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Stop the expansion of coal exports from B.C.'s ports

Sign the petition against coal export expansion from B.C.'s ports and get connected to a network of people across Canada working together online and off to keep our communities healthy and free from coal dust.

Frequently Asked Questions

B.C. doesn't currently have any coal-burning power plants. Why should I be worried about coal?

Many parts of the world, including B.C., have stopped burning coal to create electricity because it’s widely recognized as the dirtiest form of energy on the planet — plus there are readily available alternatives to create electricity, such as hydro and wind power.

While B.C. doesn’t burn coal, our province has long been an exporter of metallurgical coal for steel-making. In recent years, Westshore Terminals in the Lower Mainland has added new capacity to ship U.S.-mined thermal coal to Asia where it is used in coal-burning power plants, shortening life expectancy for millions of people and contributing to global warming, ocean acidification and mercury emissions. Health and environmental damages from coal mining, processing, transport and combustion are currently estimated to cost up to half a trillion dollars annually in the U.S. alone.

What projects are being proposed in B.C.?

Over the past several years, Port Metro Vancouver has quietly allowed more and more U.S. thermal coal to be shipped through Westshore Terminals in Delta, now up to 10 million metric tonnes in 2013. The port is currently considering a proposal from Fraser Surrey Docks to handle even more U.S. coal — up to 8 million metric tonnes per year. The coal would arrive by train from the U.S. through the communities of White Rock, Ocean Park, Crescent Beach, Panorama Ridge and North Delta, then be transferred onto barges at Fraser Surrey Docks. Lafarge would then send barges down the lower Fraser River to the west coast of Texada Island where coal would be loaded onto ships bound for Asian power plants. If approved, the project would require an additional 160 to 320 train deliveries and between 320 and 640 more barge movements every year.

I've heard increasing coal exports could endanger our health - how?

The Fraser Surrey Docks terminal would significantly increase diesel pollution from trains and machinery at the port site. Diesel particulate matter is a noxious form of air pollution small enough to embed in the lung tissue. It’s associated with both pulmonary and cardiovascular issues, including cancers, heart disease and asthma. Coal dust is also a form of particulate matter known to contribute to lung problems and asthma. Even worse, coal dust contains toxic heavy metals, such as lead, sulphur and mercury. That’s why reducing particulate matter is one of Metro Vancouver’s top air quality objectives.

The combination of diesel particulate matter and coal dust emissions along the rail lines seriously increases exposure risks in neighbouring communities and would increase air pollution throughout the region. That’s why prominent health officials, including the chief medical officers for the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities, and the province’s chief medical officer, have all called for a comprehensive health impact assessment to determine the impacts of airborne dust, and potential contamination of air, land, food and fish harvested from contaminated waters. The assessment would also look at diesel exhaust impacts, the effects of increased railway traffic on access to emergency care and noise pollution. So far, neither Port Metro Vancouver, Fraser Surrey Docks nor the provincial government have agreed to conduct a health impact assessment that complies with the health officers’ request.

Who has expressed concern about the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal?

In addition to the chief medical officers listed above, residents and neighbourhood associations in affected communities, along with organizations such as Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, Dogwood Initiative and the Wilderness Committee, have raised concerns about both the health and global warming risks of coal export expansion, and the lack of meaningful public consultation.

City councils in New Westminster, White Rock, Surrey, Richmond and Burnaby have passed resolutions opposing the Fraser Surrey Docks project, and Vancouver, Delta, Powell River the City of Langley and the City of North Vancouver have also expressed concerns and asked for further assessment. Many individual mayors, city councillors, MLAs and MPs have spoken out on the issue and lobbied the port authority to conduct public hearings and a health impact assessment. In June 2013, the board of Metro Vancouver — the regional government made up of mayors and councillors from each local municipality — passed a motion supporting the call for a health impact assessment and opposing any further expansion of coal shipments in the Fraser River Estuary.  The Sunshine Coast Regional District has requested a health impact assessment and the Islands Trust opposes the project.

Why is there so much pressure to ship U.S. coal through B.C. ports?

Like B.C., many states and provinces in North America have banned coal-burning power plants and there are signs other parts of the world will eventually follow suit. In July 2013, the World Bank announced it would stop financing the construction of coal-fired power plants in developing countries due to global warming impacts. Coal companies are desperate to get their product to Asian markets before it’s too late and they are in a rush to develop port facilities on the West Coast.

Three proposals for new coal ports in Oregon and Washington states are pending, but face stiff public opposition and long, rigorous environmental assessment processes.  In contrast, Port Metro Vancouver has been able to quietly expand its capacity to ship the U.S.’ unwanted coal because it already had coal export facilities and because Canada’s environmental laws and avenues for public participation in port development decisions are far weaker than in the U.S.

What are the economic benefits of thermal coal exports?

Fraser Surrey Docks claims its project will create 25 jobs. Aside from this, B.C. would see virtually no benefit while foreign companies reap the profits. Coal to be shipped would come from Cloud Peak and Signal Peak mines in the U.S. The rail company delivering from the mines is Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. Fraser Surrey Docks is owned by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, a U.S.-based private investment fund managed by the Macquarie Group of Australia. And an American branch of the French company LaFarge operates the coal transshipment facility on Texada Island.

What can I do to help stop coal port expansions?

The only way to stop the Fraser Surrey Docks – Texada Island project and future expansions is to build a movement so strong the port and senior governments cannot proceed without our consent. The best way to join the movement is to sign the petition at and get connected ever-growing network of British Columbians working to reclaim decision-making power over our air, land and water.

I call on you to stand up and use your authority to

  • Prevent further expansion of U.S. thermal coal exports in B.C.;
  • Require independent health and environmental assessments before considering new coal shipping projects and;
  • Ensure British Columbians have a say over export activities that affect their families and communities.

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Chief medical officers are calling for a health impact assessment (HIA) for U.S. thermal coal export proposals. What would an HIA include?

Download our guide
Washington State required a thorough investigation into its two proposed coal export terminals. Not so in B.C. What are the differences?

Download our chart
Check out to read comments from concerned citizens and for information, news and updates about coal exports in B.C. Have your own story about how increased U.S. thermal coal exports affect you?

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  • © Dogwood Initiative, 2015