Comment on the Impact of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2
One of North America’s greatest eagle and ecological habitats gets another reprieve.
For the last decades I have been seeing nothing but negative impacts to our environment from the existing hugely disruptive truck – trailer terminal and a proposed additional new terminal. These environmental negatives are so obvious to anybody with a interest in trying to keep our living things living. BUT NOW — during Covid 19 – the negative impacts of a lot of elements we took for granted are in clearer focus.
At every drive to visit my eagle nests I encounter fewer cars — but most impactfully, I encounter fewer semi-trailers dragging their huge hulks to and from the Bulk Terminal. Every road is nicer and safer to drive. Every road smells better. I have fewer Railroad Crossings to wait at while the 125+ train cars laden with trailers passes. I cannot believe I am seeing this incredible difference in the pleasure of living. I know there are and will be more downsides to Covid but let’s consider what downsides we want to again endure. For British Columbians to allow another additional few thousand huge trucks an hour or day, all carrying ‘crap products’ for Chicago and NY, is totally unproductive for us. We pay the environmental costs and now I begin to again see how much we pay for the smell, the pollution, the noise and the incredibly extra inconvenience at EVERY intersection. It may be cheaper for New Yorker & Chicagonians to ship though here but we get NO benefits – only costs. Our existing Terminal 1 is only a tiny bit used for British Columbia goods — it already largely serves eastern US. WHY do we tolerate this? Certainly, why do we tolerate ‘considering a second terminal’?
Say no to the Expansion of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion. Below is a fine summary of other facts — my comments above reference the simple intrusion of this Terminal and its disruption of our everyday life. And I say this when normally I am spouting off the environmental negatives related to saving our eagles, our waterfowl and the marine mammals that flourish off the richest off-shore waters in North America – the Roberts Bank. It is usually the other creatures I am speaking up for. This past week of lower mainland peace and quiet, of smelling the flowers and hearing the eagles and robins call has been an awakening. Beautiful British Columbia is back. Let’s try and keep it that way.
Delta BC April 2 2020
Good news! The Federal Review Panel assessing the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project has stated that in a number of areas RBT2 will result in significant adverse environmental effects. These include effects on wildlife, wetlands, human health, recreation and quality of life.
Given the Review Panel report, the Environment Minister now has no choice. The legislation (CEAA 2012) does not permit him to make a decision and approve the project. Rather it requires the Minister to refer the decision to the Governor in Council (the Cabinet) where they must decide whether “the significant adverse environmental effects that the designated project is likely to cause are justified in the circumstances.” Very clearly the adverse effects from RBT2 are not justified and it is expected that the Cabinet will deny approval and RBT2 will not be built.
Cabinet will have trouble finding a business justification. Prince Rupert, with its expansion, offers all the container terminal capacity that Canada needs. The Panel said it did not look at Prince Rupert because it was not in the Port of Vancouver’s jurisdiction. Vancouver’s performance has been poor – ten year cumulative annual compound growth of less than 3%, missing every one of its last five growth forecasts, with no growth in 2019. Prince Rupert by comparison grew by 17% in 2019. Vancouver’s container traffic year to date 2020 is down by 13%. Prince Rupert is up by 12%. Reason – Vancouver lost most of its US traffic to US ports. That traffic is discretionary and unlikely to come back. Covid-19 has already changed container shipping. With RBT2 costing upwards of $4 billion and a cost per container in excess of $1000, clearly Canada’s container terminal expansion when needed is best done in Prince Rupert.
Regarding the environment and the importance of Roberts Bank, the Panel states in its report that “…throughout the review, it is evident that the marine ecosystem of the Fraser River estuary is increasingly being threatened by the cumulative effects of development and human activities.”
According to the Panel RBT2 will result in a number of threats to the Roberts Bank ecosystem and numerous wildlife species. For example the Panel identifies significant adverse effects to wetlands, salmon, crabs, and barn owls. Not only that but the Panel states that RBT2 will result in significant adverse effects to the quality of life and to human health caused by noise, respiratory irritants and lighting. It would also adversely affect agricultural land and recreation in one of the most globally Important Bird Areas. In short RBT2 denigrates so many areas of wildlife, everyday life, and enjoyment. On biofilm, the Panel destroys several of the Port’s arguments. The Port stated on a number of occasions that biofilm can be created. The Panel said that is unproven and as a mitigation measure for biofilm it cannot be considered feasible.
The Panel raises a number of uncertainties concerning changes in salinity and impacts on biofilm and fatty acid production, critical as a food source for millions of shorebirds, as well as other wildlife species. Birds Canada says it is concerned about impacts on Western Sandpipers and shorebirds, as are we. Two experts in wetlands and wildlife, which the Panel quoted in their report – Dr. Pat Baird and Professor Peter Beninger -, also raised these adverse impacts at the public hearings. Additionally new peer-reviewed science published in “Frontiers in Marine Science”, on the importance of biofilm for the breeding migration of shorebirds, validates the work done by Environment Canada scientists. They were right all along. If RBT2 is built it is likely to result in the significant degradation of one of the most important ecosystems, in terms of birds and biodiversity, in the whole of North America. As the scientists have repeatedly said, RBT2 will result in significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated.
This uncertainty must trigger the Precautionary Principle enshrined in environmental legislation. Simply put, if an action – i.e. building RBT2 – creates a risk, then do not do it.
Covid-19 changes everything. Let’s stop wasting any more money. Have Cabinet cancel RBT2 NOW.
For more information visit www.againstportexpansion.org
Email Roger Emsley at [email protected]