Port authority assessment of coal facility fails to prove proposal is safe

An environmental impact assessment released today of the proposal to expand U.S. coal exports through Fraser Surrey Docks falls far short of assuring the public the proposal would not significantly undermine public health, the environment and community safety.

“We were very skeptical from the time this assessment was announced that it would be up to snuff,” said Laura Benson, director of Dogwood’s Beyond Coal campaign.

“Unlike our chief medical officers, Port Metro Vancouver has once again refused to fulfill its duties to protect the public interest with this faulty assessment.

“Unless the port can go back to the drawing board and comply with the demands of our medical officers, study the full scope of impacts and conduct public hearings, it should deny the Fraser Surrey Docks permit application and stop any further coal expansion,” Benson said.

Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical officers Paul VanBuynder and Patricia Daly have sharply criticized the port for failing to meet even the most basic requirements of a health impact assessment.

The scope of the port’s assessment is limited and focuses solely on what happens within the boundaries of the Fraser Surrey Docks terminal, leaving out any health or environmental impacts that would be associated with increased transportation of U.S. coal by rail through White Rock, Surrey and Delta.

It also leaves out potential impacts from transferring coal off barges at Texada Island onto ocean vessels and ship travel in coastal waters.

The port authority continues to refuse to hold public hearings on the proposal or consider the greenhouse gas impacts of the end-use burning of exported coal.

It is unclear what effect public comments on the environmental impact assessment will have on the permit decision with the port authority saying only that it will take comments into account. Because Port Metro Vancouver will not post a public record of comments received, Dogwood Initiative is collaborating with Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, No More Coal Exports and other community groups to catalogue public comments at RealPortHearings.org. The 30-day comment period will end on December 17.

Backgrounder:

  • Port Metro Vancouver and Fraser Surrey Docks have faced a groundswell of opposition to coal export expansion over the past year – more than 26,000 people have now signed petitions.
  • To date, four municipal councils have expressed environmental and health concerns about the proposal.
  • Five other municipal and regional councils have passed resolutions opposing the proposal including Metro Vancouver and most recently, Fraser Surrey Docks’ home city of Surrey.
  • Late last month several hundred residents rallied in New Westminster to show the port it cannot remain unaccountable to families living along the coal train routes.

Contact: Laura Benson, Dogwood’s Beyond Coal campaigner, (604) 353-9527

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