About 100 people streamed into Surrey city council chambers Monday afternoon to express their objection to rail cars filled with coal traveling through Surrey.
The protest came as Fraser Surrey Docks is expected to soon release the results of an environmental impact assessment ordered by the port authority to further address public concerns about the project.
The terminal proposes to open a loading facility that would transfer coal coming by rail through White Rock and South Surrey to barges that would sail down the Fraser River and across the Strait of Georgia to Texada Island, where it would be transferred again to ocean-going ships.
Protesters said they’re not satisfied with assurances from Fraser Surrey Docks that coal dust will be carefully controlled and won’t escape and pose a risk to human health.
Many also oppose increased exports of U.S. thermal coal to Asia on grounds it will accelerate climate change.
“Coal dust and diesel particular matter cause a lot of respiratory illness and cancers” said Paula Williams, co-founder of the opposition group Communities and Coal. “There’s safety issues for people, there’s also emergency access cutoff.”
In all, the Communities and Coal organization has generated 11,000 online signatures on its petition against shipping coal by train to the U.S.
At just after 10 p.m., Surrey council voted unanimously to not support the Surrey Fraser Docks proposal and request Port Metro Vancouver to commission a comprehensive health impact assessment, conducted independently, as well as full public hearings on the project.
Surrey now joins New Westminster, White Rock, Langley and Vancouver in passing motions either opposing expanded coal exports outright or calling for public hearings and comprehensive, independent review of impacts before a decision is made.
The Metro Vancouver Board of Directors voted 21 to four to oppose outright the Fraser Surrey Docks project. Numerous MLAs and MPs have also written in opposition to the project.
On Sunday, more than 200 people demonstrated at a rally in New Westminster to register their opposition to expanded exports of coal through Port Metro Vancouver.
The new terminal would export up to four million tonnes of coal per year.
Although that’s much less than the coal shipments already exported through the region via terminals at Deltaport and North Vancouver, opponents argue it could be a first step toward greatly increased shipments out of Surrey.
The final decision is the port’s but opponents hope intensifying public pressure and concerns lodged by some local city councils, the Metro Vancouver board and the region’s medical health officers will kill the project.
– with files from CTV