By Mark Worthing, Climate and Conservation Campaigner
From Ex-Enron executives convincing the federal government to buy a leaky tar sands pipeline to SNC-Lavalin lawyers doing Indigenous consultation for the federal government, the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers is a story of corporate influence over governments, review processes and the public interest.
After turning a blind eye to the climate change impacts of Trans Mountain, the National Energy Board made a remarkable admission about the impacts of TMX on endangered southern resident orcas in its Reconsideration Report released February 22.
In short, just like in their original review of the project three years ago, the NEB admitted that the project’s oil tankers would have “significant adverse effects” on the orcas, but that they decided expanding a tar sands pipeline was more important.
Yes, you are understanding that right – the National Energy Board thinks pipelines are more important than the potential extinction of orcas.
This round of review was so problematic, inadequately scoped, rushed, and inherently compromised by the obvious bias of the federal government that it has set itself up for inevitable legal appeals.
At the same time this half-baked attempt at public review has attempted to give Trans Mountain a second rubber stamp, the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal has broken Trudeau’s cabinet into pieces.
And guess who the federal government appointed as the special envoy for discussions with First Nations regarding the pipeline? None other than the lawyer for SNC-Lavalin, Frank Iacobucci.
Would you trust SNC-Lavalin’s lawyer to handle consultation with First Nations for the federal government while the government is pushing hard for a tar sands pipeline?
That’s how I feel too.
You can almost hear the Kinder Morgan executives laughing from Texas.
So, what’s next?
On the near horizon are the constitutional challenges and referrals in the provincial tit-for-tat game between Alberta and BC.
The outstanding question is this: does a province have the constitutional right to regulate and limit certain substances that are harmful to human health and the environment if this creates implications for the economic prospects of another province?
The BC government has filed a reference case in BC Supreme Court to answer the question of whether the government can limit the transportation of dangerous substances like diluted bitumen across the province. BC’s reference case begins March 18 and could yield a ruling anytime this spring or summer.
But in a desperate attempt to protect the tar sands industry, the Alberta government has retaliated by bringing in legislation that could limit fuel exports to BC. While BC has already attempted to challenge this legislation, a Calgary court has ruled that the legislation can only be challenged if and when it is enforced. Should Alberta enact limitations on fuel exports to BC, this would likely be unconstitutional.
Curiously, however – in a move that contradicts its public stance against Trans Mountain – the BC government is actually fighting the Squamish Nation in court to uphold BC’s Environmental Assessment Certificate and Equivalency Agreement with the NEB. This is despite the project’s approval being quashed in court last year after the original NEB report was found to be too deeply flawed.
So, while Premier Horgan is throwing high-fives with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and together stating publicly they are opposed to TMX, behind courtroom doors they are defending the provincial certificates granted to Trans Mountain during the Christy Clark era.
In short, the government is leaning on their public communications to garner support and influence popular opinion, but they aren’t using all the tools in their toolbox to fight this pipeline.
That’s why—while we stand ready for another possible round of Pull Together to support Indigenous legal challenges—we’re asking the BC government to stop fighting the Squamish Nation and re-do an environmental review of the project under a new process the public can trust. And we ask you to do the same.