US Thermal Coal: Our Concerns

Fraser Surrey Docks hopes to construct a Direct Transfer Coal Facility to ship up to 8 million metric tonnes of American Thermal Coal through British Columbia, annually.  This coal will be transported via rail by our homes, schools, businesses, and farms multiple times per day.  If this happens, BC will become the largest coal exporter in all of North America.

To clarify, we are not concerned with the BC Metallurgical Coal industry. Instead, our focus is on US Thermal Coal shipped via rail from Wyoming and Montana, into British Columbia where it must pass through White Rock, South Surrey, Delta and then to North Surrey where it will reach Fraser Surrey Docks located along the Fraser River. From there it will be barged down the river to Texada Island, but must first pass New Westminster, Burnaby, Delta, and Richmond.  Upon arrival at Texada Island, it will be unloaded and later reloaded onto large ocean going vessels, heading to China.  In total, this proposal will bring 15 – 25 jobs to British Columbians but it will also bring one or more of the following to thousands of people along its travels:

  • Serious health effects from Diesel Particulate Matter such as impaired pulmonary development in adolescents; increased cardiopulmonary mortality and all-cause mortality; measurable pulmonary inflammation; increased severity and frequency of asthma attacks, ER visits, and hospital admissions in children; increased rates of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in adults’ increased risk of cancer (The World Health Organization list air pollution as a carcinogen)
  • Respiratory Illness from Coal Dust such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and malignancy, as this dust contains toxic heavy metals
  • Noise exposure which is linked to cardiovascular disease, including increased blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke, and ischemic heart disease; cognitive impairment in children; sleep disturbance and resultant fatigue, hypertension, arrhythmia, and increased rate of accidents and injuries; exacerbation of mental health disorders such as depression, stress, and anxiety, and psychosis
  • Frequent long trains at rail crossings will mean delayed emergency medical service response times (for areas such as Crescent Beach); increased accidents, traumatic injury and death
  • Environmental Impacts to land, water, and animals, including Climate Change
  • Increase in foundation vibration
  • Increased possibility of derailments and devastating spillage
  • Potential property value decline


Whatcom Docs Position Statement on Coal Shipments

Join your community in either opposing this proposal outright, or at minimum, demand that Port Metro Vancouver require Fraser Surrey Docks to conduct an Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment by an Independent Third Party. Port Metro Vancouver is a Federally appointed board responsible for approving or denying Fraser Surrey Docks’ permit application.  Due to public pressure, Port Metro Vancouver asked Fraser Surrey Docks back in the fall of 2013 to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.  This is not the same as a Health Impact Assessment as it was primarily focused on Environmental concerns and did not adequately address human health impacts.





Fraser Surrey Docks hired SNC-Lavalin to do the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and it was later revealed that SNC-Lavalin had been blacklisted by the World Bank for having corrupt dealings.

Upon review of the released EIA in November 2013, Chief Medical Health Officers Dr. Paul Van Buynder and Dr. Patricia Daly both called the report inadequate and deeply flawed as it focussed more on the environment than human health, and it left out most communities, choosing to focus primarily on the area around Fraser Surrey Docks.

Further, during the November-December 2013 public comment period, over 3500 people posted comments opposed to the project and only 6 were in favour. 

Here is a list of others who are either outright opposed to the proposal or are at minimum, asking for a Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment by an independent third party:

  • Chief Medical Health Officers Dr. Paul Van Buynder and Dr. Patricia Daly
  • Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health
  • The Municipalities of White Rock, Surrey, Delta, New Westminster, Langley, Vancouver, Richmond, Powell River, and Burnaby
  • Metro Vancouver
  • The Sunshine Coast Regional District
  • Delta’s Independent Interagency Review Committee (Corporation of Delta, Metro Vancouver, Fraser Health Authority, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the Cities of New Westminster, Surrey and White Rock, the BC Ministry of Environment and MP Kerry -Lynne Findlay’s Office)
  • The British Columbia Nurses Union
  • The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • Burns Bog Conservation Society
  • United Fishermen & Allied Workers’ Union (UFAWU-UNIFOR)
  • UNIFOR Local 3000 (Representing 6000 Hospitality members in BC)
  • Surrey Environmental Partners
  • Van City
  • Over 100 Local businesses in White Rock, Surrey, and Delta
  • Over 40 Doctors in White Rock/Surrey
  • Over 30,000 signatures on various petitions
  • The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation
  • The Delta School District
  • The Vancouver School Board
  • The Surrey School District
  • The Richmond School District
  • The Burnaby School District
  • The New Westminster School District
  • Windermere Secondary School
  • Dr. Frank James, MD (San Juan County)
  • Dr. Michael Brauer, UBC
  • Dr. Dan Jaffe, U Washington
  • Dr. Melissa Ahern, WSU
  • Tim Takaro, MD (SFU)
  • Chris Carlten, MD (UBC)
  • Erica Frank, MD (UBC)
  • Tyee Bridge – Fraser Riverkeeper
  • Dr. Andre Sobolewski
  • Dr. Mark Jaccard, SFU
  • Anne Murray – Naturalist
  • Robert Rattle, Consultant
  • Deborah Jones, Cougar Creek Streamkeepers
  • Communities and Coal
  • Voters Taking Action on Climate Change
  • Dogwood Initiative
  • Georgia Strait Alliance
  • Wilderness Committee
  • New Progressive Alliance
  • Earth Justice
  • The Federal NDP; MP Peter Julian; MP Jinny Sims; MP Fin Donnelly; MP Jasbir Sandhu
  • MP Hedy Fry (Liberal)
  • MLA Vicki Huntington (Independent)
  • MLA Andrew Weaver (Green)
  • MLA Gordon Hogg (Liberal)
  • MLA Nicolas Simons (NDP)
  • MLA Scott Hamilton (Liberal)
  • MLA Marvin Hunt (Liberal)
  • MLA Scott Fraser (NDP)
  • MLA Judy Darcy (NDP)
  • Federal:  The executive committee of the South Surrey-White Rock NDP Electoral Division Association
  • Provincial:  The executive committee of the White Rock NDP Association
  • Over 3500 people submitted comments to Port Metro Vancouver with concerns or outright opposition to the proposal (Note there were only 6 submitted in favour of the project)
  • Nearly 3700 people submitted comments to BC Environmental Minister Mary Polak and BC Health Minister Terry Lake asking them to use their authority to step in
  • 3014 emails to Metro Vancouver with concerns regarding Fraser Surrey Docks’ Liquid Waste Discharge Permit
  • 3022 signatures on an open letter to Jeff Scott, CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks opposing coal port on the Fraser River

Click Here to view expert/agency/union/government comments 

So where do we go from here?

UPDATE:  On August 21, 2014 Port Metro Vancouver approved this proposal, despite overwhelming opposition and concern.  On September 19, 2014, Communities and Coal, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, and two individual applicants filed an application for judicial review, alleging that the Port’s decision making process was unlawful and bias, and that it failed to consider the climate impacts that would be generated by the export and burning of this US thermal coal.  Click here to learn more.