Vancouver mayor says ‘more robust review’ needed of Trans Mountain

Gregor Robertson says National Energy Board ignored key pieces of evidence showing potential for ‘real and catastrophic’ damage from a spill in approval

VANCOUVER – The City of Vancouver is the latest group to launch a court challenge aimed at quashing the National Energy Board’s recommended approval of the $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The city said in its court application that the energy board’s recommendation to approve the expansion of the oil pipeline, subject to 157 conditions, is invalid and unlawful.

The board excluded oral cross-examination, provided inadequate information sharing and failed to properly consult communities along the pipeline and tanker route, the city contends.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the board ignored key pieces of evidence showing the potential for “real and catastrophic” damage from a spill, and the impact of an expanded pipeline on greenhouse gas emissions, both locally and abroad.

“There’s obviously a need for a much more robust review,” Robertson said in an interview. “I also believe that the Kinder Morgan proposal is wrong and if the appropriate scientific evidence and community feedback is considered, it will be rejected.”

He said the recent efforts of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to enhance the Trans Mountain review were helpful, but the process, which was streamlined to meet time limits set by the previous Conservative government, was too flawed.

The Squamish Nation, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation filed their own applications for judicial review in the Federal Court of Appeal last week.

The National Energy Board said it could not comment specifically on the city’s application.

Trans Mountain spokeswoman Ali Hounsell said the company is currently reviewing the legal challenges and will respond through the court.

The project would triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton to Metro Vancouver. It would increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

The energy board issued its recommendation last month and the federal government is expected to make its decision in December.

The federal government has convened a ministerial panel that will conduct additional consultation. Environment and Climate Change Canada also assessed the upstream impacts and found these emissions could be between 20 and 25 megatonnes annually.

“A lot of the objections are over the processes that were implemented by the National Energy Board, which is why the government announced a ministerial panel that will take a number of months to listen to those people who feel they were not heard properly,” Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr Carr told reporters in Ottawa.

The federal government announced on Monday it would undertake a sweeping public consultation to review the way major resource projects are assessed and approved.

Chris Tollefson, a University of Victoria law professor who represented B.C. Nature and Nature Canada in the Trans Mountain hearings, said the legal challenges could force the federal government to delay its decision on the project.

“I think there’s a good possibility that the government will take a close look at these lawsuits and the claims that are being made, and it may, based on that, send some homework back to the NEB.”

Enbridge’s (TSX:ENB) Northern Gateway pipeline project faced a series of similar court challenges after the federal cabinet approved the project in 2014.

Eight First Nations, four environmental groups and one labour union launched the challenges, which were heard together at the Federal Court of Appeal last fall. The court has yet to release a decision.

With files from Bruce Cheadle in Ottawa

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