Energy company Enbridge Inc. says it has called off sheriffs from raiding an environmental organization's office in Vancouver.
Provincial bailiffs entered the offices of Stand.earth on Tuesday morning with a notice to seize the organization's assets following a court case against the company.
But later in the day, the Calgary-based oil and gas industry titan tweeted that it had "asked the sheriffs not to seize any assets from [Stand.earth] and we will not be pursuing the matter further." Stand.earth was formerly known as ForestEthics, but rebranded in spring of 2016.
We have asked the sheriffs not to seize any assets from @standearth and we will not be pursuing the matter further. 1/2— Enbridge (@Enbridge) October 17, 2017
This is a legal matter and Enbridge does not publicly discuss legal matters. 2/2— Enbridge (@Enbridge) October 17, 2017
The advocacy group's run-in with Enbridge began during a 2014 court when it challenged the legality of the National Energy Board's (NEB) approval of Enbridge's proposal to reverse the flow of its aging Line 9B pipeline, in operation since 1976. Stand.earth argued that the public did not have adequate opportunity to weigh in on a decision to allow oil to flow from west-to-east on the pipeline, which runs from Ontario to Quebec.
Enbridge was an intervenor in the case. Stand.earth eventually lost and was ordered by the courts to pay Enbridge $14,559 in legal costs. Although the pipeline is now flowing, the company was later ordered to reduce its operating pressure and the flow of oil, due to safety concerns.
Stand.earth's program director, Karen Mahon, said the organization had not paid the costs on principle, arguing they had acted in the public interest. The group's spokespeople say that Enbridge ignored efforts to negotiate a settlement.
The raid came one day after the pipeline giant received a presidential permit from the Trump administration to nearly double the shipping capacity of its Line 67 pipeline, also known as Alberta Clipper, from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. The permit will allow Enbridge to increase the amount of oil it ships from 450,000 barrels a day up to 890,000 barrels per day.
"The timing is very suspicious," said Mahon. "Enbridge isn't after $14,000. Pipeline battles are heating up. Kinder Morgan is about to start construction [on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion] and this looks like a clear attempt to silence opposition."
The Trudeau government and the NEB, said Mahon, "have since admitted that their public participation processes are inadequate. That was the basis of our case."
The provincial bailiffs then took photos of the environmental group's computers and other assets and told staff to expect the arrival of a moving van. Shortly afterward, Enbridge made its announcement on Twitter and Enbridge spokesman Jesse Semko said in an email to National Observer that it would not pursue the issue. The provincial bailiffs were called for comment, but did not respond in time for publication.
Stand.earth recently emerged from a victory in U.S. courts on Monday. Resolute Forest Products had accused the organization, along with Greenpeace, of racketeering, a law designed to crack down on organized crime. A U.S. federal court judge dismissed the charges.
In other Enbridge legal news, a judge in Minnesota has just given permission to activists who protested the pipeline company to use a "necessity defense." The defense allows the protestors to argue that the threat of climate change is so severe that it justified shutting down two Enbridge pipelines entering the U.S. from the Alberta oilsands.
Reached for comment, NEB communications officer Sarah Kiley said the NEB was not aware of the situation, and does not comment on Federal Court of Appeal judgments.
Natural Resources Canada spokeswoman Tania Carreira Pereira said the department declined comment due to the issue being a legal matter.
The offices of Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Raybould, B.C. Premier John Horgan and B.C. Attorney General David Eby were contacted for this story but did not respond by publication time.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 7 p.m. on Tues. Oct. 17, 2017 to include additional details about Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline. It was updated again at 11:15 p.m. ET on Oct. 17 to include background information about the presidential permit issued on Monday for Enbridge's Line 67 Alberta Clipper pipeline.