Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Local and global impact of Port Metro Vancouver

Last week, I received an email from Port Metro Vancouver on their land-use plan update process. The Canada Marine Act requires that the Port has a land-use plan which “contains objectives and policies for the physical development of the property it manages.”

The Port recently released the results of phase two of its four phase process of updating the land-use plan. While the Canada Marine Act only requires nominal public input on the land-use plan, the Port has decided to do a full consultation process similar to the Terminal Two process that I’ve posted about previously.

The guiding objectives for the Port’s land-use plan are:
1.) The Port facilitates expected growth in Canada’s trade while preparing for anticipated transitions in the global economy.
2.) The Port is a leader in ensuring the safe and efficient movement of port-related trade and passengers throughout the region.
3.) The Port is a global leader among ports in the environmental stewardship of the lands and waters it manages.
4.) Port activity and development provides benefits and addresses impacts to local communities and First Nations.

I suggest that you read the full 16-page summary as it contains a lot more detail and people's thoughts about these broad objectives. I want to focus on objective 3.

On Monday, I was at an event put on by concerned Surrey citizen’s about two proposed plans by the Port to almost double the amount of coal it can export. From a local level, there are concerns about the environmental and health impacts of coal dust. There are also concerns about the impact of more rail traffic in our communities. Will it be the Port and its customers that pay for these external costs, or will it be the citizens of our region? I mention this because while the Port has been engaging the community with some of its plans, apparently the proposed coal export expansion planning has been done on the hush-hush will little community involvement. While the Port can claim in some projects that it is going beyond the call of duty, it doesn’t surprise me that something like coal export expansion would be done with only the minimum legal requirement.

The problem seems to be that the Port is a federal organization with little legal accountability to the communities where it operates. It seems to me that the Canada Marine Act needs to be updated to ensure that communities are consulted and their concerns addressed on all matter that could impact the region.

Of course the larger question is can we call Port Metro Vancouver a good stewards of the environment, even if they do everything right in Metro Vancouver, but become the largest exporter of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet?

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