Abbotsford Mayor questions Metro’s coal opposition

Bruce Banman doesn't understand how coal dust is deemed bad for environment, but burning garbage is OK with Metro.

Mayor Bruce Banman

Mayor Bruce Banman

Last week’s decision by Metro Vancouver to oppose a proposed  coal export terminal in Surrey, in part due to environmental concerns, has Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman calling foul.

Metro Vancouver’s board voted 21-4 to oppose the proposal.

The regional district has no real power to block the coal proposal, but critics hope Metro’s decision will put more pressure on Port Metro Vancouver to delay approving the project pending a health impact assessment demanded by medical health officers.

Banman said Metro’s environmental and health concerns are hypocritical, considering it wants to build an incinerator to burn garbage.

“There’s more than just a little bit of hypocrisy in my opinion. Metro Vancouver voted against coal dust going through their backyard. I guess somehow they find  that type of pollution and poor air quality offensive to them, yet when it comes to burning garbage and sending that chemical-ridden pollution down our way, they don’t seem to have a problem with that.”

Banman said Metro deemed coal dust to be “offensive to their air quality” so they don’t want the project to proceed.

“But when it comes to polluting our sensitive airshed, it’s full steam ahead.”

Metro is opposed to a new $15-million terminal that would reload U.S. coal from trains to barges and add 25 jobs both at Surrey and on Texada Island, where coal would be transferred again to ocean-going ships.

“I’m not an opponent of the coal industry in Canada,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said. “But the issue is taking coal from the United States – bad coal, the most difficult coal, the cheapest coal – bringing it into Canada, processing it twice through our ports, taking all of the environmental risks for none of the real benefits, and in the end of it we get 25 jobs.”

“Twenty-five jobs is nothing compared to the possible environmental impact,” added Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve.

Banman said he doesn’t think Metro sees the irony of their decision, adding they seem to be “wrapped up in their own world.”

Port, coal industry and union reps spoke in favour of the project and repeated assurances that coal dust from the terminal, trains and barges can be suppressed and pose no health risk.

“This dust conversation is being blown way out of proportion,” said Mark Gordienko, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Banman said burning coal as a fuel is an issue across the globe and if someone takes a “philosophical approach” against it, he can respect that.

“But I can’t respect it when you’re going to fire up a garbage incinerator.”

While Metro objects to taking coal from the U.S., Banman point out that it’s a possibility that, if an incinerator is built, Metro could take other nations’ refuse.

He said a garbage incinerator in Norway is now having to import garbage from England and other countries because recycling programs are so effective they don’t have enough garbage to burn.

Officials are even considering importing garbage by boat from North America.

“Is that what we’re going to become? We’re going to now import garbage from China to burn in Metro’s incinerator?”

– with files from Jeff Nagel

Abbotsford News