Deltaport coal shipping facilities at Tsawwassen, where U.S. thermal coal is shipped to Asia as well as metallurgical coal from B.C. mines. (Port Metro Vancouver)

Christy Clark vows heavy levy on U.S., Alberta, Saskatchewan coal

$70 carbon levy would make thermal coal exports non-viable

If the federal government won’t move to ban thermal coal exports from B.C. ports, a re-elected B.C. Liberal government will impose a carbon levy high enough to shut the trade down, Christy Clark says.

At a campaign stop at a Merritt remanufacturing sawmill Tuesday, Clark said a levy as high as $70 a tonne would be applied as soon as possible if the B.C. Liberal government is re-elected May 9. Clark was adding specifics to a promise made last week in response to the U.S. government’s imposition of a 20 per cent import duty on B.C. lumber.

A new regulation would be created under B.C.’s greenhouse gas legislation, applying to any thermal coal shipment from a B.C. port. The largest shipments come from U.S. mines, brought by train to the coal shipping terminal in Delta, but the levy would also apply to thermal coal from Saskatchewan and Alberta, exported through Prince Rupert port.

Clark said the levy is calculated on the extraction, transport and burning of thermal coal, which Canada is phasing out as part of its greenhouse gas restrictions. West coast U.S. ports have already shunned thermal coal exports from massive reserves in Wyoming and Utah, prompting producers to look north to reach Asian buyers.

“In preliminary work we estimate that this levy could be about $70 a tonne, and with the current price of thermal coal at about 80 bucks U.S., the levy would make thermal coal shipped through British Columbia utterly uncompetitive in the global market,” Clark said.

B.C. would not attempt to single out U.S. coal shipments, which would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement. But it would send “a strong message” to U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration has targeted Canadian lumber and dairy imports.

Clark offered no sympathy for Alberta, which is committed to close down its own thermal coal power plants.

“In Alberta they say they’re concerned about climate change,” Clark said. “Here’s an opportunity for them to help make sure that we all join that fight together.”