Opinion Column


Shipping coal too risky

By Laila Yuile, City Hall

This will become a more common site in some local communities. (FILE PHOTO)

This will become a more common site in some local communities. (FILE PHOTO)


This week's topic: Is the approval of the Fraser Surrey Docks coal facility good for British Columbia?

When it comes to the controversial coal terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks, it’s not a case of NIMBY – it’s a clear-cut example of not-in-anyone’s backyard. Shipping “dirty” American thermal coal to Asia is not in the best interests of the province, nor the thousands of people directly impacted and who still oppose this decision.

It’s important to clarify the difference between thermal coal and metallurgical coal, often referred to as coking coal. Metallurgical coal is an essential part of the process for iron and steel making. Thermal coal is burned to produce energy to power plants and is still burned to heat homes and cook food in many parts of Asia.

Thermal coal isn’t a clean source of energy, which is why so many parts of the world, including British Columbia, have stopped using it.

I have no objection to metallurgical coal exports that are mined right here in B.C., because it’s an important source of revenue that provides direct benefits to British Columbians. From the jobs at B.C. mines to the trickle-down impact in the communities along the way, it’s an important economic driver and export item.

Contrast that with what’s going to be happening at Fraser Surrey Docks and it’s an entirely different picture. It’s American mined coal, coming up on an American-owned train, to a facility owned by parent company, Macquarie — which is Australian. The estimated number of jobs created is minuscule in comparison, with little-to-zero benefit to surrounding communities.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

For years, American thermal coal has been coming up to another port, and videos uploaded to YouTube show horrific examples of black clouds of coal dust blowing off trains along Colebrook Road. BNSF is only now promising to build a facility to double-coat the coal seeing continual growing opposition and the possibility of monetary loss.

However, double-coating the coal doesn’t mitigate the increased diesel smoke from increased train traffic — also a big health issue along the route — and it doesn’t address the risks of barging coal up the coast. Coal has already shown up on the beaches of Texada from existing small-scale operations, to great concern of residents along the coast.

When China itself has pledged to cut back coal usage to reduce pollution, when California, Oregon and Washington have taken steps to stop thermal coal exports, it’s stunning that B.C. would take such a big step backwards. No one wins with dirty thermal coal exports, least of all British Columbians.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.



Who wins this week's Duel?

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