Who decides what moves through the Port of Vancouver?

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is mandated under the Canada Marine Act to facilitate Canada’s trade in a way that ensures the safe movement of goods. At the same time, we are required to ensure our operations are sustainable and to consider local communities.

There has been growing concern about the movement of coal through the port. Some are worried about potential impacts of coal dust on human health. Others do not want coal shipped where it will be used for power generation and contribute to climate change.

Just as airport authorities do not set immigration policy, Canadian port authorities do not have the legal authority to decide what goods Canada trades. Our elected government officials make these decisions.

Port authorities are legally mandated to ensure whatever goods are traded are done so safely and efficiently within the physical limits of federal port lands.

Every proposed project on port lands must go through a project and environmental review. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is a federal authority with environmental decision-making responsibilities under section 67 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Prior to carrying out any project, exercising a power or performing a function or duty in relation to any proposed project, we must first be assured that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has a robust review process. In 2015, we completed 212 environmental reviews.

A permit was granted in August 2014 to ship coal from the Fraser Surrey Docks terminal on the Fraser River. The port authority required an environmental impact assessment for that project, which was evaluated by expert third-party Golder Associates Ltd. and involved a public comment period. Additionally, in response to public concerns and feedback from health authorities and others, we required a comprehensive, science-based human health risk assessment following Health Canada guidelines and also evaluated by Golder Associates. The studies found no evidence of negative human health impacts of the project beyond acceptable minimums. All studies and related materials are publicly available on our website.

The Corporation of Delta has conducted its own assessments of coal dust around the rail corridor, finding “Delta’s coal dust monitoring program, including results of analyses of black material on decks and lawn furniture, have consistently shown the material to be primarily dirt, algae, mold and other organic material.”¹ “Five locations were used for Delta’s coal dust monitoring and the overall dustfall was less than the B.C. Air Quality Guidelines.”²

With respect to climate change, related national policy remains the responsibility of the federal government. Our aim is to actively reduce contributions to climate change throughout our jurisdiction. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority was the first port authority in North America to have an environmental team, now comprising 15 experts in biology, fish and wildlife, air quality, atmospheric science, chemistry, soil science, geography, sustainability, energy management and environmental management systems.

Among our many environmental initiatives contributing to reducing air emissions are programs such as shore power, the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, EcoAction Program, and the Non-Road Diesel Emissions Program.

Corporation of Delta Report: Metro Vancouver Air Quality Monitoring Near Railway Lines (July 20, 2016)

¹ Corporation of Delta, Correspondence Summary, May 4, 2015
Minutes of regular meeting of Delta Municipal Council, Monday, March 30, 2015 Page 2