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Coal study doesn't address New West concerns: Council

The container cranes at Fraser Surrey Docks are close neighbours to the residential Port Royal development in Queensborough. A proposal to build a coal transfer facility at the docks has received a boost from an environmental assessment report that says it would pose no environmental or health danger to surrounding areas. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
The container cranes at Fraser Surrey Docks are close neighbours to the residential Port Royal development in Queensborough. A proposal to build a coal transfer facility at the docks has received a boost from an environmental assessment report that says it would pose no environmental or health danger to surrounding areas.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

An environmental impact study on coal being shipped in and out of the Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) did not reduce New Westminster city council's concerns.

Instead the report strengthened their resolve to oppose the controversial project.

The assessment done by SNC-Lavalin for Port Metro Vancouver was released last month. It determined FSD's proposed coal transfer facility, which would see daily trains originating in Wyoming transferring coal onto barges for overseas shipment, would not likely cause adverse effects to the environment or human health. But the study was slammed by the chief medical officers for the Fraser Health and Coastal Health authorities for not meeting the basic requirements of a proper assessment.

A city staff report said the study appears to be a repackaging of previous ones. Council opposed the plan in May, but decided to pass another resolution declaring its opposition to the facility.

"It doesn't address any of New Westminster's concerns," said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr of the assessment.

Puchmayr pointed out the study did not deal with the proposed facility's possible effects on New Westminster since Queensborough is only 1,500 metres across the Fraser River from the docks and the Quayside neighbourhood is another 500 metres away. With no obstructions in between they could be even more affected by potential coal dust than any suburbs on the south side of the river.

"It mentions Delta and Surrey, but it doesn't mention New Westminster," said Puchmayr. "That's a large volume of coal being loaded right across the river from us."

He was not only alarmed over Fraser Health's exclusion from the assessment but senior government fisheries departments weren't consulted either.

Puchmayr said the assessment doesn't declare what topping agent will be used to control the dust, and what possible risks those chemicals might produce.

"I strongly recommend we communicate in a vigorous way that our concerns were not addressed in this report, and that we oppose this project with extreme prejudice," said Puchmayr.

He and Coun. Bill Harper also said SNC-Lavalin's credibility has taken a hit because the World Bank's running list of firms blacklisted from bidding on its global projects because of fraud and corruption included 115 entries from SNC-Lavalin and its affiliates.

"I'm moving more toward the position if Americans want to move coal overseas let them do it through their own ports," said Harper.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy noted many American ports had already rejected coal transfer facilities.

"This isn't just a case of first going to Seattle and then going to Vancouver," said McEvoy. "They've gone up all the way up the coast until it comes to Canada. I'd like to see the reports on why they rejected it."

Coun. Lorrie Williams said: "If the Americans are turning it down I can't see why we would even entertain it happening here."

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