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Who opposes Kenney’s decision to allow open-pit coal mining in Alberta’s Rockies? Basically everybody.

The United Conservative Party government’s decision to unilaterally rescind a 1976 Coal Policy that protected large swaths of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and Foothills from open-pit coal mining has hit a nerve with Albertans.

Similar to the UCP government’s decision to close or privatize more than 160 provincial parks, which the government began to slowly back away from after widespread opposition in 2020, the decision to rescind the Coal Policy and enthusiastically support open-pit coal mining is an issue that is facing opposition across Alberta.

The opposition to the Coal Policy reminds me somewhat of the fight over electrical transmission lines that the old Progressive Conservative government stumbled into in the mid-2000s. In both cases, Conservative governments forgot how to listen to and speak with to their long-time rural supporters – and in the case of the PCs there were big consequences in the following election.

But in this case, the coal issue transcends the urban-rural divide that Alberta politicians sometimes like to exploit.

Albertans are proud of our Rocky Mountains. And we are acutely aware of how exploding the tops off those mountains would destroy habitat and pollute the water sources that millions of Albertans depend on.

Highwood UCP MLA RJ Sigurdson, who’s district includes part of the area directly impacted by the decision, says he is listening to his constituents concerns but he has not broken with his government on the issue. Livingstone-Macleod UCP MLA Roger Reid claimed the decision was made by the Alberta Energy Regulator, even though the policy was actually rescinded by Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

Describing the Peter Lougheed-era Coal Policy as outdated, Premier Jason Kenney dismissed the opposition by claiming critics of open-pit coal mining were mostly “city-dwellers.” But the chorus of opposition from Albertans who actually live on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies tells the true story.

Who opposes the Kenney government’s decision to remove the 1976 Coal Policy?

The opposition to Kenney’s removal of the coal policy has been building since 2020, with ranchers, farmers and conservation, hunting, recreation and environmental groups, and the NDP opposition raising the alarm. But the opposition to Kenney’s coal push got a big boast when country music artists Corb Lund, Paul Brandt, Terri Clark, and kd lang, Heartland actor Amber Marshall, and television’s Terry Grant (aka the Mantracker) spoke out against the removal of the Coal Policy and in favour of protecting the Rockies and Foothills from open-pit coal mining.

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish Lake First Nations – Landowners and the Ermineskin and Whitefish Lake First Nations have filed separate requests for a judicial review of the decision, which they argue was made without legally required consultations. (Alberta Native News, Jan. 18, 2021)

Municipal District of Ranchlands – Several groups are seeking intervenor status to join the ranchers seeking a judicial review: the M.D. of Ranchland, the Bearspaw, Siksika, Kainai and Whitefish First Nations, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Alberta Hiking Association, the Alberta Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Association, the Alberta Wilderness Association and the Livingstone Landowners Group. (CBC, Jan. 20, 2021)

Town of Claresholm: Town Council voted to send a letter following up on a June 20, 2020 letter to the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Energy, and to cc MLA Roger Reid and Premier Jason Kenney raising concern over the rescindment of the 1976 Coal Policy. (Town of Claresholm, Jan. 25, 2021)

Foothills County – Foothills councillors are expressing their concern with a lack of policy around coal mining in southern Alberta. Council agreed to draft a letter to the provincial government regarding the controversial application for the Grassy Mountain Coal Project, an $800-million coal mining operation proposed in the Crowsnest Pass by Benga Mining Ltd., a subsidiary of Australian parent company Riversdale Resources. (Okotoks Today, Jan. 25, 2021)

Town of Edson – Edson officials penned a letter to the premier on Jan. 19 that asked the province to reopen closed, already-developed metallurgical mines instead of moving forward with new ones. (Global News, Jan. 27, 2021)

Village of Longview – “We are definitely not in favour of it,” said Kathie Wight, mayor of Longview, a community of 334 that looks out on the rangelands and mountains of the province’s southwest. “More public consultation needs to be taken into consideration.” (Global News, Jan. 27, 2021)

