Thermal coal from Wyoming is sent by rail to Fraser Surrey Docks for shipment to Asia, after western U.S. states said they didn’t want the polluting, carbon-intensive fuel for power plants. (Port Metro Vancouver)

Christy Clark calls for U.S. thermal coal export ban

Clark asks Justin Trudeau to ban U.S. thermal coal shipments to B.C. for sale to Asia

Premier Christy Clark has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for a ban on “filthy” U.S. thermal coal shipments from federally regulated B.C. ports.

Clark announced the move Wednesday, in response to 20 per cent preliminary lumber duties imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department set to take effect May 1.

Clark announced the move at a campaign stop at Catalyst Paper distribution facilities in Surrey Wednesday, a company that has won an unfair trade case with the U.S. over glossy paper. She said her government has been considering the request for some time, but didn’t want to provoke U.S. President Donald Trump while softwood lumber talks were proceeding.

Long trains hauling thermal coal on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line through White Rock and Surrey have been controversial for years. Washington, Oregon and California have rejected the shipments to Asia, where coal-fired power plants foul the air and create significant greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. actions have pushed the trade north to B.C.

In late 2015, Port Metro Vancouver approved an expansion of its Fraser Surrey Docks to handle increased shipments of thermal coal from Wyoming, bound for Asia.

B.C. exports metallurgical coal to Asia from mines in the Kootenays and Northeast from Roberts Bank, near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. It burns cleaner and is used mainly for steelmaking.

Clark said a ban on U.S. thermal coal would free up B.C. port capacity for B.C. coal, and send a message to the U.S. government about its threats to Canadian trade.

In her letter to Trudeau, Clark noted that Alberta and other provinces are phasing out thermal coal-fired power plants as part of Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction efforts. B.C. is also pushing for export of liquefied natural gas to China, Japan, Korea and other countries to reduce emissions.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver endorsed Clark’s suggestion, noting that the B.C. Liberals and NDP both voted against his motion in the B.C. legislature three years ago.

“I sincerely hope that this move the premier has made is more than just election poltics,” Weaver said.