On August 21st 2014, the federal body Port Metro Vancouver approved the Fraser Surrey docks coal port expansion, a proposal that will allow for 8 million tons of thermal coal annually to be shipped through Metro Vancouver. The terminal will load and dispatch 2 uncovered barges of coal per day to another facility at Taxeda Island, where the coal will be transferred onto larger sea-heading cargo vessels. The thermal coal is destined for Asian markets to be burned as a means of energy production.
This controversial project has come to British Columbia looking for softer health and environmental standards than the ones it failed to meet in the United States—and Port Metro Vancouver has risen to the occasion.
Dr. Paul Van Buynder, the chief medical health officer for the Fraser Health Authority, has expressed serious concern with the safety of the project; saying that he and other health experts in the region had not been properly consulted prior to its approval. What’s more, Golder Associates Ltd was charged with Port Metro Vancouver’s environmental impact assessment, which it completed in two weeks, as opposed to the usual six months. This dubious assessment was followed by a 30-day public comment period, to which the public responded with a resounding “no.”
This stance has been mirrored by environmental authorities, municipal governments, student councils, everyday citizens, and community groups like Communities and Coal, Kids for Climate Action and Voters Taking Action on Climate Change for its failure to take into account the environmental and health-related impacts of the shipment and consumption of thermal coal. Communities and Coal and VTACC are currently locked in legal battles with the Port Authority, and municipal governments are in the process of protecting their jurisdiction over the permitting process.
The International Governmental Panel on Climate Change has announced that global temperatures must not rise above pre-industrial levels by more than 2%—and at a time when scientists are warning governments away from fossil fuels, for the BC government to enable the growth of the thermal coal industry is irresponsible and dangerous. Our provincial government itself has made a legally binding commitment to reduce the province’s GHG emissions by 33% by 2020—but when it comes to our own export of fossil fuels, they haven’t made a peep.
Although the principle authority on Fraser Surrey-docks is Port Metro Vancouver, the BC Provincial Government still has the ability to stop this transfer facility in its tracks. Until now, they have been virtually silent. It’s time for that to change.