Port Metro Vancouver CEO defends not accounting for climate change in reviews of coal-export facilities

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      In recent years, Port Metro Vancouver has under intense criticism for expanding its capacity to ship coal to Asia.

      In 2014, the organization approved an application by Fraser Surrey Docks to build a coal transfer facility that could export four million tonnes of thermal coal. The application stated an intention to eventually ship up to eight million tonnes of coal per year from the facility.

      Medical health officers with two health authorities, local mayors, and even Vancity credit union criticized the environmental-impact assessment.

      In a recent interview with BCBusiness magazine, Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester claimed that there was "very detailed air modelling, a very detailed human health risk assessment" in connection with the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal.

      "One of the criticisms is that the port did not account for climate change in the environmental assessment process despite doing so in other activities—such as when it plans new construction along the shoreline," Silvester told BCBusiness. "It's not a fair criticism. Under the Canadian Environment Assessment Act, which are the rules we have to follow, there's not a requirement to consider climate change as a result of the use of the commodity being traded."

      In 2013, Port Metro Vancouver approved an application by Neptune Terminals to double annual shipments of metallurgical coal to 18.5 million tonnes per year.

      Feds say they'll look at this issue

      The Liberal Party of Canada's platform on the economy and the environment promised to address climate change when projects like the Fraser Surrey Docks expansion are being reviewed.

      "We will explore, consult, and work collaboratively to move towards a system where federal environmental assessments of projects include an analysis of upstream impacts and the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the projects being assessed," Liberals pledged.

      This Liberal platform document features a photo of Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the front page.

      Meanwhile, in January, Westshore Terminals Investment Corp. slashed its annual forecast by 20 for the amount of coal shipments passing through its Delta facility. The Jim Pattison-owned company states on its website that it handles more than 33 million tonnes of coal per year.

      Coal industry is reeling

      Earlier this month, Business in Vancouver journalist Jen St. Denis reported that coal shipments moving through Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert fell by 41 percent in 2014.

      Recently released Port Metro Vancouver statistics revealed that no thermal coal was shipped through its facilities to China in 2015. The previous year, more than 1.3 million tonnes passed through local ports on their way to China.

      Port Metro Vacouver also saw sharp reductions in the amount of coal shipped to Japan and South Korea last year.

      Earlier this month, Oilprice.com carried a headline declaring that the decline of the coal industry is "long-term" and "irreversible".

      It was prompted by a Goldman Sachs report noting that China's consumption of coal likely peaked in 2013.