VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A Canadian court has overturned the approval of Enbridge Inc's (ENB.TO) Northern Gateway oil pipeline, again delaying a project fiercely opposed by environmentalists and many aboriginal groups.
The Federal Court of Appeal ruled in a 2-to-1 decision released on Thursday that the government had failed in its duty to consult with aboriginal groups on the project and sent the matter back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet for a "prompt redetermination."
Calgary-based Enbridge said in a statement that it remains "fully committed" to building the C$7.9 billion ($6.1 billion) pipeline and that it was working with partners, including aboriginal groups who support the project, to determine the next steps.
Canada's former Conservative government in 2014 approved Northern Gateway, which would carry oil from the Alberta oil sands to a port in British Columbia for export. Its construction was subject to more than 200 conditions.
After the approval, numerous British Columbia aboriginal communities, along with environmental groups, filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the decision.
In its 153-page judgment, the court determined that Canada's consultation with aboriginal communities, also known as First Nations, was "brief, hurried and inadequate." It said the government failed to grapple with their concerns and had not shown any intention to correct any errors or omissions in the original regulatory panel review.
"Missing was a real and sustained effort to pursue meaningful two-way dialogue. Missing was someone from Canada's side empowered to do more than take notes, someone able to respond meaningfully," the judges wrote.
The court also noted that it would have taken little time and effort to meaningfully engage with First Nations, but that it was not done. Trudeau's cabinet will now have to fulfill that duty before a new permit can be issued.
In April, Trudeau said he opposed the pipeline. His government has promised a moratorium on oil tanker traffic along the coast of northern British Columbia, a policy seen making the pipeline unfeasible.
In a statement Thursday, the government said it will review the ruling before determining next steps and reaffirmed its vow to build a "nation-to-nation" relationship with aboriginals.
The court's decision was heralded by project critics, who said it shuts the door on the 1,177-km (730-mile) pipeline.
"This pipeline will never be built. This is a victory," Sven Biggs, a representative of one of the environmental groups in the lawsuit, said in a statement.
Enbridge's shares closed up 0.2 percent at C$54.73 on Thursday in Toronto.
Additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Alan Crosby