Ottawa could wait until summer to make final Trans Mountain decision

Pipes are shown at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton, Thursday, April 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canada’s energy regulator will tell the federal government on Friday whether it still thinks the Trans Mountain pipeline should be expanded, but cabinet’s final say on the project’s future is not likely to come before the summer.

The National Energy Board (NEB) is reconsidering the project’s impact on marine life, including highly endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled last year the NEB’s 2016 approval had failed to properly take into account the hits the whales will take from having additional oil tankers in their waters.

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The report’s delivery will start the clock on a 90-day deadline for cabinet to decide whether the controversial project will proceed – a deadline officials are already signalling could be pushed back.

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Cabinet won’t decide the pipeline’s fate until a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities is completed.

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Those consultations began in October and 70 communities have now met with federal consultation teams, but that leaves more than 60 communities that have not.

In 2016, it took cabinet six months following the NEB recommendation to decide to approve the project and if a similar timeline is followed this year it will put the Trans Mountain decision right up against the start of the next federal election.

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