This weeks Column for 24Hrs Vancouver: “It’s a ‘dirty’ job, so let the U.S. do it themselves.”

This week, Kathryn and I take on the debate : Should B.C. handle U.S. Coal exports? What do you think? (Winner of the last duel on $10-per-day child care was Laila Yuile with 81%.)

Occasionally, I can’t help but wonder how much the global economy takes advantage of British Columbia’s reputation for being easygoing and complacent.

Case in point is the recent application for Fraser Surrey Docks to develop a direct coal transfer facility. The idea of coal expansion has people up in arms — rightfully so — particularly south of the Fraser River and along the Sunshine Coast.

The heart of the controversy is centered on taking so-called “dirty” coal mined in Wyoming and exporting it from Canadian ports, specifically from ports here in B.C. This new proposal involves shipping thermal coal, which is the kind of coal burned only for energy, to Fraser Surrey Docks, where it would be loaded onto barges and taken to Texada Island to a storage facility. From there, it would be loaded onto freighters to be shipped overseas. It’s a controversial move that some in B.C., and elsewhere, say we should halt immediately.

Read Kathryn Marshall’s column

I agree. There should be no expansion to ship U.S. coal to Texada, and for good reason…

Read the rest of this column, and vote, at this link

**note, Kathryn states in her column: “If Laila is against coal being exported from the Fraser Surrey Docks I assume she is in favour of shutting down Roberts Bank and all the jobs that go with it.”

It is important to understand that there are two kinds of coal being exported: Metallurgical coal,( coking coal)  which is used for steelmaking, and thermal coal, which is only used for energy, or heat. You can learn more here:

I am not in favour of shutting down Roberts Bank or the all the jobs that go with it – I am against this proposal for Fraser Surrey Docks and barging this US thermal coal to Texada for storage,and for shipping.

The thermal coal being produced in Wyoming,Montana and Illinois is a low quality,low grade thermal coal used only to heat homes and create electricity. Barging it from Fraser Surrey Docks to Texada Island where it will be loaded onto tankers brings all sorts of questions to light,not only for Surrey/Delta/New West residents,but also for those in Powell River and the Sunshine Coast who will see increased barge and freighter traffic.

8 thoughts on “This weeks Column for 24Hrs Vancouver: “It’s a ‘dirty’ job, so let the U.S. do it themselves.”

  1. Laila,

    I have just read yours and Kathryn’s debate on coal exports. And I didn’t vote.

    For the same reason I have not voted on your other debates: the premises of your debates are sound ones; however you either don’t have the time or the licence to expand on your arguments, so it turns into a she said, she said type of debate.

    An example is your statement that the US doesn’t want the coal to flow through their ports. Kathryn claims there is a race to build more ports in WA and OR. I find it hard to reconcile these two views, so I presume one is wrong but don’t know which one.

    Also, neither of you touches on the possibility of developing cleaner, safer methods of handling coal which in my mind could radically alter the argument.

    I much prefer the well researched, explained and referenced articles on your blog site. In my opinion, these debates have not done anything to enhance the reputation you have earned through good investigative journalism.

    Keep up the blogposts and Huffpo articles. They are well worth reading.


    1. A very thoughtful comment and I have to agree.

      I can right what I want,I haven’t had any editorial influence whatsoever, but it has been a learning curve for me on how to adapt my writing style to 400 words.

      Washington is considering a port to export mostly coal, however they are experiencing the same concerns as this proposal This link tells you where they are that and it is still a long way off in the environmental review process.

      There has been staunch opposition to more coal exports out of Seattle, and their city has said no, period…… and this week Oregon cancelled the Coos Bay proposal Kathryn is likely referring to for the same reasons.

      This is why so much of this Wyoming ‘dirty’,lower grade and quality thermal coal needs to find a new home. I personally doubt the people in Washington state are going to go for it, following the steps of their Oregon neighbours. I did add a link above in the post, to the ports defense of the Surrey proposal which touches on their planned abilities to handle the coal, but considering that thermal coal is the issue, I don’t think we should be assisting the US in getting their product out any more than we already do. This proposal isn’t just about Surrey residents, it is about Texada Island and Powell River residents too, who all may deal with impacts of increased coal barges and traffic in their waterways – I haven’t seen anything in the Surrey proposal to address those concerns.

