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Environment

Pipeline protest convoy approaches Ottawa after rolling across country

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  • OTTAWA — Hundreds of trucks are expected to roll into Ottawa Tuesday to protest the federal government’s policies on the oil industry.

    The main portion of the United We Roll Convoy set out from Red Deer, Alta., last Thursday and made stops in Regina, Dryden, Thunder Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie before mustering at Arnprior, Ont., just outside the capital.

    The rally is expected to occupy almost a kilometre of Wellington Street, in front of Parliament.

    Lead organizer Glen Carritt says the display is about showing support for new oil pipelines and opposition to the federal carbon tax and new rules on oil transportation.

    The convoy includes members of the Yellow Vest Movement, whose demonstrations across the country have had widely varying agendas, from supporting pipelines to denouncing a United Nations compact on global migration.

    Demonstrators from eastern Canada are also expected to link up with the convoy.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    Canada says B.C. trying to impede Trans Mountain with pipeline legislation

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  • VANCOUVER — The Canadian government says British Columbia is trying to obstruct the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion with “Trojan Horse” legislation that the province is passing off as a benign environmental measure.

    Lawyer Jan Brongers asked the B.C. Court of Appeal on Wednesday to reject proposed amendments to the province’s Environmental Management Act, because the changes aim to regulate interprovincial oil projects that fall under federal jurisdiction.

    “This legislation appears to be a Trojan Horse. It’s one that is designed to appear as constitutionally acceptable, local environmental protection measures,” he told a panel of five judges.

    “But in substance, it’s an unconstitutional initiative that’s only logical reason for being is to limit federally-regulated pipelines and railways from moving additional heavy oil.”

    The Appeal Court is hearing a reference case on the proposed amendments, which would enable B.C. to create a permitting regime for companies that transport hazardous substances through the province.

    The province has argued it’s not attempting to block Trans Mountain or any other resource project, but is aiming to protect against ecological harm and require companies to pay for damages.

    Brongers said the proposed amendments are clearly intended to hinder additional oil shipments because they’re selective, narrow and targeted.

    The only hazardous substance covered by the amendments is heavy oil, Brongers said, and only companies that intend to increase the amount of heavy oil they’re transporting will need to get a permit.

    “We still don’t know why the volume of diluted bitumen that’s in the existing Trans Mountain pipeline is somehow deserving of an automatic exemption from the regime, but the new volumes that would be carried by the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline are not,” Brongers said.

    Justice Harvey Groberman challenged Brongers on that point, saying these are amendments to legislation and are presumably designed to deal with a new problem.

    “The fact that it’s directed at that emerging or new problem doesn’t seem to me to prove anything other than that the legislation is targeted,” Groberman said.

    The amendments also don’t apply to ships, and Brongers quoted B.C. Attorney General David Eby as saying last year that tankers were excluded because they are under federal jurisdiction.

    Brongers said B.C. has suggested that heavy oil is the first of a number of hazardous substances to be targeted by the proposed permitting regime, but the province has not said what those other substances would be.

    Premier John Horgan and other B.C. government officials have stated on multiple occasions, primarily while in opposition, that they were opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion and were looking for legal tools to stop it, Brongers noted.

    After taking power in 2017, the minority NDP government received legal advice that it doesn’t have constitutional authority to directly stop the project, but it did have the authority to apply conditions and impose regulations to protect its coast, he said.

    Brongers quoted Horgan as telling a reporter that the proposed amendments were about ensuring that increased heavy oil shipments through the province “don’t happen in the future.”

    “The proposed legislation’s real purpose and effect, is the creation of a mechanism — a tool in the toolbox — to potentially impede additional heavy oil originating outside of British Columbia from being transported through the province,” Brongers said.

    The federal government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion and the expansion would triple the capacity of the existing line that runs from the Edmonton area to a marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

    The governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as Trans Mountain Corp., Enbridge Inc., and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, have filed documents in support of the federal government.

    First Nations, cities and the environmental group Ecojustice have delivered arguments in support of B.C.’s proposed amendments.

