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Court fight not over: Horgan

UPDATE: 1:15 p.m.

During an appearance in Kelowna Friday morning, Premier John Horgan said he was “disappointed” by Friday's B.C. Court of Appeal decision that ruled the province cannot restrict oil shipments through its borders.

Despite the ruling, Horgan says the issue is far from over in his eyes.

“These are areas of law that need to be defined. We've said all along that it was probably likely a Supreme Court (of Canada) decision. Mr. Eby, the Attorney General, is reviewing our appeal options at this time,” he said.

“I'm confident that we do have the jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal disagreed. There are other courts, higher courts, that we will likely appeal to, but I'll leave that to the Attorney General to resolve over the weekend.

“There's always been historically a tug and pull in our federation between the supremacy of federal jurisdiction versus that of provincial jurisdiction, and when it comes to areas of the environment, this is an untested area. That's why we went to the courts.”

He said his government would be making a decision on appealing to a higher court next week.


UPDATE: 9:35 a.m.

British Columbia's top court has ruled the province cannot restrict oil shipments through its borders in a decision that marks a win for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Alberta's efforts to get its resources to overseas markets.

The province filed a constitutional reference question to the B.C. Court of Appeal that asked whether it had the authority to create a permitting regime for companies that wished to increase their flow of diluted bitumen.

A five-judge panel agreed unanimously that the amendments to B.C.'s Environmental Management Act were not constitutional because they would interfere with the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.

Justice Mary Newbury wrote on behalf of the panel that the substance of the proposed amendments were to place conditions on and, if necessary, prohibit the movement of heavy oil through a federal undertaking.

Newbury also wrote that the legislation is not just an environmental law of "general application," but is targeted at one substance, heavy oil, in one interprovincial pipeline: the Trans Mountain expansion project.

"Immediately upon coming into force, it would prohibit the operation of the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline in the province until such time as a provincially appointed official decided otherwise," she said.

"This alone threatens to usurp the role of the (National Energy Board), which has made many rulings and imposed many conditions to be complied with by Trans Mountain for the protection of the environment."

B.C. argued that the proposed amendments were meant to protect its environment from a hazardous substance, while the federal government and Alberta said the goal was to block Trans Mountain.

Newbury wrote that even if the legislation was not intended to single out the expansion project, it has the potential to affect — and indeed "stop in its tracks" — the entire operation of Trans Mountain as a carrier and exporter of oil.

She said the National Energy Board is the body entrusted with regulating the flow of energy resources across Canada to export markets, and it has already imposed many conditions on Trans Mountain.

She added that the expansion is not just a British Columbia project because it affects the whole country.

The proposed amendments would have meant that Trans Mountain Corp., and any other company wishing to increase the amount of heavy oil it transported through B.C., would have had to apply for a "hazardous substance permit."

The permit application would have had to detail the risks to human health and the environment from a spill, plans to mitigate those risks and financial measures, including insurance, that ensured payment of cleanup costs.

A provincial public servant would have had the authority to impose conditions on a hazardous substance permit and cancel or suspend the permit if the company did not comply.

Saskatchewan, Trans Mountain Corp. and Enbridge Inc. also argued in court against B.C.'s proposed permit regime, while First Nations, cities and environmental groups supported it.


Original: 5:30 a.m.

A court will rule today if a proposed British Columbia law that restricts diluted-bitumen shipments through its borders is constitutional.

The decision is expected to be crucial for the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Alberta's efforts to get oilsands crude to overseas markets.

A panel of B.C. Court of Appeal judges has been mulling B.C.'s constitutional reference case that asks whether it can create a permit regime for companies that want to increase the flow of heavy oil through the province.

B.C. argues the proposed law is aimed at protecting its lands, rivers and lakes from a hazardous substance, but Alberta and the federal government say the goal is to delay or block the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The Trudeau government has purchased the pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion and Alberta sees it as an essential development to revitalize its sagging energy sector.

Saskatchewan, Trans Mountain Corp. and Enbridge Inc. also argued in court against B.C.'s proposed permit regime, while First Nations, cities and environmental groups supported it.



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