Posted on June 30, 2016 (updated: July 2, 2020)

Court ruling shuts door on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline

Humback whale
Photo by Whit Welles Wwelles14 | CC-BY-SA 3.0

VANCOUVER – Northern Gateway opponents are celebrating a landmark court decision that strikes down the federal government’s approval of Enbridge’s controversial pipeline project.

“The court has confirmed that the federal government’s consultations with First Nations fell well short of the mark. Our clients are thrilled that the court has quashed the permits and sent this project back to the federal cabinet for reconsideration,” Barry Robinson, Ecojustice lawyer, said. “The court’s decision confirms that the environmental assessment of major pipeline projects was badly eroded by the previous government’s dismantling of environmental laws. I am pleased that the court has given the federal cabinet the option to reassess this project in line with current policies and public interests.”

In its decision, the court determined that the government’s consultation with First Nations failed to provide an opportunity for dialogue about the Joint Review Panel report and failed to fill gaps required to assess the impacts on First Nations. The court also found that the federal cabinet alone had the power to assess whether the environmental assessment was adequate, a change made by the Harper government.

“First Nations, local communities, and environmental interests said ‘no’ to Enbridge 12 years ago when it first proposed the project. And now that ‘no’ has the backing of the courts,” Robinson said. “Between on-the-ground opposition and the federal government’s promises to keep B.C.’s north coast tanker free and demonstrate climate leadership, this pipeline is never getting built.”

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline has faced fierce opposition from a diverse array of critics, including First Nations groups, municipalities, community groups, and non-profits such as Ecojustice clients Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and Stand (formerly ForestEthics). In recent weeks, more than 2,000 people have written to the National Energy Board to comment on Enbridge’s request to extend its Dec, 31, 2016 construction deadline.

Throughout the project’s review process, opponents raised concerns about First Nations treaty rights, impacts to at-risk species and fragile ecosystems, and the risk of a catastrophic oil tanker spill off of B.C.’s north coast.

Last October, this opposition led to a historic Federal Court of Appeal hearing, which consolidated 18 separate legal challenges against Enbridge’s pipeline. The hearing, which lasted six days, was the longest of its kind in modern history.

Client statements:

Dr. Paul Paquet, senior scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation said:

“The prime minister recognized the importance of B.C.’s north coast when he promised to ban tanker traffic in the region. Now that the courts have also recognized the importance of protecting this fragile ecosystem, we need the government to uphold its commitment. We cannot risk an oil spill in this critical ecosystem. There is too much at stake.”

Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans Society said:

“We know from Enbridge’s own shoddy public safety record that tar sands oil spills have devastating consequences. Today’s decision is a victory across the board: for the wildlife living in this marine environment, and for the communities living at its shores. ”

Sven Biggs, Campaigner, Stand (formerly ForestEthics Advocacy) said:

“Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would have a single purpose: To move dirty fossil fuels from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific Coast. This project is completely at odds with Canada’s climate objectives, and the public knows that. Enbridge will never get a pipeline built through northern B.C. – the people, and now the courts, have shown that they will not allow it.”

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