A hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, could determine the future of a controversial pipeline expansion.
Kinder Morgan is tripling the capacity of its Trans Mountain Pipeline, which brings Alberta crude to the west coast. Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal begins hearing consolidated challenges to approval of the expansion on Monday.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the Canadian government’s approval of the planned expansion, which is expected to bring as much as seven times more oil tankers through the Salish Sea.
Concerns range from the effects of that increase on endangered orca whales to safety at the local tank farms. Many of the challenges are from First Nations, who say the Canadian government failed to adequately consult them.
Eugene Kung, a staff lawyer with the West Coast Environmental Law Association, said that failure is a violation of the country’s constitution.
“With a massive pipeline like this, that passes through a number of first nations territories – I think the number is about 150 – what these seven nations are arguing, on a high level, is that consultation was inadequate in terms of how this project will affect their rights,” Kung said.
Those include rights to land, fishing and drinking water.
The plaintiffs say this case is similar to their victory two years ago against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which was stopped after the court found Ottawa failed to properly consult First Nations.
In prior statements, Kinder Morgan has said it has undertaken extensive and meaningful consultations with Aboriginal Peoples and remains dedicated to those efforts as it moves forward.
The hearing is scheduled to last two weeks.