While perhaps no surprise that Port Metro Vancouver has rubber-stamped approval of its tenant Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) becoming a conduit for American thermal coal on its journey to Asia, it is shortsighted for several reasons.
The public, by a 3,500-to-six margin in December 2013, submitted comments about the proposal, based on wide concerns over lack of environmental and especially health assessments not being completed.
Port Metroâ€™s response was to delay approval and state it would require FSD to do further health review.
Nothing in the current announcement suggests the review, which was done behind closed doors with no public or health authority consultation, has answered the vast majority of concerns.
Many of the concerns surrounded the need to include the recommendations of Fraser Health Authority (Dr. Paul Van Buynder) Vancouver Health (Dr. Patricia Daly) and BC Provincial Health (Dr. Perry Kendall) to conduct a full and independent Health Impact Assessment.
Regardless of any claims to the contrary, Port Metro and Fraser Surrey Docks ignored this request-refusing to take advice from our public health experts.
A study replicating the same conditions of the FSD proposal, done in Seattle by Dr. Jaffe of the University of Seattle, resulted in significant health concerns over the extensive impact of coal dust and diesel particulates.
Elevated cancer and lung impairment risks were some of the findings.
In a democracy, we expect business to be conducted, however it is incumbent upon those proposing large scale enterprises such as this to be required to carry out full scale and independent assessments of the health impacts of such proposals.
We only have to look at the recent devastation from the Mount Polley mine tailings disaster to see the consequence of not doing due diligence.
A normally restrained Canadian electorate is growing weary of this lack of government oversight.
People should remember that, in spite of this being under Port Metro auspices, our provincial Ministry of Health, under our Public Health Act, Section 62 and 63, and our Ministry of the Environment, under Section 5 of the Environmental Management Act, have the authority to call for a review if there are perceived threats to the public. That is a role the public expects our government to fill.
Neither Health Minister Terry Lake nor Environment Minister Mary Polak chose to advocate for the municipalities representing approximately 40 percent of our population, through which this coal in open cars will be transported then barged to Texada through an area of the Fraser River never before having seen coal â€“ an area in which our increasingly fragile fisheries industry will be even more at risk.
As the recent B.C. environmental mine tailingâ€™s disaster, as well as the train disaster in Quebec, showed, we must hold our politicians accountable for inaction in the face of the need to carry out proper health and environmental assessments. To continually ignore this need moves us further along the path of governmental unaccountability.
In the end, for a democracy to function effectively, it requires citizen action. A spectator sport it is not.
Steven Faraher-Amidon, Clayton Heights