The Supreme Court has dismissed the First Nations appeal against the Trans Mountain pipeline.
For the Coldwater Indian Band, it is quite a hard hit to the community: the approved pipeline passes through an aquifer that contains all of the drinking water for the roughly 320 people living on the reserve, just south of Merritt.
They worry that a possible oil spill could contaminate the drinking water.
Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan said that he is disappointed, though not surprised.
“We knew the chances of the SCC granting leave were slim, given the momentum of the project and the Federal Court’s finding that protection of our water can still take place in future routing decisions, but we felt we had to use every tool available to us.
“For us water is life. We continue to do everything in our power to ensure our sole source of drinking water is protected from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”
The federal government has a continuing obligation to keep in contact with the Coldwater band in regards to the project’s route, and the effects it could have on the aquifer. If the route remains unchanged, the next course of action for the band would be to call for a hearing with the Canada Energy Regulator (CER).
Trans Mountain would have to prove to the CER that the route is safe for the Coldwater’s aquifer.
Trans Mountain submitted a report to the CER in May that the Coldwater band has rejected, saying that Trans Mountain did not provide a detailed enough report.
Canada’s own expert confirmed that Trans Mountain’s report fails to meet “minimum requirements.”
“We have been asked with Minister O’Regan to require Trans Mountain to complete the study of our aquifer but has refused to help us. We are very concerned that the Minister is failing to fulfill his obligations to us and ensure that our drinking water is protected for future generations”, says Chief Spahan.
“If Canada continues to fail us, and if Trans Mountain refuses to move their Project out of the recharge zone of our aquifer, we may be forced to back to court in an effort to protect our drinking water. Despite today’s decision, there are further legal actions we can take if our water isn’t protected”.