Ecojustice Blog – Climate change Posted on February 27, 2018 (updated: February 27, 2018)

We’re going back to court to help communities stand up against dirty coal

Fraser ThomsonLawyer
Karen CampbellLawyer
Coal port photo by Dmetsov Alexey
Photo by Dmetsov Alexey

Ecojustice is committed to helping our clients shut the door on risky energy projects that increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and put communities at risk.

That’s why over the course of the last three and a half years, we have helped Communities and Coal, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change and, and two local residents go to court to put the brakes on the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project, a thermal coal export facility on British Columbia’s Fraser River.

We filed a case that ultimately increased public scrutiny of how the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority conducts its business and reinforced the importance of stopping the export of dirty U.S. thermal coal through Canada. In late January, we got some disappointing news on the outcome of our long-awaited May 2017 hearing: The court dismissed our clients’ case.

This is not the outcome we or our clients had worked so hard for.

And it got us thinking. After processing the immediate disappointment, we began mulling over the decision.  In mid February, we filed an appeal of the court’s ruling.

While we respect the decision of the Court, we stand by our position that the Port did not follow the law when it conducted the environmental review that ultimately approved the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project. We believe that if this decision is allowed to stand, it could put the integrity of environmental assessment at risk — and facilitate the approval of other risky projects in the future.

Why the fuss over Fraser Surrey Docks?

For those of you unfamiliar with it: The Fraser Surrey Docks coal export facility would see up to four million tonnes of thermal coal carried by open-car rail from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin through Vancouver’s Lower Mainland each year, ultimately bound for export to foreign markets.  This project could pump nearly seven million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere each year.

The project’s approval stands in stark contrast to what we know needs to happen to tackle climate change. At a time when scientific studies have shown we must do all we can to reduce carbon emissions, this is not the sort of infrastructure we should lock ourselves into. Meanwhile, the federal government has committed to phase out coal and the issue of thermal coal exports is so contentious that it became a factor in the 2017 provincial election in British Columbia.

You likely already know that coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Not only does it accelerate climate change but it is detrimental to human health. There are unresolved concerns about the health effects flowing from exposure to coal dust, such as respiratory illnesses. And that’s not all. The transport of coal itself can be dangerous too: Diesel particulate matter emitted by trains carrying the coal is associated with pulmonary inflammation, increased asthma attacks, heart attacks and cancer risk. It’s imperative that we do all that we can to keep it in the ground.

Communities like the ones our clients live in will bear the brunt of these impacts. It’s their families, friends and loved ones who will suffer the undue consequences of living near a coal export facility. Yet, these concerns were not given a fair hearing by the Port.

The Ecojustice team fought tooth and nail to ensure our clients got their day in court, and now we’re committed to continuing the fight to ensure their concerns are addressed and this project is stopped. It won’t be an easy task, but we’re up to the challenge.

Stay tuned for progress on this appeal.

How can I support this case?

Each legal fight we take on requires us to put in hundreds of hours of work and organizational resources to secure the best possible outcome for the environment and our communities. And thanks to the generosity of people like you, Ecojustice represents each of its clients for free. Your support ensures we have the resources we need to sustain our efforts for as long as it takes to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

You can help support this case today by giving a gift or sharing information about this case with your family and friends.

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