Stanford University recently announced it will no longer directly invest in publicly traded companies that mine for coal for energy generation. There are about 100 such companies and Stanford will no longer invest any of its $18.7 billion endowment in any of them. The university will also divest any funds currently invested in them. “Stanford
Lafarge Canada’s coal facility on Texada Island is involved in BC’s plan to become the biggest coal exporter in North America. It currently handles Close to 400,000 tonnes of coal a year, from Quinsam Mine in the Comox/Courtenay region of Vancouver Island. If the proposed Fraser Surrey Dock’s coal terminal is approved, up to 8 million tonnes of coal may pass through Texada. That decision will have to wait until June, but in April BC Environmental Assessment Office inadvertently disclosed the fact Large’s permit had already been amended when they emailed an activist that:
“On March 12, 2014, the Ministry of Energy and Mines issued a Mines Act amendment with conditions to Texada Quarrying Ltd [Lafarge]. I suggest that you follow up directly with the Ministry of Energy and Mines if you have any questions regarding the amendment.”
“Was it only an inadvertent slip that the EAO email mentioned the permit had been issued? Was government intentionally trying to keeping this quiet, or had staff simply not bothered to inform the public, our Ministers and MLA’s that the permit had been issued?” asks Donald Gordon, spokesperson for Coal Dust Free Salish Sea and Voters Taking Action on Climate Change director. “Either way, it’s outrageous that First Nations, Regional Districts and residents were not promptly notified of a government decision on a highly contentious issue. Is it likely that Lafarge has been kept in the dark about this approval for the past four weeks?”
Chief Calvin Craigan of the shíshálh (Sechelt) Nation issued the following statement on learning of the decision:
“The provincial government is making it clear that they intend to try to push their agenda through at all costs. They are amending laws, ignoring coastal communities, ignoring First Nations, and ignoring the impacts of this project on resources in our traditional territory. This project is not in the best interests of any coastal community. The Sechelt First Nation, local governments and coastal residents will stand together to stop this project. We have no choice.”
The Government’s secrecy was not the only problem. Lafarge’s permit explicitly prohibits release of coal into the “water or foreshore” at the coal loading facility, yet as you can see from numerous photos on this page, the beach is contaminated.
After being notified, twice, the Ministry of Environment finally sent out a technician who reported “no coal was noted outside of the stockpile area, a small strip of land along the beach showed up as black. This was not noted from the air, but was picked up when the investigator walked the area. Six samples of the soil , sand, rock and debris (mostly wood chips like material) were taken and sealed. These samples were turned over to the coal geologist with the Geological Survey branch for analysis . She did a detailed analysis and advised me there was no coal in the samples.”
Local residents and land owners geo-referenced, photographed and collected coal samples for testing by an independent lab.
Lab results show a chemical signature consistent with coal and the high levels of arsenic suggested the Quinsam coal mine was the source. (Earlier studies have shown elevated levels of arsenic in coal mined at Quinsam.) Environmental specialist Dr André Sobolewski found the elevated level of arsenic in the samples troubling, even more so as local First Nations are harvesting shellfish in this area. He urged MOE to conduct immediate follow up studies to determine if arsenic contaminates local shellfish.
“We have clear evidence that Lafarge is already allowing coal to escape from its current small stockpiles into the surrounding beaches and foreshore. We’ve brought that evidence to the Ministry of Mines, but they have dismissed it and are doing nothing to address what appears to be a significant breach of Lafarge’s existing permit. We’ve had to collect donations to have coal samples tested in the lab because government is not doing its job.” said Donald Gordon. “Why should we expect that Lafarge and the Ministry of Mines will do a better job when they are handling 8 million tonnes of coal a year?”
Fifty one of BC’s faith leaders subsequently wrote BC’s Premier, Christy Clark, an open letter requesting she reconsider her decision to approve the expansion of coal facilities on Texada Island.
They said coal is “the fossil fuel most directly linked to the rise of CO2 emissions in China” and “making money at the expense of the health and prosperity of the planet is wrong.”
They are leaders of the Sikh, Jewish, Unitarian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church of Canada, Presbyterian, and Evangelical Lutheran communities.
Most come from the Lower Mainland area, but there were some from Vancouver Island, Powell River and even Texada Island.
“This has global implications,” Rabbi David Mivasair, of Ahavat Olam Synagogue in Vancouver, told the ECOreport. “It also impacts us here and we can do something about this here.
