By Joel Connelly, August 22, 2014, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Whatever happens to the proposed Gateway Pacific terminal in Whatcom County, the Canadian terminal — which still faces resistance — would bring more mile to mile-and-a-half long coal trains through Seattle and other Puget Sound cities.
A “transfer facility” at Fraser Surrey Docks would take U.S. thermal coal from trains, put it on barges to Texada Island in the Strait of Georgia, from which it would be sent off to Asian markets.
Fraser Surrey Docks is the largest multi-purpose marine terminal on the west coast of North America. Coal is already its most heavily traded commodity, and the new export facility would increase volume by about 10 percent.
Still, the project has been strongly opposed by municipal governments — including the city of Vancouver — local residents and the environmental community. Opponents have worried about local impacts, as well as the climate impacts of fueling Chinese power plants that emit the world’s largest volume of greenhouse gases.
But local government has no say.
The decision has rested with Port Metro Vancouver, a corporation set up by Canada’s federal government in 2008 that runs all ports in the Greater Vancouver region. It is governed by federally appointed directors culled from industry and supporters of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party.
“Through our comprehensive project review process, stakeholder consultation, as well as third-party validated environmental and health studies, it was determined there are no unacceptable risks and the project could be permitted,” Peter Xotta, vice president of Port Metro Vancouver, said in a statement.
“The decision to permit the proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks was not one we took lightly,” Xotta added. The project will have to “meet a strict set of conditions.”
A huge 1960′s-vintage coal terminal sits at Roberts Bank just north of where B.C. Ferries take off for Vancouver Island. It has been described as a sight worthy of appreciation by all connoisseurs of ugliness. Developers of Gateway Pacific has cited Roberts Bank as an example of what they do NOT want to put at Cherry Point south of the border.
The Canadian and British Columbia governments remain champions of the carbon economy.
Two huge oil pipeline projects, currently in the pipeline, would ship oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the West Coast, for export to Asia.
One proposal would create an oil super port at Kitimat in northern British Columbia, at the head of a long narrow fjord. The other would send oil to an existing refinery at Burnaby, just east of Vancouver. It would then be shipped out via international waters of Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Opponents of the coal export project are carrying their battle to Texada Island, and plan a legal challenge.