Nature Canada to Intervene in NEB Reconsideration of Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

Andrea Lesperance, Student-at-Law.

This blog was written by Andrea Lesperance, who is an articling student at Nature Canada.

Nature Canada and BC Nature are intervening on the National Energy Board’s reconsideration of the TMX Expansion to ensure a proper assessment of oil tanker impacts from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project – one which considers risk to marine bird species. The Trans Mountain project would increase Edmonton to Vancouver pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day, and result in oil tanks moving almost daily through the Salish Sea past critical Important Bird Areas such as Boundary Bay. Increasing oil tanker traffic with Trans Mountain bitumen in the Salish Sea, with its powerful winter storms and narrow curving channels, will increase the risk of a catastrophic oil spill.

For the intervention, Nature Canada and BC Nature are represented by the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation, a non-profit public interest environmental law organization. Pacific CELL is unique insofar as its mission is to be a vehicle for providing cutting-edge experiential opportunities for junior lawyers and law students to develop litigation skills; it is the environmental law equivalent of a teaching hospital.

In August 2018, the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) quashed the federal government’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, saying the NEB’s review of the project failed to consider the impacts of an increase in oil tanker traffic in the Salish Sea on the Southern Resident Orcas and that the government did not engage in sufficient consultation with Indigenous peoples impacted by the project. The FCA directed the NEB to reconsider Kinder Morgan’s application for a Certification of Public Convenience and Necessity.

Subsequently, the NEB has sought comments on the whether project-related marine shipping should be assessed in conjunction with the pipeline expansion. Nature Canada and BC Nature, represented by Pacific CELL, filed their response to the NEB’s request for comments about the reconsideration process. The submission urged the NEB to conduct an assessment or project-related shipping that would properly consider impacts on marine birds.

Nature Canada’s view is that the NEB has never adequately considered birds and key Important Bird Areas such as Boundary Bay along the tanker route in the Salish Sea.

This is the same position Nature Canada and BC Nature have taken since 2015. At the initial NEB hearings, Nature Canada argued that Trans Mountain’s application for a Certification of Public Convenience and Necessary and the NEB’s subsequent environmental assessment did not adequately consider risks posed to aquatic birds in the Salish Sea by the proposed pipeline expansion. You can read more about Nature Canada’s past involvement here and here.

Want to do more to protect wildlife in the Salish Sea? Sign our petition asking Minister McKenna to protect the Southern Resident Orcas of the Salish Sea from tanker traffic via an Emergency Order under the Species at Risk Act.

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