The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Port authority OKs controversial coal-shipping facility in Metro Vancouver

  • Print

VANCOUVER - Port Metro Vancouver approved Thursday construction of a controversial coal-shipping facility on the Fraser River, over concerns from local medical health officers and area residents about air quality and the environment.

Fraser Surrey Docks was granted a permit to build the facility to handle four-million metric tonnes of coal from the U.S. Midwest each year.

Peter Xotta, vice-president of planning and operations at the port authority, said the decision was not made lightly.

"We have required extensive analysis," said Xotta.

The permit decision brings to an end a process that has dragged on for almost two years.

Concerns focus mainly on the effects of coal dust on air quality and the impact on the region. Global climate change also came into play in the drawn-out debate.

Fraser Surrey Docks hired SNC Lavalin to review the proposal, and the resulting report concluded there would be no significant adverse effects to the environment or people’s health.

But in a letter last November to the company, the chief medical health officers for the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health authorities dismissed the report's findings.

Dr. Paul Van Buynder and Dr. Patricia Daly said it "does not meet even the basic requirements of a health impact assessment."

Xotta said subsequent reviews were done, and a third-party assessment of all those reports has now been carried out by an environmental consultant.

Van Buynder said Thursday that he only just received the latest assessment and will have to review the document.

He said he was pleased Port Metro Vancouver understood additional information was needed to make an accurate health assessment.

But he said he was "disappointed" that the port did not take public health officials up on an offer to be involved.

"We were pleased early this year when they identified the fact that the information they received was inadequate to guarantee the protection of human health, but extremely disappointed that since that time they have engaged in a non-transparent process, excluding health experts," Van Buynder said.

Health officers cannot challenge the permit, but Van Buynder said that if activity from Fraser Surrey Docks is found to harm humans, medical officers can order operations shut down.

The project will be built in Surrey, but the city is withholding its support until it reviews the latest report.

Acting mayor Linda Hepner echoed complaints that the port did not seek input from health authorities for the latest review.

"I cannot understand why Port Metro Vancouver, having heard from Fraser Health that this was a concern, why they wouldn't have engaged at least Fraser Health," she said.

The project will also be watched closely by Metro Vancouver, which regulates air quality in the region. Fraser Surrey Docks will need an air permit from the district.

Allan Neilson, the general manager of planning, policy and environment, said the district may ticket, fine or take the company to court if it is not complying with regulations.

"We can't shut down their operations, but we would look to enforce unauthorized discharges of items into the atmosphere," he said.

Members of Metro Vancouver’s board of directors have been critical of the coal terminal, he said, but the ultimate permit decision rests with the director of air quality, who is separate from the council.

That means that politics probably won't affect the chances of the company getting authorization, he said.

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce welcomed the facility's approval, saying the $15-million project will create 25 direct jobs and 25 indirect jobs.

Every day, a coal train hauling 125 cars will arrive at the docks from the American Midwest to be transferred onto two barges bound for carriers waiting at Texada Island.

From there it will be shipped to Asia.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Wasylycia-Leis wants to create aboriginal accord

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government be able to censor how Ottawa is portrayed in the CMHR?

View Results

Ads by Google