While perhaps it’s no surprise that Port Metro Vancouver has rubberstamped approval of its tenant Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) becoming a conduit for American thermal coal on its journey to Asia, it is shortsighted for several reasons.
The public, by an approximate 3,500 to six margin in December 2013, submitted comments about the proposal based on wide concerns over the inadequacy of environmental and, especially, health-impact assessments. Port Metro’s response was to delay approval and state they would require FSD to do further health review.
Nothing in last week’s announcement suggests the review, which was done behind closed doors and with no public or health authority consultation, has answered the vast majority of concerns.
Regardless of any claims to the contrary, Port Metro and Fraser Surrey Docks ignored this request – refusing to take advice from our public-health experts.
A study replicating the same conditions of the FSD proposal, done in Seattle by Dr. Jaffe of the University of Washington, resulted in significant health concerns over the extensive impact of coal dust and diesel particulates. Elevated cancer and lung impairment risks were some of the findings.
In a democracy, we expect business to be conducted, however it is incumbent upon those proposing large-scale enterprises such as this to be required to carry out full-scale and independent assessments of the health impacts of such proposals. We only have to look at the recent devastation from the Mount Polley mine tailing’s disaster to see the consequence of not doing due diligence. A normally restrained Canadian electorate is growing weary of this lack of government oversight.
People should remember that, in spite of this being under Port Metro auspices, our provincial Ministry of Health has the authority to call for a review if there are perceived threats to the public. That is a role the public expects our government to fill.