If you want to learn how Alberta Environment protects multinational corporations that violate the Water Act and AEPEA, polluting an entire community’s drinking water supply, read my Statement of Claim, Alberta’s lying Statement of Defence and my response to their lies on my Lawsuit Page. Read more hair raising details in Andrew Nikiforuk’s Slick Water.
Alberta cabinet ministers defend planned coal consultations by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press, April 16, 2021, The Globe and Mail
… Concerns over the destruction of a beloved landscape and the possible contamination of headwaters for most of the province’s freshwater are off the table.
That’s despite the fact that those issues have been the most commonly raised by Albertans. Thousands of hectares have been leased for exploration as road building and drilling continue.
At the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention on Friday, Mayor Jim Willett of Coutts, Alta., asked Environment Minister Jason Nixon if his department would supplement Savage’s plans.
“We all thought a review of the coal policy would include a discussion surrounding water sources and usage and the land use act,” he said. “Is there a plan for another panel to discuss the points Albertans are most concerned about?”
Nixon appeared to suggest there’s no need for one, saying the province’s water management is unchanged.
“Nothing has changed when it comes to water licences, water approvals, the Water Act or environmental legislation when it comes to water around coal,” he said.
“All of the strict water rules remain within this province. They have not changed and they will not be changed in any way associated with coal.”
Willett, whose municipality is in south-central Alberta, called that a “non-answer.” He pointed out the government has opened discussions on water allocations in the area with a view to making the resource available for coal mines.
“We know it’s being discussed. And if it’s being discussed, why shouldn’t we have some input on it?” he said. “Why is it such a narrow mandate that (the government) has given to the coal study group?”
Savage said concerns such as Willett’s “go beyond the scope of coal.”
“This engagement is focused on how the province manages coal resources,” she said. …
Some of the comments:
Coal mining, particularly surface mining in mountains, is one of the most brutal assaults by humans on the Earth. The changes in natural landscapes and headwaters ecosystems are profound. Vegetation and soils that have evolved over millennia are stripped to reveal ancient bedrock. Using explosives and some of the largest machines on Earth, mountaintops are shattered and removed to expose coal seams. “Overburden” is dumped into adjacent valleys. Roads are carved into the diminishing mountain sides to haul extracted coal away in giant trucks to valley bottom processing plants. Water falling as rain and snow that was naturally absorbed by vegetation and soil rushes unchecked and unfiltered to valley-bottom streams that become seriously disrupted by altered flows and contaminants. Resident fish and wildlife are destroyed or displaced for untold generations.
‘On Thursday, Savage’s department released rules for the consultations. Concerns over the destruction of a beloved landscape and the possible contamination of headwaters for most of the province’s freshwater are off the table’.
That about says it all. The UCPs are corrupt, unethical and a danger to democracy. All Alberta gov’ts have been/are. The energy industry, notably the oil patch, won’t allow it any other way.
The consultations in the form of a survey were announced with great flourish in March… with no rules or guidelines. Thousands of Albertans responded to the survey with water and destruction of landscape the issues most folks feared. Now the government comes up with ‘rules’ days before the survey consultation is set to end! I find it hard to believe a government would go to such lengths to deceive the electorate but on reflection.. they did the same sort of smoke and mirrors trick when the secretly rescinded the 1976 policy on coal mining only to reinstate it after public outcry… and after thousands of hectares of land on the eastern slopes of the Rockies was leased..mostly to huge mining conglomerates! This is a very scary and dangerous government!
This is the same Environment and Parks minister who thinks that parks costing taxpayer dollars is a problem to be solved by closing parks and handing them over to 3rd party management.
The same guy who has been accused of poaching and killing a wild horse (acquitted on both).
The same guy who fired his companys safety officer after she complained of being sexually assaulted.
The same guy who likes to use the premier’s office to send fundraiser solicitations.
Do you expect anything else?
Wikipedia has a long section on Jason Nixon’s “controversial” past. His present behaviour is in character.
Yes. It is quite clear that the UCP works exclusively for the interests of fossil fuel industries. They have no interest in addressing the issues raised by those directly impacted, let alone the public at large. A true petro-state. They’re an embarrassment to Alberta, and to Conservatives everywhere. …
Government will continue to protect Alberta’s water by Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon, Letter to the Editor, April 17, 2021, Lethbridge Herald
Editor: Water is important to our communities, our families, and our livelihoods. In southern Alberta, years of drought and a dry climate mean that access to water for all of its purposes is at the front of mind for many. Southern Alberta communities are rightfully interested in making sure that they have enough water to meet their needs.
