Canada’s largest port has given the green light to a proposed controversial facility on the Fraser River that would unload U.S. coal destined for energy-hungry Asia.
Despite facing significant environmental and health concerns, Port Metro Vancouver said in its decision, released last Thursday, that the proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks poses no unacceptable risks.
The $15 million project could handle at least four million metric tonnes of coal per year delivered by the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway Company. It will then be loaded onto barges at the Surrey facility and transferred to ocean-going carriers at Texada Island, prior to export.
Referring to environmental studies and mitigation efforts, Jim Crandles, Port Metro Vancouver’s director of planning and development, was quoted as saying “we are confident that the project does not pose a risk to the environment or human health and that the public is protected.”
Disappointed opponents, however, said there are many unanswered questions about local and regional impacts of building and operating the facility.
Those include coal dust and diesel exhaust exposure in local populations, fire risks associated with storing coal in open barges in local communities, noise impacts, emergency vehicle access constraints, and impacts associated with transporting coal in open barges on the ocean.