Posted on Mar 15, 2021


CALGARY – Alberta NDP Environment Critic Marlin Schmidt will be introducing An Act to Protect Our Mountains, a Private Member’s Bill that would, if passed, place an immediate ban on future coal mining and related activities in all categories of land in the Eastern Slopes. The bill would put a stop to Jason Kenney’s threat to pollute sensitive headwaters and scar Alberta’s most beautiful and distinct landscapes with open-pit mines. 


“There is no question that Albertans do not want coal-related activity in these precious 

areas,” said Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “An Act to Protect Our Mountains would ensure these uniquely Albertan outdoor spaces will remain beautiful for generations of Albertans to enjoy. The bill would stop Jason Kenney and the UCP from pursuing more secret deals with coal lobbyists and foreign mining corporations.”


An Act to Protect Our Mountains would:


  • Put an immediate stop to any coal development and exploration on the Eastern Slopes, and cancel exploration permits on the entire Eastern Slopes;
  • Permanently cancel all coal leases and applications in Categories 1 and 2 lands (under the 1976 Coal Development Policy) and cancel all other leases on the entire Eastern Slopes issued after May 2019;
  • Stop currently planned changes to water allocations, including from the Old Man River Basin, and prioritize community, agricultural and ecological needs and health. Industrial coal projects should not receive special treatment;
  • Permanently ban any future coal activities in Categories 1 and 2 as a minimum; and
  • Suspend further future coal activity on the remainder of the Eastern Slopes pending further consultation and establishment of new legislated protections for lands, headwaters, and biodiversity. This regional plan needs to be based on the best and most current standards in science, input from all Albertans, and on a thorough consultation with Indigenous Peoples as required under the Constitution Act, 1982. 

The UCP quietly rescinded the 1976 Lougheed Coal Policy late on a Friday afternoon before the May long weekend last year, which opened up the opportunity for new coal leases to be approved for exploration. Only eleven of those leases have been cancelled. 

“By not cancelling these leases, the UCP are keeping the door open to exploration which could include carving out hundreds of kilometers of roads and mountain drilling in some of the most sensitive and pristine lands in the province without prior environmental assessment,” Schmidt said. “Albertans simply can’t take the premier or the minister at their word anymore. We need to protect our mountains in law.”


Kevin Van Tighem, a former superintendent at Banff National Park, has campaigned tirelessly to protect the Eastern Slopes. Van Tighem described An Act to Protect Our Mountains as a principled and respectful response to the clearly expressed concerns of thousands of Albertans - rural and urban, First Nations, ranchers and environmentalists, municipal governments and farmers.

“Congratulations to Rachel Notley and the NDP Opposition for stepping up with a principled solution to the misguided plan to open our mountain headwaters to coal strip mining.” said Van Tighem. “This is not a partisan issue, though.  Albertans from all political parties and from all walks of life have made it clear we value intact watersheds and natural beauty, and that we don’t want those damaged by coal mining.  This bill should be passed by members of all parties, because it addresses a clear priority for all Albertans.”

Energy Minister Sonya Savage has refused to release details around what exploration and leases she has green-lit or what will be included in the public consultations regarding coal mining scheduled for the end of March, but she made it clear in a statement released last month that the goal of the consultations will be to develop a coal mining policy, and not to protect the natural areas. 


An Act to Protect Our Mountains will be introduced in the spring legislative session.


“I’m calling on all UCP MLAs to ensure this bill is brought to a vote and passed in the legislature. Every Albertan deserves to hear where their elected representative stands on this important question,” Schmidt said.