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Landmark Coroner Ruling on Air Pollution Confirms Concerns About Health Risks of Proposed CN Truck-Rail Hub in Milton

CN Rail Hub Regional Council Blog Post

*Please see below a media release issued by the Region of Halton.

The Regional Municipality of Halton
For Immediate Release
January 13, 2021

As Federal Cabinet continues to assess whether or not to approve CN’s proposed truck-rail hub in Milton, the Halton Municipalities are urging them to take into account a recent ruling in the United Kingdom that concluded a nine-year-old girl’s death was due to air pollution, with the primary source of exposure due to traffic emissions.

In a letter sent to The Honourable Johnathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr, along with Halton’s Mayors, assert the ruling provides tangible evidence of the dangers of air pollution and that it underscores the importance of the Federal Government’s unconditional statutory mandate to protect human health.

“The case in the UK demonstrates that air pollution can indeed be fatal. It is imperative that the Federal Government consider this ruling in their assessment. The Federal Review Panel has already determined that this project is likely to have significant adverse effects on human health because of the pollutants involved. There is no justification for failing to protect the health of tens of thousands of residents—the answer is clear that CN’s proposal for this location must not be approved.” — Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr

For the first time ever, on December, 16, 2020, the London Coroner ruled that a death was caused by air pollution. In particular, the Coroner found air pollution had helped induce and exacerbate asthma, which was largely attributed to exposure to traffic emissions. This landmark finding officially recognizes excessive air pollution (specifically referencing nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter) as a cause of death and will serve as an important case study that can be applied in other jurisdictions, including Canada.

The Federal Review Panel assessing the proposed CN project in Milton found that the project will have significant adverse effects on human health—the first Panel in the history of Canadian environmental assessments to have made such conclusion.

The CN Milton project will add over 1,600 truck trips every day of the year within close proximity to 34,000 current and future residents, one hospital, twelve schools and two long-term care homes.

Similar to the London ruling, the Federal Review Panel found that the proposed project will increase the air concentration of three “no threshold” pollutants that are unsafe at any level, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. These project emissions will have direct health effects on Halton residents as the Panel concluded that significant adverse effects from air pollution on human health cannot be mitigated.

The significant health and environmental effects caused by this project are unavoidable. The Federal Review Panel concluded that, even after taking feasible mitigation into account, the project would cause significant effects on air quality and human health and cumulative effects on air quality, human health, wildlife habitat, and land available for agricultural use.

Concerns remain about the federal enforceability of mitigation conditions proposed by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. The vast majority of the over 200 mitigation measures proposed by the Agency are not even enforceable by the Federal Government.

On December 21, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) issued a notice indicating that the Governor in Council has extended the time limit for a decision on CN’s proposal for a truck-rail hub in Milton by 30 days. This is the second delay, with the first being announced September 21. The Halton Municipalities, together with the community and local MPs and MPPs have expressed extreme disappointment with the delays after voicing strong concerns about this project and the significant adverse effects it will cause to human health and the environment. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

For more information about CN’s proposal and the Halton Municipalities’ position on this project, please visit halton.ca/cn.

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*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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Email:  mayor@burlington.ca

Media Specialist: John Bkila
john.bkila@burlington.ca
905-335-7600