(Adds comment by opponents and Fraser Docks)
Aug 21 Port Metro Vancouver, Canada's largest
port, said on Thursday it has approved a new facility to
transfer coal from trains onto barges at Fraser Surrey Docks,
following lengthy public scrutiny of the project's environmental
and health impact.
After a permitting process lasting more than two years and
including environmental impact, air quality and other human
health assessments, the port said it found no "unacceptable
risks" in allowing the $15 million project to move forward.
But opponents of the project say they will look at every
possible option to challenge the decision.
"There is one more permit that the project needs to move
forward, and that's an air quality permit from the regional
government - Metro Vancouver," said Laura Benson a campaigner
with the Dogwood Initiative, a non-profit that has been opposing
"We feel pretty confident that unlike the port, which is an
unaccountable federal agency run like a corporation, that Metro
Vancouver which is led by our local elected officials will stand
by our communities," she said.
A spokeswoman for the Fraser Surrey Docks, however, said
that it viewed the permit in question as voluntary.
"We are looking into applying to Metro Vancouver for an air
quality permit. This is a voluntary move on our part and is not
a requirement of the project," the spokeswoman, Jill Buchanan,
said in an email.
The Fraser Surrey Docks terminal would handle up to 4
million metric tonnes of coal from the Burlington Northern Santa
Fe Railway Co each year, loading it on barges bound for
Texada Island, north of Vancouver, where it would be transferred
to large vessels for export.
Documents published last year by the port, which is a
corporation established by the Canadian government, said the
expansion would bring in one more train and two barges each day.
Cheap natural gas and tighter regulation has hurt coal
prices in the United States in recent years, prompting more
producers to look overseas for customers.
Port Metro Vancouver, which handles some $172 billion in
goods traded between more than 160 countries, announced new
requirements for the project last fall, including prohibiting
on-site coal storage and making barges take extra measures to
prevent coal dust from escaping while in transit.
The moves were in response to public concerns about air
quality and health issues due to coal dust exposure.
The new facility is expected to begin operating in the fall
of 2015, said Jeff Scott, the chief executive of Fraser Surrey
Docks, which is the largest multipurpose marine terminal on
North America's West Coast.
(Reporting by Solarina Ho and Allison Martell; Editing by Paul
Simao and Leslie Adler)