    Assembly of First Nations lawyer Julie McGregor urged the court to ensure its ruling respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples to make decisions about their territories.

    “First Nations, as the original guardians of this environment since time immemorial, have always been concerned about the health and well-being of their lands,” she said.

    “The days where government actions unilaterally infringe upon or extinguish First Nations treaty or Aboriginal rights — those days are over.”

    Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    First Nations, cities support B.C.’s plan to require permits for pipelines

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  • VANCOUVER — First Nations and cities that have seen costly and damaging oil spills are supporting British Columbia’s efforts to require permits for companies transporting hazardous substances through the province.

    The B.C. Court of Appeal is hearing a reference case that asks whether the province can create such a system, which would require companies to file disaster response plans and pay for any damages.

    Heiltsuk Nation Chief Marilyn Slett said a spill in her community revealed gaps in federal response. The tug Nathan E. Stewart leaked 110,000 litres of diesel fuel near Bella Bella in late 2016.

    “The day the spill happened, our people were out there. They were out in their boats, they were there trying to help with any of the recovery,” Slett said in an interview.

    “What we noticed is there isn’t room for Indigenous people and Indigenous governance within the spill response regime.”

    The Heiltsuk and other First Nations, the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby and the environmental group Ecojustice argued on Tuesday that the Appeal Court should uphold B.C.’s proposed permitting regime. B.C. says the goal of the system is not to block oil and gas projects but to protect against disasters.

    The governments of Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan have not yet had an opportunity to deliver arguments, but they say Ottawa — not provinces — has jurisdiction over inter-provincial projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

    Canada says in court documents that the proposed amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act must be struck down because they give the province a “veto” over such projects.

    Slett said she believes that if B.C.’s proposed system had been in place when the Nathan E. Stewart sank, the recovery would be further along now. She also hopes the province’s regime, if approved, will incorporate Indigenous knowledge of their territories.

    “Our people know our areas. They know the tides. They know the weather patterns,” she said.

    City of Vancouver lawyer Susan Horne told court that the municipality supports B.C.’s proposal because it would ensure local and First Nations governments are properly resourced to respond to spills and are fully compensated for damages.

    “Local governments, like the City of Vancouver, are on the front lines of emergency response for their communities,” she said.

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

    Horne said Vancouver borders Burrard Inlet and a diluted bitumen spill would create a toxic plume that would risk the health of anyone in close proximity and delay response until the threat had subsided.

    A relatively small diesel spill in English Bay in 2015 required a response from 12 city departments and cost Vancouver more than $569,000, she said, and ship owners have not repaid the city yet.

    Michelle Bradley, representing the City of Burnaby, said diluted bitumen can sink and become submerged in shorelines. It’s also flammable and the city’s fire chief has raised concerns about the possibility of a blaze at the Trans Mountain tank farm, she said.

    Burnaby has already been affected by a spill from Trans Mountain in 2007 when a contractor struck the line and caused 224,000 litres of heavy oil to spew into a residential area, she said. The company relied extensively on Burnaby first responders, she added.

    The city does not currently have the capacity to respond to a disaster from the expanded Trans Mountain project, but B.C.’s proposed system would help ensure it was ready, Bradley said.

    “The environmental damage caused by releases of hazardous substances will be local, not national,” Bradley said. “The governments closest to those communities should be empowered to enact legislation to protect those communities from harm, and to exceed national norms for environmental protection.”

    Joseph Arvay, a lawyer for B.C., told court earlier Tuesday the proposed amendments would not allow the province to refuse to issue a permit without cause. Permits would only be withheld or revoked if the operator failed to follow conditions imposed upon it, he said.

    If the operator finds the conditions too onerous, it can appeal to the independent Environmental Appeal Board, or in the case of Trans Mountain, the National Energy Board, Arvay added.

    The energy board has set up a process where Trans Mountain Corp. can argue that a condition is too burdensome and violates the special status of inter-provincial projects, he said.

    “The NEB effectively gets the last word … but it’s going to be condition by condition.”

    Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


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