Feds extend Trans Mountain Pipeline decision deadline into summer

Apr 18 2019, 3:16 pm

Canadians will have to wait a little while longer to find out the fate of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

The past year has seen a rocky road for construction of the project, which would increase the daily capacity of oil sent from Alberta to BC’s coastal waters from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels — relieving Alberta’s bloated reserves and improving Canada’s market access to the US Pacific Coast and Northeast Asia.

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The Government of Canada purchased the project from Kinder Morgan last summer to the tune of $4.5 billion after the company came close to cancelling the pipeline all together amid escalating disputes between the Alberta and BC provincial governments.

The largest speedbump for the pipeline, however, came in late August 2018 when the Federal Court of Appeal indefinitely halted construction of the project, finding that the initial National Energy Board (NEB) assessment was “so flawed that the Governor in Council could not reasonably rely on the board’s report,” according to Justice Eleanor Dawson’s ruling.

She also ruled that the Government of Canada failed to properly consult with Indigenous peoples regarding the construction of the 1,147-km-long pipeline.

Almost half a year after the court’s decision, the NEB released a reconsideration report that approved the continued construction of the pipeline, though adding 16 new recommendations on top of the initial 156 conditions that must be imposed if the project is (again) approved by the Government of Canada.

With one half of the Federal Court of Appeal’s concerns addressed in the creation of a new NEB report, the Government of Canada has now updated Canadians on the progress they’ve been making with Indigenous consultations.

“Consultation teams continue to meet with potentially impacted Indigenous group,” said Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi, in an April 18 statement.

“This process includes engaging in meaningful, two-way dialogue — to discuss and understand priorities of the groups our teams meet and to offer responsive accommodations, where appropriate.”

Sohi noted that additional time would be needed to carry out the proper consultations and that the deadline for the federal government’s ultimate decision on whether or not to move forward with the project has been extended to June 18 of this year.

“The government has consistently said that a decision would only be made on the project once we are satisfied that the duty to consult has been met. Through this process, Indigenous groups have told us that more time is needed to complete the Phase III consultations,” he said, in the statement.

“To meet this obligation, to respond to what we have heard from Indigenous groups, and with advice from Federal Representative Justice Iacobucci, the Governor in Council (GiC) has extended the deadline so that a decision on TMX can be made by June 18, 2019. Our goal is to make a decision at the end of this period. This provides the time required to respond to what Indigenous groups are telling us and to conclude the Phase III Crown consultations before the GiC decision.”

In the time that it has taken to come to a decision on the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the province of Alberta has elected a new premier, the United Conservative Party’s Jason Kenney, who has vowed to put pressure on the federal government with regards to the pipeline.

Kenney promised throughout his election campaign that his government would hold a province-wide referendum in 2021 to remove equalization from the Constitution Act if “substantial progress is not made on construction of a coastal pipeline, and if Trudeau’s Bill C-69 is not repealed.”

The premier-designate has also vowed to move forward with “Turn off the Taps” legislation — officially known as Bill 12: Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act — which could potentially restrict the export of crude oil, natural gas, and refined fuels into BC, though a BC legal expert has told Daily Hive that “turning off the taps” is easier said than done.

Sohi’s full April 18 statement can be found below:

“The Government of Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to do things differently on TMX, moving the process forward in the right way and following the guidance of the Federal Court of Appeal. This means ensuring that consultations are not only meaningful but also open and transparent. It is in this spirit that I want to provide Canadians with an update on the progress made to date.

“The February 2019 National Energy Board (NEB) Reconsideration Report marked an important milestone. Delivered on time, the report concluded that the project is in the Canadian public interest and should be approved, subject to 156 recommended conditions and 16 new, non-binding recommendations to the federal government.

“We also continue to make real progress in the Phase III consultations. Consultation teams continue to meet with potentially impacted Indigenous group. This process includes engaging in meaningful, two-way dialogue — to discuss and understand priorities of the groups our teams meet and to offer responsive accommodations, where appropriate. I also continue to build relationships with Indigenous groups, and I want to thank them for their time and such thoughtful conversations.

“The government has consistently said that a decision would only be made on the project once we are satisfied that the duty to consult has been met. Through this process, Indigenous groups have told us that more time is needed to complete the Phase III consultations.

“To meet this obligation, to respond to what we have heard from Indigenous groups, and with advice from Federal Representative Justice Iacobucci, the Governor in Council (GiC) has extended the deadline so that a decision on TMX can be made by June 18, 2019. Our goal is to make a decision at the end of this period. This provides the time required to respond to what Indigenous groups are telling us and to conclude the Phase III Crown consultations before the GiC decision.

“Our plan provides clarity and certainty — both for the communities engaged in this process and for all Canadians — and this would not be possible without the extensive work completed to date. Moving forward, our focus will remain on fulfilling our duty to meaningfully consult before making a decision on the project. We know how important this process is to Canadians, and we will continue working hard each day to get it right.”

With files from Eric Zimmer

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