The Corporation of Delta will take the lead on an independent inter-agency review of the health and environmental impacts of a proposed coal transfer facility in Surrey.
The decision was made by Delta Council Monday evening following a staff report which made nine extensive recommendations, including deferment of the consideration of the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal until the committee completes its review.
Council bickered last Monday when Couns. Jeannie Kanakos and Sylvia Bishop did not want to wait for the extensive staff report prior to calling for a review.
But Mayor Lois Jackson would not budge on the issue, insisting council wait to see what recommendations would be made by staff.
“In this case I felt staff had not really been given the opportunity that they needed to bring forward thoughtful recommendations of the overall topic,” she said.
That acrimony on council was notably absent following the release of the 55-page staff report on Monday, which calls for participation by Health Canada, Environment Canada, the BC Ministry of Environment, the BC Ministry of Health, Metro Vancouver, as well as Surrey, New Westminster, and White Rock.
“The recommendations before us tonight are in the right direction in protecting the environment and in responding to residents concerns regarding the proposed Fraser Surrey Coal Project,” said Kanakos.
Those concerns include the fact that some homes on Sheaves Court in North Delta are 21 metres away from the BNSF rail line that would carry coal through the community. Many other homes on 63 Avenue, Westview, Barrymore, and Skagit Drive are all within 55 and 75 metres of the rail line, which Kanakos said will put the health of residents and the environment in jeopardy.
“I continue to oppose the Fraser Surrey Docks Coal facility and ultimately I am hopeful that the project will be stopped,” she said.
Bishop was also conciliatory in her remarks, adding all of the concerns raised by council members last week were addressed in the report.
“That report is way better than what we had envisioned last week,” she said. “I particularly like the fact that Delta is going to take the lead and play the leadership role and show the initiative to begin this process.”
Jackson said there was a varying degree of understanding, misunderstanding, and confusion surrounding the proposal, the process, and the possible impact on Delta residents.
“One of the most important points is that the Corporation will be responsible for initiating, facilitating, and formulating an independent, inter-agency review committee,” she said.
Jackson said residents of Delta are worried, fearful and concerned about several issues raised by Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder and his Vancouver Coastal Health Authority counterpart Dr. Patricia Daly.
Several communities, including Surrey and White Rock, have already expressed opposition to the coal terminal until a health assessment is conducted.
Fraser Surrey Docks currently has a proposal before Port Metro Vancouver to import between two and four million metric tonnes of U.S. thermal coal along the BNSF railway line through White Rock, North Delta, and then a deep sea terminal on the Fraser River in Surrey. The coal would then be barged to Texada Island where it would be loaded onto deep sea vessels to transport to China.
Delta will withhold approval for Fraser Surrey Docks until Port Metro Vancouver implements the recommendations made by the proposed committee.
A study commissioned by Fraser Surrey Docks and conducted by SNC Lavalin has claimed the proposal would “not likely cause significant adverse effects to the environment or human health.” The study, released Nov. 18, claimed coal dust would be minimized as a result of mitigation measures and the fact coal won’t be stockpiled.
But Coun. Robert Campbell challenged the credibility of the report and suggested the proposed committee would provide an assessment that council can stand behind.