For Immediate Release
November 20 2013
Port Authority should immediately release all public agency comments on coal export EIA
-- standard practice in other assessments, will help inform public as they make their own comments on study
Vancouver -- In response to public pressure, late yesterday afternoon the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority released to the media the Health Authorities' critique of the coal export environmental impact assessment (EIA). Media and the Health Authorities themselves had already released this critique earlier in the day.
As of 9 a.m. this morning the Port has not yet posted these comments on its coal export EIA web page where they can be easily accessed by the public. The Health Authority critique of the coal export EIA has now been posted on realporthearings.org for public review.
Voters Taking Action on Climate Change calls on the Port Authority to release and publicly post - in an easily accessed location - all agency comments on the coal export EIA immediately upon receipt so that the wider public can review these comments and use them to inform their own response to the EIA. This would be a positive sign that the Port is committed to an open and transparent review of the coal export EIA. The 30 day time limit for public comment on the EIA means that the Port should not delay in making these comments available.
VTACC is aware that the Port sent the EIA out for preview by public agencies prior to public release and has already received commentary on the assessment from Metro Vancouver. We call on the Port to make that commentary public now. We understand that the Port has also requested review of the assessment from the Provincial Ministry of Environment and Heath Canada. The Port should release and publicly post those expert comments - and any others solicited - as soon as they are received so that they can be reviewed by the public.
VTACC will contact these public agencies directly to ask for copies of their commentary, which will then be posted on realporthearings.org. This website was created by several environmental and community groups as a public tool for commenting on the EIA. All comments sent to the Port will be posted on this site.
The coal export EIA report is several hundred pages in length, much of it is technical in nature, and comments must be delivered to the Port within 30 days. It is appropriate that citizens have a chance to review expert commentary from public agencies before they make their own comments on the EIA.
Publicly posting agency comments in a timely fashion is standard EIA practice. This approach is followed by the National Energy Board in its review of the Northern Gateway Pipeline. This approach is also followed in the BC Environmental Assessment process -- see an example here. This approach was also followed in the scoping phase of the EIA for the proposed GPT coal terminal in Washington State. See the collected agency comments here.
Background -- Port Authority should scrap EIA, start over
The Health Authority commentary on the coal export EIA notes that the EIA makes reference to an outdated 15 year old letter from the South Fraser Health Region but completely ignores a recent and relevant critique of Fraser Surrey Docks' air quality modeling research, sent to the Port Authority in May 2013 by the Health Authorities.
The Oct 17 letter from the Port to the Health Authorities relies on legal arguments to deny the Health Authorities' request for involvement in determining the scope and terms of reference of the EIA. It is hardly reassuring to the public if the Port Authority falls back on legal arguments to avoid working with our Health Authorities. We call on the Port to restart the EIA process and to work with our Health Authorities in developing a comprehensive review that will inspire public confidence.
The Port Authority never responded to the Sept 30 Letter from health and environmental assessment experts pointing out flaws in the proposed EIA. We call on the Port to invite these experts to assist them in restarting the EIA process to ensure that the results are defensible and address public and expert concerns.