Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Delay

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The Federal Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday, August 31, 2018 that construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) project had to cease. The pipeline expansion is to carry diluted bitumen to the Westridge Terminal on British Columbia’s coast. The pipeline had won 16 previous court challenges.

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What does it mean?

In broad terms, the court ruled:

  • The federal government did not meet its obligation to consult with and explore accommodations with Indigenous communities. That obligation was previously spelled out by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Trudeau Liberal government, however, did not empower the panel that met with Indigenous communities to examine possible accommodations. Hence the court’s ruling.
  • The federal government did not meet its obligation to protect killer whales off the West coast when the oil is subsequently shipped overseas. The National Energy Board needed to include the effects of increased tanker traffic in its environmental assessment. It failed to do so.
  • The court stated that delays on the construction of the pipeline should be brief. In other words, the court anticipates that TMX will proceed once the specific and focused concerns of Indigenous communities are addressed and the additional environmental assessment is completed.

What is the reaction?

  • The energy industry is facing new uncertainties. That will hurt future investment, the Alberta economy, and the people of Alberta in particular.
  • Anticipated pipeline jobs are at risk. That will hurt the members of building trades unions in Alberta and BC as well as non-union labor.
  • Expert, media, and political opinions have ranged from cries of disaster to suggestions that the setback is temporary. Today, perhaps cooler heads are prevailing.
  • Some Indigenous advocates of TMX, like Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Metis, sees the court ruling as an opportunity to finally get the consultation process right.
  • The federal government‘s purchase of Trans Mountain for $4.5 million has been approved by Kinder Morgan shareholders. Justin Trudeau and various federal cabinet ministers have reiterated the federal government’s support for the pipeline and their determination to proceed quickly.
  • Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has asked for an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and for Parliament to meet and fix the regulatory system to allow pipeline construction to continue. Clear criteria to meet the standards required for consultation and accommodation need to be spelled out. In the meantime, Alberta has withdrawn support for the federal climate change plan, which may ratchet up pressure on the federal government to find a quick solution to the Trans Mountain impasse.
  • Update: The Natural Resources committee will meet this afternoon to discuss the pipeline decision.
  • With a federal election in the not-too-distant future and a provincial election next year, both the Liberal federal government and the provincial NDP government are feeling the pressure. Now is the time to prompt them to take quick action that will satisfactorily meet the conditions set forth in the federal court ruling.

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What can you do? Take Action to Support TMX

  1. Share this blog on your favourite social media. Tweet about the project. Follow BTA on Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Contact your local MLA or MP.

Use your street address to find contact information for your MLA.

Use your postal code to find your MP.


“The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project is vital to Canada’s national interests. The federal government needs to find a solution that will enable TMX to proceed as quickly as possible. I support the Alberta government’s call for the federal government to appeal yesterday’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and to recall an emergency session of Parliament to act so that TMX can proceed.”


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