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City advises scrutiny of coal movement and storage

Mayor pushes for jobs with expansion of facility

City of Powell River Council is recommending environmental and health studies in conjunction with an application to increase coal storage on Texada Island.

At council’s Thursday, September 18, meeting, Mayor Dave Formosa reviewed a letter sent by CaroleAnn Leishman to council last month, expressing regret about a newspaper story in August. In the story, Formosa mentioned he had discussed the matter of storing coal on Texada with Lisa Raitt, federal transportation minister.

Formosa said he was speaking for himself with regard to this matter, and had opposed a previous letter on the subject sent to several federal and provincial ministers. He told the minister the fact coal has been stored on Texada Island for 23 years was reason to expand capacity, and he recommended back-hauling coal with empty limestone barges going to the island.

Formosa said he and Leishman went through the letter in his office prior to the council meeting.

“It was actually quite informative,” Formosa said. “I was able to make comment on some issues that she went ‘oh, I didn’t realize, I’ll check on that.’ I was more informed, also. We were able to talk this out as two individuals. I brought some points to her and she brought some points to me.”

One issue of concern to Leishman was the prospect of pollution on the beach from coal. Formosa said he was told an individual from the forest office was charged to test the beach for contamination. The test was negative and the forestry officer noted there was no pollution there when he examined the site.

What Formosa learned from Leishman was there isn’t a whole lot of area for this coal to come through. “My thing was, if they are coming with an empty barge to be filled up with limestone from the island, for the sake of the environment, instead of having another barge take it, why wouldn’t we put the coal on it?”

Formosa said two jobs have been created as a result of the prospect of increased coal storage. He said two young people are being paid $29 per hour and the manager of Lafarge Canada Inc.’s Texada Quarry told him that if they get the contract, 14 jobs would be created.

“I said to CaroleAnn, I’m fighting for the jobs.”

Council then considered a motion about sending a letter, articulating council’s views on coal storage from a council meeting on October 3, 2013, to Raitt. The motion stated council was requesting environmental impact assessment and a health impact assessment be completed for the Strait of Georgia, including Texada Island. The motion recommended that these assessments be completed before any approvals are given to move ahead with the project expansion.

Formosa said he has no objection to health studies but he did not want to do them at the expense of moving forward. He said he could accept the motion if there was removal of the part that indicated the assessments must be completed before the province grants approvals.

“In other words, I agree with the studies and trying to get them done but I don’t want to hold up the jobs.”

Council carried a motion to send a letter to Raitt requesting scrutiny of the prospective environment and health risks, with the removal of the proviso that approvals wait until assessments are completed.

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