B.C. coal port wins approval, plans to open in fall 2015

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BELLINGHAM — A coal port just across the Canadian border received a major approval Thursday and expects to open in fall 2015.

Fraser Surrey Docks got a permit to build a facility on the Fraser River that will export about 4 million tons of coal a year, less than 10 percent of the coal that would be shipped from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.

Gateway Pacific Terminal is undergoing environmental review and if approved would ship 48 million tons of coal annually starting in 2019.

Fraser Surrey Docks got through a two-year environmental review that was more extensive than legally required, according to a press release from Port Metro Vancouver, which issued the permit.

"We are confident that the project does not pose a risk to the environment or human health, and that the public is protected," said Jim Crandles, director of planning and development for Port Metro Vancouver.

Environmentalists in British Columbia said in a news release Thursday the review didn't fully address residents' concerns.

"This decision is particularly devastating after Monday's ruling by regulators in Oregon that rejected a very similar proposal to ship coal on the Columbia River," Laura Benson, director of the Beyond Coal campaign at Dogwood Initiative, a B.C.-based environmental group, said in Thursday's statement.