After announcing its plans earlier this year for court action in the fight against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the BC government announced today that it has submitted a reference question to the BC Court of Appeal to affirm its right to “protect the province from the threat of a diluted bitumen spill.”
The government said the reference question concerns provincial autonomy, particularly the rights of British Columbia to regulate the environmental and economic impacts of heavy oils, like diluted bitumen, transported through the province.
“We have asked the courts to confirm BC’s powers within our jurisdiction to defend BC’s interests, so that there is clarity for today and for the generations to come,” said BC Premier John Horgan. “Our government will continue to stand up for the right to protect BC’s environment, economy and coast.”
The question comes in the wake of the government’s announcement last month that it had “retained expert legal counsel” to prepare and present a reference case related to BC’s right to protect the province’s land, coast and waters.
The province said it is asking the court to review proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act that would give the Province authority to regulate impacts of heavy oils, like diluted bitumen.
“We have been clear from the outset that the appropriate way to resolve disagreements over jurisdiction is through the courts, not through threats or unlawful measures to target citizens of another province,” said David Eby, Attorney General.
This reference question, he furthered, “seeks to confirm the scope and extent of provincial powers to regulate environmental and economic risks related to heavy oils like diluted bitumen.”
In January of this year, the province proposed a second phase of regulations to improve preparedness, response and recovery from potential spills. The regulations would apply to pipelines transporting any quantity of liquid petroleum products, as well as rail or truck operations transporting more than 10,000 litres of liquid petroleum products.
The government said its proposed regulations would ensure “geographically appropriate” response plans, improve response times, ensure compensation for loss of public use of land and maximize the application of regulations to marine transport.
“Our government is working to protect our economy, environment and communities by making sure we have effective spills prevention, response and recovery in place,” said George Heyman, BC’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “A single spill of diluted bitumen would put at risk tens of thousands of jobs across BC.”
As such, Heyman said the government has a responsibility to “ensure that every measure to reduce risks is in place, and that those responsible for spills are held accountable for fixing any environmental damage they cause.”