Press Release Issued by Voters Taking Action on Climate Change:
May 15 2014
Voters Taking Action on Climate Change issues notice of legal challenge of Texada Island coal export permit approval
— challenge will argue use of Mines Act to issue coal port permit illegal, process unfair
Vancouver — Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) has served the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and Texada Quarries Limited (TQL) with notice that it is bringing a court case challenging the legality of MEM’s recent approval of a major coal export expansion on Texada Island.
MEM quietly issued a permit approving expansion of existing coal storage at the TQL facility in March 2014, though the public only learned of this approval in mid April. The permitted increase in coal storage on Texada Island paves the way for the transshipment of US thermal coal from Fraser Surrey Docks through Texada Island to Asian power plants, if the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority approves Fraser Surrey Docks’ coal export plans.
The port authority is widely expected to approve those plans in June. If the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal is approved, coal shipment through Texada Island would increase ten fold, from less than 400,000 tonnes per year currently to 4 million tonnes per year — and possibly to 8 million tonnes per year in the future. This massive expansion would occur without any environmental assessment of the risks to the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) from the shipping of millions of tonnes of coal in open barges or the risks to the marine environment adjacent to the TQL site on Texada.
VTACC’s legal challenge will be based on two main issues: first, that bulk coal storage and shipping facilities are regulated under the Environmental Management Act, not the Mines Act, and a waste discharge permit is required before this project can proceed; and second, that important information about how contaminated run-off from the site will be managed was not shared with the concerned public prior to the permit being issued. If successful, the VTACC challenge will require the MEM permit to be set aside and the Environmental Management Act applied to the project.
“We see no other option than to take the government to court” said Donald Gordon of adjacent Lasqueti Island. “The Province has ignored evidence of ongoing coal contamination, rejected the pleas of public health officials, dismissed citizens’ and First Nations’ call for an independent environmental assessment of this project, and refused to apply its own pollution prevention laws under the Environmental Management Act. We cannot sit back and watch while this massive coal export facility is illegally authorized without adequate review.”
Texada Island residents and nearby land owners have repeatedly notified MEM that they have found coal contaminating the beach nearby the TQL coal terminal on the island, in violation of TQL’s existing permit. At their own expense, residents and land owners obtained lab tests of coal samples. These tests showed high levels of arsenic in coal on the Texada Island beach.