Ruling could affect more than Northern Gateway B.C. government told it must consult First Nations and can’t rely on federal environmental approval

Brian Morton
Douglas Channel is the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. The Northern Gateway pipeline project is stalled after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday the province can’t rely on the National Energy Board for environmental approval. Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK , THE CANADIAN PRESS

A B.C. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that brought a halt to Enbridge’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway project could have wider environmental implications for the province.

Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg found the B.C. government abdicated its statutory duties and breached its duty to consult First Nations when it signed and failed to terminate an equivalency agreement that handed the federal National Energy Board sole jurisdiction over the environmental assessment decision-making on the project.

Justice Koenigsberg said the province can’t rely on the NEB for environmental approval.

Lawyer Joseph Arvay, lead counsel for petitioners the Great Bear Initiative Society and Gitga’at First Nation (collectively the Coastal First Nations), said Wednesday the ruling “makes it clear that the province has jurisdiction over this pipeline so long as the conditions reflect its competence over the environment.”

He said the province breached its duty to consult and accommodate First Nations on the project, calling it a “very significant” decision that goes beyond Northern Gateway.

“The court said that the province abdicated, gave away, its powers to the federal government over the Northern Gateway project when it entered into this so-called equivalency agreement with the NEB. But it entered into exactly the same equivalency agreement with the NEB on the Kinder Morgan project.”