(VANCOUVER, B.C.) – As Port Metro Vancouver considers the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal, which would turn Vancouver into the largest exporter of coal in North America, opposition to coal export proposals continues to grow in the Lower Mainland.

Over the summer, Dogwood Initiative collected 12,800 new signatures on a petition opposing the expansion of coal export capacity in B.C.

“The port needs to know the public is watching,” Laura Benson, Coal Campaigner for Dogwood Initiative, said. “The issue of coal exports may have seemed quiet over the summer, but we’ve actually seen an unprecedented groundswell of grassroots opposition with over 24,000 people across the region standing up to say no.”

Dogwood Initiative’s petition numbers come on top of thousands of letters and comments to the port since expansion proposals came to light last year. Activists in New Westminster gathered over 1000 signatures this spring and grassroots groups Communities and Coal and Coal Free White Rock have collected an additional 10,300 signatures on another local petition in Surrey, Delta, White Rock and Powell River over the summer.

On Wednesday, Communities and Coal will be holding the latest in a series of town hall meetings. The event is happening at 7 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Delta with guest speaker Dr. Frank James, a professor of public health at the University of Washington.

Port Metro Vancouver is considering a permit application for Fraser Surrey Docks’ proposed coal terminal but has refused to put a timeline on making the final decision. An ever-growing number of residents, neighbourhood groups, non-profit organizations and municipal governments are expressing concern about U.S. coal export expansion in B.C.

The chief medical officers for the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities and the province’s chief medical officer have asked for a comprehensive health impact assessment ahead of a decision on the Fraser Surrey Docks project. City councils in Vancouver, White Rock, Surrey and New Westminster have passed resolutions expressing concern or opposition to coal projects. In June 2013, the board of Metro Vancouver passed a motion calling for a health impact assessment and opposing any further expansion of coal shipments in the Fraser River Estuary.

“Both Oregon and Washington states have fended off coal port proposals amid widespread public concerns about health risks and pollution,” Benson said. “Considering this outpouring of grassroots opposition, we’re hopeful B.C. is going to follow suit.”

Laura Benson, Coal Campaigner

Dogwood Initiative is a Victoria-based public interest advocacy group working to help British Columbians have more say in decisions about their air, land and water.