News / Vancouver

Port delays decision on Surrey coal facility, again

Uncertainty surrounding the potential effects on human health prompted Port Metro Vancouver to once more delay a decision on a controversial coal transfer facility in Surrey.

The port has asked Fraser Surrey Docks, which applied about a year and a half ago for a permit to handle 4 million metric tonnes of coal shipped from the U.S., to provide it with more information on health consequences before it ultimately makes a decision, Metro has learned.

The decision comes after scathing public comments on the environment impact assessment Fraser Surrey Docks conducted on its project.

Of the 3,000 comments on the assessment the port received in a one-month period, the overwhelming majority were negative and called for further study or to axe the project altogether.

This is the second time the port has sent FSD back to do more homework in the face of public outcry. In September, the port asked for the environmental impact assessment that critics subsequently deemed inadequate.

The decision came as somewhat of a surprise to project opponents, as port CEO Robin Silvester said in December that there was no need to conduct a separate health assessment.

Kevin Washbrook, who has rallied the charge against the project for the group Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, is pleased with the delay but still has questions.

“It’s a good sign that the port is actually listening to community concerns and the experts,” Washbrook said. “Of course that doesn’t remove our concern abut the climate impacts of thermal coal.”

Washbrook wants potential health impacts to be studied from the moment the coal crosses the border to the time it gets to Texada Island, where it will be held before shipment overseas.

He’s also concerned that North Vancouver’s Neptune Terminals didn’t undergo the same scrutiny, and thinks residents deserve a health assessment there, too.

Once the port receives the additional health information from FSD, it will make a final decision. It will not take additional comments from the public.

There is no timeline for this, but the port says its decision will take into account previous input from the public, municipalities, provincial agencies and First Nations.

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