B.C. government secretly approves coal permitting amendment

Thanks to a dedicated Beyond Coal supporter from Burnaby, we learned that the provincial ministry of energy and mines secretly approved a permit amendment allowing Texada Quarries to expand its coal-handling operations by almost 20-fold, enabling it to become the final transfer point for up to 8 million tonnes of U.S. thermal coal via Fraser Surrey Docks.

It’s hard to believe, but the ministry approved the permit on March 12 without informing local First Nations, the regional government or anyone else for that matter.

It took some hard work with our allies to get the story straight so we could go public with the news, but it finally hit the mainstream media just a few days ago.

Now we’ve learned the shshlh (Sechelt) First Nation is prepared to form a blockade to keep coal ships from passing through its territory.

Two things make this news even more outrageous. First, local residents and landowners have repeatedly documented coal on the beach at the coal handling facility through sampling and photographs, but after repeated alerts sent to the provincial ministries of energy and mines and the environment, provincial technicians declared no contamination was present in the area.

Second, over the past two months, thousands of B.C. residents have been writing our ministers, calling their MLAs and having in-depth discussions with various provincial leaders about responsible government action on this project. So far, there’s no evidence that any of these leaders knew about the permit decision. But if they did and kept that knowledge from the public, that would be downright scandalous.

In light of the Texada Quarries permitting snafu, we can see it’s more important than ever the ministers of health and the environment recognize the provincial government’s responsibility – and unique authority – to step in on behalf of British Columbians and require comprehensive, transparent, independent and democratic environmental and health impact assessments before any more permits are granted for the Fraser Surrey Docks-Texada Island project..

Here’s how you’ve been fighting for that:

  • 2,871 of you sent letters to the ministers of health and the environment, asking them to ensure proper assessments of the Fraser Surrey Docks-Texada Island coal transshipment project. These letters came from people living in 83 of B.C’s 85 ridings.
  • Several Beyond Coal volunteers phoned their neighbours and other Dogwood supporters who wrote letters, and urged them to call their MLAs. One volunteer, Marilynn, got so inspired she spent more than eight hours over the course of four evenings phonebanking.
  • At least 44 people phoned their MLAs and reported back to us about how the conversation went. Thanks to callers like Marilynn, more than 50 additional people pledged to call their MLAs earlier this month.

While some MLAs have written pointed letters to Port Metro Vancouver calling for better assessment and public consultation on the project, no one at the provincial level has taken responsibility to ensure we get the facts we deserve about health and environmental impacts before permitting decisions are made.

Now’s the time for our ministers of health and the environment to step up before the remaining permits are granted. Please, call your ministers today:

Minsiter of Health Terry Lake – (250) 953-3547
Minister of the Environment Mary Polak – (250) 387-1187

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