VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government wants to join the legal fight against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline as it warned the company behind the project that it cannot begin work on public land until it gets final approval from the province.
The province’s NDP government has hired former judge Thomas Berger to provide legal advice to the government as it seeks intervener status in legal challenges against the federal government’s approval of the pipeline expansion.
The NDP has opposed the expansion of the pipeline, which received the blessing of the province’s former Liberal government earlier this year.
Premier John Horgan promised in the provincial election this spring to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the $7.4-billion project by Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Canada.
Several First Nations and municipalities have filed legal challenges against the expansion, which would triple the capacity of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline and increase the number of tankers in Vancouver-area waters seven-fold.
Environment Minister George Heyman said the increase in tanker traffic is not in the province’s “best interests.”
“Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs. We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province’s future,” he said in a statement.
Trans Mountain has said construction on the project is set to begin in September, but Heyman said only three of eight environmental management plans that would allow work to begin have been accepted and it is unlikely those remaining will get approval before work was to start.
The other five management plans have not been accepted because the company didn’t adequately consult First Nations, Heyman said.
“Until that has been completed, Kinder Morgan, with the exception of some private land and some clearing of right-of-way cannot put shovels in the ground.”
Heyman said the province is also committed to further consultations with First Nations on the project, including the impact it has on Aboriginal rights and title.
The province’s position won support from the Green party, which has signed an agreement giving its backing to the minority NDP government in the legislature.
“Government has a responsibility to base major decisions affecting the lives and livelihood of so many people on sound evidence, and in the case of Trans Mountain that standard was not met,” Green Leader Andrew Weaver said in a news release.
“B.C.’s future lies in innovative growth areas like clean tech and the value-added resource sector, not the sunset fossil fuel industry of the last century.'”
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