BC Court of Appeals delivers decision on Environmental Laws
May 28, 2019
On Friday May 24, 2019, the British Columbia (B.C.) Court of Appeal decided that the provincial government does not have the authority to impose environmental laws limiting the flow of bitumen through pipelines.
The unanimous decision by the five-judge panel ruled that any legislation introduced by the B.C. government would not have jurisdiction on contents that are moving through a federally regulated pipeline. This brings about some welcome news for ongoing disputes around the Trans Mountain Expansion project. To date, the project has faced issues that include; interprovincial disagreements and trade barriers in Canada, government intervention in the private sector, and uncertainty in Canada’s regulatory processes. The combination of which have stalled the project despite receiving approval from the National Energy Board in 2016.
Ongoing uncertainty arising from Bills C-48 and C-69 are also hindering the advancement of infrastructure and energy projects and harming investor confidence in our country. If passed, Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, would prevent tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of Canadian petroleum products from getting to international markets. Recently, the Senate Committee overlooking the bill recommended that the government not proceed with the controversial bill. However, it must still face a full vote on the Senate floor and in its reintroduction for a third reading it may see more amendments. If passed the legislation would directly harm Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia’s economies by targeting our responsibly produced energy products.
Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, which aims to overhaul how major projects are regulated in Canada, has also been eroding investor confidence. The bill, also in the Senate, has faced overwhelming criticism from industry across the country for the uncertainty it would create around assessment criteria and approval timelines. This is in addition to the criticism it has faced for moving the assessment process away from science-based decision making and placing it in the hands of politicians. Following public hearings earlier in the year, the Senate Committee passed 187 amendments to Bill C-69 reinforcing the need to overhaul the legislation. Amendments to the bill now need to be voted on by the Senate before the House of Commons can consider potential amendments.
Removing tensions around jurisdiction and ongoing regulatory uncertainty around getting major projects built across Canada would allow us to bring more of our responsibly produced goods to international markets. Getting more of our product to the world will allow Canada to remain a leader in resource-based energy while allowing us the flexibility to further pursue energy production from renewable sources.
B.C.’s Attorney General David Eby has stated that the provincial government will now appeal the B.C. Court decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.