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Coal industry highlights economic contributions to B.C.

May 28, 2014

Coal industry highlights economic contributions to B.C.
Sector has contributed $584 million to province since 2009, says alliance

Vancouver Sun
By Matthew Robinson
May 28, 2014

The Coal Alliance is combating growing public opposition to expanded coal shipments through the Lower Mainland with claims its area terminals directly pump tens of millions of dollars into cities throughout B.C. annually.

The Lower Mainland’s three main shipping terminals collectively spent more than $584 million buying goods and services in B.C. since 2009, according to the Alliance.

The figures do not include money spent on the direct operations of terminals, said Alliance Spokesman Alan Fryer, but do include spending they do outside of their gates.

Overall, B.C.’s coal business, with 26,000 people employed at mines, terminals and in transportation, accounted for about $3.2 billion of the province’s overall economy in 2011, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by the Coal Association of Canada. That amounted to about 1.5 per cent of B.C.’s $215.1 billion gross domestic product that year.

“We thought it would be interesting to spin out some of the smaller numbers,” Fryer said.

The numbers include spending on services such as environmental monitoring and even catering.

“It’s not just the jobs (at facilities) that the industry supports,” Fryer said. “It supports a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses in communities that provide goods and services. And they employ people, too.”

Coal is Port Metro Vancouver’s biggest commodity export, with terminals shipping a record 38.2 million tonnes in 2013, up from 32.7 million tonnes the year before. About two-thirds of that volume is steelmaking metallurgical coal, with the remainder thermal coal, burned to produce electricity.

Residents’ groups and health authorities have been vocal in their opposition to the coal industry, citing concerns about issues such as local health effects from coal dust and train emissions to greenhouse gas emissions from coal burned to produce energy in Asia.

The largest share of the industry’s spending — about $115 million since 2009, according to the alliance — was spent in Vancouver. North Vancouver and Surrey each saw about $100 million in spending, with Burnaby ($66 million) and Delta ($46 million) rounding out the top five.

Cities with a coal terminal are not the only ones raking in terminal dollars and a wide array of business benefits from the cash, claimed the Coal Alliance.

Interior cities from Kamloops south to Osoyoos and east to Nelson saw about $16.6 million in terminal spending, the bulk of that in Kelowna. In the north, Prince Rupert and Prince George each benefited from nearly $500,000 apiece.

The Coal Alliance says the spending mostly goes to small- and medium-sized businesses on such things as equipment, materials and services — everything from consultants to catering and coffee.

The Coal Alliance’s public offensive comes on the heels of significant opposition to a proposed $15-million Fraser Surrey Docks facility that would expand the shipments of thermal coal from U.S. mines, complementing the port’s existing coal terminals: Neptune on the North Shore, and the massive Westshore facility at Roberts Bank at Tsawwassen.

The campaign also comes about a month after the province quietly approved an amended permit at a Texada Island coal-handling facility that allows Lafarge to store twice as much coal on site and enables it to handle thermal coal from the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks coal-handling facility.

The Surrey project, which has not yet been approved by Port Metro Vancouver, would take four million tonnes of thermal coal annually from the U.S. Midwest, load it on barges and ship it to Texada Island for loading on to large cargo vessels.

Various groups — including the Dogwood Initiative, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change and Communities and Coal ­— have opposed the project, and the prospect of coal trains running through Surrey had officials at Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health calling for a comprehensive health impact assessment last September.

Fraser Surrey Docks commissioned SNC Lavalin for an environmental assessment and the study, released last November, concluded the project would “not likely cause significant adverse effects to the environment or human health.”

But the health authorities, Metro Vancouver regional district, Lower Mainland municipalities and coal opposition groups panned the report, saying it fell short of even a basic health assessment.

Opposition to the project was bolstered in March when a University of Washington study found residents near rail lines face increased exposure to harmful microscopic particles from diesel emissions and larger particles, possibly from coal dust. Further research is planned for the summer to address the study’s limitations, including sample size and duration.

Key companies in the coal business — Teck Resources Ltd., Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada Ltd.), Westshore Terminals and the railways Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe — founded the Coal Alliance about a year and a half ago to make sure they had a focal point and a spokesperson to respond to general industry issues.

Click here to view original article in the Vancouver Sun.




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