Christine Dujmovich, Kevin Washbrook and Paula Williams outside Federal Court Wednesday. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Civic intervenor status at Fraser Surrey Docks hearing ‘is a win’: thermal-coal critics

Community groups make Federal Court case against coal shipments

Community groups opposing a Fraser Surrey Docks permit that would increase the amount of thermal coal being transported through White Rock and South Surrey began presenting their case in Federal Court Wednesday.

The proposal to build a new coal-export terminal on the Fraser River in Surrey received a permit from Port Metro Vancouver two years ago.

Represented by lawyers from Ecojustice, Communities and Coal Society, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, Christine Dujmovich and Paula Williams allege the approval “was tainted by a reasonable apprehension of bias.”

“We’re trying to show that the port was biased in their decision and that the CEO (Robin Sylvester) was biased (in approving the permit),” Williams, a South Surrey resident and co-founder of Communities and Coal, told Peace Arch News during a break.

“Our health and safety concerns were not properly addressed by the port.”

Ecojustice lawyer Harry Wruck presented the court with an overview of the issues, as well as affidavits from Williams, Dujmovich and VTACC’s Kevin Washbrook.

In addition to health concerns, “safety is a big issue for all of them, too,” Wruck said.

The terminal would bring up to four million tonnes per year of U.S. thermal coal by rail through White Rock, South Surrey and Delta, adding one extra coal train per day.

It’s estimated it would result in nearly seven million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere every year.

Wruck submitted that the port did not have the ability to delegate the permit’s approval to the CEO, and that in signing it he “misunderstood his duties and responsibilities.”

Williams said earlier this month that the court action is not just about the coal project, but port governance as a whole; she described it as “fundamentally flawed.”

Wednesday, Williams said that regardless of the hearing’s outcome, “I feel like we have won.”

“Our group stuck with it. Surrey and New West (cities) are here (as intervenors). That alone is a win. It sort of legitimizes in my mind our right to be here.”

Port Metro Vancouver has maintained throughout the process that expanding the coal port is in the public interest and that there has been ample consultation and opportunity for members of the public to make their views known.

About 70 people turned out for the hearing, which is scheduled for three days.

More to come…