Alberta to pull out of national climate plan, Premier Rachel Notley vows

Muriel Hammond
August 31, 2018

The move comes after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would have doubled the line from Edmonton to the B.C. coast and tripled the amount of oil shipped to fetch a better price on overseas markets. But he appeared inclined to accept the court's suggested remedy: order the energy board to redo its environmental assessment and redo the government's own consultations with Indigenous Peoples, both of which the court said could be tightly focused and completed relatively quickly.

"Our government remains committed to ensuring the project proceeds in a manner that protects the public interest", he said in Toronto.

"But my responsibility is to the people of British Columbia".

The fallout from the court's decision extended to the federal government's strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley pulled the province out of Ottawa's climate plan. The Surrey Board of Trade, though, said it was shocked by the decision, which will likely leave the project in "legal limbo" for years, and argued the alternative - moving crude oil by rail - was far more hazardous.

"This is just another example to global investors of why Canada is not looked upon as a friendly jurisdiction", said Jim Davidson, deputy chairman of investment bank GMP FirstEnergy in Calgary.

In the written ruling, the federal appeals court said the National Energy Board's "consultation framework" was "reasonable and adequate" if "properly executed".

While the project could allow Alberta to get its bitumen to markets in Asia and reduce its reliance on the U.S. market, there has been opposition over the potential for oil spills and the impact that a dramatic rise in tanker traffic could have on the region's southern resident killer whales, a population already on the knife edge of extinction.

The court decision is a victory for indigenous leaders and environmentalists, who have pledged to do whatever necessary to thwart the pipeline, including chaining themselves to construction equipment. There was no "meaningful two-way dialogue".

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney is right when he said of the decision: "We can not function as a prosperous, modern society with an ever-changing legal standard on issues like environmental impact and Indigenous consultation".

Trudeau said on Twitter he spoke with Notley on Thursday and "reassured her that the federal government stands by the TMX expansion project and will ensure it moves forward in the right way".

Christian says the ball is in the federal government's court.

"Canada fell well short of the minimum requirements imposed by the case law of the Supreme Court of Canada", said Justice Eleanor R. Dawson.

The court ruled Ottawa had not fulfilled its duty to consult with First Nations on the multi-billion dollar pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.

The court further ruled the national energy board had "unjustifiably defined the scope of the project under review not to include project-related tanker traffic. I am angry", Notley said.

Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which borders the Burrard Inlet, said the Indigenous coalition that has spent years in court challenges have won "a David and Goliath fight".

"If it doesn't go ahead then obviously we're not going to see those benefits", said Sumexheltza. "Now they choose the hard way or the harder way", he said.

Ecojustice, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation called the ruling a "critical win" for the climate and coastal ecosystems.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson shared his fellow mayor's conviction that the court ruling is "monumental".

Horgan acknowledged that the ruling could be "devastating" to many Alberta residents, many of whom have a vested interest in the expansion but stressed that his responsibility is to the people of B.C.

Premier John Horgan said: "This case has always been about First Nations rights" in a press conference.

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