Government of Canada Approves Key Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project in British Columbia, subject to strict conditions to protect the local environment
April 20, 2023 — Ottawa —Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
Canadians have been clear that they want the Government of Canada to take decisions that protect the environment while building a strong economy, creating jobs and keeping everyday goods and services affordable. Following a robust and science-based environmental assessment conducted by an independent Review Panel and significant work to address concerns highlighted by the Panel report, the Government of Canada has decided the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project can proceed subject to 370 legally binding conditions to protect the environment, including to prevent harm to local species.
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, a port expansion project proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, will be key to supporting Canada’s economic growth over the coming years. Canada’s Pacific Gateway is Canada’s most important trade corridor, with over $275 billion of trade passing through the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority each year. In the coming years, the Government believes Canada’s major west coast ports will reach maximum capacity, meaning congestion will become a chronic issue. This project would increase the port’s capacity by 50 per cent. Without this port expansion, $3 billion in added GDP would be jeopardized by capacity shortages. The project is also expected to create hundreds of jobs during construction, and several hundred more both onsite and off-site during operations.
The approval of this project comes after extensive consultation with local communities and Indigenous groups. The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will be subject to 370 legally binding conditions, to protect the environment, local wildlife and land-use activities of Indigenous Peoples. These include:
- Over 100 measures protective of local wildlife such as developing habitat creation programs to support western sandpiper populations and other shorebirds;
- Development and implementation of an adaptive management approach to prevent negative effects to biofilm, which includes a minimum of three years of monitoring key parameters reviewed by an independent scientific body;
- Limiting in-water construction to the window of least risk for several marine species;
- Requirement for zero-emission cargo handling equipment on-site and to offer electrical power to vessels while berthed;
- Installation of infrastructure to permit the safe passage of fish;
- Requirement to avoid, mitigate and offset effects to fish and fish habitat and develop a follow-up program to monitor any impacts to the region’s salmon as a result of the project;
- Creation of a marine mammals’ detection and response plan to protect marine mammals during construction; and
- To further protect Southern Resident killer whales, the proponent must monitor noise levels to remain at or below a certain baseline level, implement procedures to delay departures of container vessels and reduce underwater noise during berthing activities when whales are present in the project area.
These conditions and more will also help address concerns raised in consultation with local Indigenous Nations. The Government of Canada is also announcing today over $45 million to accommodate project impacts on Indigenous rights in order to preserve, promote and develop Indigenous culture, heritage and stewardship activities. This funding will also establish a Stewardship Committee.
As a condition of approval of the project, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority must also put in place a $150-million financial guarantee to ensure funds are available for the first three years of construction to comply with these legally binding conditions.
The legally binding protection measures placed on this project build on existing and planned work by the Government of Canada to protect local species and marine mammals on the West Coast including Southern resident killer whales and Chinook salmon. This includes Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, which is providing over $3.5 billion to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways, a new $151.9 million through Budget 2023 to protect endangered whales which is a renewal of the Whale Initiative first announced in 2018, and $165.4 million through Budget 2023 to establish a Green Shipping Corridor Program to spur the launch of the next generation of clean ships, invest in shore power technology, and prioritize low-emission and low-noise vessels at ports. Additionally, federal finance tools are available to further support efforts to reduce noise impacts to species and reduce GHGs This includes the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which as part of its $5 billion Public Transit priority, has financing available for conversion to zero-emission ferries.
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the environment while ensuring that projects critical to Canadian workers and businesses can proceed in a responsible manner.
“With 370 environmental protection measures that the port must meet, we have set a high bar for this project to proceed. For the first time ever, we are asking a proponent to put up $150 million to guarantee the strict environmental conditions are met and habitats are protected for species such as the Western Sandpiper. Moreover, this decision is paired with massive government investment in the protection of threatened species like Chinook salmon and endangered Southern resident killer whales. This project will reduce the congestion of ships in the Vancouver area and, combined with substantial government investment, can be done in a way that protects vital local habitats."
