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Soon after the Canadian federal government announced that work will resume on the controversial Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project, the Federal Court of Appeal said it will allow challenges to the project, filed by six indigenous groups.
Reuters reports, citing a statement by the court, that the challenges target Ottawa’s decision to approve the project, alleging it had not consulted indigenous groups adequately enough. The groups urged the government to organize the consultations as soon as possible.
This is the latest setback for a project already delayed substantially due to opposition from environmentalists, First Nations, and, perhaps most notably, British Columbia. The project pitted Alberta against its neighbor and led to an exchange of threats, warnings, and import vetoes.
B.C.’s latest attempt to stop the project it says will lead to heightened risk of oil spills in its territory was to approach the provincial Court of Appeals with the argument that it should have powers over how much oil passes through its territory.
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 good news for Alberta and the federal government is that the federal Court of Appeal said it would not allow challenges on environmental grounds or on the grounds of conflict of interests. It would only allow challenges that have to do with consultations between the government and First Nations.
“The applicants do acknowledge that the Government of Canada introduced some new initiatives to assist consultation and added some conditions on the project approval that was ultimately given,” the court said. “But to them this is just window-dressing, box-ticking and nice-sounding words, not the hard work of taking on board their concerns, exploring possible solutions, and collaborating to get to a better place.”
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.