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Hundreds protest against Port Metro Vancouver for closed door decision making” on proposed coal port

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First Nations leaders, MPs, MLAs, neighbours and community groups gathered on a beautiful afternoon to oppose the Fraser Surrey Docks coal terminal proposal. "The coal industry wants to paint us as fringe groups," Kevin Washbrook of VTACC said. "It's just not so."

About 350 people gathered at the New Westminster Quay to show their opposition to the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal for a new coal port in Surrey and, more generally, in protest against the Port of Metro Vancouver’s “closed door” decision making. Community representatives, both elected and grass roots, told the cheering crowd that a system in which communities can no longer be heard regarding industrial projects that will affect their health and quality of life is a broken system.

Paula Williams, founder of Communities and Coal, obtained 11,000 signatures on a petition opposed to the proposed coal terminal in less than three months. “PMV will decide the fate of Fraser Surrey Docks,” she said, “but it will also decide the fate of White rock, Surrey, Delta, New Westminster, the communities along the Fraser River, Texada Island, and its neighbouring communities. But these communities do not belong to PMV. They belong to us.”

CaroleAnn Leishman from Powell River asked, “Why is our regulatory system so messed that a project of this scope, bringing thermal coal from Wyoming all the way up here on open trains putting it there open barges up the Strait of Georgia to Texada Island where its offloaded into huge 60 foot high piles, where the winds regularly blow more than 40 km/hour, then to be loaded back onto huge freighters to go to Asia, how does a project like that not trigger an Environmental Impact Assessment?”

Climate advocate Kevin Washbrook of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, had a message for all the big players in FSD’s coal terminal proposal. To the CEO of the Port Robin Silvester, he said, “We don’t share your dreams for our range and we don’t like being shut out of the decision making.... [U]ntil you include us in meaningful decision-making, we are not going to go away.” He wished Jeff Scott, CEO of FSD well. “We want you to thrive, but not at the expense of our communities and the climate. Find another focus for your business.”  To the American interests, Warren Buffett’s BNSF railway and the coal companies, he said, “We will do everything we can to delay and stop your plans to ship your dirty product through our neighbourhoods. This is a bad investment of your time and resources.”

Dr. Pargat Bhurji, a pediatrician from Surrey, explained how coal dust affects the lungs and hearts, particularly for children. “Coal dust is dangerous,” he said. “Why do we want to escalate health care costs and give asthma to our children for a few jobs?” He mentioned studies that show both a decrease in IQ of children exposed to coal dust and a shortening of life expectancy.

Dust of unknown origin at Fraser Surrey Docks

The primary concerns expressed were health impacts of US thermal coal on BC communities, the lack of environmental assessment, the Port’s governance model (including its refusal to hold public hearings and the conflict of interest inherent in making decisions that impact its financial status), and the Port’s apparent willingness to sell out local quality of life for big business profits.

“The people who would make billions of dollars on this don’t care about contaminating our drinking water or the agricultural lands their train cars will come through,” Leishmann of Pebble in the Pond Environmental Society declared. “They just care about getting richer on the backs of workers and the communities where the impacts will be felt.”  She said that Lafarge, which would operate the Texada Island portion of the operation, had received a letter from a health officer in 2009 regarding heavy metals in the Texada drinking water as a result of their operations, but no action had been taken. Coal moving through Texada would increase from 400,000 tonnes of coal mined on Vancouver Island and metallurgical coal, to 8 tonnes of US thermal coal, or, eventually, even 16 million tonnes.

VAPOR BC was also present to express concern about a proposal to ship billions of litres of highly toxic and flammable jet fuel up the Fraser River. The project proponent, a consortium of airlines in search of cheaper fuel, has made assurances that any spill would evaporate without causing damage. But Otto Langer, a retired DFO biologist, tested the claim by taking water from Lemmon Creek 67 days after a 10,000 litre spill of jet fuel. He found no life downstream of the spill and the sample he took smelled strongly of jet fuel, after more than two months. “The industries’ own studies show that 2,000 litres will spill every six years,” Scott Carswell of VAPOR said. “And that doesn’t include a catastrophic spill. But there are conditions here that are beyond their control. It’s not unusual for barges break in loose in storms. We are risking our heritage when we put the incredible Fraser River salmon runs at risk.”

Carol Day, President of VAPOR, became involved when a jet fuel pipeline was planned through her neighbourhood. “I’m a sign-maker by profession,” she laughed pointing at some placards, “which has come in handy.” There’s no longer a pipeline proposed through her neighbourhood, but the Port’s lack of accountability to the public troubled her and so she remained involved. “We want to support the Port,” she said, “but certainly not at the expense of everything else.”

