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Coal-shipping facility at Fraser Surrey Docks would be clean, study concludes

Fraser Surrey Docks is proposing to build a coal export facility at its Fraser River terminal.

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An environmental study commissioned by Fraser Surrey Docks concludes its proposed coal-shipping facility is "not likely to cause significant adverse affects" on the environment or human health.

The study, prepared by engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and posted Monday by Fraser Surrey Docks and Port Metro Vancouver, is certain to come under fire from critics who have already raised concerns about alleged flaws in the review.

Fraser Surrey Docks commissioned the Environmental Impact Assessment in August following a public outcry over its proposal to build a coal-shipping facility at its existing terminal on the Fraser River.

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The proposal involves shipping thermal coal from the United States by rail to Fraser Surrey Docks, where it would be transferred to barges and shipped to Texada Island. From there, it would be loaded to ocean-going vessels that would take the coal to export markets.

Initial plans call for four million tonnes a year - about two barges every two days - with capacity of up to eight million tonnes a year.

Fraser Surrey Docks operates on federal land under Port Metro Vancouver jurisdiction.

Opponents of the project, including the Vancouver-based group Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change, raised concerns about increased rail traffic and the potential health impacts of coal dust on area residents. The group also flagged the project as one that would boost Port Metro Vancouver's coal exports at a time when coal is under scrutiny for its role in climate change.

The new study does not address those concerns.

"FSD is aware that climate change is a concern of the general public and the burning of coal is a greenhouse gas contributor. As the main function of the Project is to handle the transfer of unburned coal from rail to barge, the EIA does not include the assessment of the ultimate use of coal, nor does it include the mining of the coal. For this reason, the effects of and on climate change have been excluded from the scope of this assessment," the report states.

The SNC-Lavalin report noted several mitigation measures proposed for the project, including spraying of coal cars.

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Fraser Surrey Docks currently handles containers, steel, agricultural and wood products but is looking to coal to bolster volumes that have dropped "significantly" since 2009.

A 30-day public comment period on the EIA is under way and ends on Dec. 17.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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