Posted on Apr 18, 2021


EDMONTON - New legislation introduced by NDP Leader Rachel Notley to protect Alberta’s mountains and watersheds from the scarring and pollution of coal mining has drawn the support of 35 faculty members of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta.


In an April 16 letter to MLAs, the scientists wrote they are “deeply concerned by recent governmental policy changes meant to encourage expansion of open pit coal mining on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. These changes were made without public consultation and were only partially reversed later, in response to widespread outrage by Albertans across the political spectrum. 


“Decades of research by scientists from all over the world have shown that young animals, whether they be flies, fish or humans, are acutely sensitive to toxins dissolved in water. There is no reliable method to stop leaching of hazardous waste produced by surface coal mining into groundwater where, inevitably, it will pollute precious watersheds we all depend on that are already under severe stress.”


The writers also note that BC rivers and watersheds have recently been poisoned by selenium due to nearby coal mining.


“Albertans across party lines have been unequivocal in saying ‘No’ to coal mining, particularly in such environmentally sensitive areas. As all biologists know: Water is Life. We expect you, as an elected MLA, to be personally accountable for protecting our beautiful province and all of its inhabitants, regardless of party affiliation. You can show that you take this responsibility seriously, by supporting movement of Private Member Bill 214 ‘Eastern Slopes Protection Act’ up for immediate discussion in the Legislature.”


The Eastern Slopes Protection Act would permanently ban coal mining and exploration in Category 1 and 2 lands, and halt new mining and exploration in Category 3 and 4 lands pending the development of a comprehensive regional plan, based on thorough consultation with Albertans. Notley’s bill was unanimously approved to proceed to the house by four NDP MLAs and six UCP MLAs at the committee stage, but the Kenney government may use procedural tricks to prevent it from ever being debated in the assembly.


On Monday, the Opposition will formally ask the government to expedite the debate and bring the Eastern Slopes Protection Act to a final vote before the end of the spring session.


“I’m extremely pleased to see these distinguished Alberta scientists add their support to the Eastern Slopes Protection Act,” said Notley. “We’ve heard loud and clear from ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, Indigenous communities, municipalities, and Albertans from all walks of life. Nobody wants to see our mountains destroyed and water supply polluted. We must stop Jason Kenney’s scheme to open our Rocky Mountains up to expanded coal mining.


“The damage to our mountains and watersheds is happening as we speak. We must bring this bill to a vote and pass it as soon as possible.”