Conversations about the urgent need to act on climate change will be on the international stage this week as the People’s Climate March and the United Nations Climate Summit takeover New York City. Closer to home, the threat of climate change is also top of mind as Ecojustice lawyers help local communities take legal action against coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel.

Ecojustice lawyers filed a Federal Court case Friday morning in an effort to quash a Port Metro Vancouver-issued permit allowing the construction of a new coal transfer facility on the Fraser River. The Fraser Surrey Docks project would see up to four megatonnes (MT) of coal per year shipped by open-car rail from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin through Vancouver’s Lower Mainland. The coal would then be loaded onto ships for export to Asian markets.

This project could pump nearly eight MT of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere each year, which is the equivalent of adding some 1.6 million passenger vehicles to the road. So it’s no surprise that our clients — two local residents and a pair of community-based groups — have serious concerns about the project’s climate and human health impacts.

We’re going to court to argue that the conduct of the Port and its officers suggests bias — that the approval was a done deal long before the permit review was even completed. We’re also challenging the Port for failing to consider the climate impacts of burning the coal once it reaches Asian markets.

This case marks one of the first opportunities we’ve had to directly challenge a project on its climate impacts. It’s also a great example of why I wanted to work for Ecojustice – to pursue innovative litigation that helps protect people and the places they love.

As increasing opposition to coal transport facilities in Washington State and Oregon prompts companies to look north for alternate routes to Asian markets, it is critical we stop this dirty coal project its tracks. Allowing it to go ahead will be yet another black mark on Canada’s poor environmental record and further cement our reputation as a laggard on climate change.

Earlier this week, I met with our clients, the local residents who will be most affected by this project. They told me that they wanted to go to court so that they could stand up for fair decision-making and doing what’s right. As we huddled around the kitchen table in a house that looks out over the proposed facility site, I promised our clients that win or lose, Ecojustice would be with them every step of the way.