FILE – B.C. Attorney General David Eby at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

B.C.’s NDP government will be appealing a BC Appeal Court ruling where a five-judge panel unanimously agreed that the province has no constitutional right to restrict the transport of bitumen through inter-provincial pipelines.

READ MORE: Court says B.C. can’t restrict oil shipments in key case for Trans Mountain

Attorney General David Eby announced in Vancouver Friday, just a few hours after the court decision was released, that the case would be brought to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“While we are disappointed with the decision, our courts have an important role to play in upholding the rule of law. That is why we referred this question to the courts in the first place,” he told reporters.

“We continue to believe we have the ability and authority to protect our environment and economy, so we will exercise our right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Reference cases are automatically heard by Canada’s top court.

Premier John Horgan called the decision disappointing while at an unrelated funding announcement in Kelowna.

The decision by the BC Appeal Court notably marks a win for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which has been a contentious project pitting Alberta and B.C. politicians and tax payers against one another.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion. Construction was paused last August after the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the federal permits.

The project would triple the pipeline’s capacity to carry diluted bitumen from the Edmonton area to Metro Vancouver, and increase the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

The province had filed a constitutional reference question to the B.C. Court of Appeal that asked whether it had the authority to create a permitting regime for companies that wished to increase their flow of diluted bitumen.

A five-judge panel agreed unanimously that the amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act were not constitutional because they would interfere with the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines.

READ MORE: B.C. legislation only applies to Trans Mountain, pipeline proponent argues

READ MORE: Big court ruling could set Trans Mountain pipeline’s fate: experts

Justice Mary Newbury wrote on behalf of the panel that the substance of the proposed amendments were to place conditions on and, if necessary, prohibit the movement of heavy oil through a federal undertaking.

Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley was quick to comment on the court decision.

“Turns out B.C.’s toolbox was more Fisher Price than DeWalt. This is a good day for people with toolboxes all across Canada,” she wrote.

With files from Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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