Town of Nanton – The Town of Nanton has sent a letter, signed by the mayor, to Alberta’s premier stating its concerns about open pit coal mining in southwest Alberta. In the Jan. 20 letter, the Town first thanks Premier Jason Kenney and Sonya Savage, Alberta’s energy minister, for the government’s Jan. 18 announcement cancelling 11 recently issued coal leases and the pause in issuing coal lease sales in former “Category 2” lands, which include large swaths of the Eastern Slopes and were previously protected. (Nanton News, Jan. 27, 2021)

Town of OkotoksOkotoks Town Council passed a motion to draft a letter addressed to Premier Jason Kenney and other members of the provincial government regarding the recently rescinded 1976 Coal Policy. The letter would request an immediate rollback on the rescinding of the policy, a consultation process on the desired changes to the policy, and an impact report on how the project may affect local water. (Okotoks Online, Jan. 28, 2021)

Town of High River – “Coal exploration is causing irreparable damage to the landscapes and watersheds as well as adversely affecting the public’s access, use and enjoyment of Crown lands,” says the letter from town council in High River, about 55 kilometres south of Calgary. (CBC, Feb. 1, 2021)

Town of Canmore – Canmore Mayor John Borrowman will write a letter to Premier Jason Kenney urging him and the UCP government to reinstate the 1976 Coal Development Policy that was rescinded last year. (Rocky Mountain Today, Feb. 2, 2021)

Kainai-Blood Tribe – The Kainai-Blood Tribe will be launching a legal challenge against the Government of Alberta over its decision to unilaterally rescind the 1976 Coal Policy. (Lethbridge Herald, Feb. 2, 2021)

Town of Turner Valley – Turner Valley town council voted in favour of submitting a letter to the provincial government regarding coal exploration, joining several other Alberta towns in doing so. The letter includes several requests, including for the provincial government re-instate the 1976 Coal Policy, to institute a consultation process with relevant stakeholders, and for an analysis of environmental, hydrological, economic, and recreational impacts of the proposed changes. (Okotoks Online, Feb. 3, 2021)

Siksika First Nation– Siksika First Nation is launching a legal challenge against the province’s decision to rescind its coal policy, effectively allowing open-pit coal mining in the Rockies. (Calgary Herald, Feb. 4, 2021)

City of Airdrie – City council voted unanimously Feb. 1 to offer support to municipalities in southern Alberta that are advocating against the development of open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains. At the Feb. 1 meeting, Airdrie resident Jessica Jacobs submitted a letter to council as public correspondence, urging the City to take a stance against the Grassy Mountain Coal Project – an $800-million coal mining operation that has been proposed in the Crowsnest Pass. (AirdrieToday.com, Feb. 5, 2021)

City of Lethbridge – Lethbridge could be joining a chorus of communities across southern Alberta to voice concerns about the UCP government’s decision to rescind a 45 year old policy on coal mining. Councillors will discuss an official business resolution next Tuesday (Feb. 9) which, if adopted would have the mayor write to Premier Jason Kenney and the Ministers of Environment and Energy requesting the policy be reinstated. (MyLethbridgeNow.com, Feb. 5, 2021)

It has been reported that the Town of Black Diamond and Clearwater County are also expected to discuss the issue in the coming weeks. Calgary City Council will discuss the issue at a Feb. 8 meeting.


Listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast to hear this weekend’s podcast discussion about the Coal Policy with writer and conservationist Kevin Van Tighem.

27 replies on “Who opposes Kenney’s decision to allow open-pit coal mining in Alberta’s Rockies? Basically everybody.”

Not to mention all the individual Albertans. I was a farmer prior to a stroke and I understand the consequences of the selenium that is being dumped into the water by the coal industry. There is damage already in areas that will not grow normal grass after coal mining – but will grow alfalfa – which they’re planning on haying and feeding to mountain sheep and elk. The problem with that is alfalfa is a selenium concentrator and those animals will suffer from low birth rates and abortions. I suspect it will take a year or two of animal loss before someone stops it.

