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Coal critics urge province to block new Surrey terminal

Port Metro Vancouver says additional coal trains coming through White Rock and South Surrey would be sprayed down with an anti-dust agent, but critics remain strongly opposed to a new terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks. - Contributed
Port Metro Vancouver says additional coal trains coming through White Rock and South Surrey would be sprayed down with an anti-dust agent, but critics remain strongly opposed to a new terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks.
— image credit: Contributed

A coalition of coal export opponents on Thursday denounced an environmental review of a planned new terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks and urged the province to help dissuade Port Metro Vancouver from quickly giving the project the green light.

The deadline for comments on the environmental impact assessment is Dec. 17 and critics fear the port will make a decision soon after.

"Municipalities representing over a million people are either opposed to this or, at a minimum, want a comprehensive health assessment," Communities and Coal campaigner Paula Williams said. "It would be irresponsible for the port to proceed and approve this proposal."

Tyee Bridge of the group Fraser Riverkeeper said coal barges heading down the Fraser River and across Georgia Strait would pass through critical rearing habitat for endangered white sturgeon.

"This report doesn't tell us how much coal is going to escape and it doesn't contemplate any of the impacts on marine habitat," Bridge said.

Other marine life, including shellfish and the oysters of Fanny Bay, could be threatened, he suggested.

Among the academics marshalled to the cause by environmental campaigners is SFU sustainable energy professor Mark Jaccard, who helped design B.C.'s climate change policy under Premier Gordon Campbell.

Jaccard said in a statement the EIA is "utterly inadequate" because it fails to consider climate change impacts, which Port Metro Vancouver deems beyond its jurisdiction.

"We should not be aiding and abetting the rapid expansion of havoc-creating carbon pollution here or abroad by increasing our production and shipping of coal," he said.

Tim Takaro, another professor who stressed coal exports will contribute to runaway climate change, said new coal terminals are being blocked along the U.S. west coast.

Chief medical health officers from Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health have also called the environmental review inadequate, citing various flaws and insufficient consideration of potential health impacts from coal dust.

Port Metro Vancouver issued a statement saying proponent Fraser Surrey Docks has addressed the fugitive dust issue by altering the planned terminal and ensuring anti-dust treatment of train cars that pass through White Rock and South Surrey.

"Coal is a commodity that is already handled in the port and has been handled safely for decades," it said, noting the additional coal to be shipped through the Surrey terminal equates to a 7.5 per cent increase in the port's coal-handling capacity.

The environmental assessment found coal dust poses no adverse risk of health effects along the BNSF railway or near the terminal.

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