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Calgary to continue coal-policy advocacy as province reverses course

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said there’s still uncertainty around the province’s undoing of a reversal of a 1976 coal policy and they need to clarify their position.

That’s why councillors decided that they would still write a letter outlining their concerns with open pit coal mining along Alberta’s Eastern slopes. They had originally discussed this in January, when they sent it back to the city utilities and environment committee.

“We’re really not out of the woods yet on this issue. We really don’t know what approvals have been granted that are not in compliance with the 1976 policy,” said Coun. Colley-Urquhart.

Earlier in the day, the province reinstated the 1976 coal policy after hearing concerns from across Alberta. Municipalities across Southern Alberta lined up in opposition to the policy’s rescinding

“Albertans have spoken loud and clear and we have heard them,” said Alberta Minister of Energy, Sonya Savage.

“Alberta’s government is absolutely committed to protecting the majestic Eastern Slopes and the surrounding natural environment.”

The province also committed to further protection and the development of a new coal policy with contributions from Albertans. They said no new exploration approvals would be granted on Category 2 lands until consultation was done.

The province said of six coal projects currently being explored, four were under the 1976 coal policy. Two were approved after the policy was rescinded.

Albertans overwhelmingly opposed: ThinkHQ survey

Three quarters of Albertans surveyed in recent research said they were area of the issue, with 43 per cent of respondents to a ThinkHQ survey saying they were “definitely” aware.

Of the 1,140 people surveyed between Feb. 2 and 6 in an online research panel, 69 per cent were opposed to the further development of coal resources. Half of the respondents were strongly opposed.


One half of respondents also said that it’s not possible to responsibly develop coal resources on the province’s Eastern Slopes.

“This is another example of self-inflicted wounds by the Kenney Government, and it’s a dangerous one for them,” said ThinkHQ president, Marc Henry, noting the disapproval looked very similar to the NDPs introduction of a provincial carbon tax.  

“Even in a province which is frankly starving for economic development opportunities, the notion of opening previously protected areas of the south-eastern Rockies and foothills to more intensive development like coal mining is way off target with most Albertans.”

City of Calgary advocacy

Councillors approved the writing of a letter to the province, expressing support for the reinstatement of the 1976 coal policy. It was approved 12-2, with Couns. Joe Magliocca and Sean Chu opposed.

The city also wanted further consultation, particularly around the watershed issues. The city would like the coal leases that were approved to be cancelled to protect the city’s watershed.

Councillor Ward Sutherland said in the early portion of council that they received a report at committee saying the city’s watershed wasn’t in any type of immediate danger.