Fraser Surrey Docks’ coal plans make no sense in today’s world

The premier of China, Li Keqiang, said it like this: “It is no good to be poor in a beautiful environment, nor is it any good to be well-off and to live with the consequences of environmental degradation.”

Li Keqiang was commenting on the horrific air pollution problems in China. Last month the air quality index hit 1,000 in the Chinese city of Harpin. The upper limit on safe air is supposed to be 25.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away and a gulf of cultural differences apart, the plan to move coal by trains to the Fraser Surrey Docks to be shipped to China continues. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. While China’s entire environmental disaster can not be blamed on coal, it is certainly a large part of the problem. And B.C. wants to ship coal over to a country that is struggling, hopefully, to wean itself off coal? We understand that the mighty profit motive can turn folks blind to the consequences of their actions, but surely even Port Metro, which is ostensibly in charge of approving such matters, has to see that this plan is doomed.

Citizens have held rallies, and the opposition is growing. At the last rally, a cloud of dust was forming over the docks transfer facility, possibly grain dust, offering protesters a sneak preview of what could become of the air quality if coal was the cargo and not grain. Given the rising opposition, and rather lame attempts at securing a serious environmental assessment, one would almost think that Fraser Surrey Docks is expecting its first run at this project to be a feint or trial balloon. Are they expecting it to fail?

Or, much worse to contemplate, do they have such confidence in the lack of democratic accountability and transparency in the process that they are expecting – albeit after some twists and turns – to have their plan approved?

Surely that would be too cynical a conclusion, wouldn’t it?

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