A potential doubling of coal train traffic in the region saw more than 100 people come out to White Rock's waterfront Sunday afternoon for a rally where local politicians, citizens and even American neighbours joined together in voicing their concern over the proposed initiative.
The rally, put on by Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change, saw council members from both White Rock and Surrey come out to show support for their citizens' concerns over a proposed coal transfer station by Fraser Surrey Docks.
"The purpose was to celebrate local government leadership because we don't often enough say 'good job' and we recognize that Surrey and White Rock have passed motions in the past week that they have strong concerns about the increase in coal exports and the lack of consultation and so we really wanted to say good work to the local governments and pat them on the back," said organizer Kevin Washbrook, noting that even some U.S. citizens came up for the event.
"We're dealing with the same issue, exports of the BNSF railway and they've been working on fighting this for a long time at the Cherry Point coal terminal," said Washbrook.
For White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, the rally was a chance to show council's support of its residents in their concern over the proposed coal station.
"It was an expression of concern for our residents so I thought it would be useful for them to know what their council is doing in that respect," said Baldwin. "(The port authority) could quite simply ignore it and there would be nothing we could do but I'm hopeful that some activity would take place in terms of public consultation."
Baldwin then went on to talk about the concern of increased rail traffic through White Rock's waterfront.
"It's getting to be just excessive," he said. "We're the choke point for the entire Burlington Northern distribution system on the West Coast and everything seems to go through us and I'm thinking enough is enough. We have enough trains going through here now and we don't need any more."
Aside from concerns regarding the apparent lack of public consultation were those of the environmental impact of coal dust blowing off of the trains through the affected municipalities, including White Rock, Surrey and Delta.
It was something Coun. Barinder Rasode of Surrey would like more information on, especially considering that Oregon and Washington rejected similar proposals in the past.
"We did move forward with a corporate report asking why Oregon and Washington said 'no,'" said Rasode. "So what do those environmental impact studies look like that compelled them to say 'no' to this type of service?"
Also on hand were MLAs Guy Gentner from Delta North and Gordon Hogg of Surrey-White Rock, though no members of parliament attended the event.
"It was good to see the provincial level government and our neighbours in White Rock and Delta attend the rally, but definitely the members of parliament were missing from the dialogue that took place," said Rasode, noting that it was the federal level of government that ultimately has the power in this situation.
"I think it is very disappointing in terms of process that there are some initiatives undertaken by the federal government that have such significant impact on local communities.
"We're absolutely left out of the decision-making process and I think that's a dialogue that needs to take place."