FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2016 file photo, a haul truck with a 250-ton capacity carries coal from the Spring Creek strip mine near Decker, Mont. President Trump's latest move to support coal mining is unlikely to turn around the industry's prospects immediately. Experts say the biggest problem faced by the mining industry today isn't a coal shortage of coal or even the prospect of climate change regulations, but an abundance of cheap natural gas. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

Alberta decision to open Rockies to coal mining to face court challenges in new year

EDMONTON — Alberta’s decision to rescind a decades-old policy and open the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to coal mining is to face at least two court challenges in the new year.

Landowners and area First Nations have filed applications challenging the legality of the government’s decision to revoke the protections without consultations.

They say the government is required under law to consult before it changes a land-use plan.

Documents filed as part of the applications suggest government lawyers will argue that policies are not legislation and can be changed unilaterally.

Ian Urqhart of the Alberta Wilderness Association says a judge is expected to hear arguments in mid-January about who can intervene in the cases.

The United Conservative government has said new steel-making coal mines are an important part of its economic plan.

One proposal is currently before a joint federal-provincial review panel and more plans are expected.