In Canada, the push to expand a multibillion dollar oil pipeline just cleared another major legal hurdle.
The nation’s Supreme Court announced on Thursday that it won’t hear five challenges from five Indigenous and environmental organizations on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. That brings the planned pipeline the Canadian government bought last year to usher tar sands from Alberta to ports in British Columbia one step closer to fruition, endangering both the climate and the natural ecosystems the oil would pass through.
The challenges the court threw out came from BC Nature, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Living Oceans Society, the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, the Squamish First Nation, and a group of four teen climate activists. They cited the pipeline developers’—initially Kinder Morgan before they backed out in the face of indigenous and local opposition—insufficient consultation with First Nations groups who live in and control areas the pipeline would cut through. The United Nations confirmed in January that was a concern as well.
The suit also alleged that there were potential violations of Canada’s laws that protect threatened species, particularly the risks shipping oil through Puget Sound posed to highly endangered southern resident killer whales. There are only 72 of these whales left.
Then there’s the climate risks. Canada’s Environment and Climate Change department estimates the pipeline would release 13 to 15 million more tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, and that doesn’t even cover the greenhouse gases released by using the oil the pipeline would transport.
Despite these dangers, the Supreme Court refused to take up the case. It did not give a reason, which the CBC said is customary for the court.
The decision comes as widespread movement against another fossil fuel pipeline has spread across Canada. In early February, Canada’s national police raided indigenous territory and arrested 28 people, enforcing a court order sought by the developers of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. In response, protestors have setup blockades in several Canadian provinces, shutting down train lines and halting traffic. Polls show that climate change is Canadians’ number one political concern.
The legal challenges facing the Trans Mountain Pipeline aren’t over yet. On Thursday, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said that in the coming weeks, it will appeal another court decision that upheld government’s approval of the pipeline to the Supreme Court.
“This isn’t over by a long shot,“ Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson said in a statement. Let’s hope so.