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Letter to Metro Vancouver Board

Jun 11, 2013

To: Metro Vancouver Board

From: Alan Fryer, Spokesperson, Coal Alliance

Date: June 6th 2013

Subject: Section E 3.1 of the Board Agenda: Air Quality Impacts of New and Expanded Coal Shipment Activity in Metro Vancouver

 

On behalf of the Coal Alliance, which represents major stakeholders in the coal industry, I am writing to express our concern about the above mentioned motion and to urge directors to reject it at the upcoming meeting of the Board on June 14, 2013.

We believe the motion could have negative implications for the coal industry and the 26,000 BC jobs it supports, beyond the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal. Rather, we believe the board should be encouraging job creation and economic development in its communities.

Many of you, and many of your constituents, have been expressing concerns around the issue of coal dust and we want you to know we take those concerns seriously. Our members work tirelessly and make significant investments in new technologies and systems to keep dust where it belongs – inside the rail cars and our terminals. This is part of our role as a responsible coal supply chain.

The terminals and rail carriers receive only a handful of complaints every year, and each and every one is fully investigated. Should an issue be identified, steps are taken to address the issue. For example, as a result of wind incident at Westshore Terminals in 2012, the company is now completing an $8.5 million major upgrade of its dust suppression system and a $4 million project to improve its waste water handling system.

And this commitment to continuous improvement has paid off. In the more than 40 years of transporting coal from mine site to terminal we have seen ongoing improvement in air quality in the region even as activity at our terminals has increased to the benefit of British Columbians and all Canadians.

Further to the motion itself, some directors have suggested – or at least questioned – whether the motion is ultra vires. At the May 16th meeting of the Parks and Environment Committee, Chair Heather Deal stated that was not her concern. The Coal Alliance believes it should be a concern for the Board and that question should be fully debated and resolved before the motion is voted on.

Health, safety and protection of the environment are priorities for the industry. The question of a Health Impact Assessment has been raised as it relates to the transportation network of Port Metro Vancouver. We understand that Port Metro Vancouver is already in discussions with the health authorities and we believe that is the appropriate venue for those conversations to take place.

It’s also important to remember that ours is already a heavily regulated industry with no fewer than eight government agencies responsible for oversight. We have always been, and remain, committed to working within existing regulatory frameworks.

We also believe there has been a concerted effort on behalf of anti-development groups who are using this project application – and processes such as this – to advance a broader and far more extreme position. Their concerns are not really about coal dust or issues around consultation; their publically stated goal is the elimination of BC’s coal industry. The communities that depend on mining – along with the 26,000 BC families that rely on the industry for their livelihood – are dismissed as collateral damage.

During your deliberations we urge you will take a more balanced view that takes into consideration the proven experience and commitment of our industry to responsible operations, and the economic significance of our industry to the national, provincial and local economies.

Sincerely,

Alan Fryer
Spokesperson, Coal Alliance

Tel: 778-987-5523

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