Protecting British Columbia’s pristine coastline — and all the ecosystems and economic sectors that depend on it — is at the centre of the province’s pipeline fight.

“Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity would be put at risk by a diluted bitumen spill,” says B.C. attorney general David Eby.

But in a unanimous decision, the B.C. Court of Appeal says the province can’t restrict oil shipments through its borders.

The 66-page Environmental Management ruling released Friday morning says doing so would interfere with the federal government’s jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines.

“We do disagree with the decision and we’re disappointed by it, obviously,” says Eby. “We are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

The Horgan government says it’s an area of law that needs to be defined by the country’s highest court because environmental issues weren’t considered when the constitution was created.

“This is the continuation of what has been a historic discussion in Canada,” says premier John Horgan. “Where does the ability to protect citizens rest ultimately when it comes to the land? I believe it’s a provincial jurisdiction.”

Alberta premier Jason Kenney tweeted that the appeal court ruling is a “win-win for B.C., Alberta and all of Canada” and “the time for obstruction of TMX is now over.”

“Obviously, the federal Conservative Party is pleased by this decision,” says leader Andrew Scheer. “However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty as it relates to future court processes.”

As for the cost to taxpayers for the on-going legal battle, the NDP says it’s just a tiny fraction of what a catastrophic spill would cost our coast.

“It is a fraction of a fraction of the cost of a diluted bitumen spell in terms of the impacts on economy on jobs and just cleaning up the mess so we think it’s worthwhile,” Eby says.

Tess van Straaten