The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is "simply too great a risk to our environment, our economy and thousands of existing jobs," B.C. environment minister George Heyman told reporters. Screencap from Global News

The British Columbia government is seeking intervenor status in an ongoing legal challenge to the federal government’s approval of Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Provincial environment minister George Heyman told reporters on August 10 that the province has retained lawyer and former B.C. Supreme Court justice Thomas Berger as external counsel to the government.

Berger will offer advice on how to join the hearings, which are scheduled to begin in the Federal Court of Appeal this fall. The court will hear multiple lawsuits launched by First Nations and environmentalists that were combined into one case.

“We committed to use every tool available to defend B.C.’s coast in the threat of expanded tanker traffic,” Heyman said. “A sevenfold increase in tanker traffic in B.C.’s coastal waters is simply too great a risk to our environment, our economy and thousands of existing jobs.”

Following the announcement, Kinder Morgan issued a news release saying it would begin construction in September – which it is able to do in Alberta, and on its own property.

“We are committed to working with the province and permitting authorities in our ongoing process of seeing and obtaining necessary permits and permissions,” Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson said in the release.

Both the B.C. NDP and Green parties, which agreed to co-operate to lead a minority government, voiced their opposition to the pipeline’s expansion during the provincial election earlier this year. An agreement between the two parties, signed on May 29, pledged to “immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

But Attorney General David Eby, who was tasked by Premier John Horgan with determining options to halt Trans Mountain, told a Kamloops radio station in late July that the province will not delay permitting, as it would open up the risk of a lawsuit. “We must [stop the pipeline] within the laws of British Columbia and Canada, because if we don’t, we’ll be sued,” he told CHNL.

The $6.8-billion Trans Mountain expansion would increase the capacity of the current pipeline, which runs from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, B.C., to 890,000 barrels per day, up from a current 300,000 barrels per day. Indigenous groups and environmentalists have opposed the project due to environmental and health risks, and lack of consultation with First Nations.