— The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“Our government makes decisions that take into account science, environmental protection and economic needs. The approval of this project was not taken lightly. With strong measures, we will protect our ecosystem while increasing Canada’s supply chain capacity to ensure Canadians receive affordable goods on time while growing our economy and creating well-paying, middle-class jobs.”
— The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport
“Today the Government of Canada has approved the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project, subject to 370 legally binding conditions. Today’s decision is based on the clear and compelling need for expanded container capacity on the West Coast, the robust mitigation measures that will be required of the proponent and that address key areas of environmental concern, and the support of the project from a number of First Nations. When we engage in good faith and let ourselves be guided by science, we can grow the economy in a way which advances reconciliation and protects the planet. Today is proof of that.”
— The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA), is a three-berth marine container terminal located at Roberts Bank in Delta, British Columbia, about 35 kilometres south of Vancouver.
Throughout the environmental assessment, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada actively consulted with 48 Indigenous Nations who could potentially be impacted by the project. Since 2011, the VFPA has also engaged with a large number of potentially impacted Indigenous groups, and has indicated that it has successfully concluded impact benefit agreements with a total of 26 Indigenous Nations.
A Stewardship Committee will be formed to provide advice, knowledge and recommendations to the Agency, the Government of British Columbia and the VFPA in relation to compliance with regulatory project approval requirements. The Committee’s membership would include Tsawwassen, Musqueam and the Governments of Canada and British Columbia. An additional 20 Indigenous Nations would be engaged in the follow-up and monitoring program, as listed in the conditions.
The project is expected to create 1,500 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs once built. The port supports 115,300 jobs across Canada, pays $7 billion in wages, and contributes about $12 billion of GDP to Canada annually. Without an expansion project, Canada will lose an estimated $5 billion in net economic benefits to foreign companies and increase the cost of shipped goods to Canada by up to $61.4 billion by 2040.
The Port of Vancouver currently handles up to $275 billion in goods annually, including many household goods that help with affordability, but also bulk commodities such as grains, potash and critical minerals needed for Canada to become a leading supplier of both agri-food and clean energy materials for a low-carbon world.
Experts from 18 federal and provincial departments participated in the process by providing advice and technical expertise throughout the project’s review. Federal government participants included Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada.
Since 2016, the Government of Canada’s $3.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is making marine shipping safer, providing greater protections for marine species and ecosystems, and improving how we respond to marine incidents.
Transport Canada, in collaboration with the shipping industry, Indigenous groups, the whale watching sector, environment groups, and scientists, introduces a suite of measures annually to reduce acoustic and physical disturbance from large commercial, smaller recreational, and whale watching vessels.
The Government of Canada is investing over $647 million in the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative to work in partnership with grassroots organizations, Indigenous communities, scientists and British Columbians to protect and restore Pacific Salmon populations. The Strategy is exploring innovative ways to achieve this while supporting a more sustainable and economically resilient harvesting sector.
The proponent will be required to comply with comprehensive conditions outlined in the Minister’s Decision Statement in order to address the project-related and cumulative environmental impacts. The mitigation measures and the strong need for increased terminal capacity on the West Coast, helped the Government of Canada decide these effects were justified in the circumstances.
The 370 legally binding conditions listed in the Minister’s Decision Statement will be enforced by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada before and during construction and throughout all stages of operations of the project. Failure by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to comply with these conditions is a violation of federal law. Any proposed changes to the project will need to be considered by the Minister through an amendment process to determine if they can proceed.
The proponent can now apply for the additional authorizations and permits it requires from federal departments as well as from the Government of British Columbia. This includes from Fisheries and Oceans Canada under the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.
- Minister’s Decision Statement (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Crown Consultation and Accommodation Report - Executive Summary (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Government Response to the Review Panel Recommendations (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Review Panel Report (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Basics of Environmental Assessment (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Government of Canada's Interim Order for the Protection of Killer Whale in Southern British Columbia (Transport Canada)
- Oceans Protection Plan (Transport Canada)
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
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