Since November 2012 the public, local governments and our health authorities have called on the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to conduct comprehensive health and environmental impact assessments of their coal export expansion plans.
Experts critiqued the Port’s evaluation of the health and environmental risks of these plans through 2013 as local opposition to the proposals continued to mount.
Finally, in September 2013 the Port announced an “Environmental Impact Assessment” of the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export proposal.
This study was quickly rejected as inadequate by experts. Our Medical Health Officers wrote to the Port to request a role in developing the scope and terms of reference for this assessment, but the Port rejected their involvement, inviting them instead to comment on the EIA once it was complete.
When the EIA was released to the public in late November 2013 it faced severe criticism. Our Medical Health Officers said that it did “not meet even the most basic requirements of health impact assessment.” Independent health and air quality experts were equally scathing; one stated that he found “significant deficiencies, incorrect assumptions and superficial analysis in several aspects of the EIA.”
Despite these criticisms, even before the EIA comment period was complete the Port Authority’s CEO pronounced himself satisfied with the assessment. He described the study as comprehensive, claimed that it answered most questions that had been raised, and expressed confidence that the public would be supportive once they had fully grasped its complicated scientific contents.
In short, the Port’s EIA was a failure.
The EIA did not examine health or environmental impacts of transporting coal through our communities by rail. It did not examine the health or environmental impacts of transporting that coal by barge to Texada Island. It did not consider the potential impacts from coal export expansion at Neptune and Westshore Terminals.
The EIA does not provide the information needed to confidently assess the risks these project may impose on our communities, much less the impacts they will pose for our climate. It does not provide a sound basis for a decision on the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export proposal.
The Port needs to start over. For a summary of what needs to be done, go here.