Court Delivers Major Setback for TransCanada’s LNG Pipeline to PNW LNG

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, July 20, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Petronas’ massive LNG export proposal on Lelu Island faces a constitutional law obstacle. The Federal Court of Appeal today set aside a National Energy Board (NEB) decision regarding the provincially approved Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline proposal and sent the matter back to the NEB for re-determination. The 900-kilometre PRGT pipeline would move gas from north-eastern BC to the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG export terminal near Prince Rupert.

The appeal court ruled that the Board made a legal mistake when it dismissed Smithers BC resident Mike Sawyer’s request that the NEB hold a full hearing to determine if the PRGT project is actually in federal jurisdiction and needs to have NEB approval. Speaking for a unanimous panel of three judges, Mr. Justice Donald Rennie said the Board made significant constitutional law errors in dismissing Mr. Sawyer’s application. He said the Board merely looked at the location of the pipeline within BC and failed to consider that the entire purpose of the pipeline is to move gas for export.

The judge explained that the courts don’t usually overturn NEB decisions, but in Mr. Sawyer’s case the issue involves the Constitution of Canada and the court will step in if the NEB’s decision is not legally correct.

Mr. Sawyer was delighted by the court’s decision. “This shows that the NEB was too quick to dismiss a legitimate constitutional argument without a full hearing,” he said. “I’m convinced that PRGT is just one part of a massive natural gas export scheme that is clearly within federal jurisdiction and needs federal approval to proceed.”

“My approach to this is a principal approach,” he said. “I don’t think we should be exporting our natural resources, particularly energy resources, if we haven’t determined what’s in our public interest,” Sawyer said.

TransCanada has 60 days to apply to the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal decision. Apart from that, the constitutional issue will go back to the National Energy Board for a full hearing to determine if PRGT is in federal jurisdiction and would require a federal environmental assessment and approval.

Sawyer’s challenge of the NEB decision was made possible in part by assistance from the West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund which provides environmental legal aid grants to enable individuals and communities to obtain legal representation to protect their environment.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust assisted with funding Sawyer’s legal case. SkeenaWild is a regional conservation initiative working to make the Skeena a global model of sustainability and is concerned about the impacts to salmon habitat from the proposed pipeline.

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