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The British Columbia government has admitted it has no power to stop the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project but has argued it should have the power to limit the amount of crude oil that flows across its territory from Alberta, the Globe and Mail reports, citing a lawyer for the B.C. government.
The argument was heard by the B.C. Court of Appeals where the NDP government of British Columbia took its case against the Trans Mountain project.
“(B.C.) accepts it could not stop a federally regulated pipeline … But so too a federal undertaking is not immune from provincial environmental laws,” the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Joseph Arvay said. “The likelihood of an event [of an oil spill] is uncertain but carries the possibility of catastrophic impacts.”
The government of Alberta submitted their own statements regarding the issue, with the former asserting that the B.C. government “has repeatedly committed publicly to doing everything it can to prevent the (Trans Mountain) Pipeline Expansion Project from going ahead. It lacks the constitutional authority to do it directly, that is: stop the project or place sufficient roadblocks in its way that it cannot realistically proceed.”
The federal government, for its part, has acknowledged the potential adverse environmental impact of an oil spill from the pipeline, but has signaled it will continue to support the Trans Mountain expansion project as a crucial piece of infrastructure to get Albertan heavy to international markets.
In its statement for the court, Ottawa struck at the B.C. government for trying to find a loophole in the law to get its way.
It said B.C.’s attempt to restrict the flow of oil raised “a significant concern that the proposed legislation is in fact a legislative Trojan Horse, a bill that has been carefully crafted to appear constitutionally valid so that it might receive a preliminary judicial seal of approval in this reference, but which in substance is an unconstitutional ‘tool’ whose only logical purpose is to limit federally regulated pipelines and railways.”
B.C.’s lawyers have insisted that the province has no “axe to grind” with pipelines in general and was motivated by purely environmental concerns. The case has attracted a lot of attention from the legislative profession as it basically comes down to how much power provinces have over infrastructure on their territory as opposed to the federal government, which is by law in charge of said infrastructure.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.