​Canada restarts approval process for Trans Mountain Expansion

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Image: Flickr/Justin Trudeau

Canada has restarted efforts to build the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion after a court quashed its permits.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced Friday the country’s National Energy Board will have 22 weeks to re-examine the project with added consideration of its marine impact, in an apparent bid to rectify one of the shortcomings identified by the court ruling last month. The government will instruct the NEB to consider marine traffic, appoint a special marine technical adviser to the regulator and submit information on whale protection, Sohi said.

“Today we’re announcing an important part of a plan that will allow us to move the Trans Mountain pipeline project forward in the right way,” he said at a news conference in Halifax. “We truly believe the Trans Mountain pipeline project is an investment in Canada’s future.”

Other steps are likely to come. Sohi said Canada would announce soon whether it will appeal the court ruling, and how it will proceed with consultation with indigenous communities. Sohi declined to detail those measures Friday.

The Federal Court of Appeal nullified approvals for the project because the regulatory review was “impermissibly flawed.” The ruling, however, did provide detailed instructions for what the government could do if it wanted to press ahead. Canada was forced to buy the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. earlier this year, amid the legal uncertainty, and it looks set to hold onto it for a while.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week the court ruling provides a road-map for construction and could ultimately increase investor certainty by creating a process that future projects can follow. Canada has struggled over the past decade to build major pipeline projects, amid questions about indigenous rights and provincial jurisdiction.

“My preference is to get this done in such a way as not just for this project, but for any future project -- energy or infrastructure projects -- we have a clear path, and clarity,” Trudeau said in a Sept. 17 interview with Maclean’s magazine in Ottawa.

The court ruling’s instructions are “almost a really good thing,” Trudeau said. “I mean, it’s super frustrating, because we much rather would not have had that decision, but having had that decision, they said, ‘OK, if you do these two things, then the approval works.”’

“That’s actually the first time, or one of the first times, we’ve had clarity around that,” he said.

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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