Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration has delayed approval of the contested Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project until June 18.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said late last week that extra time is needed for consultations with native communities, as required by the national constitution and an appeals court verdict last August that overturned the first cabinet approval.

“This process includes engaging in meaningful, two-way dialogue -- to discuss and understand priorities of the groups our teams meet and to offer responsive accommodations, where appropriate,” Sohi said.

The exercise focuses on the second recommendation approval report issued in February by the National Energy Board (NEB), with new conditions adopted after “reconsideration” hearings on complying with the court verdict.

Cabinet approval on June 18 would trigger another regulatory stage in the growth-enabling project for Canada’s top natural gas user, Alberta thermal oilsands production. The NEB still has to finish suspended, contested detailed route hearings on exact construction locations and methods for the C$9 billion (US$6.8 billion) project.

After buying Trans Mountain for C$4.5 billion (US$3.4 billion) when Kinder Morgan dropped the stalled expansion project last summer, the Canadian government is seeking a package that would stand up in court against native and environmental opponents.

“Our plan provides clarity and certainty, both for the communities engaged in this process and for all Canadians,” Sohi said. “Our focus will remain on fulfilling our duty to meaningfully consult before making a decision on the project.”