pollution management to apply conditions to permits, which B.C. says would be intended to address concerns posed by a company’s proposed activities.
Peter Gall, representing the government of Alberta, said the permitting scheme is a “vague, amorphous” process that gives wide-ranging discretionary powers to a government official to do whatever he or she thinks is necessary to protect the environment.
“We accept that the province genuinely wants to protect the environment,” he said. “The problem is … the province believes that the best, indeed the only way to protect the environment is to stop the project.”
Justice Harvey Groberman questioned why Gall would raise the motives of the legislation, given the argument that it interferes with federal jurisdiction should suffice.
Gall said the court should not ignore the “reality of the situation” — that the B.C. government is committed to stopping the project.
While in opposition, Premier John Horgan said he would use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the expansion. The court has heard that after his minority NDP government took power in 2017, it received legal advice that it could not block the project.
Gall quoted Environment Minister George Heyman as saying that the government could not delay or obstruct the project through “anything other than even-handed consideration of permit applications.”
The government of Saskatchewan, the Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band and the Beecher Bay, Songhees and T’Sou-ke First Nations also delivered arguments opposing B.C.’s proposed rules on Thursday.
Thomson Irvine, a lawyer for Saskatchewan, said the federal environmental assessment process is rigorous and Trans Mountain has already had to jump through many hoops.
“If at the end of the day, they get that certificate and the provincial law says, ‘Oh no, we’re going to put restrictions on what you can carry or how much you can carry,’ that frustrates the entire purpose of the federal statute,” he said.
Lax Kw’alaams lawyer Christopher Harvey said the band on B.C.’s north coast is facing dismal economic prospects and has developed a pipeline proposal that would bring oil from Alberta to a marine terminal on its territory or to a refinery in Alaska.
The proposed legislation threatens to kill that proposal, Harvey said.
“The band objects to its needs, aspirations, rights and options in its traditional territory being thwarted by legislation, such as the amendments, without any band input.”
The cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, environmental group Ecojustice and the Heiltsuk Nation and the Council of the Haida Nation have delivered arguments in support of B.C.’s proposed rules.
Laura Kane, The Canadian Press
Protests, legal challenges planned to block Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
VANCOUVER — Opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are preparing for a long summer of legal challenges and protests aimed at blocking the project from being built.
Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation says it will file a legal challenge in the Federal Court of Appeal and he is confident the First Nation will be successful after Ottawa approved the project on Tuesday.
Squamish Nation Coun. Khelsilem says his band is also prepared for legal action and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the city will join any lawsuits that are filed.
Lawyer Eugene Kung says there are a number of legal arguments opponents could advance, including that it was impossible for the federal government to make an unbiased decision as the owner of the pipeline.
But Eric Adams, a law professor at the University of Alberta, says the court may be uncomfortable setting a precedent that governments cannot approve projects they support.
A 20-kilometre march is planned for Sunday from Victoria to the Saanich peninsula in solidarity with First Nations that are opposed to the project.
The Canadian Press
Tax credits, penalizing big polluters, key to Conservative climate plan
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his climate plan will be “Canada’s best chance” to hit its targets under the Paris climate-change agreement and that it can happen without a carbon tax.
Scheer outlined his climate policy in the backyard of a private home in rural Chelsea, Que., Wednesday evening, not far from where flooding linked to climate change hit for the second time in three years this spring. Flies and mosquitoes swarmed and a handful of protesters gathered on the gravel road in front of the property.
“Conservatives fundamentally believe that you cannot tax your way to a cleaner environment,” Scheer said. “Instead, the answer lies in technology.”
The environment, and climate change in particular, are garnering the most attention ever heading into a federal campaign as Canadians in all parts of the country are dealing with more frequent forest fires, droughts, floods and storms.
The plan does not specify how much any of its 55 elements would cut emissions and suggests Canada’s path to meeting the targets would include using Canadian products to reduce emissions in other countries.
“Greenhouse-gas emissions do not recognize borders,” Scheer said. “Nor are the impacts of climate change proportional to any one country’s emissions. Whether emissions are reduced in Canada or in China, the scientific impact on global climate change is the exact same.”
His platform, dubbed A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment, looks at introducing a capital cost allowance for industries that show they are reducing emissions in other countries. He specifically mentions using Canadian liquefied natural gas to replace coal as a source of electricity and exporting more Canadian aluminum, which he says is made with fewer emissions than aluminum in other countries.
Canada’s commitment under the Paris climate-change agreement is to cut emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005 before 2030. Canada needs to get to 513 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year to hit that target. In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics have been compiled, Canada’s emissions were 716 million tonnes.
There is an allowance in the Paris accord for “co-operative mechanisms,” which allow for reductions in one country to be counted towards the targets of another country as long as both countries agree. The rules for that allowance have not yet been set and the intention was for it to be used for countries to strengthen their targets beyond the original Paris commitments.
The targets in the Paris accord are not legally binding, however, so there is no monetary penalty if Canada misses them. In a question-and-answer session after the speech, Scheer refused to be drawn on how much his plan could be expected to reduce Canada’s emissions.
Canada’s existing climate plan under the Liberal government leaves the country about 80 million tonnes shy of its Paris targets in 2030. The national price on carbon, set at $20 a tonne this year, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022, will reduce emissions between 50 million and 60 million tonnes a year, an Environment Canada analysis says.
Scheer’s plan is to make scrapping that carbon tax one of his first actions as prime minister.
He also intends to replace the Liberals’ system for applying the carbon tax to major industrial emitters with one that requires them to invest in clean technology for their own companies.
Scheer promises to give companies a tax break on income earned from developing and patenting green technology in Canada. Homeowners will get a tax credit worth as much as $2,850 for making energy-efficiency upgrades to their homes, such as installing solar panels or putting in better-insulated windows.
He also intends to create a green-technology fund with $250 million in federal money to draw private investments in green technology that could repay the federal contributions when the technology is sold.
Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna took to a microphone on Parliament Hill to scorn the Tory plan shortly after Scheer finished talking.
“I guess we now know why Andrew Scheer waited until the dying hours of this Parliament to shovel out his ideas to tackle climate change,” she said. “It’s because he has a fake plan. No numbers, no serious measures and no commitment to move the needle on climate action. He says we can save the planet but we don’t have to make any changes. Pollution can be free, we can burn coal, develop oil forever, build as many pipelines as oil lobbyists want. Just invent some technologies and sell them to other countries — that’ll do it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. The Paris agreement requires every country to do their part … You can’t export your way out of this problem.”
The New Democrats’ Peter Julian called the Tory plan “a collection of boutique tax credits and a rebranding exercise … But I would say to the Conservatives, ‘Nice pictures, though.’ Because that’s the only benefit I see from the plan they presented today.”
Environment groups likewise panned the Scheer plan, saying it is similar to requests from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which released a climate plan a few weeks ago.
“This is a plan only an oil lobbyist could love,” said Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said the Scheer strategy is a research-and-development plan, not a climate-action policy.
“This might be a plan to cut other things but it is not a plan to cut emissions,” said Abreu. “Is Canada somehow going to save the world by increasing our own emissions?”
—With files from Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version gave an incorrect name for Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.
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