Opponents of a new coal export terminal on the Fraser River are going to Federal Court to challenge its approval by Port Metro Vancouver.
Lawyers for Ecojustice, on behalf of other groups and activists, argue the port authority was wrong to decide the project would have no significant adverse effect on the environment.
The port didn’t take into account the end use impact on climate change.
The notice of application for the lawsuit argues the burning in Asia of the four million tonnes of U.S. thermal coal that the project will ship each year will be equivalent to one per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It also alleges port officials were unfair and biased in handling concerns about environmental and health impacts, in part because they collaborated closely with Fraser Surrey Docks on public messaging and monitoring opposition.
The claim also alleges port executives will personally benefit from giving the green light because their compensation is tied to the port’s revenue.
The case has been filed on behalf of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, the group Communities and Coal, its founder Paula Williams and Surrey resident Christine Dujmovich, who lives adjacent to Fraser Surrey Docks.
The project will see an extra train a day of thermal coal from the U.S. roll through White Rock to Fraser Surrey Docks. From there it will be barged to Texada Island for reloading to larger ships.
“Local communities will be burdened with the immediate health risks of increased coal transport and then saddled with the impacts of climate change, which are already appearing,” Williams said.
“We’re getting hit with a double whammy so that coal companies and the port can make a quick buck.”
The opposition groups say the terminal’s environmental assessment was flawed and port officials appear to have made up their minds before it was completed.
Port authority officials said only that they are assessing how they will respond.
Another court clash is coming in B.C. Supreme Court, where Fraser Surrey Docks is challenging Metro Vancouver’s authority over air quality on federal port lands.
It has said it will also seek an air emissions permit from the regional district on a voluntary basis, but expects project construction to begin before Metro staff can assess the application.
The $15-million coal facility is to be operational in the fall of 2015.
Fraser Surrey Docks has been approved to build a new direct coal transfer facility on the Fraser River. It expects to begin construction as soon as possible. Photo: Port Metro Vancouver