A new poll of Lower Mainland residents on the issue of increased coal exports has found opinion is nearly evenly split on a proposed new terminal in Surrey.
The survey by Insights West found 32 per cent support the $15-milllion coal-handling facility at Fraser Surrey Docks, 31 per cent oppose it and 36 per cent are undecided.
A large proportion of respondents weren’t familiar with the proposal, which would bring more coal trains through White Rock and South Surrey and send coal-laden barges down the Fraser River to Texada Island, for transfer to ocean-going ships.
Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco said the findings show area residents are of two minds on coal.
Seventy-two percent believe the new Surrey terminal will create jobs and 62 per cent said coal is a significant contributor to the B.C. economy.
But more than two-thirds of residents also see coal dust as an environmental threat.
And 55 per cent said they wouldn’t support expanded coal shipments from the region because coal is a major contributor to climate change.
Canseco said Metro Vancouverites’ awareness of the project is low compared to past surveys that found large majorities of B.C. residents know about proposed new oil pipelines.
“At this point, the environmental concerns from residents are evident but there is also wide agreement on the economic benefits,” Canseco said.
Two-thirds of respondents also agreed that coal will just be shipped from other areas if new export terminals aren’t built here.
The survey in June of 752 Lower Mainland adults didn’t tackle the two different types of coal handled in the region.
Metallurgical coal, used in steel-making, has been shipped through Metro Vancouver for decades and comes from B.C. mines.
The contentious Surrey terminal would be built to handle up to eight million tonnes per year of U.S. thermal coal, which is a much bigger source of greenhouse gas emissions when burned for power.
Another coal terminal expansion handling metallurgical coal has been approved by the port authority in North Vancouver, but work is not yet underway.
The regional district has opposed the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal and medical health officers want a health impact assessment prior to an approval decision by Port Metro Vancouver.