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Canadian court refuses to hear appeals of ruling backing Trans Mountain project

Canada's Federal Court of Appeal declined to hear arguments by the government of British Columbia and that province's city of Burnaby that sought to overturn a National Energy Board directive that allowed Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Trans Mountain expansion project to proceed without permits from local governments.

The court did not give reasons for its March 23 decision to dismiss the appeals. Chief Justice Marc Noel also awarded costs to the National Energy Board. The decisions preceded a weekend of demonstrations at Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.'s Westridge Terminal that saw 54 people arrested March 24 in alleged violation of an injunction issued by a different court that prohibits protests within five meters of the site. More than 100 protesters have been arrested at the Westridge site since construction began.

Kinder Morgan was given the go-ahead by the National Energy Board to begin construction at the terminal in Burnaby, a city in British Columbia's populous Lower Mainland region, after the regulator found that the municipality was not issuing needed permits in a timely manner. The province and city appealed the federal regulator's authority to override local governments.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose government would benefit from the increase in shipments of oil sands crude and other products along the Trans Mountain system, called the court decision a "definitive victory." British Columbia Environment Minister George Heyman said his government was disappointed in the ruling. The neighboring provinces have been involved in a trade dispute over British Columbia's opposition to the plan to boost Trans Mountain's capacity to 890,000 barrels a day from 300,000 bbl/d.

A police officer was injured in the course of an arrest near the site March 25, bringing the number of Royal Canadian Mounted Police injuries to four as of that date.

Elizabeth May, leader of Canada's Green Party, was among 25 people arrested March 23 for violating the court order. May said in a statement that she believed the Federal Court of Appeal could overturn the National Energy Board's decision. "I await the court ruling on the legitimacy of the permit issued to Kinder Morgan," May said in a March 23 release, prior to the dismissal of the appeal. "Unfortunately, the federal government and the Texas corporation are not awaiting the ruling of the federal court."

May said she respects the court and did not take violating the injunction lightly. She said she supports the rights of First Nations groups whose lands are crossed by the pipeline expansion. Kinder Morgan has said it has agreements in place with First Nations whose land is affected.