Pacific NorthWest LNG project encounters legal hurdle

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      A Federal Court of Appeal judge has allowed a B.C. man to file a constitutional challenge over a pipeline linked to a huge B.C. liquefied natural gas project.

      Michael Sawyer argued that TransCanada Pipeline Ltd.'s 900-kilometre should be reviewed by the National Energy Board.

      The pipeline is being built to ship natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Lelu Island for the Pacific Northwest LNG project.

      According to Justice Donald Rennie's ruling, the NEB concluded that Sawyer "had not established a 'prima facie case' that the pipeline was a federal work and therefore, it had no jurisdiction".

      Moreover, Rennie stated that the NEB concluded that it could reject jurisdiction as "a discretionary gatekeeping decision".

      "I agree with the respondents that subsection 12(1) of the Act grants a broad discretionary power the exercise of which would seldom give rise to a question of law or jurisdiction," Rennie wrote. "Situations can readily be envisaged in which the public interest would support a decision not to hear an application. Those would include situations where a hearing was premature, where another decision was pending, where there were pending regulatory or legislative changes, where the parties requested the application be held in abeyance for commercial or operational reasons, or where the application was frivolous or vexatious.

      "It may even decline to determine a threshold jurisdictional issue where the record is inadequate," Rennie continued. "However, none of those considerations were at play in this case." 

      Rennie emphasized in his ruling that the court "is not expressing an opinion" on whether the pipeline is subject to the NEB's jurisdiction, just that the arguments should be heard by the energy regulator.

      Should the NEB dismiss Sawyer's argument, he would have the legal right to seek a judicial review.

      Last year, the Trudeau government upset many environmentalists by giving the green light to the Pacific NorthWest LNG project. Its majority shareholder is the state-owned Malaysian energy giant Petronas.

      Meanwhile, the Pembina Institute has maintained that this facility could result in an additional 258 more shale gas wells being drilled every year, resulting in 9.2 million tonnes of carbon pollution being emitted.

      According to Pembina, that's the equivalent of adding 1.9 million cars to the road.

      "Given recent energy developments in China, the claim that B.C. LNG will only displace coal is unfounded," Pembina B.C. director Josha MacNab wrote on earlier this year. "Rather, the opposite scenario—that LNG from B.C. will displace low- and zero-emitting power sources—is more likely."