Take the Port 2 Court

$26,087 of $33k goal

Raised by 332 people in 23 months
Kevin Washbrook  Surrey, BC
US thermal coal exports on the Fraser River?  A seriously bad idea.

We're taking the Port to court to defend our communities and protect our climate.  We're challenging plans for a new coal port on the Fraser because decisions that impact our future shouldn't be made without meaningful public input.  You can help us win this important case.

It has taken a lot of time and work to obtain all the documents we need from the Port Authority to argue our case in court.  As a result, we've raised our campaign goal to $33,000 so that we can cover our legal costs and protect the brave individuals who have added their names to this case.  ($30,000 will cover our court costs, and $3,000 more will cover GoFundMe's fees).  

It's never been more important to make a strong case for changing the way Port Authorities do business.  Can you help us reach our goal? 

(Want to mail a cheque instead of donating online?  Go here.  Prefer to donate by Paypal?  Go here. )

What the court case is all about

We're taking the Port to court because it failed to consider the impact that exporting this coal will have on the climate once it is burned.   If it goes ahead, this project will be another environmental black eye for Canada -- just when the UN Climate Chief has said  that there is no room in the world for new coal projects.

We're also taking the Port to court because it failed to meaningfully consult with local governments and the public on this project.   We think its mind was made up and approval was a done-deal long before it issued the permit for this new coal port. 


May 2015 -- "New West council steamed about coal proposal." Source: Theresa McManus  New Westminster Record

Why this case is important!

This may be the only case in Canada that challenges federal climate policy (other challenges haven't made it to court).  If we win, we could change the debate around fossil fuel exports -- including pipelines -- in Canada.

If Fraser Surrey Docks were to burn the US thermal coal it plans to export, it would be the 6th largest climate polluter in Canada.  That is a serious impact, but the Port refused to take it into account in its project review. That has to change.

The Port is intent on industrializing the Fraser River and farmland.  If we want a say in how our region develops in the future, we need to change how the Port makes decisions.

Who We Are

We are two groups deeply concerned about the impact this coal port proposal will have on our communities and our climate.   We've been involved in the fight to stop this coal port from the beginning.

Voters Taking Action on Climate Change  (VTACC) is a non-profit society that creates opportunities for the public to demand action from governments on climate change. VTACC works to end the export of US thermal coal from BC to protect communities and our climate. Facebook  | Twitter

Communities and Coal   is a non-profit society establish two years ago by a group of residents along the coal route.  Its goal is to obtain an independent, comprehensive impact assessment of the health risks associated with the transport, handling and export of US thermal coal.  FacebookTwitter

Our Lawsuit

On September 19, 2014 the environmental law charity Ecojustice  filed a federal court application for judicial review of the Port's decision to permit a new coal port on the Fraser River on behalf of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, Communities and Coal and two individual applicants - Paula Williams and Christine Dujmovich.
September 2014 -- "Surrey Residents Lead Fight Against Coal Port" Source: Now Newspaper)

Reasons for the Challenge


1 We allege the Port failed to consider the climate change impacts that will result from its decision to allow US thermal coal to be exported from Metro Vancouver and burned in Asian power plants.  2. We allege that the Port’s conduct gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias.  3. We allege that the  chief executive officer of the Port lacked the authority to make the decisions to approve the project.

Current status of the Case

The coal port litigation is well underway and all parties have filed their affidavit evidence.  We have encountered several procedural challenges but are prevailing so far. We recently won a motion to add the third ground of review noted above to this case.

Our hard working lawyers at Ecojustice are now asking that the Port provide additional documents that are relevant to the case.  Once this issue is resolved in oral hearing, Ecojustice lawyers will submit our full case to the Federal Court, and thereafter, the Court will set a hearing date. 

Both the City of Surrey and City of New Westminster have now joined our case as intervenors on our side.  Like us, they want to see this approval overturned.  
We expect the case will go to hearing in the fall of 2015.

Why go to court?

We have no choice but to take legal action to protect our kids, our communities and our climate. Taking on a legal challenge like this is expensive — but it’s worth it. This is one fight where we can’t afford to back down. We hope you'll stand with us.

New West, October 2013 -- hundreds rally to say NO to a coal port on the Fraser River.  Source:  Carmine Marinelli, 24 Hours

Background on the Fraser River Coal Port Proposal


On August 21, 2014 the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (the Port) approved a controversial proposal for a coal terminal on the Fraser River which would export up to 4 million metric tonnes of US thermal coal annually.  

This coal would come from the Powder River Basin in Montana and is sold to foreign countries to be burned and used as fuel.  It would travel via rail from Montana into Canada through the Peace Arch Crossing in Semihamoo, and then make its way through White Rock, Delta and Surrey to Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD), right next to a residential neighbourhood.

October 2013 -- dust released during loading of agricultural products at Fraser Surrey Docks.   What will happen when they load coal?  Source: Emily Jackson Metro News

From Fraser Surrey Docks, the coal would either be loaded into open barges (each the length of a football field) then towed up the windy Strait of Georgia to Texada Island for transshipment, or loaded directly onto ocean going freighters for shipment to Asian power plants.


September 2014: City, Ecojustice challenge PMV's coal barge decision.  Source: Graeme Wood Richmond News

In North America demand for thermal coal has collapsed due to concerns about climate change and pollution and the low cost of natural gas.  Many coal ports have been proposed along the West Coast of the US to provide easy access to Asian markets for stranded US coal.

