Posted on May 16, 2017 (updated: June 20, 2019)

Community groups, local residents in court to fight coal export project

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority demonstrated an apprehension of bias and lacked legal authority to approve coal project, groups say

VANCOUVER – Community groups and local residents are in court tomorrow to ask the Federal Court to strike down a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-issued permit for a coal transfer facility on the Fraser River.

“Our clients have been there through each step of the process and will demonstrate to the Court that the Fraser Surrey Docks project approval was tainted by a reasonable apprehension of bias,” said Karen Campbell, Ecojustice lawyer. “The Port was required by law to consider this project proposal fairly. As our clients intend to prove to the Court, when the Port broke the rule against bias, it broke the law. Plain and simple.”

Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of Communities and Coal Society, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, Christine Dujmovich and Paula Williams, argue that the Port did not have the legal power to approve the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project and allege that the Port was biased when it made its decision to issue the permit — based on a number of factors including a bonus compensation arrangement for some of the Port’s executives.

“Our communities will be the ones that face the risks from the Fraser Surrey Docks coal project, and yet our health and safety concerns have never gotten a fair hearing from the Port,” said Paula Williams, co-founder of Communities and Coal. “It is time that federally-appointed authorities, like the Port, are held accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on local communities.”

The Fraser Surrey Docks coal project 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. If approved, this project could pump nearly seven million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere each year.

“Scientific studies have shown that coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in the world. It can lead to serious human health effects and puts our already fragile climate in further peril,” said Kevin Washbrook, director at Voters Taking Action on Climate Change. “Despite these risks, the Fraser Surrey Docks project would see millions of tonnes of thermal coal travel through Vancouver’s Lower Mainland each year. We cannot sit idle and let our communities become conduits for American coal. There is too much at stake.”

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