Alberta faces backlash after move to scrap coal policy, ease restrictions on mining – by Emma Graney and Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – January 25, 2021)

A 44-year-old coal and land protection policy – quietly killed by the Alberta government on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend last May – has led to a court challenge and a public backlash so strong the government has cancelled recently issued land leases for coal mining.

At the heart of the discontent is the United Conservative government’s decision to tear up the stringent 1976 Coal Policy, and the potential for more open-pit mining in the fragile land and crucial Alberta watersheds flanked by the Rocky Mountains.

The policy, introduced under Peter Lougheed, laid out how and where coal development could go ahead in the province. It banned open-pit mines over a large area by using land classifications, with completely or highly protected areas deemed categories 1 or 2.

Developed over four years using feedback from hundreds of landowners, coal proponents, First Nations and others, it was revoked with no public consultation.

Its removal has made it easier for companies to pursue mines in sensitive regions, though all proposed projects must undergo environmental and regulatory reviews.

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