Drawing Lines in the Sand: Parliament’s Jurisdiction to Consider Upstream and Downstream Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions in Interprovincial Pipeline Project Reviews

“Drawing Lines in the Sand: Parliament’s Jurisdiction to Consider Upstream and Downstream Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions in Interprovincial Pipeline Project Reviews”

Nathalie J. Chalifour

(2018) 23:1 Review of Constitutional Studies/Revue d’études constitutionnelles, 129-174



Review of Constitutional Studies: Many constitutional questions arise in the context of assessing, approving, and regulating interprovincial pipelines. This paper examines the extent to which upstream and downstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be considered and acted upon when proponents seek federal approval to build, expand, or modify an interprovincial pipeline. This question has become relevant in the context of Canada’s international commitments under the Paris Agreement, which require rapid, broad, and systemic decarbonisation of the Canadian economy. The article examines the questions through the lens of the regulatory frameworks in force at the time of writing (the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012) as well as draft legislation under Bill C-69, namely the Canadian Energy Regulator Act and the Impact Assessment Act. Although the new laws do not explicitly refer to indirect emissions, a reasonable interpretation of the legislation suggests that federal regulators would be within the bounds of their statutory authority to include indirect emissions in their deliberations and decision-making. A constitutional analysis suggests that that they would also be justified in doing so. The courts have confirmed federal jurisdiction over regulation of GHG emissions under the criminal law power, and there are two reference cases active at the time of writing that will examine the jurisdictional scope of the peace, order and good government power in the context of carbon pricing. Although it is unchartered jurisprudential territory, it is reasonable to conclude that under the new regulatory regime, Parliament will have the statutory and constitutional authority to consider the full implications of GHG emissions associated with an interprovincial pipeline proposal, especially if the courts continue to interpret jurisdictional powers through the flexible, purposive lens of cooperative federalism.

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About the Author:

Nathalie Chalifour is co-director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability. She is also cross-appointed to the Institute of the Environment, where she directs the interdisciplinary graduate Environmental Sustainability Program. Her research is interdisciplinary, focusing on the intersections between the environment, the economy, and environmental and social justice. She has published numerous articles which address a variety of topics, including carbon taxes, social justice, ecological fiscal reform, sustainable forestry, brownfields redevelopment, and the effects of trade liberalization on nature conservation.

Click here to visit her Faculty web page.

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