VANCOUVER — A Port Metro Vancouver-issued permit to build a coal transfer facility on the Fraser River must be quashed on grounds of procedural fairness and failure to consider climate impacts, Ecojustice lawyers said today.
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.
“Our clients were there every step the way and they saw conduct that suggests Port Metro Vancouver’s approval was a done deal before the permit review process had even concluded,” said Karen Campbell, Ecojustice staff lawyer. “Our clients’ case not only alleges bias, it also challenges the Port’s failure to consider the dangerous climate impacts of burning the coal once it reaches Asia.”
Ecojustice lawyers filed the case this morning on behalf of two local residents and two B.C.-based organizations, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) and Communities and Coal.
“Despite local residents’ grave concerns about the project’s climate and human health impacts, it seems that the Port’s mind was made up even before the environmental assessment was completed,” said Kathryn Harrison of VTACC. “Allowing this project to proceed could lock us into another 30 years of coal exports, and be yet another black eye for Canada’s environmental record and reputation as a climate laggard.”
The Port’s review failed to consider that burning the exported coal could result in nearly eight MT of CO2 each year. This figure represents one per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 (699 MT of CO2 equivalent) and is equivalent to adding some 1.6 million passenger vehicles to the road.
The Fraser Surrey Docks is an example of using Canada as a conduit for dirty coal. Similar proposals in Washington State and Oregon face heavy opposition, which is prompting U.S. coal companies to look north for alternate transport routes to Asian markets.
“Local communities will be burdened with the immediate health risks of increased coal transport and then saddled with the impacts of climate change, which are already appearing,” said Paula Williams, co-founder of Communities and Coal. “We’re getting hit with a double whammy so that coal companies and the Port can make a quick buck.”