The Port itself envisions a sustainable future without fossil fuels, although it plans to go forward with “business as usual” in the meantime. It is creating a land use plan based on this divided vision, which provides a rare opportunity for the public to demand responsible decisions regarding fossil fuel infrastructure. Federal statute requires a “public meeting” (it doesn’t mention an open house, the Port’s preferred method of public contact) and the Port will be seeking public comment in November. To receive information regarding the upcoming comment period, subscribe to updates at the Port website.

 

(10) Comments

Joseph F October 28th 2013 | 3:15 PM

Way to go Vancouverites! Let's add Victoria's raw sewage discharge (> 1 M / day) to the very harbour that this coal loading facility and proposed expanded oil tanker traffic is going to use.

While their at it, I would love to see Vancouver ban flushing the toilet, the use of soaps, lotions, and cleaning agents as they are all made from oil and contain nasty chemicals.

Power to the people!

Leigh October 28th 2013 | 4:16 PM
Joseph F wrote:

Way to go Vancouverites! Let's add Victoria's raw sewage discharge (> 1 M / day) to the very harbour that this coal loading facility and proposed expanded oil tanker traffic is going to use.

While their at it, I would love to see Vancouver ban flushing the toilet, the use of soaps, lotions, and cleaning agents as they are all made from oil and contain nasty chemicals.

Power to the people!

 

I think your humor is wasted on these people. 

Ken Lawson October 28th 2013 | 6:18 PM

I say b.s. not hundreds that is false but the same 100 protesters that protest everything and anything. Media always inflates the numbers

Steven Faraher-Amidon October 29th 2013 | 7:07 AM

I  was at the rally, and I counted and after 300 I stopped counting. There were tons of people there; this was not a media driven event, it was driven by citizens demanding changes in the way the omnificent board of Port Metro has jur rigged the system, being judge, jury and executioner. It was a lesson in real public action, saying we are not going to accept the way Port Metro thumbs its nose at what in real democracies is taking for granted...true public input, full Health Impact Assessment. the consequences of thousands of tons of coal dust and diesel particulates coming off each American train, made up of 180+ open coal cars, carrying dirtier, American thermal coal, which we get little economic benefit from...though some of the most pristine property, all along from the border to Fraser Docks, and then in open barges to Texada, further spewing this crap onto a river and waterway that has NEVER HAD COAL. It goes on and on...get educated before making asinine statements about how this is a media driven story. It is driven by citizens in a democracy standing up for openness and propriety in how we conduct things, and then last night the City of Surrey, not a bastion of left wingers, came out and said not to support this until proper full HIA and full public hearings were conducted. Mayor Watts said, when asked what next if PMV didn't do due diligence, "then we approach the feds."

mary inga October 29th 2013 | 10:10 AM

[Neither of you are all that funny....your take on reality boiling down to doing nothing because you can't do everything....or in rhetorical terms, blending the ridiculous and the sublime.

Dumping sewage in the ocean is a crime and if Victoria is still doing it, shame on them......but flushing toilets is potentially a future industry, tied to the reclamation of all waste for recycling.


The really amusing conondrum, is what the future is going to do with passive agressive old fossils who's sharpest retort is something beside the point like "DID YOU DRIVE HERE IN A CAR"....

But even that is embarrassing, not funny.

quote=Leigh]

Joseph F wrote:

Way to go Vancouverites! Let's add Victoria's raw sewage discharge (> 1 M / day) to the very harbour that this coal loading facility and proposed expanded oil tanker traffic is going to use.

While their at it, I would love to see Vancouver ban flushing the toilet, the use of soaps, lotions, and cleaning agents as they are all made from oil and contain nasty chemicals.

Power to the people!

 

I think your humor is wasted on these people. 

[/quote]

mary inga October 29th 2013 | 10:10 AM

Thanks for this article, although I wish you'd spell out the abreviations...readers outside of the Vancouver area have trouble knowing whom you're referring to.


Everywhere we turn, we are witnessing global capitals rapacious hurry to sell noxious products to Asia, and damn the communities these trains and pipelines and trucks and ships have to cross........they become transportation corridors and little more.  Its the final mop up folks....and not to worry, when they are finished....THEN, MAYBE, THEY'LL CONSIDER CREATING SOME CORPORATE MONOPOLIES ON THE WIND AND THE SUN....but until then...its maximize profits and damn the earth.

Some of the information in the article  highlights how out of touch with the actual earth these 1%'ers are.  Storms, weather surges, the growing possibilities of large scale accidents like at Lac Magantic, don't seem to phase them at all.  They don't live in the places they access, but its deeper than that.  Even when data shows they know there will be spills, they are confident the losers will die quietly.  And all this so that Asia can choke in its own excrement, after thousands of years of maintaining a sustainable agriculture by knowing how to recycle it!!!

