Outrage over Port coal expansion grows

Agricultural dust from Fraser Surrey Dock. Photo courtesy STCcreatives.com

Grant Rice knows the feeling of being ignored. It happened eight years ago when the Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) planned an expansion to its bulk freight dock on the Fraser River. It’s happening again as FSD plans a new coal transfer facility.

“The local ratepayers association formed in 2003 when the Fraser Surrey Docks were expanding and we were not invited to participate in any consultation then.  Now Fraser Surrey Docks is expanding again and I’ve heard absolutely nothing, other than what I read in the paper.”

His anger spilled over at a community meeting in Surrey Monday night. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 Surrey residents from the neighbourhoods of St. Helen’s Park, east of FSD near 104 Avenue and 127 Street, Royal Heights, immediately to the south and Scott Road Hill, beside the park, were also looking for information and answers. As were members of the NDP, Green Party and the Council of Canadians.

“We need to get back to the drawing board and consult with the communities,” Rices said. “They say they’ve done consultation, but they haven’t. Why are they lying about it? What are they hiding?”

The community meeting was hosted by Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, one of a number of meetings taking place in communities affected by the FSD’s plan to build a new coal transfer facility.

Up to eight million metric tonnes of coal per year would be transported through the communities by train to the dock where it would be offloaded to barges and taken to Texada Island for eventual shipment overseas.

The final decision on the expansion plan rests with Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) which is responsible to Ottawa, not BC municipalities or regional governing bodies.

According to a FSD February 13, 2013 “Public Engagement Summary Report”, Fraser Surrey Docks did conduct a community notification process, which included speaking with adjacent residents and businesses.  FSD officials met with the City of Surrey, local, provincial and federal politicians, CP Rail and other companies and even the Vancouver Board of Trade. Flyers were distributed to a few select areas adjacent to the railway and dock facility.

 No public meetings or hearings were held in nearby neighbourhoods and FSD did not meet with the South Westminster Ratepayers’ Association which represents the area.

“As soon as I heard about this I contacted the president (of the ratepayers association) and asked if he had heard about this,” said Rice.  “He hadn’t heard or received a letter. I started contacting people in my neighbourhood. Nobody had heard about it. Then I contacted people in Royal Heights. They hadn’t heard about it. Scott Road Hills – nobody’s heard about it.”

Directly across the river from the Fraser Surrey dock, James Crosty is also angry. The New Westminster resident lives in the 4,600 person Quayside neighbourhood. He said he deals with tugboat diesel fumes and dust (see photos) from the loading of agricultural and sulfur products. He said there has been no consultation in his neighbourhood on a coal transfer facility.

“It’s disgusting, it’s shameful. They need to realize they have to do wider consultation,” said Crosty. “We have to mobilize people to understand the challenge here and we need people to start reacting to the fact it could be approved without their knowledge."

FSD lies within Port of Vancouver land, which is not subject to the public scrutiny most major projects in the province face. The Port recently allowed the expansion of North Vancouver’s Neptune Terminal coal facility without broad public consultation.

“The Port does not have a social license to put in these coal facilities,” said Kevin Washbrook of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change. VTACC organized the Monday night meeting. "The decision making process is unreasonable and unfair."

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