The Editor, Re: "Port approval means 640 more coal trains annually," the Now, Aug. 26.
The recent approval of a project to ship coal from Fraser Surrey Docks has drawn criticism from regional health officers and health professionals, among others, who believe Port Metro Vancouver fell short in its assessment of the project.
First, to clarify, the project results in one additional train per day, not the 640 (annually) reported. All reports and documents related to the approval are available on Port Metro Vancouver’s website for public scrutiny.
It is important to understand Port Metro Vancouver’s legal authority extends only to the federal lands over which it has jurisdiction, which in this case is the terminal facility where coal will be delivered and transferred to barges. So, while Lower Mainland health officers do not have legal authority over federal property, they are not restricted from conducting risk assessments anywhere else that is within their oversight.
Port Metro Vancouver has also been accused of not considering public input or involving public health authorities in the review. This project did not require a federal environmental assessment by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or a provincial environmental assessment by the B.C. Environmental
Assessment Office. However, in accordance with the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Port Metro Vancouver required a thorough environmental review.
In the course of the review, health authorities were specifically invited to be involved and meetings with them were held. As part of the review, Port Metro Vancouver decided to require an Environmental Impact Assessment, which was evaluated by an expert third party and subject to a 30-day public comment period. Additionally, in response to public concerns and feedback from health authorities and others, Port Metro Vancouver required a comprehensive, sciencebased Human Health Risk Assessment which was completed following Health Canada guidelines and again evaluated by an expert third party. Port Metro Vancouver found no evidence of negative human health impacts of the project beyond acceptable minimums.
Canada’s port authorities are legislated to facilitate Canada’s trade objectives in a safe and sustainable way that mitigates negative impacts on the environment and human health, and considers local communities. Expecting our ports to decide what gets traded is akin to believing airports should make decisions on immigration. Coal has been safely shipped through the port for decades and continues to be the port’s most heavily-shipped commodity.
Vice President, Operations and Planning
Port Metro Vancouver