1 Keeping BC Oil Spill-Free | West Coast Environmental Law


Keeping BC Oil Spill-Free

West Coast lawyers have long played a pivotal role in protecting the land, water and climate from the risks posed by tar sands infrastructure projects – providing legal and strategic support to First Nations and communities that are using the law to defend the lands and waters they call home from the risk of oil spills.

We celebrated a major victory in June 2016 when our clients overturned the federal approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers proposal. West Coast represented Nak’azdli and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations in the consolidated Federal Court of Appeal cases that challenged the Northern Gateway approval, arguing that Canada failed in its constitutional duty to consult and accommodate our clients. The Court agreed with us, holding that Canada’s consultation on Northern Gateway “fell well short of the mark.”

As part of the legal team for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, West Coast has also been deeply involved in efforts to defend the environment and communities from the risk of oil spills from the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers proposal. From communicating legal risks to Kinder Morgan shareholders to offering widely-cited analysis regarding the National Energy Board’s review process, we are developing important legal and strategic tools to help defend the environment and climate from this risky project.

Photo: Jeremy Board


  • Ongoing: The independent assessment of the Kinder Morgan proposal released by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) in 2015 continues to play an important role in efforts to protect its lands and waters from oil spills. The assessment is grounded in TWN’s own laws and backed by 1,200 pages of expert research, and it re-affirms the Nation’s denial of consent for the project in its territory. Since its release, the assessment has been the foundation for dozens of presentations demonstrating the project’s impact on TWN territory, title and rights
  • October 2015: West Coast represented Nak’azdli and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations at the Federal Court of Appeal hearing challenging the Enbridge Northern Gateway approval. The hearing was the longest in the recent history of the Federal Court of Appeal, filling two courtrooms over six days, attracting extensive media attention and prompting a rally outside the courtroom.
  • January 2016: Amidst continued controversy and criticism of the flawed NEB process, the Ministers of Natural Resources and Environment and Climate Change announced that Kinder Morgan would undergo further public process and upstream greenhouse gas analysis, with a further delay on the Federal Cabinet decision until December 2016.
  • May 2016: West Coast lawyer Eugene Kung joined Tsleil-Waututh representatives and allies to discuss legal issues and risks at Kinder Morgan’s Annual Shareholder Meeting in Houston, Texas.
  • May 2016: Enbridge Northern Gateway confirmed that it would be unable to meet mandatory commitments in its approval conditions, which required that it prove supply contracts to fill its proposed pipeline with oil, because of litigation and other uncertainty associated with the project. The company requested a three-year extension to keep trying. (The extension request is now indefinitely suspended after the federal approval of the project was overturned in Court).
  • June 2016: Our clients Nak’azdli and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations won their case in the Federal Court of Appeal, overturning the federal approval of Northern Gateway.


Our Environmental Decision Making work is funded by the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation.