Fraser Surrey Docks intends to apply for an air quality permit from Metro Vancouver for its now-approved coal export terminal, even though it is simultaneously challenging the regional district’s jurisdiction over air pollution in court.
The port authority approved the proposed coal transfer facility last month and did not require it to obtain a Metro permit.
“We’re moving forward with that on a voluntary basis,” said Fraser Surrey Docks president and CEO Jeff Scott. “We feel this is a step in a positive direction that will add further confidence in ensuring our facility doesn’t have significant impacts.”
At the same time Scott’s staff are working with Metro officials, both sides are preparing for a fight in B.C. Supreme Court.
The terminal operator disputed an unrelated $1,000 pollution ticket Metro issued last year and has taken the position that federal port lands are exempt from the regional district’s authority over air quality.
“The port has jurisdiction over our property and sets the mandates and parameters, including air quality,” Scott said.
The project will see an extra train a day of thermal coal from the U.S. roll through White Rock and Surrey to Fraser Surrey Docks. From there it will be barged to Texada Island for reloading to larger ships.
Scott aims to have the $15-million coal facility operational in the fall of 2015.
The company is pushing ahead despite opposition from climate change activists, local residents, city councils and medical health officers.
And Scott won’t wait for Metro approval either, adding construction will start “as soon as possible” – likely “before or during” the regional permitting process.
Metro air quality and environment director Roger Quan said a loss in court would set a major precedent removing Metro authority over pollution from other port-owned lands.
Other terminals must abide by the terms of Metro permits that limit dust emissions from sulphur or potash piles and grain-handling operations.
Metro also expects a voluntary permit amendment application from Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver.
The existing coal terminal got approval from the port in January 2013 to increase metallurgical coal exports from eight million to 18 million tonnes per year.
Construction is expected to start soon, but Metro can’t block the Neptune expansion – even if its authority is upheld in court – because the terminal has an existing Metro permit.
Quan said Metro has had its mobile air monitoring unit stationed near Neptune since April gathering baseline readings so the region can gauge any increase in coal dust emissions after the expansion.
The unit is now being redeployed near the BNSF rail line in White Rock to gather similar baseline data on coal dust and diesel emissions ahead of the new terminal opening at Fraser Surrey Docks.