We remain committed to standing up for the climate and our communities in opposition to dirty U.S. thermal coal, groups say

VANCOUVER — Community groups and local residents are going back to court to stop U.S. coal exports through Vancouver’s Lower Mainland in their tracks.

Last month, the Federal Court dismissed a case, brought by Communities and Coal Society, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, and two local residents, which aimed to quash a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-issued permit for the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project.  This week, Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of the community groups and local residents, filed an appeal of the Federal Court’s decision.

“We’re helping our clients appeal this case because we need to make sure that communities are not given short shrift when it comes to their concerns about health,  safety and climate change,” said Karen Campbell, Ecojustice lawyer.  “The way to make sure that happens is to have the court affirm that federally-appointed authorities, like the Port, must be held accountable for their decisions where projects will have impacts on local communities and the environment.”

The groups have alleged that the Port didn’t follow the law when it conducted its environmental review. If the Federal Court’s decision is allowed to stand, they believe it would put the integrity of the environmental assessment process at risk.

“It is our neighbourhoods that will have to deal with the health and safety risks that would be generated by the Fraser Surrey Docks coal port project and yet we’ve never been given a fair hearing from the Port,” said Paula Williams, co-founder of Communities and Coal. “We are appealing the dismissal of our case to ensure our voices are heard, our health is protected, and this project is stopped.”

There are unresolved concerns about the health effects flowing from exposure to coal dust, such as respiratory illnesses. Other health effects are also associated with the transport of coal itself: Diesel particulate matter emitted by trains carrying the coal is associated with pulmonary inflammation, increased asthma attacks, heart attacks and cancer risk.

The Fraser Surrey Docks coal project would see up to four million tonnes of thermal coal carried by open-car rail from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin through Vancouver’s Lower Mainland each year, ultimately bound for export to foreign markets. If built, this project could pump nearly seven million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere each year.

“We’re still concerned about the impacts this coal export project would have on communities and about the Port’s decision-making process,” said Kevin Washbrook, director at Voters Taking Action on Climate Change. “The health, environmental and climate risks generated by coal mining, transport and combustion are significant to say the least. We’re standing by our commitment to stand with communities in opposition to dirty US thermal coal.”