Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed challenges brought over the expansion of the Trans Mountain (TMX) oil pipeline system expansion project. The challenge, rejected in a 4 February unanimous ruling, was presented by four indigenous groups on the basis that they had not been properly informed or consulted regarding the extension of the pipeline.
The coalition of indigenous groups claim that the environmental review did not consider the effect of the project on the First Nations’ way of life and the environment in a meaningful way. Specifically, the proposed pipeline will run through a number of aquifers including the recharge zone for the Coldwater aquifer. The possibility of oil spills threatens the quality of drinking water for over 90 percent of the Coldwater First Nation reserve.
The chief of the Coldwater Indian Band, Lee Spahan, further argues that the threat to water goes beyond its quality, saying that the people have a connection to the water and that it is sacred. Spahan said the route through the First Nation’s territories is still to be determined and Canada has an ongoing duty to consult with it on the route and protection of its water.
First Nations leaders said they are still consulting with their lawyers and councils to decide whether to seek leave to appeal of the decision in the Supreme Court of Canada, which they have 60 days to do, but they will continue to pursue all available legal options to fight the project. (battlefordsnow)
The $5.6 Billion USD expansion project, acquired Canada's Federal government in 2018, has received criticism from indigenous leaders, environmental groups and politicians at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. The expansion will triple the capacity of the pipeline to 890,000 barrels of oil per day and, importantly, open markets to Asia. But, there are some who doubt economic viability in the face of declining oil prices.TMX crosses 1150 kilometres from oil sands in Edmonton, Alberta to a terminal near Vancouver, British Columbia.
The pipeline expansion also requires acquisition of additional land. Over two-thirds of the detailed route has been approved for construction and the relatively new Canada Energy Regulator is preparing to commence hearings for the remainder. This additional land includes property controlled by Coldwater First Nation, one of the parties engaged in the dismissed lawsuits.
The complainants in the case agree that the court’s decision was “very disappointing” and have reaffirmed that they will continue efforts to delay, if not halt, construction on the basis that the expansion is not in the best interest of the Nations.
The Court has confirmed the government’s continuing “duty to consult” but also maintains that there is no obligation to continue the consultation process until all objections are addressed.
Separately, the pipeline’s viability has been questioned by indigenous leaders, lawyers and economists. Environmental advocacy groups have requested the federal government to publish an updated cost analysis for the project.
The court's rejection of the challenge has also raised issues regarding Canada’s will to reconciliate with its indigenous people as well as its commitment to the Paris agreement on climate change.