Panel on Rockies coal mining granted six-week extension to deliver its report

EDMONTON — A panel gathering public input on coal mining in the Alberta Rockies has been given another six weeks to hand in its report.

"Due to the extraordinary volume, breadth and depth of the input provided by Albertans, the coal policy committee requested an extension to the deadline for both their engagement and final reports," said a statement Wednesday by provincial Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

"An extension until Dec. 31 has been granted."

The panel said it has received more than 1,000 emailed documents and 170 detailed written submissions, along with associated materials from 67 meetings across the province.

Established in March, the five-member panel was supposed to deliver two reports to Savage on Monday — one summarizing what it heard and another one with recommendations. The summary report was originally expected in October, making Wednesday's announcement its second delay.

"The coal policy committee is grateful for the outpouring of interest throughout the engagement process," said a statement from chairman Ron Wallace. "In fact, we extended the engagement period by two months until the end of September.

"We have requested a deadline extension so that we may better compile, assess and report on the extensive and insightful input submitted."

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt called the extension "irritating."

"They're planning to release this long-awaited report during New Year’s Eve celebrations, when they know most Albertans will not be able to read it," he said. 

Schmidt urged the government to stop its delaying tactics and pass legislation proposed by his party that would end coal mining in the Rockies. 

Wallace has promised that all submissions made to the committee would be publicly released. He has said most are strongly critical of coal development in the foothills and peaks of the Rockies — a much-loved Alberta landscape and the source of much of the province's drinking water. 

In her statement Wednesday, Savage said the reports would be reviewed "in detail" before they were released.

The panel was struck in response to a broad public outcry over proposals for open-pit coal mines in the mountains and foothills.

Alberta has paused further coal exploration lease sales and halted work in the most sensitive landscapes while it develops a new coal policy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2021. 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press