VANCOUVER — On Monday, July 13, the cities of New Westminster and Surrey were granted intervener status in a case aimed at quashing the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s decision to approve a new coal transfer facility on the Fraser River.
Ecojustice lawyers filed the case in September 2014 on behalf of two local residents, Paula Williams and Christine Dujmovich, and two B.C.-based organizations, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) and Communities and Coal. They allege that the Port’s decision-making was unlawful and biased and are seeking to quash the permit in order to protect local communities and because the impacts of the project on climate change were not considered.
“I live in Surrey” says Paula Williams. “It is important for me and for my co-applicant Christine to have the support of our city in this case. Municipalities have to be concerned about long-term sustainable development, and we’re glad Surrey and New Westminster recognize that this coal port is not the right project for our community.”
The Port Authority opposed the municipalities’ applications to intervene in the case and a court date was set for today, July 14. Yesterday, the Port reversed its position at the 11th hour and consented to Surrey and New Westminster’s intervenor applications.
The two large municipalities — Surrey is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada— will now have permission to appear before the Court to present arguments in this case. The municipalities intend to draw on their experience to speak to whether the Port had properly delegated the authority to make the decisions, and whether the Port’s decision-making process was biased.
“Cities have real expertise in the legal issues at play here, and we believe that their contributions will strengthen the case.” says Karen Campbell, staff lawyer at Ecojustice. “Plus, the fact that these major municipalities are supporting citizen groups is incredibly important to this David versus Goliath struggle.”
The proposed project would see four million tonnes of American thermal coal shipped to its port on the Fraser River by open rail car trains travelling through Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, including the municipalities of Surrey and New Westminster, every year. The coal would then be loaded on to barges in the Fraser River, bound for Asian markets.
Read Christine and Paula’s blog HERE.