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Is Coastal GasLink an Illegal Pipeline?

Is Coastal GasLink an Illegal Pipeline?

Challenge to energy project’s approval brings threats to Smithers activist.

The $6.2-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline may face a bigger threat than the opposition of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and protests across Canada.

Smithers resident Michael Sawyer says the project lacks the required federal approvals. He has filed a formal application to require a full National Energy Board (NEB) review.

Last fall the board agreed to consider Sawyer’s challenge.

In April it will hear final arguments on the question of whether the pipeline falls under provincial jurisdiction, or if it is subject to NEB rules and assessments.

That would bring delays and “put real, tangible benefits to people in B.C., including First Nations, at risk,” said pipeline owner TransCanada Corp., rebranded this week as TC Energy.

The B.C. government’s Environmental Assessment Office approved the contentious 670-kilometre pipeline in 2014.

The project would move fracked methane from northeastern B.C. and northwestern Alberta to the $40-billion LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat.

Sawyer, a 61-year-old environmental consultant, said the prospect of a NEB regulatory review should have been considered by the B.C. Supreme Court before it issued an injunction that led to RCMP action against two Indigenous checkpoints this week.

“I wonder if TransCanada disclosed information to the judge about this jurisdictional challenge before it asked him to grant the injunction against the blockade,” he said. “The fact is that the RCMP enforced the injunction in an over-the-top manner for a pipeline that may be deemed illegal and whose permits could be quashed.”

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