The City of New Westminster will be seeking intervener status for a court challenge against the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) coal transfer facility.
Ecojustice Canada launched a Federal Court challenge Sept. 19 opposing Port Metro Vancouver issuing a project permit to FSD. Ecojustice claims the port authority was wrong to decide the project would have no significant adverse effect on the environment.
If the terminal goes ahead an extra train a day of U.S. thermal coal will arrive by train at FSD where it will be loaded on barges, shipped to Texada Island, and reloaded onto larger ships. FSD is across the Fraser River from New Westminster’s Queensborough, Quayside and Downtown neighbourhoods.
“New Westminster council is extremely disappointed with this approval and the process leading to the decision to issue a project permit to Fraser Surrey Docks,” said Mayor Wayne Wright in a press release. “Due to New Westminster’s close proximity to the proposed facility, we have serious concerns with respect to the environmental, health and safety risks that could result from this project.”
The release said some of the concerns included coal dust, dust suppression chemicals, soil and water contamination, global greenhouse gas emissions, and the risk of explosions, fires, collisions and spills.
“There are a number of potential environmental issues, both local and global, and social issues, particularly related to health, that have not been resolved to the satisfaction of many local stakeholders, raising concerns about the sustainability of operating the facility,” said Wright.
He said the city is also troubled by the project review report indicating no public consultation was done.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said the coal will not only have a severe health impact on New West but economic as well. “We’re concerned about land values in New Westminster with regards to that.”
Puchmayr said the city doesn’t have any confidence Port Metro Vancouver did its due diligence.
“We always said from the onset that no matter what we did it was a done deal,” said Puchmayr.
He made the comments while attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler where he said New West has been talking to other municipalities such as White Rock, Surrey, Delta, Burnaby and Richmond about getting their staffs to look at seeking intervener status in the case.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, a group called Communities and Coal, its founder Paula Williams and Surrey resident Christine Dujmovich, who lives near the docks.
VTACC director Kevin Washbrook welcomed New West’s involvement.
“They have consistently pushed for recognition of community concerns about the Fraser Surrey Docks project and they have advocated strongly for meaningful consultation with local governments throughout the review,” said Washbrook in a news release. “New West was also one of the first municipalities to express concerns directly to the Port about the risks this project poses for our climate.”
Williams was grateful for the support.
“Front line communities like White Rock, Surrey and New West will bear the brunt of local impacts from this project,” said Williams. “They deserve to have their voice fully heard regarding the level of risk to communities from the plan to export U.S. coal, but they’ve been sidelined by the Port.”
– with file from Jeff Nagel