- BC Games
Environment assessment fails to extinguish coal port opponents
A decision by Port Metro Vancouver to require Fraser Surrey Docks to conduct a full environmental impact assessment before it can proceed with a new coal export terminal is getting a cool response from the project's opponents just across the Fraser River in New Westminster.
Andrew Murray of the New Westminster Environmental Partners said the requirement for an environmental assessment of the proposed terminal which will transfer trainloads of thermal coal form the United States to barges for shipment to Texada Island "lacks legitimacy" because it doesn't allow for public input.
The president of Surrey Fraser Docks, Jeff Scott, said consulting firm SNC-Lavalin will carry out the assessment and have it completed by the end of September.
That short timeline is problematic, said Murray.
"It's Port Metro Vancouver responding to the public pressure and giving the optics of due diligence," said Murray.
That public pressure against the project has been growing.
The group Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change said more than 20,000 people have signed petitions opposing the new coal terminal. It's also organized rallies in various communities, with another planned for Oct. 27.
"There were high expectations that the Port would agree to a comprehensive region-wide study of the health impacts of coal exports," said director Kevin Washbrook in a press release. "Instead we have a very brief study overseen by the coal export proponent without any transparency or public input."
Darrell Desjardin, the port's director of environment and sustainability said once the results of the environmental assessment are released, there will be an opportunity for the public, health officers and other organizations to comment.
"Taking all that into consideration, then and only then will the port make their decision," said Desjardin.
Murray said his group isn't just worried about the health impact on people of coal dust from the terminal blowing across the Fraser into New Westminster, they're also concerned about the impact of the increased pollution and barge traffic on fish in the Fraser River, and, ultimately the impact of burning more thermal coal on global climate change.
"It's frustrating to even have to think about coal at this point," said Murray. "It's a desperate industry."
James Crosty, a vocal opponent of the proposed terminal on behalf of residents along New West's waterfront, said some aspects of the requirement for an environmental assessment give him hope. He said because the assessment will have to include the issue of blowing coal dust, "those are huge victories.
"Now they have to take charge of the coal once and for all," he said.
Murray said his group isn't going to stand by in silence as the process plays out.
"This is far from over," he vowed. "There's a lot at stake."
Crosty said the need for an environmental assessment "is a start.
"We don't sleep because we've got to continue on and keep educating people on the negative effects of shipping coal out of this port," he said.
With files from Jeff Nagel