Canada's Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal Against Trans Mountain Pipeline

WINNIPEG, Manitoba/OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada's Supreme Court removed an obstacle to the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline on Thursday, dismissing an appeal of a lower court decision that had backed Ottawa's approval of the project. 

The top court posted the decision online without elaborating.

The pipeline has put Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, which bought it in 2018 to ensure the expansion overcame legal and regulatory hurdles, in a political quandary. He has promised to reduce Canadian emissions and improve indigenous relations but is under pressure to help the slumping oil industry, which is key to the national economy.

The ruling ends seven years of legal challenges, Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said, adding that most Canadians, including many indigenous communities, want to share its economic benefits.

Trans Mountain Corp, which runs the pipeline, is still finalizing the route with landowners and needs permits, however.

Expansion of the 67-year-old pipeline, which runs from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, is underway. It would nearly triple capacity to 890,000 barrels per day.

The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed challenges in February to Ottawa's second approval of the project. They were based on concerns from British Columbia indigenous groups that Ottawa had not meaningfully consulted them.

Three indigenous groups, who also have environmental concerns, sought to appeal the decision. 

Canadian Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan welcomed the ruling, saying expansion would allow Canadian oil to reach new markets.

Most Canadian crude moves to U.S. refineries and expanding Trans Mountain may allow more to go to Asia.

Trans Mountain Corp is aiming to complete the expansion in late 2022.

Canadian pipelines have long been chronically congested, but this year, space has opened up as plunging oil prices have led producers to curtail production.

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