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BC Nature Files Legal Challenge Against Northern Gateway Pipeline Approval

07/14/2014 06:10 EDT | Updated 09/13/2014 05:59 EDT

A new lawsuit filed Monday challenges the federal cabinet's decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The suit, launched by the Federation of BC Naturalists, or BC Nature, asks the Federal Court of Appeal to allow an application that declares the pipeline's June 17 approval invalid. Today is the last day parties may apply to the Federal Court to initiate a judicial review of the project's approval.

BC Nature filed a previous lawsuit in January against the Joint Review Panel's (JRP) recommendation the federal government approve the pipeline. That suit, filed by the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre (ELC), is still ongoing and challenges the JRP's justification of "serious harm" to caribou and grizzly bears as well as findings regarding the consequences of a potential major oil spill.

"In the lawsuit filed today, we argue that due to fundamental flaws in the JRP's report, Cabinet was deprived of the legal authority to make a final decision on the pipeline," Chris Tollefson, ELC executive director and lawyer for BC Nature, said.

"Cabinet was also legally required to give reasons for its approval, which it utterly failed to do," he added. "For these and other reasons, Cabinet's decision lacks a tenable legal foundation."

The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline was approved by Cabinet in June, six months after the JRP recommended the pipeline be built subject to 209 conditions.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said the federal approval of the pipeline took into consideration the JRP's claim the project is "in the public interest."

Five legal challenges were filed against the JRP's recommendation to approve the pipeline and at least two have now been launched against Cabinet's approval. Last week the Gitxaala First Nation filed a suit with the federal courts, arguing the project would infringe on their aboriginal rights and title and that the nation was not properly consulted before the project was approved.

If the Federal Court of Appeals approves BC Nature's challenge, the group will have five days to file a request for judicial review of Cabinet's decision to approve the project.

"BC Nature is one of British Columbia's oldest conservation organizations. Yet in our long history, we have never before felt compelled to go to court to defend our mission and the work we do to protect wildlife across the province," Dr. Kees Visser, BC Nature president, said. "But with this potentially catastrophic project, we had to take a stand."

Visser, a former oil and gas exploration geologist, added: "BC Nature is confident in the merits of both of its lawsuits challenging the approval of this ill-conceived project and looks forward to presenting them at the Federal Court of Appeal."

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Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Protest, June 2014