A protest in December drew hundreds to the streets of Fort Langley to oppose the pipeline project. (Langley Advance files)

Pipeline lawsuit names Langley MLAs

Both were ministers who signed off on the pipeline expansion plans in January.

Both of Langley’s MLAs are named in a lawsuit that seeks to stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

Democracy Watch and the PIPE UP Network launched the lawsuit earlier this year, and were in court Monday, June 26 to argue that donations from oil companies biased Premier Christy Clark and other leaders. The non-profits are seeking a judicial review to reverse the government’s approval of the pipeline.

Langley MLA Mary Polak was environment minister, and Langley East MLA Rich Coleman was minister of natural gas when the project was granted provincial approval. However, the lawsuit is officially directed at the provincial government as a whole.

The lawsuit claims that the approval of the pipeline is “tainted” by possible bias due to $560,000 in political donations to the BC Liberals made by Kinder Morgan and a host of oil shippers that plan to use the pipeline.

The suit also notes that those donations formed part of the pool that was used to pay Clark an annual extra salary of $50,000 per year from the BC Liberal Party, on top of her salary as premier and an MLA.

“The premier’s role in imposing the five conditions on the Kinder Morgan approval and deciding that the five conditions were satisfied is part of the administrative process and forms a critical aspect of the decision-making context that must be assessed in determining whether the Kinder Morgan approval was tainted by bias,” said Jason Gratl, counsel for PIPE UP and Democracy Watch.

A government response to the lawsuit challenges the claims, noting that while only the provincial government is officially named, the government itself is not a proper target of such a court action.

Only the ministers responsible – Polak and Coleman – should be respondents, according to the filings by government lawyers. But though both are referenced, neither is named in the Democracy Watch suit.

The response also alleges that there has not been proper notice served to those who might be affected by the suit, including 29 First Nations groups.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

The BC Liberal party is expected to lose control of the B.C. Legislature as early as this Thursday on a confidence vote. The Liberals won 43 seats in the May provincial election, while the NDP and Green Party hold 44. The NDP and Greens campaigned against the pipeline.

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