British Columbia has the right to pass environmental laws to mitigate the harm that could result from the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but it isn’t trying to stop the project outright, provincial lawyer Joseph Arvay told the B.C. Court of Appeal earlier this week.
The court “is considering a reference case filed by the province that asks if it has jurisdiction to regulate the transport of oil through its territory and restrict bitumen shipments from Alberta,” CBC states. “The case asks if proposed amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act are valid, and if the province has authority to control the shipment of heavy oils based on the impact spills could have on the environment, human health, or communities.”
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Media reports this week said the hearing got under way with about three dozen lawyers in the room representing various stakeholders.
Referring to B.C.’s opponents in the case, Arvay told a five-judge panel that “they (are all) saying just one thing. It is this: that even if the pipelines or the railways they own or operate create a risk of catastrophic environmental harm because of the substance that they carry, the province is nevertheless powerless to enact laws to prevent that risk from materializing. We say that the province is not required to accept such a fate, and that the province can be proactive in doing what it can to protect the environment.”
He added that B.C. has no “axe to grind” against pipeline, and was not seeking to block the pipeline by putting forward the amendments.
“The purpose was never to prevent the construction or operation of the pipeline. The purpose and effect was always to protect the environment,” he said. That’s because “we know that things don’t go according to plan. Accidents happen.”
When the five-day hearing began Monday, Canada had not yet filed arguments, CBC reports. “Alberta, Saskatchewan, Trans Mountain Corporation, and the Railway Association of Canada are among 13 parties that have filed documents supporting the federal government in the case.”