The deadline to submit comments to the Review Panel in relation to the environmental assessment of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is October 28, 2016. (E-mail the Review Panel at Panel.RBT2@ceaa.gc.ca.)
A frequent article contributor to MetroVanWatch has shared his submission with us, with permission to publish here, for the benefit of others.
Submission from Peter van der Velden to Review Panel
Roberts Bank Terminal 2
Input from regarded scientists as well as environmental researchers has been ignored, swept aside or belittled throughout this process. These comments are a direct reflection of how the Port of Vancouver has managed the required public input for this project.
Finally, years into the process, Environment Canada has acknowledged that Biofilm is an issue. This issue has been continuously raised by opponents to the project. One of the most controversial issues, the Port of Vancouver has continuously brushed this aside. At the Port 2016 AGM the public was told that Biofilm would likely increase as a result of the project. As unlikely as this seems, only now that Environment Canada has questioned it, it is an issue.
The Port of Vancouver is governed by a board of directors that are largely chosen by government and industry. Little has been seen of any board member in the community of Delta. The community that will be hardest hit by the results of this project.
At the “public input sessions” held in Delta no Board members were present. These “public input sessions” proved to be one-way information streams that had little to do with public input. When Richmond Fisheries Biologist Otto Langer asked if his submission had been read, he was told to resubmit the brief. His extensive review and criticism of the project was neither acknowledged nor taken into account.
The “public input sessions” were merely Port presentations. When environmental concerns were expressed the public was told that the Port would be held to a high standard. Port representatives were dumbfounded when told that this was not the case for the existing terminal. They appeared to be totally uninformed about existing pollution, light pollution and noise pollution. When asked about Fraser Surrey Docks refusal to recognize Metro Vancouver authority over pollution the curt answer was: “We’re not discussing that”. When asked if the Port of Vancouver was responsible for tenant pollution the answer again was: “We’re not discussing that”.
Environmental concern over Biofilm is only the start of concerns for the Roberts Bank. The handling of this issue is at the core of environmental arguments against this project. Every time viable concerns, have been raised the Port has provided new spin. A case in point is the issue of decreasing container traffic. When the need for Terminal 2 became questionable the Port took on a new approach. Their plan became ‘PORT 2050: Charting a course to a sustainable gateway’. Sadly the Port “sustainability model” puts the economy first, the environment second and community last. A good look at the Port sustainability website shows that a lot of their considerations for “thriving communities” and “healthy environments” don’t seem to apply to either Delta or Richmond, the communities most affected.
You can’t expect to have an economy if you have no environment.
Port 2050 claims to “chart a course to a sustainable future” through “meaningful dialogue”, “collective accountability” and “shared aspirations”. When community comes last and public input is little more than window dressing the “coarse to a sustainable future” can only be compromised. Collective accountability does not seem to apply to the Port. The Port of Vancouver is a Federal Crown Corporation and should be accountable to its primary shareholder, the Canadian public. It should not only be held to a higher standard, it should set those standards. Words alone cannot achieve that.
Where is the board for the Port in all of this? The board should be there to protect the public from the path the Port appears to be taking. Studies have shown that inland terminals are a much more viable alternative to present plans. This is true for the West Coast container business as well as to container business in other jurisdictions.
An inland terminal would protect the Roberts Bank and all of its environmental issues. An inland terminal would save Vancouver from road congestion, loss of valuable farmland and emissions to our communities. Research shows that an inland terminal would have better access to both highway and rail infrastructure. Why has this alternative not been a part of the public dialogue?
Lastly this project is just a part of the proposed expansion for the Port of Vancouver on the Fraser River. The Port of Vancouver has plans that will industrialize the Fraser. All of the proposals need to be viewed under one complete environmental assessment. All of the “science based” information cannot really be considered valid unless this is done. Unlike human endeavors, nature does not work in a vacuum.
To be sure there will be jobs and the Port expansion is deemed good for the economy. But at what cost? Real transparency in this process is vital to all that the Port of Vancouver espouses: Healthy Environment and Prosperous Communities. If we are to believe that we can only achieve Economic Prosperity through trade our agricultural community is at peril. Port CEO Robin Silvester has stated on several occasions that Port needs “trump” the need for agricultural land. We have some of Canada’s best agricultural land and environmental conditions here in Richmond and Delta. Our produce is next door to a very large and appreciative market. If our Port expands here in Vancouver we will soon be doing as Mr. Silvester has suggested; we will be importing our food. This will put yet more trucks on the road and it will diminish our ability to sustain ourselves making Canada a nation dependent on others. Is this what we want?