Posted on Jun 22, 2021
NO UCP ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS OF COAL DEVELOPMENT, JUST MORE MEETINGS WITH LOBBYISTS
EDMONTON – The Alberta NDP Caucus has learned Alberta Environment did not conduct any proactive environmental impact analysis of the UCP’s decision to rescind the 1976 Lougheed Coal Policy, as new evidence also shows the UCP continues to meet with coal lobbyists.
Answering questions at the Standing Committee of Public Accounts on Tuesday, Alberta Environment senior civil servants confirmed that despite being aware of the repeal of the 1976 policy repeal, the government did not conduct any proactive or reactive analysis on how allowing greater coal development on the Eastern Slopes would affect water quality, species at risk and recreation opportunities.
“A policy shift of such a major nature should have demanded the Ministry run scenarios for these impacts,” said Alberta NDP Environment Critic Marlin Schmidt.
“Instead, Albertans saw coal companies cut new roads through the bush without a single second thought from the Government of Alberta. It’s deeply disappointing and points to a culture of ‘consequences be damned’ when it comes to the most sensitive areas of our mountains.”
Benga Mining Ltd, operating as Riversdale Resources, released a statement Tuesday implying they expected the recently-rejected Grassy Mountain Steelmaking Coal Project to be approved despite environmental risks, and would be looking to “obtain assurance that the process has been fair and transparent... and that the decision is not effectively an anti-development decision.”
“Albertans have been clear. They don’t want these project-by-project approvals anymore. They want clear legislative protections that ban coal mining on the Eastern Slopes, full-stop. Until the UCP starts listening to Albertans, these projects will continue to press on,” said Schmidt.
Meanwhile, government officials are once again meeting with coal lobbyists in the development of a new coal policy after already repealing the previous 1976 Coal Policy due to pressure from the coal industry.
According to public records, Elan Coal Ltd., a subsidiary of Atrum Coal, is lobbying the UCP government “to help support and inform the Government of Alberta and the Coal Policy Committee in the development of a modern coal policy for Alberta.”
“The UCP have already shown they have no problem making backroom deals with coal companies to strip mine our Rockies,” said Schmidt. “This is exactly what led to the UCP repealing Lougheed’s coal policy, which threatened our land, water, and jobs.”
Last year, the UCP government cancelled the 1976 Coal Policy without public consultation. Lobbying records indicate the Coal Association of Canada had met with various government officials prior to the repealing of the Lougheed era policy. This included meetings with Environment Minister Jason Nixon and then Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Minister Tanya Fir.
The UCP government had also directly engaged with Atrum Coal prior to rescinding the 1976 Coal Policy. In an investor presentation from April 2020, Atrum references the Category 2 land policy and that “Regular, proactive engagement with Alberta Government has significantly increased confidence of such an approval, potentially as early as this year.” Atrum's Elan Hard Coking Coal project is located on Category 2 lands.
A month after the presentation, the UCP rescinded the decades-old policy, allowing open pit coal mining in previously protected areas.
“Instead of meeting with coal companies to rip up our mountains, the UCP needs to consult with those who will be directly impacted. That means they need to speak directly to Albertans, not foreign billionaires,” said Schmidt.