B.C. government hires outside counsel to begin Trans Mountain pipeline legal challenge


The provincial government has announced it has hired outside counsel to begin its legal challenge of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

WATCH: The new B.C. Government outlined how it plans to halt the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. It is joining the legal battle against the Expansion Project. It says the company failed to meet the standards for consulting with First Nations. And until it does, work cannot proceed. Mary Griffin reports.

On Thursday, B.C. Environment and Climate Strategy Minister George Heyman and Attorney General David Eby said they had hired Thomas Berger, QC, to provide advice to the government.

Berger is a former B.C. Supreme Court Justice and a former B.C. NDP leader. He has a history of representing Indigenous interests in court, having been involved in the landmark 1973 Calder case that paved the way for Aboriginal land right claims.

“There is a new government,” Eby said. “In this court matter, ensuring? our government-to-government relations with First Nations are protected, this is a priority.”

Heyman said Berger will represent the government in two separate legal actions related to the pipeline. Berger will help the province seek intervenor status in a judicial review of the National Energy Board’s pipeline approval process, which is scheduled for November.

Berger will help the province seek intervenor status in a judicial review of the National Energy Board’s pipeline approval process, which is scheduled for November. The government is also seeking advice for a separate court case in B.C. Supreme Court, where the Squamish First Nation is challenging the adequacy of consultation.

“Our government has been clear and consistent that the expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline is not in B.C.’s best interests,” Heyman said.

“We will, as we have stated repeatedly, use every tool available [to stop it].”

Heyman said the provincial government will also take seriously its duty to “meaningfully consult” with First Nations groups before approving environmental assessment certificates for the project. The NDP said without the certificates, the Trans Mountain expansion cannot move forward on public land.

“Until these consultations are completed in a way that meets B.C.’s legal obligations, work on this project on public lands cannot proceed,” he said.

“We have no desire to shirk our responsibility in that regard and face suit.”

The previous B.C. Liberal government under former premier Christy Clark approved the pipeline earlier this year, saying the project had met a list of conditions including consultations with First Nations, environmental projections and a “fair share: of economic benefits for the province.

However, the B.C. NDP campaigned to halt the $7.4-billion project. Stopping the Kinder Morgan pipeline project was also a part of the NDP-Green confidence and supply agreement in the minority legislature.

According to Heyman, parts of the existing pipeline are on land privately owned by Kinder Morgan, but most of it passes through Crown land and First Nations territory.

The NDP is also exploring other potential measures to prevent the expansion.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said he was pleased by the government’s announcement.

?Employing every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is a key commitment in our Confidence and Supply Agreement,” Weaver said in a statement.

He also said in the B.C. Green caucus’ view, the National Energy Board process that led to the approval of the pipeline was “profoundly flawed.”

“Government has a responsibility to base major decisions affecting the lives and livelihood of so many people on sound evidence, and in the case of TransMountain that standard was not met.”

With files from the Canadian Press


Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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