VICTORIA – British Columbia will file its Trans Mountain pipeline reference case with the court by April 30, but the government can’t say if a ruling will come in time for Kinder Morgan’s deadline for certainty.
Attorney General David Eby said Wednesday the province will take its case to the B.C. Court of Appeal, the highest court that it is able to refer such questions under the province’s Constitutional Question Act.
The details of the action and the question or questions the government will ask the court to determine are still being worked out by lawyers and must be approved by the New Democrat government’s cabinet, Eby said.
In an effort to ease a the growing dispute between B.C. and Alberta, Premier John Horgan said in February that he would ask the court to settle the jurisdictional questions about its proposed ban on expanded bitumen shipments in the province and the right to protect its environment.
Horgan said then that the province would also consult the public on additional environmental regulations around oil spill response and compensation for spill damage.
After that announcement, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley lifted her province’s boycott on B.C. wine, saying Horgan was “stepping back from the brink and abiding by the law.”
Eby said the federal government will receive notice from the province when the case is filed in court, but it’s up to the court to set a hearing date.
He said the province is aware of the time factors involved and is hopeful of a speedy ruling.
The pipeline builder, Kinder Morgan, has stopped all non-essential activities on the construction of the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain project and set a May 31 deadline to determine if the expansion will go ahead.
“Everybody understands the interests,” said Eby. “Certainly, we have an interest in B.C. about having an answer to this as soon as possible. Everybody wants clarity around this so we’ll be moving and we are moving as quickly as we can.”
Environment Minister George Heyman said the province believes it has the right to protect B.C.’s environment and economy from an oil products spill.
He said if B.C. loses in court, the government will continue to assert its rights to protect its coastline.
“The process is about B.C.’s right under the Constitution to regulate against the deleterious impacts on the environment, on the economy, on provincial interests of a project, whether it’s an inter-provincial project or a provincial project.”
The pipeline project has been the subject of growing friction in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau summoning the premiers of Alberta and B.C. to Ottawa for talks and Alberta introducing legislation designed to restrict fuel shipments to B.C.
The federal government approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project in November 2016, saying it was in the national interest.
The Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., project involves doubling an existing pipeline in order to increase diluted bitumen to the West Coast to give Alberta access to ship its product to overseas oil markets.
About 200 people opposed to the project have been arrested near the Burnaby pipeline construction site. They face contempt of court charges for allegedly breaching a court injunction.