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Northern Gateway approval overturned

Federal approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline has been overturned.
Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations: "They didn't consult with us and they have a legal obligation to do that."

Federal approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline has been overturned.

According to the Canadian Press, the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal government failed to properly consult First Nations impacted by the pipeline before approving the $7.9-billion project.

The judgment, dated June 23, was released today by JFK Law Corp., which represented a First Nation involved in the appeal, the Canadian Press reported. Eight First Nations, four environmental groups and one labour union launched the legal challenge.

The judgment says the government neglected to discuss subjects of critical importance to First Nations by ignoring many of the project's impacts and offering only a "brief, hurried and inadequate" opportunity for consultation.

"The inadequacies—more than just a handful and more than mere imperfections—left entire subjects of central interest to the affected First Nations, sometimes subjects affecting their subsistence and well-being, entirely ignored,” stated the judgment. 

“It would have taken Canada little time and little organizational effort to engage in meaningful dialogue on these and other subjects of prime importance to Aboriginal peoples. But this did not happen.”

The pipeline, planned to carry more than 500,000 barrels of Alberta crude oil to the B.C. coast per day for export, was approved in 2014 with 209 conditions. 

The Joint Review Panel charged with examining the project concluded the pipeline was in the best interest of Canadians, weighing information it received during 180 days of public hearings in 21 communities throughout Alberta and B.C.

"After weighing the evidence, we concluded that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project," the panel wrote in its report. 

The company had until the end of 2016 to begin building the pipeline, but applied to the National Energy Board for an extension in May. At the time, Enbridge officials told the North Central Local Government Association conference in Dawson Creek that more time was needed to build support amongst First Nations.

The "sunset" clause extension request was supported by several local governments in Northeast B.C., including the City of Dawson Creek and the Peace River Regional District.

But the project has faced continued opposition from the B.C. government, environmental groups and First Nations. 

'Mortally wounded, maybe'

The ruling, which quashed an order-in-council that approved the latest phase of the project, has dealt what some are describing as a possible death-knell for the pipeline. The ruling means that the approval of the project must go back to federal cabinet for reconsideration.

Kathryn Harrison, a professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, believes the ruling means the Enbridge Inc. pipeline is now in serious jeopardy.

“It’s pretty close to a death blow,” said Harrison. “Mortally wounded maybe.”

The ruling found the federal government failed to adequately consult First Nations affected by the Northern B.C. pipeline.

When the project was approved, now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to reverse the decision if elected, saying the project threatened B.C.'s coastal economy.

During his election campaign, Trudeau promised a moratorium on crude oil tankers on B.C.'s north coast. But in recent months, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau said that isn't necessarily a death knell for Northern Gateway.

-- Staff, with files from Business in Vancouver, Canadian Press