On June 1st, a provincial Coal Policy that has been in place since 1976 was rescinded by the Government of Alberta. The cancellation of the policy removed land zoning that restricted open pit coal mining and coal exploration in some of Alberta’s most environmentally sensitive areas.
These areas, which make up Alberta’s headwaters and contain habitat for federally listed species at risk such as grizzly bears, caribou, and native trout, are now being opened up for mining. They also include some of Alberta's most iconic scenic landscapes and outdoor recreation destinations.
The Government of Alberta claims that the 1976 Coal Policy was "obsolete" and that we now have more modern land use planning in place. However, this is not true. Alberta does not yet have regional land use plans for most of the eastern slopes region. Additionally, the existing South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) does not include the zoning of highly ecologically sensitive areas or where mines can and cannot be developed equivalent to the Coal Policy. These discrepancies raise concerns that Alberta’s sensitive headwater regions will be at an increased risk of cumulative industrial impacts moving forward.
In particular, many coal agreements in the headwaters of Edmonton, Lethbridge and their surrounding communities are now open for open pit mining. The effects on water will be felt downstream by an estimated 1.4 million Albertans served by the North Saskatchewan watershed and 267, 000 Albertans served by the headwaters of the Oldman River.
While governments across the globe are striving for clean energy sources, the Government of Alberta is rolling back environmental protections and overlooking the long-term environmental, social, and economic risks.
By writing a letter to the Premier of Alberta, you can urge the government to ensure adequate protection in Alberta's Rockies and prevent the development of new coal mines. In your letter be sure to ask that no new coal mines, leases, or exploration permits be allowed until land use planning equivalent to the Coal Policy is completed across Alberta to define where coal mines are and are not appropriate, or a new coal policy is put in place.