Legal challenges to proposed massive energy developments in British Columbia are increasing with new actions threatening to entangle both B.C. Hydro's Site C dam and Trans Mountain's pipeline expansion project.
The two projects, as well as Enbridge's Northern Gateway's $7.9-billion pipeline proposal, are already facing several court actions filed by First Nations, municipalities or environmental groups.
On Wednesday, the Peace Valley Landowner Association joined the fray, filing a petition with B.C. Supreme Court seeking to quash the provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate issued for Site C, a $7.9-billion project.
Ken Boon, president of the group whose farms and ranches would be drowned by the dam, said the PVLA also plans to file a petition in Federal Court in an attempt to strike down Ottawa's decision approving the project.
"Provincial and federal environmental approvals for the $8-billion Site C dam are seriously flawed and must be set aside," said Mr. Boon in a statement.
"Our members, many of whom have lived in the Peace River Valley for generations, are not prepared to allow the remainder of the valley to be destroyed on the basis of flawed environmental approvals."
At the same time the landowners were holding a press conference in Vancouver, a collection of individuals and the Forest Ethics Advocacy Association were announcing an action in Federal Court, in which they seek leave to appeal a National Energy Board decision regarding the $5.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
David Martin, a lawyer representing the petitioners, said the case will focus on legislative changes made by the federal government that allowed the NEB to restrict who can participate in public hearings, and to limit the topics of discussion.
"The interpretation they have adopted essentially permits somebody through whose backyard the pipeline passes to comment … but the larger community is excluded," Mr. Martin said.
"The second effect of this legislation is that the National Energy Board has interpreted it to preclude citizens from talking about the impact of this long-term infrastructure project on climate change."
The memorandum of fact filed by the co-petitioners states that while the NEB allows discussion of both the upstream and downstream economic importance of the project, it is refusing to hear about the environmental impacts either upstream or downstream.
"There can be no mistake that this proposal … to export 900,000 barrels a day of tar through Vancouver harbour … has [broader environmental] impacts and the board has ruled it will not consider any evidence related to those impacts," Mr. Martin said.
He said the restrictions violate the Charter of Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression.
"We say that the board has lost its way in its eagerness to serve the industry's demands."
One of the co-petitioners, Simon Fraser University professor Lynne Quarmby, participated in the press conference via cellphone from Burnaby Mountain, where a group called the Caretakers was protesting in an effort to stop Trans Mountain from surveying a proposed pipeline route.
Dr. Quarmby said she was ready to "put my body in the way" to stop Trans Mountain from building its pipeline across B.C.
"Both our federal and provincial governments right now are pushing very hard to support massive fossil-fuel projects which will have us invested for decades in the mining and fracking and exporting of these fossil fuels with no consideration of climate change," she said.
Lisa Clement, a spokesperson for Trans Mountain, said in an e-mail the company "is supportive of a fair, thorough and efficient regulatory review process for our proposed project."
Sarah Kiley, representing the NEB, wouldn't comment on a specific court application, but offered a generalized statement. "Our legislation requires that we hear from those who are directly affected by a project and we have always benefited from hearing from those with relevant information and expertise," she stated in an e-mail.