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New West to host Take Back Our Port rally on Sunday

A proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks is fueling a debate about port projects.
Fraser Surrey Docks coal
Just say no: The Raging Grannies were among the attendees at a No Coal rally in New Westminster in April.

A proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks is fueling a debate about port projects.

A number of environmental organizations are joining together to support the Take Back our Port rally that’s being held at Westminster Quay on Sunday, Oct. 27 starting at noon.

“So much of what is happening in our community is being driven by decisions made by Port Metro Vancouver,” said Patrick Johnstone, spokesperson for New Westminster Environmental Partners. “The massive increase in container truck traffic on our residential streets, the baffling expenditure for freeways while transit services are being cut back, the inflexibility of rail operation on the Quayside all impact the livability of our community, yet citizens have a minimal voice on these topics. It is time for citizens to speak up to be part of the decision-making process; it’s time to consider having citizens overseeing governance issues.”

Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, which has been rallying against the proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks, states that confirmed speakers include Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian, Ta’Kaiya Blaney from the Sliammon First Nation, Sam Harrison of Kids for Climate Action, CaroleAnn Leishman of Pebble in the Pond Environmental Society in Powell River, Paula Williams from Communities and Coal, Rueben George from the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and New Westminster city councillor Jaimie McEvoy.

Andrew Murray, who is the coal spokesperson for New Westminster Environmental Partners, said opposition is growing weekly to the expansion of U.S. coal exports through the local port.

“Most recently, the B.C. Nurses' Union has joined other health professionals in questioning this ‘ill-conceived plan’ and the World Health Organization has just pronounced air pollution as a definitive cause of respiratory illness,” he said in a press release. “People need to remember that the Fraser River is a working river that comprises many activities. Saving money by having open rail cars and open barges filled with coal that threaten the health of people and our environment is not being accountable to the larger issues – that is what Port Metro Vancouver is supposed to do and it’s where the controversy arises.”

Fraser Surrey Docks has applied to Port Metro Vancouver for permission to operate a coal transfer facility where coal that arrives from trains in the United States would be loaded on to barges and shipped to Texada Island and then to China. It’s proposed that the facility would handle between four million and eight million metric tonnes of coal annually.

In addition to Fraser Surrey Docks’ coal transfer facility, rally organizers are also concerned about how the port authority’s decisions impact the livability of communities, and threaten farmland, Pacific salmon, the climate and economic sustainability.

Johnstone said people want to be heard and know that their concerns are being taken seriously.  He said New Westminster Environmental Partners’ members would like to create agreements with individuals and groups that not only speak to current problems but address principles and future steps toward improved governance, citizens’ participation and social change.

“One possibility we are looking into is to have a Community Coal-ition Forum next February or March,” he said in a press release. “By then, it might be in our best interest to expand the discussion to ‘our hydrocarbon economy’ that includes coal, bitumen and LNG.”