06/15/2013 01:29 EDT | Updated 08/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Metro Vancouver opposes Fraser Surrey Docks coal expansion

Metro Vancouver directors approved a motion calling for a halt to new coal shipments on Friday, after hearing from more than 40 people about a proposal to build a coal transfer facility at the Fraser Surrey Docks.

The directors also called for a health impact assessment for any new coal terminal as requested by the Vancouver and Fraser Health authorities.

The proposed transfer station, which would be built to handle up to 4 million metric tonnes of coal, has some worried about health concerns connected to coal dust.

- Will you breathe it in? Coal dust health fears

"With the lack of evidence based decision making in our country... people are feeling this country is being railroaded if you will by the fossil fuel companies," biologist Lyn Quarmby said on Friday.

Tim Takaro, a health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University, agreed.

"We as a society have a severe addiction problem. It is an addiction to fossil fuels`," he said.

"We know it's harming us and, more importantly, future generations... but we can’t stop. We are asking the board to please help us kick the habit."

But Greg Vurdela, spokesman for the Maritime Employers Association, said a busy port means more jobs.

"$388 million dollars in wages. These are jobs, ladies and gentlemen. People can raise families on, buy a home... send their kids to school," he said.

On Friday, Fraser Surrey Docks CEO Jeff Scott said the terminal would "fully accept our social and environmental obligations to minimize coal dust."

"This is my community too and the safety of my family and my employees is as equally important to me as it is to all stakeholders," he said.