VANCOUVER—After years of protests, expensive legal challenges and heated political rhetoric, B.C.’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was dealt a crushing blow as the federal government approved the project for a second time.
The announcement comes the day after the House of Commons passed a symbolic Liberal motion, declaring a “climate emergency” and reaffirming Canada’s commitment to its Paris emissions target.
The expansion will twin the existing 1,100-kilometre pipeline from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C., and is expected to result in a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic through the Burrard Inlet. It will also create an equivalent of 15,000 construction jobs and 37,000 other jobs each year over 20 years of operation, according to Trans Mountain.
The controversial project has pitted B.C. leaders against their Alberta counterparts as well as the federal government. The two sides disagree about whether the environmental consequences of an oil spill and increased tanker traffic are worth the economic gain from exporting crude oil to international markets.
Environmental groups, Indigenous governments and the B.C. government have launched multiple legal challenges to either halt the project or stymie the flow of oil if the pipeline is constructed. Conservationists are alarmed about the pipeline’s potential impact on Fraser River salmon and the endangered southern resident killer whales.
Meanwhile, about 50 people attended a pro-pipeline rally, hosted by a coalition of indigenous groups, in downtown Vancouver Tuesday afternoon.
In May, B.C.’s Court of Appeal ruled the province does not have the jurisdiction to regulate the flow of oil through its territory. The B.C. government filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada last Friday. A hearing date has not yet been set.
Last year, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the project’s federal approval — a major victory for the pipeline’s opponents. The court said Ottawa’s consultation with First Nations was flawed and that ignoring oil tanker risks was an “unjustified failure.”
In response, the federal government asked the National Energy Board to reconsider the project in light of risks to the marine environment. The federal government also undertook new consultations with First Nations.