Alberta has a strong system for allocating water that ensures communities, irrigators and industry all have the resources they need to thrive. In the upper Oldman River basin, which covers the MD of Ranchland, the MD of Pincher Creek, and the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, an amount of water is reserved for use by the Oldman River Basin Water Allocation Order.
This resource is protected under the Water Act, and we have committed to consultations with the affected communities.
I recognize that there is ongoing confusion about the Oldman water allocation order, and claims that the allocation has been changed without input from Albertans.
This is simply untrue.
In November 2020, Alberta Environment and Parks held early conversations with municipalities to get input on the proposals to set aside 20 per cent of the original unallocated order volume for aquatic environment needs, and replace specific water volume limits for irrigation, industrial, and other purposes with one overall limit for all listed users.
To be clear, these proposals do not, in any way, increase the water available for water allocation for any specific uses. No increase is being proposed for any specific industries – that includes coal.
In fact, these early conversations with municipalities are about ensuring there is enough water available for the health of Alberta’s fish and other aquatic species, an issue that is not addressed in the current water allocation order.
The Oldman water allocation order remains in place, and the existing sector-based water use limits are unchanged. In fact, no changes to existing water licences could be made unilaterally under the Water Act.
We recognize that Albertans have an interest in the availability and management of water for our communities and our environment.
Alberta has a long and proud history of responsibly managing our valuable water resources to ensure healthy, secure and sustainable water for our communities, the environment, and the economy. This will not change.
Responsible Like this?
“Ring around the Rosie” Catch 22: AER & Alberta Environment ping pong game benefits corporations and the rich. Energy Minister Sonia Savage: “No, that water is under the Alberta Environment and Park’s responsibility and the Alberta Energy Regulator makes decisions regarding coal projects and water was not going to be part of the coal policy review.”
The quality and availability of our water is important. Alberta’s high standards and strong process for allocating water remain in place, and water for southern Albertans will continue to be protected for our homes, our businesses, and our environment.
Hon. Jason Nixon
Minister of Environment and Parks
Comment to the above by Dennis Bremmer:
I always give governments 2 years before making an opinion of them. The UCP is now at the 2 year point….just shy by 13 days since election 30 April 2019.
Here is the comment- I have never witnessed in my 72 years of life a worse Provincial Party! I thought the mix of Wildrose and PCs would turn out to be a better PC party but in fact you are far far worse.
You have a Napoleon as your leader, you pick fights with a Health System in the midst of a Pandemic (brilliant) You pick fights with Teachers when at best they are trying to determine how to even teach IN A PANDEMIC. You change the curriculum in the midst of a Pandemic to ensure they really stay off balance(doubly brilliant). You flip flop in COVID lockdowns and still can’t figure out what you are doing wrong. You enable new coal companies, then suggest open consultation and do the opposite as stated by the Energy Minister and now backfill her lie with a future one.
Alberta is at a crossroads here. We have a choice of being an NDP Province which I personally find detestable because of their pandering of everything Union and a job for life even if incompetent, demonstrated weekly by the intelligence coming out of our Universities! Or, we remain UCP which, I never thought I would say, is WORSE.
So we need another party because Napoleon and his henchman are just not doing it. In fact you are so bad at Governing, you will surely drag down O’Toole federally Yipppeee! The most fabulous gift to humanity from Jason Kenney and Steve Hidden Harper’s UCP!thereby fixing our wagons again with Liberals as a parting gesture! The UCP has ensured I will likely have to burn my own vote for the first time in my life! To ensure you understand that I am not a closet NDP, I donated to the UCP party to defeat Notley and her gang of unionists, until I realized you were worse. I have waited 2 years to allow you plenty of time to get organized and all you have shown is you really are even inept in organizing a bad sh*tshow!
So your headline of Gov will protect our water is truly hollow, you have given us no reason to trust you !
The UCP has one choice, toss Kenney, reorganize and demonstrate you are capable of governing because if you continue down this path, you are gone, that is a given!
Seth Anthony Reply:
My sentiments as well.
