An oil tanker under tow through Burrard Inlet.

An oil tanker under tow through Burrard Inlet.

Burnaby loses court battle against pipeline firm

B.C. Supreme Court rules against city's use of bylaws to block work by Trans Mountain pipeline crews

The City of Burnaby plans to file an appeal after losing a battle in B.C. Supreme Court to block the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline through the city.

Justice George Mackintosh ruled the federal authority of the National Energy Board allowing engineering studies for the pipeline route overrides the local bylaws Burnaby tried to use to block the project.

“It would be unworkable to take away from the NEB the power to order the engineering feasibility work by giving to a provincial entity a veto power over whether and how such work could take place,” Mackintosh stated in his decision, adding that otherwise “virtually no pipeline could ever be built.”

He said the work by Trans Mountain pipeline survey crews in late 2014 was vitally important for locating the pipeline safely.

More than 100 people were arrested on Burnaby Mountain while the work was underway. Civil contempt of court charges against many activists were later thrown out because the company had used inaccurate coordinates of the area covered by an injunction.

Mackintosh also ruled Burnaby must pay Trans Mountain’s legal costs. How big that bill is has not yet been disclosed.

“Obviously it’s expensive,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said, adding it will be paid out of the city’s casino revenue, not from property taxes. “There’s not much in this word that’s worth fighting for that doesn’t have a cost attached to it.”

He said an appeal to a higher court was all but certain regardless of the outcome.

The Supreme Court case came after the City of Burnaby failed to gain an injunction against Kinder Morgan’s activities on Burnaby Mountain before work concluded.

Trans Mountain officials have dismissed past speculation that they might reroute the pipeline in the Lower Mainland to a new marine terminal, possibly in Delta, to avoid opposition in Burnaby and the need to send more tankers through Vancouver harbour.

Corrigan repeated his call for the company to consider an alternate terminal, noting Cherry Point in Washington State is a fully equipped oil terminal that is already linked by a spur pipeline to Trans Mountain.

“Kinder Morgan has never looked at any other proposals,” he said. “They made their mind up they were going to use their existing facilities in Burnaby. There was no holistic look at the best way to move this oil to the coast.”

Corrigan also said he hopes a less “high handed” approach from the new Liberal government in Ottawa could yield a political solution.