Health leaders are urging Port Metro Vancouver to thoroughly assess the risks of proposed coal facilities in the region.
Port Metro Vancouver is currently reviewing two coal export expansion projects, one of which would be located at Fraser Surrey Dock that's located across the Fraser River from New Westminster.
The B.C. Lung Association, the Public Health Association of B.C., the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and numerous health leaders have written to Port Metro Vancouver asking that it delay decisions on two coal export expansion proposals until the "cumulative health impacts" of increased coal train traffic through Metro Vancouver communities can be properly evaluated.
Numerous physicians have also signed the letter, in which the health leaders point out that there are known health risks from exposure to diesel exhaust and coal dust, and approval of the coal export plans would increase public exposure to both substances.
In addition to the Surrey Fraser Docks proposal, Port Metro Vancouver is also considering a coal handling expansion project on the North Shore.
According to the health officials, if the port authority approves the plans and allows the facilities to be built to capacity, it would result in a minimum of three more return trips (six one-way trips) by local trains through Metro Vancouver daily. They state that this would be in addition to the six or more return coal train trips that currently pass through the region each day.
"If the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority truly aspires to be a good neighbour to Metro Vancouver communities, it should start by acknowledging that these coal export proposals have the potential to generate cumulative health impacts in areas outside their jurisdiction," said Kevin Washbrook, director with Voters Taking Action on Climate Change. "The port authority should put these decisions on hold and work with regional communities and health authorities to assess the impacts and determine if these development proposals are in everyone's best interest."
The health officials have forwarded the open letter to the port authority, Metro Vancouver and numerous municipalities and First Nations in the region.
New Westminster city council is writing a letter to Port Metro Vancouver opposing the installation of a coal port at the Fraser Surrey Docks until a comprehensive environmental review and full public consultation has been conducted. It has also asked that Port Metro Vancouver be requested to make a presentation to city council about the proposal.
Port Metro Vancouver is currently a reviewing an application from Fraser Surrey Docks to develop part of its riverfront site to accommodate coal that will be brought by train from the United States.
The coal would then be put on barges and towed to Texada Island, where it would be stored before being sent abroad on freighters.
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