The federal government has ordered the National Energy Board to reconsider the proposed Trans Mountain expansion project to take into account the increased marine traffic and impact on killer whales that would result from it.
The board will have 22 weeks to consider marine traffic issues raised by the Federal Court of Appeal when it quashed Ottawa’s approval of the project, ruling the NEB had not fully included those issues in its conclusions.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Friday that the government will be outlining its plan to re-engage with First Nations at a later date. He gave no indication how long that consultation process would take place.
In late August, the appeal court ruled that Ottawa needed to return the project to the National Energy Board, which had concluded that it did not have jurisdiction over marine issues connected to the project. Given the board’s view, it did not consider the impact on an endangered killer whales species as part of its final recommendation to the cabinet for conditional approval.
The court also said Ottawa had failed to adequately consult First Nations because it had not sought to accommodate specific concerns raised by communities about the impact on them.
Mr Sohi insisted the government was not prejudging the coming deliberations of the National Energy Board and denied suggestions that the tight timeline was related to a looming spring election in Alberta, where Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party government faces a tough battle to retain power.
Ms Notley had urged the federal government to pass emergency legislation declaring the National Energy Board had no jurisdiction over marine issues, and to quickly conclude additional consultations with First Nations.
The premier also called for Ottawa to appeal the ruling, though acknowledged an appeal would be a lengthy process. Mr Sohi said the government will announce whether it will appeal the judgment at a later date.
While Mr Sohi said Friday that the government was not prejudging the National Energy Board review, he did offer a strong endorsement for the project. The Liberal government has purchased the existing pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. for $4.5-billion and will finance the expansion project, with the hope of selling it to private-sector operators.
“We truly believe the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project is an investment in Canada’s future,” he said. “It must move forward in the right way.”