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Environmental Assessment Office disputes Wet’suwet’en interpretation of legislation as Supreme Court hearing continues

Arguments over the extension of the environmental assessment certificate for a controversial natural gas pipeline resumed today in British Columbia Supreme Court.

Lawyers for the Office of the Wet’suwet’en are seeking an order quashing the decision to extend the certificate for Coastal GasLink’s 670-kilometre pipeline project.

They are arguing in part that B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office did not meaningfully address the findings of the 2019 report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls when it approved the extension.

They said on Thursday the Environmental Assessment Office has the power to attach new conditions when it extends a certificate according to provisions under B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Act.

Counsel for the Environmental Assessment Office disputed their interpretation of the legislation today, telling the court that its executive director already has the power to amend the conditions of a certificate outside the scope of an extension application.

Karrie Wolfe also argued that quashing the extension of Coastal GasLink’s certificate could leave the pipeline that’s under construction in northern B.C. in a “vacuum,” since the original certificate expired last October.

If the decision is quashed, she said there would be no certificate to attach conditions to.

Caily DiPuma, counsel for the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, suggested an alternative remedy could be an interim injunction pausing construction until the assessment office reconsiders its decision.

Lawyers for Coastal GasLink are set to appear later today.

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en is a non-profit society governed by several hereditary chiefs whose opposition to the pipeline sparked countrywide protests in February. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils have signed agreements with the company approving construction.

The Canadian Press

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