Fraser Surrey Docks is the proposed site of a new coal export terminal on the Fraser River in Surrey.

Court challenge advances against Surrey coal export terminal

Judge rejects call by Port Metro Vancouver, Fraser Surrey Docks to quash court case against project

A court challenge that aims to block development of a new coal export terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks is still alive after a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed objections from port authorities.

Communities and Coal is trying to overturn the approval issued by Port Metro Vancouver for the terminal that would transfer coal coming by rail through White Rock onto ocean-going ships.

The opposition group is arguing the port authority was biased in its process for approving the permit, and that it failed to take into account the eventual climate change impacts of the U.S. thermal coal being burned in Asia.

A judge on Monday rejected a motion to quash the case from Port Metro and Fraser Surrey Docks.

Coal export opponents now hope the case is heard in court later this year.

“We’ve always felt we had a pretty strong case,” said Ecojustice Lawyer Karen Campbell, who represents Communities and Coal.

The cities of New Westminster and Surrey are also intervenors in the case and spoke in support of a full hearing because of expected project impacts on local residents.

A separate challenge of the project mounted by the Musqueam First Nation may be heard first.

Fraser Surrey Docks has not yet begun construction of the terminal.

The project also still needs approvals from Metro Vancouver.

Fraser Surrey Docks has not yet applied for an air quality permit from the regional district. It abandoned a court challenge last year of the region’s authority to regulate air pollution on port-governed lands.

Fraser Surrey Docks has applied for a permit to discharge waste water to Metro’s sewage treatment system and is asking for a decision from regional district officials by early June.

If built, the terminal would mean one additional coal train per day rolling through White Rock, South Surrey and Delta, delivering four million tonnes of U.S. coal per year, although critics fear it would expand further.

The prospects for coal exports from North America have dimmed over the past couple of years with a plunge in global coal prices. Opponents argue that has made the $15-million Surrey project uneconomic.

“China announced they’re going to cap imports of coal,” climate activist Kevin Washbrook said, but added the obstacles don’t seem to deter exporters.

“I believe it will be a white elephant on the Surrey waterfront if it goes ahead. But the coal companies are desperate to get as much off to market as they can because they believe the end is nigh.”

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