Communities and Coal director Paula Williams. Contributed photo

Proposed coal project for Fraser Surrey Docks back in court

It could be months before the federal appeal court renders a decision

Ecojustice lawyers were in federal appeal court in Vancouver last Thursday in the latest round of a protracted court battle over a U.S. thermal coal port facility proposed for Fraser Surrey Docks.

Last February opponents of the project lost a four-year-long legal fight challenging its approval by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Fraser Surrey Docks applied in 2012 for a permit to build and operate a coal transfer facility in Surrey along the river, proposing to bring coal in from the U.S. by rail and load it onto barges bound for Texada Island, from where ships would take it to Asia. A review was held, with community groups, First Nations and civic governments, during which process the applicants in the federal court battle expressed concern over impacts on the environment.

Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, is representing Communities and Coal Society and two local women — Christine Dujmovich and Paula Williams — in their case against the project.

“Ecojustice and its clients are committed to standing up against a project that would feed one of the dirtiest industries on the planet,” Ecojustice lawyer Fraser Thomson said. “We need impartial processes for approving projects that could significantly impact human health and the climate. Our clients argue the Port did not act impartially, and so its approval of the project cannot stand.”

Williams, who attended the latest hearing at the Federal Court of Appeal on 701 West Georgia, in courtroom 601, said lawyers for both sides each presented two hours of argument Thursday before the judgment was reserved.

“The decision could take five to 10 months to come back, so it’s a little bit of a wait,” she said. “We started this whole coal thing back in 2013, so we’ve been at it over five years already so I guess what’s another 10 months, right?”

“It was definitely full,” Williams, a resident of Crescent Beach and co-founder of Communities and Coal, said of the courtroom. “We had supporters there, it was nice to see. I was pleasantly surprised, after all this time, that we would have a turnout like we did.”

READ ALSO: Federal court kills bid to stop coal transfer facility at Surrey docks

“It’s just wait and see,” Williams told the Now-Leader. “Somebody asked can the decision be appealed to the Supreme Court (of Canada), but it’s probably highly unlikely because there’s some pretty rigid standards for something to be submitted to the Supreme Court

”I can’t imagine it going that far, I think we’ll just wait and see what happens. Ecojustice, I just have to say, has been amazing. What a hard-working bunch of people to do this as a charity law firm. Obviously as a everyday regular person we couldn’t have done this without their help. For an average person to go up against the port, financially that’s impossible and I think that’s why people are reluctant to challenge things that they see as an injustice.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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