      I appreciate greatly your support and your critique,because it helps me become a better writer. Clearly my first love is what I do here, and the other platforms bring such a massive new audience to all of it, in particular since Sun News is carrying the posts nationally as well now.


    1. For the record, I am absolutely against the Raven Coal Mine project – I know that area very well and have many,many friends in the Comox Valley region who are greatly concerned over the potential impacts of this mine proposal. The shellfish industry and the aquifers, the water supply, should not be risked in any manner in this area.

      There is so much potential in this part of the island for new job creation.. it takes a visionary person to pull it together.


  2. Hi Laila, I posted this and then it just disappeared so I’m posting it again in case it was lost. Sorry if it posts twice.

    I agree with you Laila, 50 jobs is not worth assisting more consumption of fossil fuel and the release of more carbon into our atmosphere. And I have other reasons too. Coal and oil are dying industries. The global topic of conversation is aimed at stopping climate impacts from fossil fuel carbon released out of the ground into our air. Canada has resisted this dialogue by cancelling obligations to a change that needs to happen. France recently sold it’s tar sand interest at a loss!

    And look here: Alternate fuel in development! That’s the kind of project that Canadians need to embrace – a project that would employ scientists and contribute to a solution. Millions are waiting for Canada to show some interest in alternate energy and this could be it.

    If we continue to create long term projects with lasting environmental impacts for the sake of 50 jobs – we will never stop the global addiction to fossil fuel. We contribute to the carbon impacts on our planet if we take a position that shipping someone else’s carbon is just about jobs. I was already aware of the US protest against shipping that coal – people put themselves on the line to stop that coal and save the planet for future generations. The least we can do is take a moral position that we don’t assist other countries expanding fossil fuel exploitation that leads to larger global climate impacts.


  3. It doesn’t make sense to transfer the coal by barge before finally shipping it. That’s pretty inefficient. Then again: if U.S. activists plug up any state-side port that could ship directly, we become the next-best option.


    1. Well G. Oregon just cancelled the Coos Bay plan and I suspect Washington may follow suit – mind you they seem to have more consultation than we do.

      Our columns this week have been receiving phenomenal attention,locally and nationally on the SunNews main site linked to above.

      This was big news yesterday..

      Again, not against all coal exports, just the proposed expansion of exporting this low quality, low grade thermal coal from the US

      Metro Vancouver voted narrowly in favour Thursday of opposing coal shipments along the Fraser River, following a lengthy debate over the economics of coal projects versus the environmental and health risks associated with coal dust.

      Directors on the region’s environment and parks committee voted 6-5 in favour of a motion to send a “public statement” to Port Metro Vancouver by opposing coal shipments along the Fraser River estuary, other than at the existing Robert’s Bank terminal in Delta.

      The move, which still has to go before the Metro Vancouver board later this month, follows applications by Port Metro for air-quality permits for a $200-million expansion at Neptune Bulk Terminals in North Vancouver, as well as a proposal for Fraser Surrey Docks to export thermal coal mined in the Western U.S. to produce electricity in Asia. Neptune Bulk Terminals already has its permit, but the move could affect what happens at Fraser Surrey.

      This is the latest example of the push and pull between B.C.’s booming resource sector and urban sensibilities in Metro Vancouver. Pressure from Ottawa for B.C. to build pipelines to carry oil and gas to tankers on the B.C. coast are opposed by a clear majority of Metro residents. Coal has now become the latest resource target with city councils, health authorities, physicians and environmentalists joining forces in demanding more information on coal dust, diesel fumes and air quality issues.

      The province claims the resource sector is needed to create jobs and boost the economy, but the opposition argues the benefits often outweigh the risks when it comes to the environment and public health.

      Coal expansion, for instance, has been touted to help secure Metro Vancouver’s role as North America’s largest coal export hub, while creating jobs across the region. But some directors, including Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, argued the economy shouldn’t come at the expense of health and the environment, citing a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway study that found “roughly” 225 kilograms of coal dust can be lost from each train car during transit.

      Read more:


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