Thursday, October 10, 2013

Port has a moral obligation to mitigate negative impacts in Metro Vancouver

Last night, I attended one of the small group meetings that Port Metro Vancouver is hosting as part of its consultation for the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project near Delta. Besides giving an overview of the proposed project, the Port was also soliciting feedback on measures to mitigate the negative externalities that will result from the new terminal. I’m not against the expansion of the Port, but I want to make sure that it is done in a way that will makes ourselves, our communities, and the environment in which we live better off than before the expansion. I believe this is possible. One of the first issues that came up in the evening was the matter of the area of scope for mitigation measures.

The Port primarily wanted to hear feedback on measures to mitigate negative impacts from the construction and operation of Terminal 2 in the areas directly surrounding the proposed facilities. In fact, the project’s scope ends where the Roberts Bank/Deltaport causeway touches land in Metro Vancouver. Mitigating air, noise, and water pollution would be considered for activities within the project area, but the impacts from the potential doubling of rail traffic in communities like the City of Langley was not part of the discussion. The Port told us at the meeting that the project description has been sent to both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) who will determine the scope of the areas for which the Port has to consider and mitigate negative effects for. The BC EAO has yet to launch a public participation period for the Terminal 2 project, but the CEAA has launched a public participation process that will end on October 15, 2013. The CEAA will use the information it hears to assist in determining whether a federal environmental assessment is required and the scope.

Since the federal government re-wrote Canadian environmental law, the CEAA has a weaker mandate then it did in the past and can only consider the impacts to:

-fish and fish habitat;
-other aquatic species;
-migratory birds;
-federal lands;
-effects that cross provincial or international boundaries;
-effects that impact on Aboriginal peoples, such as their use of lands and resources for traditional purposes;
-changes to the environment that are directly linked to or necessarily incidental to any federal decisions about a project.

It will be interesting to see if the transportation of goods which cross provincial borders will be considered. It will likely be up to the BC EAO, which has historically required less mitigation measures for projects, to protect the interests of the region. This concerns me given their track record. Health Authorities may also have a role to play as the proposed Terminal 2 project, and the increases shipment of containers as a result, will impact human health.

Even if it turns out that the Port has no legal obligation to mitigate the negative impacts that result from its operations in Metro Vancouver, the Port does have a moral obligation. For example, the Port spent a good deal of time talking about the measures it is putting in place as part of the Terminal 2 project to help reduce the negative impacts from truck traffic in the region. The Port licenses trucks that can operate in its facilities and uses the licensing system as a way to ensure that Port standards are met. The same is done for ships that use Port facilities. The Port incentivises the use of more energy efficient vessels with lower port fees for them, and encourages the use of ship-to-shore powers for cruise ships.

The only area that the Port seemed unwilling to address was the impact of increased rail traffic in the region. If I didn’t know better, you’d think that the railway mafia paid a visit to Port Metro Vancouver and told them that it was in the Port best interest to say and do as little as possible about the impacts of the railways. This is interesting because 80% of all good from Deltaport go directly on train and through the Roberts Bank rail corridor which cuts right through the City of Langley. With the massive increase in rail traffic that will result from the new terminal, the impacts that the rail corridor will have in Metro Vancouver must be considered.

For what it’s worth, I completed the feedback form that the Port has put together as part of its consultation processes. I also contacted the CEAA at and asked them to include all transportation corridors in Metro Vancouver as part of the scope of impacts that much be mitigated.

No comments: