Unlike the Deltaport coal terminal (pictured)

Unlike the Deltaport coal terminal (pictured)

Surrey business groups divided on coal trains

South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce touts 'quality of life'; Surrey Board of Trade supports 'economic argument.'

The South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce is taking a stance against a controversial new coal-export terminal proposed by Fraser Surrey Docks – and particularly the increase in coal-train traffic through White Rock and South Surrey that would result.

Chamber executive director Cliff Annable told Peace Arch News Wednesday that the result of board deliberations this week is that the organization is not supporting the coal terminal.

“The point of view of the board is that we don’t want the (additional) coal trains through White Rock and South Surrey,” Annable said, adding the board had “discussed this at length.”

He noted the decision differs markedly from the Surrey Board of Trade’s position.

Annable said he was surprised by remarks attributed to SBOT CEO Anita Huberman, who told Black Press: “We have to stop saying ‘no’ to everything, and that’s what I think is happening sometimes in South Surrey.”

The South Surrey & White Rock Chamber is not trying to be obstructionist, Annable said.

“We don’t have a problem with Fraser Surrey Docks as a business – we’re a business organization,” he said. “But what goes with business is the quality of life.”

Huberman had said last week that she had hoped the two business groups could have adopted a unified position by that point.

Huberman said she was pressing other stakeholder and business groups to support the new terminal, and that Surrey council – which has so far been noncommittal – should make a firm stand in favour.

“Yes, the environment is important… The economic argument for us is the winner,” she said.

Annable said opposition to the increased coal traffic in the community – including at a waterfront rally March 17 that was attended by Surrey-White Rock Liberal MLA Gordon Hogg, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Couns. Helen Fathers (White Rock)  and Barinder Rasode (Surrey) – has been well noted.

“The number of people who are concerned about it in White Rock and South Surrey is significant,’ Annable said, adding the chamber has also heard concerns from Crescent Beach residents over safety and reduced access due to increased train traffic.

Annable noted Metro is doing an environmental assessment of the proposal before considering granting an air-emissions permit.

“I don’t know, personally, how bad the coal dust is for you, but if the Americans in Washington and Oregon say they don’t want it, why would we have it here?” he said.

Annable, a former member of White Rock council, said he has “never seen an issue that is as divisive and controversial as this coal thing – people, whether yea or nay, are passionate about it.

“But the position of the board, right now, is we don’t want the trains.”