Coal has for decades arrived by rail at Deltaport in Roberts Bank

In the black?


Re: Board of trade backs new coal terminal, May 28.


Re: Board of trade backs new coal terminal, May 28.

It is puzzling to read that the Surrey Board of Trade thinks the proposed new coal-exporting facility on the Fraser River in North Surrey will somehow be good for business in our communities.

CEO Anita Huberman refers to the 25 jobs that will be created at the port, along with 25 more at Texada Island undoubtedly championed by a Texada board of trade.

Huberman speaks in generalities of wanting to support economic development in our region, and thinks more long trains going through here would be good for that.

Here are reasons I think this development would be bad for our local economies, and should be opposed by the board and citizens.

The four coal trains now running per day – 125 cars long, uncovered, blowing coal dust, noisy – already distract from the beauty and accessibility of White Rock beach, pier and boardwalk. That number could be doubled as coal-exporting capacity is increased.

White Rock businesses – for example, restaurants that clean coal dust from their tables – will not benefit economically from eight long trains running north, and the same number going south empty, daily, each taking 12-14 minutes to pass.

Car and truck transport – doing business – will be delayed twice as often at level crossings throughout Surrey, decreasing productivity.

Not so good for business.

Coal dust lost from open cars is implicated in potential health problems – asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions – may be good for my business, medicine, but likely not yours.

And really, is the burning of low-quality dirty thermal coal, to generate cheap electricity in China, polluting our fragile atmosphere, and rapidly heating the Earth, really good for business?

If so, why have so many of our free-enterprise, business-minded neighbours to the south – Clatskanie and Coos Bay in Oregon, Gray’s Harbor in Washington – rejected these coal-exporting facilities? Their local communities realized they were bad for business all around.

Charles King, Surrey

• • •

I wonder if Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman lives close to a rail track, where they are transporting coal. If she did, maybe she would change her mind.

I have an elderly lady friend in central Tsawwassen, and every year I wash down her house, especially on the west side, as it is black with coal dust from the Deltaport Terminal. Her house is miles from the terminal, and this is even after the piles of coal dust have been covered with a retardant to stop it flying in the wind.

I will gladly give Huberman the address, if interested, and she can inspect it herself.

It is not only covering the houses, it is blowing in the air that we breathe.

Ole Steenild, White Rock

• • •

The proposal to expand coal exports from Fraser Surrey Docks makes no environmental or economic sense.

Environmentally, coal is toxic as a dust and as emissions from burning. The dust will be scattered: at the point of loading; within 600 yards each side of the train tracks during transport; at the point of unloading; at the point of loading on the barges on B.C.’s major salmon river; at the unloading of the barges; at the loading of the ships; at the unloading of the ships; and during the transport to the burning source.

Although the burning takes place in Asia, the air does not stay there. It will travel to North America, with its load of toxic metals and earth-warming carbon load.

Economically, there are only 50 jobs generated. There will be: a loss of many more jobs from businesses near the tracks and loading area; a decrease of business tax revenue from affected businesses; a decrease in nearby property values collected; and an increase in health-care costs due to the toxic effect of coal dust.

There are no benefits to this Fraser Surrey Docks proposal.

John & Eileen Davidson, Surrey

• • •

Environment and health concerns are overshadowing the fundamental business costs that must be included in the evaluation of a Fraser Surrey Docks coal-export facility.

Quantifiable local costs are being denied an opportunity to weigh into the business case, and the potential to find workable solutions with Port Metro Vancouver.

Costs not considered include:

• Lost productivity from transportation inefficiency. Trains are causing up to 15-minute delays at level crossings. The number of trains, multiplied by number of crossings, multiplied by number of people waiting, gives the total lost man hours that must be subtracted from the 25 new jobs created.

• GVRD sewage pipeline runs parallel to the rail line. The GVRD has been repairing human-sewage leaks on this line in Crescent Beach; the cause has been identified as vibration from heavy rail traffic.

• An underpass at Crescent Beach is a requirement. Surrey has spent millions beautifying and promoting the beach as a family park. Visitors routinely have cars backed up Crescent Road past 128 Street.

• Slope stability – long, heavy coal trains have introduced a magnitude of vibration along the bluff. Mud slides are frequent and are becoming more frequent. If vibration issues are not addressed, Camp Kwomais and the bluff residences are at risk.

• Rental income – long-term rental and B&B business has been impacted in Crescent Beach. Brake and whistle noise makes sleep impossible for many. Current rail traffic generates more than 144 whistle blasts per day within a one-km stretch; most of these are at night.

I could go on but only wish to make the point that there are very real costs to Surrey that must be subtracted from the benefit of 25 additional union jobs. If the business case is solid, and if it paints the picture we want for Surrey’s future, we should prepare an upgrade-plan and proceed with both feet.

Erik Seiz, Crescent Beach Property Owners Association president



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