The provincial government submitted its reference question to the B.C. Court of Appeal today (Thursday, April 26, 2018) on its rights to regulate the environmental and economic impacts of heavy oils, like diluted bitumen, transported through the province.
“We have asked the courts to confirm B.C.’s powers within our jurisdiction to defend B.C.’s interests, so that there is clarity for today and for the generations to come,” said Premier John Horgan. “Our government will continue to stand up for the right to protect B.C.’s environment, economy and coast.”
On March 12, the government announced it had retained expert legal counsel to prepare and present a reference case related to B.C.’s right to protect the province’s land, coast and waters.
The NDP government is now asking the court to review proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act that would give the Province authority to regulate impacts of heavy oils, like diluted bitumen, in the event of a spill.
It’s the next step in what many consider a constitutional crisis as B.C. battles with Alberta and the federal government on the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“We have been clear from the outset that the appropriate way to resolve disagreements over jurisdiction is through the courts, not through threats or unlawful measures to target citizens of another province,” said Attorney General David Eby in a reference to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s threat to cut the flow of oil into B.C.
“This reference question seeks to confirm the scope and extent of provincial powers to regulate environmental and economic risks related to heavy oils like diluted bitumen.”
In January 2018, B.C. proposed a second phase of regulations to improve preparedness, response and recovery from potential spills. The regulations would apply to pipelines transporting any quantity of liquid petroleum products, as well as rail or truck operations transporting more than 10,000 litres of liquid petroleum products.
The proposed regulations would ensure geographically appropriate response plans, improve response times, ensure compensation for loss of public use of land and maximize the application of regulations to marine transport.
The first phase of new spill regulations, approved in October 2017, under the Environmental Management Act, established regulations on preparedness, response and recovery.