VTACC's position on metallurgical and thermal coal.
The distinction matters, so let's be clear what we're talking about.
Metallurgical coal: a valuable resource if used carefully
BC's metallurgical coal industry is an important economic driver in the province, particularly in the East Kootenays where it provides unionized, family-supporting jobs. Currently, metallurgical coal is also an irreplaceable element in the production of new steel (it is not required to recycle steel).
Unfortunately, metallurgical coal is also a significant source of global warming emissions; however, in the absence of substitutes, demand for this key steel making input isn't going away any time soon. Through wise use and proper allocation, BC's valuable metallurgical coal resource could help us transition to a low carbon economy.
Of course the transport and handling of metallurgical coal through our communities raises legitimate concerns about health and environmental hazards, and any proposal to expand the export of metallurgical coal from BC requires careful assessment and mitigation of health and environmental risks prior to approval.
Thermal coal: a dirty, outdated fuel we need to quickly leave behind
Thermal coal, used in power production, is the single greatest contributor to climate change, a significant source of deadly local pollution in Asia, and a contributor to trans-ocean pollution as well. BC banned the use of thermal coal for power production in 2007, and today Premier Clark promotes the export of BC LNG in part as a way to help Asia end its dependence on this dirty and outdated fuel source.
The International Energy Agency says that if we are to have any chance of avoiding a climate disaster, 80 percent of remaining thermal coal reserves need to stay in the ground. That leads us to two conclusions:
1. We should rapidly phase out the export of thermal coal from all BC ports.
2. There is absolutely no justification for building a new coal port on the Fraser River for the export of US thermal coal. This would either lock us in to continued economic reliance on thermal coal exports or leave us with stranded infrastructure assets on public lands when that coal export capacity is abandoned.