Government MLAs caution port on coal health risk review
Three BC Liberal MLAs are urging Port Metro Vancouver to work with medical health officers in reassessing human health risks from increased coal shipments to feed a proposed new terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks.
MLAs Gordon Hogg (Surrey-White Rock), Marvin Hunt (Surrey-Panorama) and Scott Hamilton (Delta North) signed a Feb. 25 letter urging the port to ensure a new coal-impact review announced last month is transparent to the “growing number of municipalities and citizens who have expressed reasonable unanswered questions.”
Port authority CEO Robin Silvester last month ordered the review to plug deficiencies in an earlier environmental health assessment but said further findings on health risks won't be referred back to medical health officers for comment ahead of a final decision on the new $15-million coal terminal, which would bring more coal trains through White Rock, Surrey and Delta.
“I am concerned, that without a transparent process involving the medical health officers, that many questions and concerns will go unanswered or not be accepted by a majority of the residents,” the MLAs’ letter states.
They say every reasonable effort must be made to transparently share scientifically significant information if the Fraser Surrey Docks project is to gain a “social licence” from the public.
Hogg said Wednesday he had originally approached Hunt and Hamilton about signing the letter – and conferred with them on the content – because all three are MLAs representing the rail corridor that would be affected by increased coal shipments.
He said the letter wasn’t made public last month because he hadn’t yet checked with the other MLAs to make sure they were OK with publishing it.
“The letter was, first and foremost, to express our concerns to (Port Metro Vancouver),” Hogg said. “It wasn’t something we were trying to do for political reasons.”
Hogg said that over the last year he has received more than 100 emails and messages and met with numerous groups and individuals concerned about the impact of increased coal shipments.
He noted also both provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and Fraser Health chief medical health officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder have said the previous health review for the project “did not meet acceptable standards.”
Hogg said the intent was to endorse Port Metro Vancouver’s call for Fraser Surrey Docks to conduct further health research – and to encourage a review that would measure up to health officers’ requirements – “so that we can stand before the people of our communities and say ‘here’s the results of a robust review.’”
– with files from Alex Browne