VANCOUVER, B.C.–Port Metro Vancouver has approved the proposed direct coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks. The decision comes following a two-year project review process and including extra measures taken to assess any potential environmental and human health risks. In granting the permit, Port Metro Vancouver requires Fraser Surrey Docks to meet a strict set of conditions to ensure environmental and safety standards.
Port Metro Vancouver’s priorities during the review process were to consider all public, municipal, agency, First Nations and other stakeholder concerns and questions and, should there exist any risk of adverse impacts of the proposal, ensure those impacts could be mitigated to acceptable levels.
“The decision to permit the proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks was not one we took lightly,” said Peter Xotta, Vice President, Planning and Operations at Port Metro Vancouver. “Through our comprehensive project review process, stakeholder consultation, as well as third-party validated environmental and health studies, it was determined there are no unacceptable risks and the project could be permitted.”
The permitting process was unusually extensive in this case. Though the project did not require either a full federal or provincial environmental assessment to be conducted by either the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, Port Metro Vancouver decided to require an Environmental Impact Assessment and additional human health assessments due to public interest in the project.
The $15 million project will provide 25 direct and 25 in-direct full-time jobs. Once constructed by Fraser Surrey Docks, the facility will handle up to four million metric tonnes of coal per year which will be loaded onto barges at the facility and transferred to ocean-going carriers at Texada Island. The coal will arrive at Fraser Surrey Docks via rail and it is expected the project will result in one additional train per day along the BNSF railroad. Coal is the most heavily traded commodity in the port and the quantity to be shipped from Fraser Surrey Docks represents about 10 per cent of total coal shipments. Coal terminal operators within Port Metro Vancouver’s jurisdiction have been shipping coal safely for over 40 years, said a port release.
In addition to requiring the proponent to provide thorough and well-documented studies on potential impacts to the environment and potential risks to human health, Port Metro Vancouver was responsive to the public following concerns that coal dust could escape during the transport of coal. In September 2013, Port Metro Vancouver announced new requirements for the proposed project including the prohibition of on-site storage of coal and requirements for barges to take additional measures to prevent coal dust escaping during transit to Texada Island. Port Metro Vancouver also asked Fraser Surrey Docks to work with its rail provider to address issues of potential coal dust from rail cars and in May 2014 BNSF announced that it was adding a re-spray of a dust suppressant agent to the train cars before they enter Canada.