SURREY — Following an impassioned plea from residents and an 11,000-signature petition, Surrey city council has declared its opposition to the proposed coal terminal expansion at Fraser Surrey Docks until full public hearings and an independent third-party health assessment is completed.
The resolution came following a delegation by anti-coal citizens group Communities and Coal Monday afternoon, during which they requested council take a more hardened stance on the issue, similar to what other municipalities in the region have been doing. Around 100 residents opposed to the coal project were also in attendance during the delegation, all of which were dressed in black to symbolize the effects of coal dust in the community.
Later that evening, council took the steps necessary to make their position on the matter clear.
“We certainly have issues we have to have resolved before we can support something like this at Fraser Surrey Docks, that being the health impacts to our community and what that’s going to be down the road,” said councillor and chair of city’s environment committee Bruce Hayne. “There are just so many questions and we can’t be supporting this until we get answers in a fulsome way.
“The delegation made it very clear how important this issue is to our community not just one area but a very broad base of our community.”
Coun. Barinder Rasode said while this would hopefully add to the pressure for decision maker Port Metro Vancouver to follow through on the community’s desire, she wasn’t optimistic that coal would ever be something the community would accept.
“We will not only support the community but we’ve done the right thing in saying that’s not an acceptable type of energy that we want transported though our community, (especially) when we’ve taken such a strong advocacy role around rail safety, the number of trains going through our community and access to Crescent Beach,” she said. “Topped off with the type of coal this is, I think we will probably be in the same position as Oregon and Washington State in saying that this is not something we want to be a part of our community.”
Previously, council had sent a request to Fraser Surrey Docks and Port Metro Vancouver urging for more efforts in the community be made on their part, and Mayor Dianne Watts said those concerns appear to have gone unheeded.
"For the purposes of the general public, the issues that we had presented to Port Metro in July had to do with noise, emergency access with Crescent Beach, dust and health impacts, and safety issues and stabilization of the bank," said Watts. "We want to make sure the general public is aware we’ve been dealing with these issues since July, so this motion is a reconfirmation of the work we’ve been doing."
According to Coun. Judy Villeneuve, who is a resident of one of the areas that would be affected most by an increase in coal train traffic, the resolution was much-needed.
“I think this motion is one step stronger to really say to the ports that we know they’re doing an environmental study but it’s not enough and it’s not addressing the concerns people have expressed,” she said.
Paula Williams, head of Communities and Coal and whose delegation prompted council’s motion, said the onus was now on the port to make good on what’s clearly the will of the communities to be most affected by this project.
“It’s overwhelming to know that (council) felt so strongly about this and were so supportive. I think they’ve made a lot of people very, very happy,” she said. “This sends a very strong message to the port and now we’re going to see what happens and how the port responds.”
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