Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project route map. (TransCanada)

Provincially approved LNG pipeline project faces legal hurdle

TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project challenged in Federal Court of Appeal

A successful legal challenge regarding the provincial jurisdiction of TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline may place the project in the hands of federal regulators.

Michael Sawyer, a former environmental consultant from Smithers, argued that the $5-billion 900 kilometre pipeline project should be regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB) and that it shouldn’t have been transferred to provincial jurisdiction.

Insisting that TransCanada is a federal network of gas pipelines, Sawyer filed an application with the NEB to declare the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline under federal jurisdiction.

He was denied — at least until Federal Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in Ottawa on July 19 when the court ruled in favour of Sawyer.

“The court found that the board (NEB) essentially had been too quick to dismiss the request by Mr. Sawyer to have a hearing into the jurisdiction over the pipeline,” said Sawyer’s lawyer, William Andrews, who added that the court went further and found that the board had made legal errors regarding the constitutional issues that apply.

“The board had put a lot of weight on the fact that the pipeline begins and ends within British Columbia but didn’t take into account the jurisdictional consequences of the fact that the purpose of the Prince Rupert pipeline is to bring gas from the northeast of B.C. to Prince Rupert for export — and it’s that ‘for export’ that is a factor pointing to federal jurisdiction,” Andrews said.

The proposed pipeline project would bring natural gas to the North Coast from the North Montney Mainline, north of Hudson’s Hope, which received approvals in January 2017 from the B.C. government with 21 conditions attached. The NEB had already approved the northeastern pipeline with 45 conditions in April 2015.

The Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project is 780 kilometres of land based pipeline and 120 kilometres of marine based pipeline that would end at Lelu Island, near Port Edward — where the federally approved Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG project is planned to be built. However, as stated on its website, TransCanada is waiting for a final investment decision from Petronas to begin construction.

In November 2014, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office approved of the pipeline project, then in October 2015, the BC Oil and Gas Commission, a Crown corporation, issued the pipeline’s final permits.

But provincial approvals weren’t enough for the environmental organization, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, that is financially supporting Sawyer’s legal process to push for federal regulation.

“It’s a solid judgment supporting the issue that this should in fact have undergone a federal review and a more rigorous environmental assessment process,” said Greg Knox, executive director for SkeenaWild.

“We feel that the federal process is much more rigorous and would allow us to put in place more stringent protections to protect salmon habitat along the pipeline especially in the Skeena watershed.”

Should TransCanada and the National Energy Board disagree with the judgment, they have the opportunity to apply to the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal against the decision within 60 days.

“We are still reviewing the judgment of the court, and considering our options,” said Shawn Howard spokesperson for TransCanada. “It is notable that this decision is not a determination that federal jurisdiction applies. Instead, the court determined that the National Energy Board needs to reconsider their original decision about holding a hearing to determine whether federal jurisdiction applies. Accordingly, the court remitted the case back to the NEB for reconsideration.”

If the legal process continues with the Supreme Court, Knox said SkeenaWild will continue to financially support the legal process but they’re hoping it doesn’t come down to that.

“We’re hoping that the NEB has a hearing and ideally it will go through a federal review,” Knox said.

Pacific NorthWest LNGPrince Rupert Gas TransmissionSkeenaWild

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Water Quality Advisory’ lifted for Prince Rupert

Some Prince Rupert residents are still under a ‘Boil Water Notice’

Liberals and Greens yet to announce North Coast candidates

North Coast candidates have until two weeks before the election to name contenders

Cullen confirmed as B.C. NDP candidate for Stikine despite party’s equity policy

Former Tahltan Central Government President Annita McPhee said the process made her feel “abused”

Planned upgrades didn’t go as planned

CityWest said a fibre-line break caused outages to all customers

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Most Read