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BC to expand coal exports

Loading Coal at Neptune Terminal
By: 
Anna Roik

January 30, 2013

The first of two controversial coal port expansion projects in BC was unilaterally approved this week by Port Metro Vancouver. It more than doubles the amount of coal leaving North Vancouver’s Neptune Bulk Terminals, from 8.5 million to 18.5 million tonnes. The second port expansion project at Fraser Surrey Docks, slated to export coal shipped in from the US, is still under review.
 
By the completion of expansion in 2014, there will be one additional coal train per day through North Vancouver and an additional bulk carrier entering the narrow inlet leading to the terminal. The coal itself is mined in eastern BC, and the terminal’s expansion will allow expanded coal mining operations across the province.
 
Neptune Bulk Terminals deals primarily in metallurgical, not thermal coal. There are claims that metallurgical coal is “greener” than thermal coal, however the Dogwood Initiative, a BC group involved in the anti-coal fight, states that there are still potential environmental risks with coal dust and from carbon dioxide emitted during coal processing.
 
With a thermal coal port expansion project still outstanding at Fraser Surrey Docks, there is also concern about the nature of the consultation process between Port Metro Vancouver, the companies and local communities. When Neptune Bulk Terminals announced its expansion proposal, it provided the community with leaflets and other information. However, these materials had been previously reviewed and vetted by the board of directors of Port Metro Vancouver, all of whom are appointed by the federal government. There were no public hearings or consultations. As well, Port Metro Vancouver claims to have an “in-house environmental assessment procedure” but the expansion will not trigger a federal assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012.
 
This is in direct contrast to what recently happened in Cherry Point, Washington, where a proposal for building a coal terminal is being reviewed. Community input included seven public meetings of nearly 9000 people, 750 public speakers including elected public official from the state governors and mayors of local communities, and about 10,000 web-based submissions posted for viewing on the proposal’s environmental impact website.
 
Here in Harper's Canada, secrecy and expediency in natural resources projects is the norm.

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