THe rivers in China are dying....and being replaced by treated sewage water...the air in some of their cities is barely breathable.......and we can count on it my fellow Canadians, the conditions under which their people will refine and use our dirty fossil fuel will be so bad that most of us can't imagine our children finding 'JOBS' with those conditions attached.

But we should start trying to imagine it:  because its coming soon to a school near you....if we don't get off our collective butts and start working hard together for a sustainable, renewable economy.

leoc October 29th 2013 | 2:14 PM
Ken Lawson wrote:

I say b.s. not hundreds that is false but the same 100 protesters that protest everything and anything. Media always inflates the numbers

I agree Ken, CBC usually ask all ten protesters to huddle together for a picture to give an appearance of not enough space to handle of them all.

Sleel October 30th 2013 | 4:04 AM
Steven Faraher-Amidon wrote:

...though some of the most pristine property, all along from the border to Fraser Docks, and then in open barges to Texada, further spewing this crap onto a river and waterway that has NEVER HAD COAL. It goes on and on...get educated before making asinine statements about how this is a media driven story.

Has never had.... well, if that is the metric of what is allowed. Then you can throw out your computer, you can get rid of all the cars, you can get rid of all modern activities and goods in life, cause they never had them there before.

 

  Get educated.... as asinine a comment from a neo-luddite as I've ever seen.

 

Neil Heesterman November 4th 2013 | 2:14 PM

The only way to curtail coal exports is to have a healthy world wide carbon tax which applies to export as well. At present we keep sending cheap tax free coal and oil to Asian countries which try to become greener. This keeps increasing the demand for coal oil while slowing the development of their green energy. I have sent 3 E mails to the government regarding the lack of progress in establishing a carbon tax, the misrepresentation of the economic impact and many other aspects. I have been assured by the Executive Correspondence Officer of the PMO that my comments have been carefully considered . That does not mean that they will be implemented, Please read my blog neilwilhees.blogspot.ca and remind the government about any or all the points I included in those 3 E mails

Neil Heesterman

North Vancouver

Neil Heesterman November 4th 2013 | 8:20 PM

Further to my note this afternoon here is an explanation why the US likes to ship coal through our ports. It is taken from an article I wrote after sending my 3 E mails to the government. The CT references relate to page numbers for a document containing statements I copied from identified sources on the internet. If you want to see any of the backup documents of the blog neilwilhees.blogspot.ca please let me know and I will E mail them.

11  The coal situation in BC

 

In 2010 Canada supplied 2.9% of the world’s coal, Australia 26.5% and Indonesia24%.(CT42). If we would curtail our export, those two countries could easily add a little more to their production so the amount of GHG produced in the world would remain the same. Only a universal carbon tax will eventually reduce the demand for coal. The rapid expansion of US coal export from 83.2 million short tons  in 2010 to 126 million short tons in 2012(CT63) can in part be explained by 2 price advantages they have. The first one is that of the coal targeted for export, most of it will come from leases on publicly owned lands in the Powder River Basin. A lease is obtained by a “competitive” bid. Rarely is there more than one bidder. Awarded the lease by the Bureau of Land Management at “fair market value”, a high value might equal US$1.10 a tonne(CT38). Once mined from the leased land, the coal is sold. The sale takes place at the mine. In the State of Wyoming, where most of the export coal will be mined, the only tax liability is on the value of the coal at the mine, which works out at US$9 or US$10 a tonne(CT39).

 

The second advantage is that, due to the carbon tax, BC has one of the lowest income tax rates in the western hemisphere. The US companies make use of it:  “As to income tax, when the coal mined from taxpayer property is profitably sold for US$80-120 a tonne on the international market, there is no obligation to pay those taxes in the United States. A prudent international business will use an international subsidiary to buy the coal at the mine mouth. It could be a subsidiary based in British Columbia, or any country where income tax rates are lower than in the United States.”(CT39)

 

BC environmentalists can do something to stop that US flow. They can seek out all politicians and industry groups in the US who are against the very low mining leases and let them know that it not only hurts US taxpayers but also has nasty effects in BC. The main problem is still that there is no international agreement on carbon tax, let alone on taxing coal exports. That can be achieved by environmentalists actively searching through all those hyperlinks in the CT documents and get together with the 100 multinationals mentioned under 6) above and with Australians who understand the problems. If they can agree on a plan of action to be presented at the next climate conference we may see better progress. Furthermore the environmentalists should check if there are any carbon tax centres in South Africa and Russia in order to get support from those coal exporting countries.  Here is an Australian comment proving that we are not alone in trying to tax coal exports:

 

“Export Coal Tax

Australia supplies almost 40% of the world's coal and so can have a huge impact on the price of this damaging product. Our coal exports account for more than half of Australia's total emissions. (See "Out with the coal" by John Perkins.) Through a combination of coal taxes and export quotas we could drive up the price of coal until other energy sources become more attractive.”(CT51)