Thermal coal is being increasingly shipped out of BC ports. The vast majority of this thermal coal originates in mines outside of our province: primarily in the Powder River Basin in the US and from a few mines in Alberta. American mining companies such as Cloud Peak Energy, Arch Coal, and Peabody Energy, are attempting to get their product to Asian markets and are desperate to do so as US power plants have increasingly displaced coal with natural gas. Facing stiff opposition from increasing coal exports through Washington, Oregon, and California, these companies have shifted their attention to BC.
The shipping of this thermal coal is completely inconsistent with BC’s climate strategy and yet the provincial government has done nothing to impede it. In fact it seems like the opposite is true, BC, it appears, is open for business.
While it is true that the operation of Port Authorities (and any expansions) falls under federal jurisdiction there are significant opportunities for the province to step in and take an active role in opposing the expansion of thermal coal exports.
The most controversial coal expansion project is currently the Fraser Surrey Docks Terminal Expansion. Using this example, the province could undertake a number of initiatives:
Clearly the province has powers that could delay, impede and derail this specific expansion. For a province that claims to be a leader in climate change action, the expansion of thermal coal exports through our ports is deeply hypocritical. Significant opposition around this project exists. Municipal councils, health officials, school boards, environmental groups and concerned citizens have all voiced their opposition to a project that does little to benefit our province yet showcases the hypocrisy of the BC Liberal position on climate change.
In comparison, our southern neighbors take climate change seriously when considering new projects. For example, in Washington, as part of its Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Gateway Pacific Coal Port project, the Department of Ecology is actively considering the impacts climate change in its assessment. The EA includes an analysis of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project site and construction, transportation from mine to market, and the end-use burning of exported coal in Asia!
The government claims that jumping head-first into the race on LNG is the single best thing that the province can do to address climate change. I frankly think that actively opposing the expansion of the dirtiest fuel on the planet would do a lot more.