Canada’s Supreme Court threw out an appeal by the coastal city of Burnaby, British Columbia to overturn a federal government decision that gave the go-ahead to continue constructing the Trans Mountain oil pipeline through its jurisdiction.
Last December the National Energy Board ruled that pipeline owner Kinder Morgan Canada could skirt around Burnaby municipal permits in order to construct a portion of the Trans Mountain expansion line directly through the city, saying that Burnaby bylaws were delaying building.
The expansion, some 980 km of pipeline, is set to stretch from Edmonton, Alberta to the port of Burnaby. City officials there say that Kinder Morgan intentionally routed the line through a forested city park, which, they claim will cause an economic and environmental blight on the township.
Burnaby leadership also says that Trans Mountain construction applications were incomplete.
Mayor of Burnaby, Derek Corrigan told reporters he was disappointed about the federal court decision. “We’re disappointed that the courts seem unwilling to review decisions made by the National Energy Board that hamper municipal jurisdiction,” said the mayor said as the ruling was announced.
Canadian Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi told reporters that the Supreme Court ruling underscores that municipalities cannot unduly withhold permits on such projects.
The expansion to the existing 1947 pipeline was approved by the Justin Trudeau government in 2016 but has experienced significant push back against its construction from other cities and Indigenous communities, which have delayed the project by over a year.
Members of the Secwepemc First Nation have been constructing ‘tiny houses’ - 2.5 x 3.5-meter houses - near Edmonton where the expansion begins in order to obstruct Kinder Morgan operations in the area.
In July about ten people blocked the company’s access to an existing oil station in Burnaby. They were sentenced to a week in jail.
The project still faces other legal battles, including a federal court case on whether there was adequate public consultation regarding the project. Kinder Morgan halted all operation on the expansion in July due to delays when Trudeau suddenly announced the Canadian government would buy and resell it in order to save the project. The company will decide on the sale next week.
The Trans Mountain expansion would potentially triple capacity along the existing pipeline route pumping out 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta to the British Columbia coast. Canada’s oil industry says it needs the new pipeline to be able to export oil to Asia.