A Surrey woman who has been fighting a controversial U.S. thermal coal port facility proposed for Fraser Surrey Docks since 2013 says it’s “wonderful” that the project’s permit was recently cancelled.
“What can I say, what a surprise – I didn’t see that one coming,” Paula Williams told the Now-Leader on Monday. “But it’s wonderful. I don’t know if it was because of the legal challenge, and the continual delay of the project, or if it was just that Fraser Surrey Docks decided this wasn’t in the cards for them, the global market, it wasn’t something they wanted to get involved in at this point.
“But I guess at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter was the reason is, it’s a positive for all I think that this project isn’t going forward as of now,” Williams said. “I’m hopeful Fraser Surrey Docks will look at other projects that have less of an environmental impact, I think the community at large would welcome that and be more supportive and they wouldn’t go through the same kind of backlash.
“There was municipalities that opposed this as well, and health authorities, and scientists,” she said.
Fraser Surrey Docks applied in 2012 for a permit to build and operate a coal transfer facility in Surrey along the river, proposing to bring coal in from the U.S. by rail and load it onto barges bound for Texada Island, from where ships would take it to Asia.
Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, represented Communities and Coal Society, Williams and another local woman, Christine Dujmovich, in a protracted federal court challenge against the proposal. Ecojustice lawyer Fraser Thomson said the project “would feed one of the dirtiest industries on the planet.”
On Jan. 30, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority cancelled the project permit. Port of Vancouver spokeswoman Danielle Jang told the Now-Leader in an email that the project “did not satisfactorily” meet some of the conditions of the permit.
Jang said as a Canada Port Authority, Port of Vancouver uses its Project and Environmental Review Process “to fulfill our federal responsibilities under the Canada Marine Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, carefully reviewing and considering project applications before determining if a project should proceed.”
She said if a proposed project is approved, a project permit is issued with conditions which “must be adhered to.”
Jang said when the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority issued the project permit to Fraser Surrey Docks in 2015, the project was subject to 83 conditions.
“This permit was cancelled earlier this week because substantial progress on construction of the authorized works was not demonstrated by November 30, 2018, which was a condition of the project permit,” the email reads.
A permit, according to the Port of Vancouver’s website, was issued on Nov. 30, 2015. It was meant to amend and replace Fraser Surrey Dock’s existing direct transfer coal facility project which was issued on Aug. 21, 2014.
The proposed amendment was for a change to the terminal infrastructure that would enable FSD to load coal directly to ocean‐going vessels, the website reads.
The initial project design, according to the website, “considered the use of an approximate total of 640 barges (round trip) at full capacity. With the implementation of the proposed amendment, the number of vessels navigating the river could be reduced to as few as 80 ocean‐going vessels (round trip), if FSD were to use only ocean-going vessels and no barges.”
Meantime, Williams said she’s “cautiously optimistic” the permit cancellation is the last nail in this project’s coffin.
“Fraser Surrey Docks obviously knew there was that deadline of Nov. 30, 2018 to begin construction. You know, they’re smart people and I’m sure they didn’t overlook this, so why would they not go forward with the construction and have to do the environmental assessment again, and the community consultation? I’m not sure they would want to go through all that again.
“You know, my fingers crossed is all I can say, that they’ve moved on.”
Jeff Scott, president and CEO for Fraser Surrey Docks, could not be immediately reached for comment.