Just days after news more than 24,000 people have signed petitions opposing further expansion of coal exports, Port Metro Vancouver announced it will require Fraser Surrey Docks to conduct further environmental assessment ahead of a decision on its coal terminal proposal.

“Clearly the groundswell of public concern over this expansion project forced the port to act,” said Laura Benson, Coal Campaigner for Dogwood Initiative. “But the announcement from the port and Fraser Surrey Docks gives little detail and offers no real assurances potential health and ecological impacts will be studied in a comprehensive, independent and transparent way, as called for by our medical officers.”

Fraser and Vancouver Coastal chief medical officers Paul VanBuynder and Patricia Daly have called on the port to commission a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) ahead of a decision on the Fraser Surrey Docks project. In addition to the widespread public support for this call, several city councils and the board of Metro Vancouver have also requested an HIA.

So far doctors VanBuynder and Daly have not commented on the announcement from the port. “We are eager to hear the opinion of our medical officers,” Benson said. “Based on what we’ve seen so far it is very hard to believe this assessment will comply with the officers’ request and meet international standards for health impact assessments.”

Both the port and Fraser Surrey Docks estimated the environmental impact assessment would take a few weeks to complete, increasing doubt that the assessment will produce the kind of data that local residents deserve about potential risks to public health, the local environment and the global climate.

Laura Benson, Coal Campaigner