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Ecojustice lawyers Margot and Dyna on Pender Island, where Southern Resident kiiller whales can be spotted from shore.

Photo: Ecojustice lawyers Margot and Dyna on Pender Island by Emily Chan

press release

Conservation groups launch new case challenging Trans Mountain Pipeline

July 8, 2019

VANCOUVER – Ecojustice is going back to court on behalf of Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation to challenge the federal government’s re-approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The groups submitted a motion to the Federal Court of Appeal this morning, asking for leave to launch a judicial review of Cabinet’s decision.

They argue that Cabinet failed to comply with its responsibility to protect critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales when it re-approved the project on June 18, 2019.

Spokespeople from the organizations issued the following statements:

Margot Venton, nature program director, Ecojustice:

“Cabinet cannot justify approving a project that will lead to the extinction of a critically endangered population— legally or morally. The government itself says endangered Southern Resident killer whales face imminent threats under their current conditions. This iconic population simply cannot handle increased, unmitigated threats from the Trans Mountain expansion.

“Beyond its immediate impacts on the Southern Resident killer whales, Ecojustice remains concerned about the threat Trans Mountain poses to our collective climate future. We are in a climate emergency. We simply can’t afford to build a project that will increase emissions at precisely the moment the science says we need to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint to avoid climate breakdown.”

Karen Wristen, executive director, Living Oceans Society:

“The global climate will be dangerously destabilized if we continue to behave as if Canadian oil products are not the problem.  The Prime Minister tells us he’s taken into account the emissions caused in Canada by mining the tar sands, but it’s clear that the impact of burning that oil over the next 50 years hasn’t been taken into account in approving this project.  It will drive ongoing acidification of the world’s oceans to new levels at which the survival of marine life becomes questionable. The climate isn’t going to take notice of whose emissions tip it over into a state of cascading and unpredictable change: we are all responsible and we are all at risk.”

Paul Paquet, senior scientist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation:

“The population of Southern Residents is small and declining, and the decline is expected to continue. In order to recover, these imperiled killer whales need urgent support, not an increase of physical and acoustical disturbances, oil spills, and contaminants associated with more tanker traffic. Entrusted to protect the Southern Residents, the federal government has struggled for years to fulfill its responsibility amid overdue and delayed recovery strategies. Its failure to do so is emblematic of the disarray and apparent political neglect in the government’s endangered species policy.”

This is the second time Ecojustice lawyers, acting on behalf of Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, have gone to court over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The groups won their first case in August 2018, when the Federal Court of Appeal struck down Cabinet’s previous approval of the project. The ruling forced the National Energy Board to re-evaluate the project’s marine shipping impacts and halted construction.

The expansion project would nearly triple capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and lead to a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic through critical Southern Resident killer whale habitat. In its 2019 report, the NEB itself concluded that project-related shipping “is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale.”

Cabinet re-approved the project despite these findings.

For a timeline of events and more facts about how the project will impact Southern Resident killer whales and the climate, please see the attached backgrounder.


Ecojustice is Canada’s largest environmental law charity. Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

Living Oceans Society has been a leader in the effort to protect Canada’s oceans since forming in 1998. Living Oceans Society advocates for oceans that are managed for the common good, according to science-based policies that consider ecosystems in their entirety.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation is a team of conservationists and scientists empowered by research to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. As a charitable, non-profit conservation science organization that operates a research lab, research station and a research/sailing vessel, they are unique in Canada.