VANCOUVER – Ecojustice lawyers are in court Thursday, representing Communities and Coal Society and two local residents in their fight against the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project, a facility that could lead to the transfer of millions of tonnes of American coal through British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.
Christine Dujmovich, Paula Williams and Communities and Coal say the project threatens the health of individuals and families who live near the facility or along the transport route. That’s why, together with Ecojustice, they are appealing a Federal Court decision made earlier this year.
“Ecojustice and its clients are committed to standing up against a project that would feed one of the dirtiest industries on the planet,” Ecojustice lawyer Fraser Thomson said. “We need impartial processes for approving projects that could significantly impact human health and the climate. Our clients argue the Port did not act impartially, and so its approval of the project cannot stand.”
The Fraser Surrey Docks coal project would see a transport facility built along the Fraser River. This facility would be used to transport coal from the United States on to vessels bound towards overseas coal plants. .
If built, the facility could lead to the transfer of up to four million tonnes of thermal coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin through the Lower Mainland, via open- car rail.
“We are extremely concerned about the health impacts of moving huge volumes of coal through our communities,” said Williams, co-founder of Communities and Coal. “We are in court today to fight to keep the impacts of dirty U.S. thermal coal out of our children’s backyards, our neighbours’ lungs and the places we call home.”
Exposure to coal dust has been linked to respiratory illnesses and diesel particulate matter emitted by trains carrying coal is associated with pulmonary inflammation, increased asthma attacks, heart attacks and cancer risk.
Ecojustice lawyers, acting on behalf of Communities and Coal, Williams and Dujmovich, argue that the conduct of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias when it greenlighted the coal project — in part because the port’s employee bonus scheme offered significant financial incentives for executives to move the project forward despite concerns from local residents.
Williams, Dujmovich, and Communities and Coal are also concerned about the project will contribute to manmade climate change. When burned in overseas facilities, the coal shipped through the project will lead to nearly seven million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere each year.
“The risks this project poses are simply too great to be ignored. When the Port attempted to do just that, we had little choice but to launch a lawsuit to fight a project that could not only make us sick but also worsen the grave threat of climate change,” Dujmovich said.
Ecojustice and its clients first brought a case against the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project in 2014. In February 2018, they announced plans to appeal an earlier Federal Court decision to dismiss the case.
Communities and Coal was created for residents, by residents. It is a grassroots movement of citizens, from White Rock to Texada Island, concerned about the exporting of millions of tonnes of US Thermal Coal through B.C. Communities.
Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.
Paula Williams and Christine Dujmovich are local residents concerned about the impacts of the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project on their communities.