Today’s decision by FCA on the Trans Mountain expansion is disappointing. The federal government must now choose whether to re-do the consultation process with Indigenous stakeholders (and have the NEB reconsider the impact on marine shipping) or file an appeal to the SCC. I hope they decide quickly as the uncertainty will further erode investor confidence in the Alberta energy industry. The decision highlights the importance of meaningful public consultation processes.

The political aspects of this decision are profound. There is no doubt that this decision will be taken by the BC NDP government as vindication of their anti-pipeline position. The Alberta NDP government must face the hard reality that they are political companions of BC and federal New Democrats who are pipeline opponents with the courts on their side, at least for now. The delay in pipeline construction will have a large political cost to the Notley government. Politics is a results based business and the NDP will go the polls next year with nothing to show for their attempts to get Alberta’s energy products to market.

The “shovels in the ground” photo op will haunt them next year.

The Trudeau Liberals have completely punted the issue of pipeline approvals. They must accept responsibility for their flawed process and their proposed legislation to make pipeline approvals even more difficult. They have to own this decision which is ironic considering they now own the pipeline.

Lastly, bear in mind that this decision quashes the approval based on procedural flaws. This decision does not attack the substantive merits of shipping oil through pipelines. The problem is not pipelines, but the inability of these two governments to implement rational approval processes and at the end of the day to get things done.

You can read the decision here.