Coal mining in the Rockies has not sat well with many Albertans since it was announced last spring by the current UCP government.
Last year, the Alberta government rolled back a 1976 coal policy, that would allow mining in many previously protected regions of the province. The decision to push permits ahead with little consultation drew the ire of municipalities, scientists and environmental groups.
While restarting the economy is critical, NDP leader Rachel Notley is opposed to the UCP’s plan for coal mining in Alberta.
The government turned down a request earlier this week from the opposition to discuss a bill intended to protect the Rocky Mountains in the legislature.
“The massive number of permits they approved between May 2020 and January 2021, are still in play. The work is still underway. The fact that you have a consultation that prohibits consideration of water allocation, and land use, puts a lie to the very word consultation,” she said.
At a meeting of the Public Account Committee Tuesday with the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, officials confirmed that then-Minister Tanya Fir met with Australian coal company Valory Resources last summer and offered in writing “anything I can to help in the completion of your mining project.”
“Jason Kenney and his ministers were working overtime to benefit the coal industry at the expense of Albertans,” said Marlin Schmidt, Environment and Parks critic and member of the Committee.
“No attention was paid to the impacts on tourism, agriculture, or the clean water supply of Alberta communities.”
The Town of Rocky Mountain House, along several other municipalities, has asked for better consultation on coal mining. The town voiced its concerns in a letter to the Alberta government.
“I believe in responsible resource development,” said Coun. Merrin Fraser. “The steps that have been taken to prevent consultation on land and water use are not responsible.
“I’m just not sure that is a responsible financial decision.”
Consultations about coal mining in the Rockies are ongoing. The government closed its online survey about coal-mining Monday.
Notley says a more comprehensive consultation is “absolutely critical.”
“Our bill proposes to link consultations to prospective categories three and four to the processes that are embedded in the Alberta Land Stewardship Act… That is a very comprehensive process,” Notley said.
“What we are suggesting is that before they do anything more in category three or four, you have an enhanced regional plan, developed through the rules that are set out in that act. That allows for cumulative consideration of the most recent scientific evidence and allows for wide-ranging consultation.”
– With files from the Canadian Press