Surrey applying to be intervener in coal port court challenge

Surrey applying to be intervener in coal port court challenge

SURREY — The City of Surrey is applying for intervener status in a federal court challenge over Fraser Surrey Docks, which alleges the Port Authority granting the application was biased in its deliberations.

Surrey council voted in favour of the motion during Monday night’s council meeting.

Two Surrey residents, along with local environmental groups, launched the court challenge in September.

The 13-page application for judicial review was filed by lawyers for Ecojustice on behalf of Surrey residents Christine Dujmovich and Paula Williams, along with the B.C.-based organizations Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) and Communities and Coal.

Among other things, the application challenges the permit decision on the basis of the port’s failure to consider certain environmental effects as required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and that the conduct of the port and its officers and staff during the review process violated the principles of natural justice, procedural fairness and the rule against bias.

A report to Surrey council Monday states concerns have been raised about local environmental and health impacts, including dust from train movements, chemicals used in train cars for dust suppression, soil and water contamination and risks related to fires, explosions, spills and collisions.

“These concerns were not properly considered by the Port as relevant environment effect in its Permit Decision,” the City of Surrey report states.

Port Metro Vancouver approved the $15-million coal facility in August, which will import up to four metric tonnes of thermal coal annually in open-car rail from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin through White Rock, Delta, and then onto barges at Fraser Surrey Docks.

The coal would then be transported along the Fraser River to Texada Island for loading onto deepsea vessels to feed China’s growing thirst for coal.

At a recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention, a resolution was passed that called for a “comprehensive environmental and health impact assessment” and that “an appropriate federal and/or provincial agency be named to monitor rail transport, barge transfer and transport of thermal coal over coastal waters to ensure oversight and implementation of environmental and health protection measures.”