01/19/2013 13:13 EST | Updated 03/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Environmentalists vow to fight coal terminal expansion plans

A B.C. environmental group is promising a "firestorm" of protest if Port Metro Vancouver doesn't delay plans to ramp up the amount of coal moving through its terminals and hold more public consultations.

The port is currently considering applications to expand two Metro Vancouver port terminals. One application would expand coal capacity at the Neptune Terminal in North Vancouver. The other proposal would create a new coal transfer facility at a terminal on the Fraser River in Surrey.

But Dogwood Initiative executive director Will Horter says the port has failed to adequately consult with the public and has ignored opposition.

"There are no hearings. There is no discussion, There's no checks and balances on the port and that's part of the problem."

He says he's received dozens of phone calls from people worried about the coal projects and his group is vowing to intensify its advocacy efforts.

"We're going to organize community by community that might be impacted by this and if they're concerned about it, we're going to help them make a firestorm."

He says there needs to be much broader public consultation for projects with such significant impact.

"It would be the largest coal terminal in North America, which means it would be the largest export facility for global warming pollution on the continent," he says.

Horter says a similar proposal played out very differently in the nearby U.S. city of Bellingham, some 80 kilometers south of Vancouver.

"They had seven public hearings as far away as Seattle, which is two-hours drive away, 9,000 submissions in the scoping phase, whereas here in B.C. they send out a casual letter."

Consultations have been extensive, says port

But Jim Crandles, the director of planning at Port Metro Vancouver, says extensive community consultations have already been conducted and local safety concerns will be addressed. He says the port is well equipped to deal with coal dust and train noise.

But he says the environmental group's broader questions about coal combustion and greenhouse gas emissions are outside their jurisdiction.

"In facilitating trade, we don't make decisions about what Canada does trade. That conversation needs to happen with the federal government," said Crandles.