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Surrey coal terminal deadline passes amid protests

Demonstrators outside Port Metro Vancouver offices in downtown Vancouver Tuesday. - Eoghan Moriarty
Demonstrators outside Port Metro Vancouver offices in downtown Vancouver Tuesday.
— image credit: Eoghan Moriarty

A contentious coal export proposal in Surrey faced more opposition protests and a call for an inter-agency review as a new deadline for public comments on the project ended Tuesday.

Port Metro Vancouver could make a decision at any time on the application by Fraser Surrey Docks to export up to four million tonnes a year of coal, which would come by train through White Rock, Surrey and Delta, and go by barge down the Fraser River and north to a transshipment terminal at Texada Island.

Critics staged a silent vigil at the port authority offices Tuesday afternoon as the deadline passed for comments on an environmental impact assessment, which has been widely criticized as inadequate.

That followed a scuffle with staff at the port offices Monday when masked protesters dressed as Santas attempted to deliver lumps of coal.

Delta council voted Monday to lead an independent inter-agency review of the coal transfer facility, although it's unclear if it will be approved before such a review gets off the ground.

The municipality will seek participation by the health and environment ministries of both the provincial and federal governments, as well as Metro Vancouver and the cities of Surrey, White Rock and New Westminster.

The environmental review commissioned by Fraser Surrey Docks found no adverse impacts to the environment or human health.

Critics say it didn't go far enough in considering potential risks from coal dust and other impacts along the BNSF railway line, or the climate change impacts when the U.S. thermal coal is burned in Asia.

"There's no support for this," anti-coal activist Kevin Washbrook said. "It's up to the port to show how it's going to address the concerns."

He said campaigners will turn the heat up on the provincial government in the new year, adding health minister Terry Lake has not backed up objections raised by Lower Mainland medical health officers.

Washbrook also said it's hypocritical for the province to say it can export liquefied natural gas to help wean China off of burning coal, when it can simply block more coal exports from B.C. right now.

The extra coal to be shipped is a 7.5 per cent increase over current coal shipments.

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