Cross-party opposition over coal trains
About 80 people attended a noon-hour rally in White Rock Sunday against a proposal that would increase coal-train traffic along the BNSF railway that runs through White Rock, South Surrey and Delta.
Based on the turnout, the opposition to the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal to build a coal-transfer facility has crossed party lines and municipal boundaries, with Surrey-White Rock Liberal MLA Gordon Hogg and Delta North NDP MLA Guy Gentner among the speakers against the plan, as well as White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin.
Baldwin drew cheers when he read out a letter against the plan that was sent Friday to the CEO of Surrey Fraser docks, the port of Vancouver and Transport Canada.
In it, the mayor says: “It is outrageous that this rail traffic would even be considered through a residential, highly densified city that has absolutely no industrial area at all.”
Fraser Surrey Docks has applied to build a terminal that would bring in thermal coal from Wyoming via the BNSF railway that runs through White Rock, South Surrey and Delta.
It’s estimated the Surrey facility would mean two more coal trains, each up to 2.3 kilometres long, on the waterfront route every day.
Along with a proposal to expand Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver, the application is to be decided by Port Metro Vancouver managers, with no formal public meetings or approvals by other agencies.
There was, Baldwin told the rally, “absolutely no public consultation.”
The letter makes four demands:
• A “meaningful” consultation process before the the proposal is approved.
• “Full and complete written assurance” from Environment Canada and Health Canada that the coal dust from the trains doesn’t pose a health hazard.
• Air-quality monitoring along the train route.
• A limit on the amount of train traffic.
“It is unacceptable that the volume of traffic should be allowed to increase without any apparent limitation or without any consultation with our citizens,” the letter states.
Hogg described the increased train traffic as a “safety” issue, both in terms of potential hazards to pedestrians and the possible health risks of coal dust.
Gentner said coal contributes to global warming, making the deal to ship more coal overseas a problem that affects everyone.
“It’s a local issue, it’s a global issue,” Gentner said.
Among the other politicians who attended the rally were White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers and Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode, who both said they were there to show support for the community.
Rasode said the potential impact of the coal trains on Crescent Beach make it a Surrey concern as well.
The rally was organized by Kevin Washbrook, of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, who said it was in part a thank-you to the local politicians for taking a stand.
– with files from Tracy Holmes