A Coal Policy for all Albertans - Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

A Coal Policy for all Albertans

Two people walking in a field thick with greenery and wildflowers. There is a mountain range in the background.
Walking in the Castle Parks, Alberta (Tim Johnson)

Y2Y endorses collaborative’s ‘A Coal Policy for Alberta’ to best protect the Eastern Slopes in 2022 and beyond

Picture the towering Rocky Mountains lining Alberta’s western border: the Eastern Slopes. It’s an incredible place. Not only do the Eastern Slopes provide critical habitat for threatened wildlife species, they’re also the headwaters for the province and much of the prairies. Ninety percent of Alberta’s fresh water comes from this region!

The Alberta government opened up these magnificent mountains to destructive open-pit coal mining two years ago. Since then, people in Alberta have been loud and clear in saying no to coal and the risk of irreversible impacts to the Eastern Slopes.

In March 2022, the Alberta government responded by reinstating the 1976 ‘Coal Policy’ and pausing coal exploration in the Eastern Slopes. However, despite being a welcome short-term respite, coal mining in the Eastern Slopes is still very much a possibility, to be determined under future land-use planning.

Deferring decisions on coal to a future land-use planning process will not change how people feel about this special region and the importance of acting now to safeguard the future of the Eastern Slopes.

Saying no to future coal mines and repairing damage already done to landscapes by coal exploration and development should not be delayed.

That’s why Y2Y is proud to stand alongside 30 other signatories including grassroots Indigenous groups, municipalities, hunters, anglers, ranchers, rural landowners, artists, businesses, conservationists and recreationists in endorsing A Coal Policy for Alberta – 2022 and Beyond.

Y2Y is proud to stand alongside grassroots Indigenous groups, municipalities, hunters, anglers, ranchers, rural landowners, artists, businesses, conservationists and recreationists in support of this policy written by Albertans, for Albertans.

Based on the extensive public input submitted to the Coal Policy Committee, the draft policy was passed on May 24, 2022, by the Town of High River in southwest Alberta — the first municipality in the province to endorse the Policy.

Written by Albertans, for Albertans, A Coal Policy for Alberta calls for immediate action to remedy the impacts of existing coal mining and exploration activities, and to set the stage for a coal-free future for the Eastern Slopes.

Safeguarding water, biodiversity, and species at risk, while supporting Indigenous rights and treaty obligations are critical actions we can take today to ensure healthy ecosystems, and the health of future generations of people and wildlife.

Why are the Eastern Slopes in Alberta so important to protect?

We could fill page upon page with the many reasons to protect the Eastern Slopes. In a nutshell, the Eastern Slopes are an ecologically important and relatively intact area of the globally significant Yellowstone to Yukon region for both wildlife and people.

Research from 2021 co-authored by Y2Y’s Dr. Aerin Jacob shows that the Eastern Slopes are one of the most important places in Canada for their provision of fresh water, carbon storage and nature-based recreation. The region’s mountains and foothills are the territories of numerous Indigenous Nations, revered by residents and visitors alike.

Freshwater is a limited resource that is critical to life; coal development puts this all at risk. The headwaters and landscapes of the Eastern Slopes are critical to the future of our communities. Towns and cities, agricultural and food production, tourism, and recreation all rely on these landscapes existing in as intact a state as possible and their ability to provide clean water.

People in Alberta overwhelmingly value the Rocky Mountains in their natural state. Not only are they valued locally, but they bring guests from around the world, driving an important recreation economy that can endure long into the future as long as the mountains stay intact.

A big part of progressing and having thriving economies moving forward is preserving these special — and important — places far into the future. That’s why this policy to protect the Eastern Slopes is being put forth today.

Photo: Two anglers in a river found in southwest Alberta’s Eastern Slopes. (C. Simmons)

What is ‘A Coal Policy for Alberta’ all about?

Y2Y supports the proposed A Coal Policy for Alberta as a collaborative path forward that best protects the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies, and all that they provide for wildlife and people, in 2022 and beyond.

The three pillars of this policy are:

  • No new coal exploration and no new coal mines;
  • Assess the adequacy of the current mine financial security program; and
  • Ensure timely and effective remediation of lands disturbed by coal exploration and mining activities.

Consideration of future generations, ecosystems and sustainable development provided the focus for the principles and direction contained in this policy.

As such, A Coal Policy for Alberta will advance forward-thinking management of both renewable and non-renewable resources; address the threats of climate change and biodiversity loss while preserving landscapes, people, wildlife and water; and enable people living downstream, including Indigenous communities, to work toward a sustainable and resilient environment, economy and communities.

What should Alberta do next when it comes to a new coal policy?

A simple reinstatement of the 1976 Coal Policy and pushing the decision on the future of coal to land-use planning doesn’t adequately address the concerns articulated by Albertans.

Conservation of water, foothills and native grasslands, species at risk, habitat loss, climate change Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and changing markets toward a carbon free future are major drivers of the need for a new, modern coal policy for Alberta.

The negative impacts of coal mining on the environment, human health, animal health and existing and emerging economies outweigh the short-term boom and bust cycles Albertans know well.

We need a clear path forward to the end of coal development in Alberta — and that’s what A Coal Policy for Alberta provides.

Replacing the current 1976 Coal Policy in Alberta with this policy, stopping coal development, and efficiently restoring lands already damaged by coal mining and exploration, are some of the first steps that need to be taken by the Government of Alberta to work towards a better future for lands, waters, wildlife and people in Alberta.

Alongside a diverse collaborative of 30 groups in Alberta, we urge the Government of Alberta and all parties to reflect on the directives of this policy and to conduct extensive public consultation and Indigenous government-to-government consultation before adopting and implementing a new, modern coal policy for the province.

More information about ‘A Coal Policy for Alberta’