“In May of 2012 Premier Clark stated that responsibility for climate change does not stop at BC’s borders. She also claimed that BC LNG exports would be good for the world and good for the climate because they would allow other countries to wean themselves off of dirty sources of energy like thermal coal,” said Rosemary Cornell, a member of the Sustainability Circle at Canadian Memorial United Church and letter organizer. “However, when asked to take a stand on current plans to export US thermal coal from Fraser Surrey Docks and Texada Island to be burned in Asian power plants, the Premier has remained silent. The letter sent yesterday by faith leaders encourages her to consider the moral implications of promoting export of a fuel that is contributing to horrific air pollution in China and rising CO2 emissions worldwide.”
“Our province has shown strong leadership in the past on commitments to reduce GHG emissions and our municipalities have robust plans to reduce carbon output. The traffic in coal is not compatible with those plans,” the collective letter states.
“In our weekly sermons we encourage our congregations to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Many of them are walking the talk, reducing their carbon footprint in their daily choices of what they buy and how they travel. Now our congregations are asking us to act as emissaries of their message to you, to embrace a shift in the way to do business. Therefore we will not stand idly by when we see local actions that will contribute to climate destabilization.”
This Morning, May 15, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) has served the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and Texada Quarries Limited (TQL) with notice that it is bringing a court case challenging the legality of MEM’s recent approval of a major coal export expansion on Texada Island.
They are arguing that:
- that bulk coal storage and shipping facilities are regulated under the Environmental Management Act, not the Mines Act, and a waste discharge permit is required before this project can proceed;
- important information about how contaminated run-off from the site will be managed was not shared with the concerned public prior to the permit being issued.
If successful, the Voters Taking Action challenge will require the MEM permit to be set aside and the Environmental Management Act applied to the project.
“We see no other option than to take the government to court” said Donald Gordon of adjacent Lasqueti Island. “The Province has ignored evidence of ongoing coal contamination, rejected the pleas of public health officials, dismissed citizens’ and First Nations’ call for an independent environmental assessment of this project, and refused to apply its own pollution prevention laws under the Environmental Management Act. We cannot sit back and watch while this massive coal export facility is illegally authorized without adequate review.”
The Texada Island Connection, was originally posted on: PlanetSave. To read more from Planetsave, join thousands of others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Not too long ago, there were plans to ship 80 million tons of coal through six terminals in Washington and Oregon. Now there are three. Domestic coal burning plants are being phased out in both states. Their Governors expressed concerns further expansion would lead to “air quality and climate impacts in the United States that dwarf almost any other action the federal government could take in the foreseeable future.” So the coal industry has sought new outlets to the North, in British Colimbia’s Lower Mainland.
There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of coal entering BC since 2010. Though coal burning plants cannot be built in the province, because of climate change regulations, this does not prevent the province from exporting coal. There are plans to make BC the biggest coal exporter in North America. The existing terminals at Delta and North Vancouver are being expanded and a new facility is proposed for Surrey.
Westshore Coal Export Terminal at Roberts Bank
Westshore coal export terminal at Roberts Bank, in Delta, is the largest export facility on the Pacific coast and there are plans to make it larger. Denis Horgan, Vice President of Westshore Terminal at Roberts Bank in Delta – the largest coal export facility on the Pacific coast – said the $230 million project is more about “staying efficient,” and carefully used the words “stockpile expansion.”
Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver
This is not the only facility expanding. Last year, Port Metro approved a $200 million expansion of Neptune Terminal’s coal handling facility in North Vancouver. It is now be capable of handling 18.5 million tonnes a year, twice its former capacity.
According to Kevin Washburn, of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC), the Port Authority rushed through its decision on the Neptune expansion in January of 2013 despite growing opposition and demands for public hearings and a health impact assessment of the proposal.
In late 2013 North Vancouver city council passed a motion calling on the Port Authority to conduct a health impact assessment of the Neptune decision. The Port Authority has not responded to this request.
On January 11, 2014, a 152-car coal train, heading for Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver, to derail in Burnaby this afternoon. Seven cars went off the tracks near Government and Cariboo Roads, near Burnaby Lake. Three of the cars spilled their loads. As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, at least one of these emptied its load into a protected waterway. No one was injured.
Emily Hamer, a spokeswoman for CNR, said she did not know how much of the coal went into the water or whether CPR or CNR, which owns the tracks, is responsible for the derailment of the 152-car train.
Washburn issued a press release saying, “The accident today in Burnaby highlights a fundamental flaw in decision making around expanded coal exports in Metro Vancouver.”
