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British Columbians Support the Coal Industry

Jun 14, 2013

British Columbians Support the Coal Industry

By Alan Fryer

For more than 100 years, the coal industry has been a cornerstone of B.C.’s economy, and the results of a recent poll indicate British Columbians want to keep it that way.

A poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion revealed some interesting results. Sixty-five per cent of British Columbians support the export of coal to overseas markets, while only 23 per cent are opposed.

Further, the vast majority of British Columbians – 72 per cent of those surveyed – believe that B.C. simply cannot afford to lose the 26,000 highly skilled and highly paid jobs created by the coal industry. Or the billions of dollars the coal industry contributes to our economy each year that help support the programs and services we have all come to expect and rely on.

The numbers show that the people of B.C. get it; they understand the connection between a strong resource sector, of which the coal industry is a major part, and the high standard of living we enjoy in British Columbia.

We’ve been shipping coal responsibly and safely from the mine sites to marine terminals in Metro Vancouver for decades. The industry has invested heavily in the best available dust suppression technologies to ensure coal remains where it belongs – in the rail cars and on the terminals – and away from where it doesn’t.

Our industry also takes community concerns seriously. 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 it. For example, as a result of an unusual 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.

Ours is also a heavily regulated industry with no fewer than eight government agencies responsible for oversight.

But the groups that oppose the province’s coal industry aren’t really interested in things like responsible resource development and the jobs it creates. Their publicly stated goal is the complete destruction of British Columbia’s coal industry along with the jobs and communities it supports. We believe that is an extreme position and, as this poll clearly demonstrates, completely out of step with where most British Columbians stand on the issue.

Most of the coal that’s mined in – and exported from – B.C. is the kind required to make steel. And steel, as we know, goes into almost everything we use, from our smart phones and tablets to mass transit and high-density housing. It is one of the most recycled products in the world, and, yes, goes into wind turbines, bicycles and solar panels as well.

B.C. also exports thermal coal used to produce electricity, which is mined both here and the U.S. As the world’s population continues to grow, coal will, for the foreseeable future, continue to play a major role in supporting that development.

There are a couple of fundamental and enormously important facts the anti-development groups fail to address yet, as this poll indicates, most British Columbians recognize: You need coal to make steel and more than 40 per cent of the world’s population depends on coal for electricity. Those are indisputable facts and might explain why only 36 per cent of British Columbians are in favour of restricting coal exports from B.C. It’s also why the vast majority (70 per cent) of people in our province understand that coal – both the steelmaking and thermal kinds – is helping improve the lives of people in the developing world.

And when it comes to thermal coal, again British Columbians – 64 per cent of them – say it should be up to individual countries, not us, to decide on how best to meet their electricity needs.

These numbers clearly show that the vast majority of British Columbians strongly support the jobs, the economic growth and the public services made possible by a strong B.C. coal industry.

— Alan Fryer is spokesperson for the Coal Alliance.

View the Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll Executive Summary

View the Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll Results




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