April 21st, 2024

CPAWS celebrates Coal Policy reinstatement

By Greg Bobinec on February 10, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDgbobinec@lethbridgeherald.com

Monday’s announcement from the Minister of Energy on the reinstatement of the 1976 Coal Policy is a significant step forward, says the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society of Southern & Northern Alberta Chapters (CPAWS).
The announcement came after tens of thousands of Albertans raised their voices in opposition to open-pit mining in the Rocky Mountains, as well as the impacts of the rescission of the Coal Policy on land and waters. CPAWS says their team is celebrating this announcement and thank the Kenney government for listening to the concerns of Albertans.
“We are glad the government is planning to engage in a public consultation on the development of a new coal policy and we have high expectations,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director with CPAWS Southern Alberta.
“Albertans have clearly stated they want more protections for the Eastern Slopes. The outcome of these consultations must accurately reflect the views of Albertans. It will be very important that Albertans participate fully in this upcoming consultation to ensure it addresses all coal mining in the Rockies.”
Having this policy back in place ensures some basic protections for ecologically sensitive areas of the province, but the CPAWS team feels the Coal Policy requires updating as the Alberta government seriously consider expanding the coal mining industry in the Rockies.
CPAWS says any updated policy or new legislation needs to reflect current realities such as species at risk, climate change, water scarcity, and the land value.
The government’s process in rescinding the Coal Policy last year left CPAWS concerned with their transparency and expect much greater transparency going forward.
“We have serious concerns about the six projects that are still allowed to conduct exploration activities,” says Christopher Smith, parks co-ordinator with CPAWS Northern Alberta.
“Exploration activates cause great damage to our lands and waters. There are currently hundreds of new drill sites and hundreds of kilometers of new roads that are direct result of the removal of the coal policy. Allowing these activities to continue is not appropriate.”
Other projects such as Benga’s Grassy Mountain and Montem’s Tent Mountain, as well as Chinook projects are not addressed by the announcement and will continue to go forward in highly sensitive areas. CPAWS says there needs to be a full stop on all exploration and development activities until a new land-use plan is created that offers more protection to these landscapes.
“Consultation brings a welcome opportunity for Albertans to re-envision their ideal future for Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and foothills – one that better protects our water sources, wildlife, and landscapes that are intrinsic to Alberta’s identity,” says Morrison.
CPAWS of Southern & Northern Alberta Chapters will continue their work of looking into the impacts of this announcement. In particular, they will seek more details on which projects can continue with exploration activities, what a ban on mountaintop removal mining means, and whether or not that ban encompasses all surface mining project descriptions such as strip mining and open-pit mining. Moving forward, the team hopes to see improved transparency with the government so Albertans can understand any new policy being proposed, provide their feedback, and have that feedback taken properly into account.

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