“The Port Authority has absolute power to approve expanded coal exports from publicly owned Port lands, and it refuses to acknowledge that those decisions have an impact on surrounding communities. Whether it’s the health impacts from increased exposure to diesel exhaust or coal dust or train derailments themselves, increased coal exports come at a cost to our neighborhoods. Local and regional governments and our health authorities deserve a say in these decisions.”
Fraser Surrey Docks
There is also a proposed $15-million project that would allow Warren Buffet’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to bring up to four million tonnes of American coal to Fraser Surrey Docks every year. The coal would be barged to Texada Island and then loaded onto ocean-going vessels.
SNC Lavalin, hired by Surrey Fraser Docks to conduct an environmental assessment, claimed the proposal would “not likely cause significant adverse effects to the environment or human health.”
After reviewing SNC Lavelin’s report, chief medical health officers Dr. Patricia Daly and Dr. Paul Van Buynder concluded that it is “primarily a repackaging of work previously done by other consultants” that does not “deal with the full scope of the project” or “meet even the most basic requirements of a health impact assessment.”
Some of the specifics they felt were missing are:
• Data regarding population increases in Surrey or Delta, or comments on the effect this increase would have on the most vulnerable population (children and elderly) over the proposed life time of the project.
• The segment dealing with coal dust mitigation leaned too heavily on a 25-year-old report and while it was suggested that sealants could address this problem, no proof was given.
• There was “little consideration of the increase in diesel emissions from trains, barges, trucks and idling vehicles at railway crossings.”
• It was not appropriate to use a letter written in 1998 to address concerns about dust from Westshore Terminals fifteen years later.
• The sections on air quality monitoring and emergency vehicle access were inadequate.
• There was no indication that residents of the surrounding area were properly consulted.
The United Steelworkers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have written letters in support of the project, but most of the surrounding communities have voiced their opposition.
Paula Williams, head of the community group, Communities and Coal, said she has never been involved in anything like this before.
“We came here because it was quiet and peaceful and a good place to raise kids, and it was close to the beach,” she said. “Little did we know what was looming – although I think, quite honestly, this was all meant to be. Protesting anything – unless you’re part of an environmental group – seems un-Canadian.”
The BC Nurses Union, Vancouver Coastal Health, the school boards of Burnaby and Vancouver and the municipal councils of Surrey, Delta, and White Rock have raised objections.
BC’s biggest credit union, VanCity, promptly urged Port Metro Vancouver to not move forward with the proposal until the health officer’s concerns were addressed.
One of the strongest objections came from Burnaby, where Mayor Derek Corrigan said, “Over and over again, decisions are being made by bodies who are not independent. Port Metro Vancouver is conducting this environmental assessment. The majority of directors on Port Metro Vancouver are appointed by the very companies that stand to economically benefit from these decisions. And so here you have a Board of Directors, appointed by the companies that are in charge of the environmental assessment to determine if they are going to make more money.”
In regards to the decision to hire SNC Lavalin, Mayor Corrigan said the company is currently being investigated for corruption in Montreal and the World Bank has banned them for ten years because of corruption.
“If this company has been banned by the World Bank, why the heck are they doing environmental assessments in our back yard?” Corrigan said. “This is completely losing control of any public interest in these projects what-so-ever.”
(Click on this link to access a video of Mayor Corrigan saying these things.) Burnaby’s council voted unanimously to oppose expansion of coal exports.
In response to a request from Port Metro Vancouver, Surrey Fraser Docks hired SNC Lavalin to do a health assessment.
Tim Blair, Senior Planner of Port Metro Vancouver, told the ECOreport this report will not be reviewed by any medical personal and the Port be seeking any additional opinions.
He believes there is already sufficient information about the effects of coal dust in current literature.
The Peace Arch News reports that Dr. Paul Van Buynder was pleased that there will be further inquiries, but also disappointed there will be no further formal comment from the medial community allowed.
“I believe this work should be done in consultation with health experts and in a fashion transparent to the concerned public,” Van Buynder said in an emailed statement. “It is important for the credibility of any further review and the decision outcome that the process is not undertaken by the proponent in isolation of public health.”
Port Metro has retained a consultant, Golder and Associates, to analyze Fraser Surrey Docks health assessment and will make its decision this June. They will post the results for everyone to see.
To be continued …..
The Biggest Coal Exporter in North America was originally posted on: PlanetSave. To read more from Planetsave, join thousands of others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
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