The City of Port Alberni has taken a proactive step with regard to the re-application by Complianc e Coal’s Raven coal project.
This should be good news to Jane Armstrong and Maggie Paquet, who lobbied the city at the beginning of Monday’s council meeting to take action with this new coal application. Both have been vocal opponents to the coal application for the past several years.
“The city must act now to fulfill its obligation to protect the public interest,” said Armstrong.
“Whether you as elected officials are in favour, opposed or undecided on the Raven Coal project, you have an obligation to represent the public interest and understand the environmental process,” said Armstrong.
She warned council that there were only certain periods during which the city would have a chance to comment on the Raven Coal proposal during the environmental assessment process. There will be a 30-day period for the city to comment and a 50-day public input period.
Armstrong criticized what she saw as the city’s lack of involvement in the last application process, saying that out of the seven drafts produced during the environmental assessment process, the city commented on only one.
She praised local First Nations groups for fighting against the Raven Coal project. The first application was rejected by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office.
This time, Armstrong and Paquet would like to see more Alberni Valley and Port Alberni focused input.
In a report provided by Armstrong and Paquet to council, they said that “Compliance [Coal] regarded Port Alberni as unimportant as so much of what is critical to the ecology or our area was either ignored or deficient in the application.”
Paquet listed a number of concerns that she felt went unaddressed during the last application process, including air quality, marine quality, human health impacts, transportation corridor impacts and a lack of proper First Nations consultation.
In order to address those concerns going forward, Armstrong and Paquet asked that an ad hoc committee be started in time for the 30-day period during which the city can comment on the application. Armstrong said that the committee should be made up of volunteer experts to advise city council and city manager Ken Watson, who sits on the working group tasked with reviewing the application and ensuring there are no gaps.
She said that a committee of experts was essential because the new “application will be 14,000 pages and it’s going to take work to go through and there’s only 30 days.”
Armstrong stressed that city funds would not be spent on hiring experts.
“We are not suggesting you hire people, we do believe that there are people within the Valley who have the expertise in marine sciences, air quality and ecology to be able to do this work.”