NDP bill to protect Alberta Rockies from coal mining dies in legislature committee

EDMONTON — A private member's bill before the Alberta legislature that would have blocked all coal mining in the province's Rocky Mountains died Tuesday after government members voted against it.

The bill, sponsored by Opposition New Democrat Leader Rachel Notley, was blocked by a legislature committee that decides which private member's bills proceed.

"It’s clear today that the (United Conservative Party) is still reserving the right to tear apart our beautiful Alberta mountains and poison our water supply with coal mining," Notley said in a release. "That’s what killing this bill achieved.”

Six members of the UCP on the private members’ bill committee voted against allowing the bill to move to second reading, despite having voted in its favour when it was introduced last spring. 

Since then, Energy Minister Sonya Savage has blocked coal development on those landscapes with a ministerial order she has promised not to withdraw.

That move came earlier this month, in response to a panel report that found widespread and adamant opposition to open-pit coal mining on landscapes already heavily used for energy, agriculture, forestry and recreation. Those areas are also the source of much of the province's drinking water. 

Savage's order prevents any further exploration activity, selling of exploration leases or issuing of exploration permits. It is not, however, legislation and can be revoked without public consultation or review by the legislature. 

She has said the order will remain in place until environmental protections can be written in to land use plans for the affected areas. 

Notley has said the order can be withdrawn any time at the minister's discretion. She said the fact the UCP refuse to legislate protection for the Rockies suggests they eventually plan to open it up.

"This government could begin mining again with the stroke of a pen, or even rescind the order without notice or consultation," she said. "(Premier) Jason Kenney is relying on Albertans to blindly trust him with zero transparency or oversight."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published  March 22, 2022.

The Canadian Press