Coal is not an efficient or clean energy source. There are several ways to also make steel without coal that are cleaner. We were going to close all coal mines in Canada and now we’re making new ones?

Thank you for compiling this information. Your efforts are appreciated. I have written letters and sent emails to the premier, provincial and federal environment ministers, the PMO and GGO, mayor of Calgary urging them all to support the reinstatement of the 1976 coal policy and to stop this environmental disaster . To have a robust public discussion and consultation. To this day, no replies at all.

I am a native Albertan living in California. I am hopelessly in love with the beautiful mountains and clean water Alberta is so famous for. Destroying this for foreign interests or any interests will destroy the heart and soul of Alberta.

The town of Claresholm wrote a letter last summer, this was posted on the protect the headwaters site by Virginia Wishart last week

Thank you for you great research. it doesn’t surprise to see this list is so big and i believe in a month it will double. Albertans ( and many Canadains) are finally being informed and expressing there concerns. lets just hope the UCP government hears us..
Thanks again

On the news they say only 100,000. People have signed a petition against this. I have not seen any circulating. I would sign every single one.

Iron Bow Fly Shop in Dalhousie Station has petitions. I actually downloaded and printed my own and just dropped it off, but you can sign an existing one there. They will be glad to see you and chat.

The government has announced today a new “coal policy” that will be introduced next week. It should be simple- no new development of coal mines in any way shape or form on the Eastern Slopes period.

I’m willing to bet that Kenney and the extremely dull knives in his cabinet drawer have failed to read the room again. We don’t want a “new” coal policy, we just want the 1976 one back.

I cannot believe that a responsible government would allow coal mining to proceed I wonder what financial gains these corrupt politicians are recieveing under the table from these Australian billionaires. I thought our elected politicians are supposed to represent our wishes . Financial benefits from tourism far exceeds short term benefits from coal mining. Damage from our water supply and quality will last for generations.UCP politicians please resign especially KENNEY!

Aren’t conservatives the people who keep saying it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers? I guess the caveat is that it only applies when the winners are fossil fuel companies and the losers are the tourism and farming industries.

I firmly believe that Kenney received personal consideration from the Australian billionaires who are investing in these coal mines. We know that they were informed of the change of policy at least 6 months before it was implemented with no consultation with any Albertans, time enough for prospective investors (such as Kenney) to do some insider trading on any projected mines that would result from a change of policy. Kenney has pulled back from a few of his government’s sociopathic plans when his party’s base became rebellious. But here we have the least supported policy of all and he is digging in heels and lying through his teeth about this being an “urban versus rural” issue when the bulk of his opponents are, in fact, rural.

Please join the Facebook group, Protect Alberta’s Rockies and Headwaters.
27000 ppl strong in 5 weeks. Amazing information and group!!

Not me. It’s tune to abolish these ridiculous regulations and Red tape. Cheers to Kenney.

Again showing the hard left of this blog, bought and paid for by big unions. Time for right to work legitimation. Long overdue.

OK, Sir, I usually try to ignore your hateful rants, but this time you’ve gone too far. You’re clearly a troll, & I wonder why you even follow this blog at all. Our host should block you.

Michael B We aren’t fooled by these neoliberal policies that the UCP has been advocating for. It’s as bad as it gets. It’s a rerun of how bad the Alberta PCs had been since the mid to late 80s, and onwards.

Interesting comparison with the electric transmission lines issue that caused the PC’s so much self inflicted political damage. I hadn’t thought of that. Of course, in this case it is potentially worse, as you noted the coal policy issue seems to transcend the rural/urban divide. After the PC’s lost a lot of rural support, they still held on with the remaining more urban support. The UCP seems determined to lose it all here.

On a related note, I also have to wonder what the relationships between Kenney, the UCP and the Australian coal company are. They seem to be fighting very hard here for something that is becoming clearly not very smart politically.

If we aren’t going to start the shovel ready projects that are on the books, maybe South Africa or Egypt will lend us some more money.

