VANCOUVER – As Port Metro Vancouver delayed a decision and requested more health-related information on the proposal to ship U.S. thermal coal through Fraser Surrey Docks and Texada Island, thousands of concerned B.C. residents have turned to the province to step in and require comprehensive health and environmental assessments.
“Port leaders just don’t seem to get it,” said Laura Benson, director of Dogwood Initiative’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Asking for a little more data with no public review does not even come close to the comprehensive health impact assessment that health officers and the public have been demanding.”
“This is a slap in the face to communities along the coal corridor,” said Paula Williams, co-founder of Communities and Coal.
This latest announcement from Port Metro Vancouver comes at a moment when at least 2,944 people from across the province have sent messages to the health and environment ministers imploring them to undertake proper assessments of the Fraser Surrey Docks-Texada project. More than a dozen organizations and local governments have also requested provincial assessments, including Dogwood Initiative, Communities and Coal, the B.C. Teachers Federation, the Sunshine Coast Regional District and the City of Powell River.
A partial record of this correspondence is being catalogued at realporthearings.org, a collaborative website set up to track public engagement on coal export expansion projects.
“We are asking the provincial government to step in precisely because Port Metro Vancouver has failed, over and over again, to adequately respond to the groundswell of concern from across the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and gulf islands,” Benson said.
As noted in a recent op-ed from two leading public health physicians, a proper health impact assessment should be carried out as an independent, comprehensive, transparent and democratic process. Significantly, this process should be determined through a robust consultation phase to determine the scope of the assessment, including the range and type of health effects and determinants to be studied, the geography of affected communities and the extent of cumulative analysis.
“As our health officers have said, a health impact assessment will only be acceptable to the public if it includes the full geographic scope of affected communities from the U.S. border to international waters, is developed through a transparent public scoping process, and includes cumulative effects of existing and approved coal export projects at Neptune and Westshore Terminals,” Benson said.
“The assessment process has been fatally flawed from the get-go. Had Port Metro Vancouver approached this properly from the beginning, we could have had a health impact assessment completed by now,” Williams said. “We believe the B.C. government can do better and hope that provincial leaders will stand up for the public interest,” she added.
Laura Benson, Dogwood Initiative, 604-353-9527, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paula Williams, Communities and Coal, 604-723-8556, email@example.com