However, due to intense opposition  and careful review processes involving extensive consultation to date none of these US coal ports have been approved.  As a result, US coal companies have been turning to BC, specifically Metro Vancouver, in search of export routes for their coal.

January 2014 -- coal train derails into Silver Creek in Burnaby, dumping coal into sensitive fish habitat.  Source: Kevin Washbrook  VTACC

Project Opposition And Review

The proposal to export US thermal coal from FSD led to an overwhelming outcry from health authorities, scholars, unions, scientists, municipalities, politicians, environmentalists and everyday people living along the proposed coal route who are concerned about healthair quality and climate impacts .

May 2013 -- Coal dust being blown onto farmland from train, Delta BC.   Source: CP9831 YouTube.

Nine municipalities in our region have either opposed the project outright  or at minimum called for an independent, comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA)  and full public hearings on the project.   Our Health Authorities joined the call for an HIA.  Even the Union of BC Municipalities joined the call.

In response, the Port required FSD to conduct an Environmental Assessment.  However, the assessment process and report were both roundly criticized by our health authorities and other experts who called  it "deeply flawed"  and said it paid insufficient attention to potential impacts on human populations.

Months later, the Port announced it would require FSD to conduct  a "Human Health Risk Assessment" (HHRA) to fill in the missing gaps.  However, the Port would not allow any further public comment, including any input from our health authorities.   On August 21, 2014, the very day the Port made the HHRA public, they also approved the coal export project at FSD.

Our local governments and health authorities have held no power over the Port and were never meaningfully consulted on the project.   The Port has repeatedly rejected calls for public hearings  on the project.

Why Is A Health Impact Assessment Still Important?

An HIA is important because there is evidence to suggest that the shipment of coal can result in negative impacts to both the human population and its environment.  A HIA if done correctly using international standards, would be thorough, comprehensive, transparent, and use the best available evidence to properly assess the risks of this project.

January 2013 -- coal ship crashes into conveyor at Westhshore Terminals in Delta, dumping coal and coal dust into Strait of Georgia.  Source: CKNW News Talk 980 via Metro News
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Update 3
Posted by Kevin Washbrook
5 months ago
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Hello all,

It's official: the date for our legal challenge of the Port Authority's approval of the coal port on the Fraser River has finally been scheduled.

May 17 - 19 2017. If you can make it down to the federal courts on Georgia Street in Vancouver, join us!

A huge thank you to everyone who has generously supported this effort. We couldn't have got this far without you.

We're looking forward to taking the port to court to fight for meaningful local input into decisions that impact our communities and our health. We're excited to finally challenge this absurd plan to export US thermal coal down the richest salmon river in the world.

Our fantastic lawyers at Ecojustice have done a great job of working their way through numerous procedural obstacles in the run up to this judicial review. The decks are cleared, and we're ready to have our day in court.

Thanks again for your support. We'll be in touch with any further developments.

Kevin Washbrook for
Voters Taking Action on Climate Change
Communities and Coal
Paula Williams
Christine Dujmovich

PS -- we're keeping track, and as far as we can tell NO physical work has been done yet on the proposed coal port at Fraser Surrey Docks. Let's make sure it never gets built.
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Update 2
Posted by Kevin Washbrook
11 months ago
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Latest update on the VTACC/Communities and Coal coal port legal challenge: the court has dismissed Port of Vancouver and Fraser Surrey Dock motions to strike our case before it is heard! More procedural and evidentiary maneuvers lie ahead, but we will get our day in court. We're relieved and eager to have this case heard because it raises important issues about Port decision making and climate change and we want the court to determine these issues – the sooner the better. Thanks to everyone who donated to our legal fund in recent days as well. We appreciate the support!
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Update 1
Posted by Kevin Washbrook
11 months ago
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Hello all citizens concerned about US thermal coal exports!

Paula Williams from Communities and Coal and I wanted to say thanks for your incredible support and provide you with an update on developments in our court case.

We are in federal court in Vancouver tomorrow, Tuesday April 19th. Join us if you can: 701 W Georgia (NW corner of Granville & Georgia) Courtroom 702 (7th floor) . The hearing may start as early as 9:30 a.m.

We're in court to fight a motion by the Port Authority and FS Docks to have our entire legal challenge dismissed. They argue that because the original permit for the coal port was modified to allow ocean going vessels AND barges to load coal, our challenge of that original permit is now irrelevant.

This absurd argument shows how desperate the Port is to avoid having our legal challenge heard in court. The concerns we're raising about potential bias and improper delegation of authority, if proven in court, have implications for all big development decisions made by the Port.

Our amazing legal team from Ecojustice will be fighting hard tomorrow to have this motion dismissed. They want to make sure we have our challenge heard in court, because we all need a Port Authority that is more responsive to regional concerns and the climate impacts of its decisions.

For more background on tomorrow's court challenge, check out this great blog from Ecojustice lawyer Karen Campbell: http://www.ecojustice.ca/death-of-coal/

Thanks again to everyone for your generous support!

Kevin Washbrook
Voters Taking Action On Climate Change
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$26,087 of $33k goal

Raised by 332 people in 23 months
Created May 5, 2015
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