Kootenay Columbia MP flies to Vancouver to debate ban on coal

When a motion to symbolically ban storage and shipment of coal through the Vancouver was up for debate, David Wilks hopped on a plane.

When a motion to symbolically ban storage and shipment of coal through the City of Vancouver was up for debate, Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks hopped on a plane to give his constituents’ perspective.

The amendment passed at the July 9 meeting, but it gave Wilks a chance to try and set the record straight from the natural resource side of things.

Wilks received emails last week from Sparwood and Fernie mayors about the bylaw amendment which would ban coal shipment and storage in the City of Vancouver.

“I read it and said ‘that’s not good,” he said. “I felt that it was incumbent upon me to at least go down there and, if nothing else, give them the potential impacts, not only to the Elk Valley, but across British Columbia.”

Wilks said the motion would likely not have any impact on Westshore Terminals and Neptune Terminals outside of the municipality, as they are well established.

“I just don’t quite understand the logic by the City of Vancouver and the amendment that they put forward, because it’s more of a feel-good motion than anything else. I’ve always maintained from a regional perspective, you don’t create a bylaw that you can’t enforce.”

Wilks said he has no idea how they would enforce it.

“As an Asia-Pacific Gateway community, they are sending a message, however slight, that they’re not open for business,” he said.

The other thing Wilks wanted to emphasize in the Vancouver meeting, was the difference between thermal coal and metallurgical coal. Thermal coal is burned, while metallurgic coal is made into steel.

“All the coal that comes out of the Elk Valley is metallurgic coal,” he said. “Until we find a replacement for carbon, there is a necessity for metallurgic coal.”

Wilks said a few members of the council weren’t impressed by his presentation. One thing that concerned him was that the document that along banning the storage of coal, there was some ambiguous wording saying “not just” that seemed to hint at other products falling under the ban.

“What’s the definition of not just? Does it include timber products? Does it include sulphur, does it include cement?” He wondered. “No one answered it and that was quite concerning to me.”

As far as other concerns the council had, Wilks said the coal coming from the area is mitigated for dust.

Wilks also noted that the studies the council was basing their decision off of were studies on thermal coal out of the U.S. rather than studies out of the Elk Valley.

“We have companies such as Teck Resources that have been hauling coal for forever and a day, that they could utilize to get accurate information on Canadian soil,” he said.

Wilks said that Sparwood has partnered with Teck since 2005 to do air quality monitoring, and samples show that the air quality is one-third that of the provincial allowable levels.

He said in the West, there are only Vancouver and Prince Rupert to send the metallurgic coal. He said there is a global demand to try to meet that will continue because of the need for steel products.