Alberta’s NDP government is moving forward in its attempt to have a role in the legal battle around the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
The province formally filed its application for intervener status with the Federal Court of Appeal on Wednesday, as multiple British Columbia municipalities, First Nations and environmental groups seek a judicial review of the National Energy Board’s approval of the pipeline project to the Pacific coast.
The Notley government had announced its intention to seek intervener status in last month’s speech from the throne.
In the document filed by a Justice department lawyer, the government said Alberta wants to have a say on questions that are of significant public interest and importance.
“The court’s determination on these matters will have an impact nationally and on Alberta.”
The application said Alberta is best positioned to speak to the potential effect on the provincial economy and market access from the project, as well as the effect of the province’s climate plan on upstream greenhouse gas emissions. Alberta also has significant interest in ensuring predictable rules around resource projects, the development of law around the duty to consult with First Nations and the interpretation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
“Alberta’s participation will assist the court and provide an important provincial perspective,” reads the document.
“Alberta’s position will not be adequately asserted by any of the parties, and the interests of justice are better served by Alberta’s intervention.”
The $7.4-billion Trans Mountain project would triple the capacity of the line that runs from the Edmonton area to Metro Vancouver, increasing tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet sevenfold. Both the federal and British Columbia’s Liberal governments have given the go-ahead to Trans Mountain, but its opponents include Vancouver, Burnaby, the Squamish Nation and Musqueam Indian Band.
The filing comes a day after the start of the B.C. provincial election campaign, in which the province’s NDP have come out against the pipeline expansion.
Nigel Bankes, chair of natural resources law at the University of Calgary, said provinces usually seek intervener status on cases dealing with constitutional challenges, but there is logic to Alberta’s involvement on a case that will have a “huge” effect on the province.
“It just means that they want to make sure that all possible arguments in support . . . are made,” he said.
“Maybe they’re trying to level the playing field in the sense there won’t be many people on that side.”
The province expects that it may take up to two months for the court to determine whether Alberta will get intervener status and Bankes said it is difficult to say how it will decide.
He noted that the impact of interveners on a case is usually relatively small and that they are limited in what they can do, with no right of appeal, for example.