Go to Google Earth and bring up the satellite map of the Elk Valley in BC.
Now, scroll up from Sparwood to Elkford.
You’ll see three big grey brown splotches just to the west of the irregular ribbon of white which is the snow on the peaks of the Continental Divide.
Those are the open pit mines in the Elk Valley.
Now, shift over to the right, across the Divide. That valley right up against the border, that’s the land that could be strip mined if the provincial government has its way.
Geology doesn’t respect political boundaries so the same coal deposits they’re mining in BC underlie the headwaters of the Old Man River.
One hundred kilometres, give or take, from south of Blairmore to Plateau mountain, or in Highway 2 terms, from west of Fort Macleod to west of Nanton.
BC got away with it because they got in over a hundred years ago and the coal companies tidied up the bit of highway 3 between the Alberta border and Sparwood and, and, this is important, because the Elk Valley is about as far from the Lower Mainland as you can get. Out of sight out of mind.
Besides, the Elk River is just one little river out of hundreds in those mountains. If it didn’t cross into Montana nobody much would be talking about selenium leaching out of the mine sites into the watershed.
The Old Man, on the other hand is the only river we’ve got down here south of Calgary. From the mountains to Medicine Hat the Old Man joins up with Willow Creek and all the little rivers running down from the south west and then the Little Bow, the Bow to form the South Saskatchewan and on acros the Prairies to Hudson Bay.
Take water out of that watershed and somebody down stream goes thirsty. Piss in that river and those pollutants carry on down through Brocket, and Fort Macleod, Lethbridge, Taber, and so on.
People viscerally understand that.
In a dry country you know how far it is to water.
The UCP, on the other hand, really don’t get it.
If it’s black and it’s in the ground… sell it off!
So, if any one thinks Jason Kenney gives a pitcher of warm spit about the cattle business come talk to me. I’ve some pipeline stock I want to sell you.
And that is the political equation that this government has so terminally botched up.
it’s not just tree huggers that are riled up this time. It’s a part of the conservative base, a base that’s been so reliable for so long the hard boys in Edmonton long ago ceased to pay them any mind.
They may not be comfortable voting anyway other than conservative but times change.
I was at the NDP nomination meeting in Nanton a couple of years ago and there were old timey, mossy back ranchers in that meeting, reaching into their pockets to support Cam Gardner.
Now, that was a matter of personal loyalty, group solidarity but, even a couple of years earlier it never would have happened.
And that was before the government peed on their boots.
Which isn’t to say the Foothill country is going to rise up in great orange wave but there are a couple or three backbenchers down in the South that are going to have to put a lot more effort into getting re elected and that, in turn, means there will be fewer resources to put towards the closer races in the urban ridings.
It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Through many petitions, etc., I gave my support in opposition to this latest UCP circus act…the one which would decimate Alberta in its entirety plus have severe repercussions on ALL peoples and lands eastward. Yes, Canadian citizens.
These are NOT Alberta’s Rockies. They are the CANADIAN Rockies, and therefore, plans and future consequences should matter to EVERY Canadian!
We witness little news coverage with regard to that “whispered” word diversification. It exists, but appears to be deliberately shoved to the back-burner… hushed and ignored, and hopefully if left long enough, eventually take care of itself. Diversification and ideas deserve focus and exposure. It may then inspire and motivate creativity with many good and gifted minds thwarted and stagnating because of political fiascos and other insignificant crap!
P.S. A mere thought, albeit with a tad of sarcasm: feed “the little thingy” (aka premier of AB) the idea of Wind turbines atop “his” pile of Rockies…an endless world of wind-power flows over those rocks! Betcha he would bite! $$$ entices…as we witness daily!

Not being familiar with the geography in question, I haven’t been very engaged in this issue — I live in the Peace Country, where the watershed drains north to the Arctic Ocean, and flooding is a bigger risk up here than drought. But from what I’ve read, the idea of open-pit mining in the area is alarming to rural & urban, progressive & conservative, Albertans alike.

The previous government would never have done anything like this. How many residents of central & southern Alberta are regretting their electoral choice in 2019 now?

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