Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
July 2019

Vol. 24, No.30 Week of July 28, 2019

Alberta notches victories

NEB clears way for Trans Mountain expansion work; Alberta court rules against BC

Gary Park

for Petroleum News

Alberta secured two pipeline-related rulings in mid-July at the expense of its often-antagonistic neighbor, British Columbia.

The first came from the National Energy Board, Canada’s federal regulator, which knocked down some key barriers standing in the way of construction resuming on portions of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The other resulted in an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge rebuffing British Columbia’s efforts to prevent Alberta from stopping oil shipments to meet British Columbia’s fuel needs if that province continued to stall work on Trans Mountain.

The board re-validated all orders and decisions supporting work on Trans Mountain before they were scuttled last year.

The NEB said “decisions and orders issued prior to the Federal Court of Appeal decision will remain valid.”

That means 73% of the pipeline route has legal approval and 64 of 98 pre-construction conditions have been fully met.

The list of approvals includes previously issued orders allowing Trans Mountain Corp., the federal agency which owns the project, to start work on “portions of the pipeline route” along the pipeline right of way and at the Westridge Marine Terminal at Burnaby in the Port of Vancouver.

However, the NEB gave no indication when full construction would resume on the expansion project to carry 590,000 barrels per day of oil sands bitumen from Alberta, in addition to the existing line that carries 300,000 bpd.

Construction stalled

Construction was stalled a year ago when the Court of Appeal ruled the Canadian government had failed to consult properly with First Nations affected by the pipeline or studied the impact of the expanded pipeline system on marine wildlife.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in re-approving the expansion plan in June, said Trans Mountain had complied with the court directive, although some First Nations and environmental groups have filed a fresh set of court challenges.

Trans Mountain said it was reviewing the NEB decision and would “have more information to share regarding the processes and construction schedule in the coming weeks.”

The company had asked on June 18 for all previous orders to be reinstated and for the estimated C$9 billion project to be “brought back to the same state of construction readiness that it was prior to the Federal Court of Appeal decision.”

Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, welcomed the “positive step” by the NEB to get “an incredibly important piece of infrastructure for this entire nation built.”

He told the Canadian Press his organization now needed construction to resume “in a timely fashion.”

In recent months sections of pipeline meeting about one-third needed for the project have been delivered by train to storage yards in Alberta and British Columbia.

Court of Queen’s Bench

Separately, the so-called “turn off the taps legislation” was upheld by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Hall who said in a 10-page ruling that the British Columbia government had no right to mount a legal challenge in Alberta against Bill 12.

He said the only parties with the right to bring action against Bill 12 were the Attorney-General of Alberta and the Attorney-General of Canada.

Hall said neither Alberta nor British Columbia could find any previously examples “in which one province has sued another province” in trying to invalidate the constitutional right of legislation enacted by the defendant province.

He said the proper venue for the disagreements was the Federal Court, insisting it was “not up to me to determine jurisdiction.”

British Columbia has also filed a similar motion in the Federal Court and had no immediate reaction to Hall’s verdict.

Bill 12 was passed, but never enacted, by the Alberta legislature under the former New Democratic Party government in an attempt to pressure British Columbia to drop its fight against the Trans Mountain expansion.

The recently elected Alberta government under United Conservative Party was quick to proclaim Bill 12 after Premier Jason Kenney was sworn into office in April, although he has said the legislation won’t be used unless B.C. introduces further roadblocks to the pipeline.

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