I despise the UCP and NDP equally, but I would rather have the NDP over this provincial government.
Hmm. I can’t believe I actually said that and meant it. Now I have to barf again
We’re being railroaded into this coal bullshit whether we want it or not. 70% of Albertans are against it. I’ve looked at this thing inside out, upside down, and it’s a terrible deal for the province. So, WHO is benefitting? Cuz it sure as hell ain’t us.
This is what happens when people refuse to look at the platform and qualified individuals and only read “conservative” and tick the box
AND again Alberta Conservative government will ensure that Albertans get as little benefit as possible, low royalties and environmental degradation paid for by taxpayers.
Yup still lurking. Puppet master.
Ranchers are benefiting? Are they not. The ridings along the Eastern Slope overwhelmingly voted UCP. It was not even close. So when the “consultation” aka sham is over the ranchers will be offered some grift in the way of cash or other incentives to shut their mouths.Politics101
Kenney and Nixon were talking to the Australian company before they were even elected apparently.
this is the same government that handed out earplugs to its members in the legislature so it wouldn’t have to listen to the opposition. They don’t give a lick about the consultation.
An Open Letter to Investors in Coal: Psst! Wanna buy a coal mine? by Lorne Fitch, P. Biol., April 2021
Hello Australia. Greetings from one of the other former colonies, Canada. We in Alberta, one of the western provinces have been visited recently by many of your countrymen, in search of coal. Where they want to mine is in our mountains and foothills, the source of most of our water and a landscape revered by the majority of Albertans. You should know that Albertans of all stripes are extremely unhappy about the prospect of our mountains being blasted apart, water contaminated, fish and wildlife lost, our health compromised, recreation buggered and all that for a pittance.
As this controversy over new coal developments in the Eastern Slopes builds and multiplies, it would be best to provide you and especially potential investors some observations so you can prepare yourself for a big let-down.
First, it has been the provincial government that paved the pathway for your coal companies, not Albertans. You might have mistakenly associated Alberta with its politicians, especially if you are an Australian coal company that enjoys, as a 2019 investigative report found, an entrenched culture of lobbyists, political and media allies who play an insider’s game of protecting the interests of coal companies at the expense of Australia’s citizens.
An unprecedented outpouring of concern and anger over the betrayal of trust in sacrificing the Eastern Slopes shows the provincial government does not embody Alberta and it certainly doesn’t represent Albertans when it comes to throwing open the province’s doors to coal mining.
Second, we know coal companies over-promise on economic benefits and under-deliver on these and environmental concerns. Repetitive examples show rosy projections for jobs, spin-off economic benefits and rents and royalties that don’t pan out. The legacy of environmental bills they will leave behind for the Alberta taxpayer to foot does not lend itself to a warm reception for their get-rich-quick schemes. We are wise to the tricks of manipulating governments and regulators into untenable positions when companies fail to meet regulatory requirements.
Third, the protestations of coal companies being good corporate citizens and stewards of the land ring hollow when confronted by reality. There is no available, effective technology to duck the bullet of water contamination by selenium and a host of other chemical toxins. Even if there was proven technology, they’ll be long gone before the need for treatment is over. You can’t mitigate loss of species at risk, or even provide equitable compensation for their loss. In fact, you can’t glue the Humpty Dumpty of a mountain together again, once you blast off the top, dump the overburden into adjacent valleys with reclamation that is, charitably, putting lipstick on a corpse.
Fourth, to potential (maybe existing investors), you might be as well served with putting your money into for-profit prisons or slum tenements, equally ethical investments to coal.
You need to know that an engaged and angry majority of Albertans do not have the welcome mat out for companies you might want to invest in and these companies will never achieve social license for mountaintop removal, coal strip mines. Legal challenges, including from aboriginal groups may delay and derail many of these coal schemes. Other interests, especially agriculture in southern Alberta, dependent on a reliable supply of clean water will come out swinging over allocations to coal companies in an already water-short landscape.
You have probably read in the prospectus of several companies that the potential mines are close to “abundant” sources of water. This is untrue and tinkering with flows in the headwaters will run up against species at risk legislation for threatened native trout species. Coal companies might find the Federal government isn’t “engaged and supportive” to sacrifice species at risk as is the provincial government.
As it dawns on Albertans their government has collected $2.0 billion in reclamation bonds, but taxpayers face a $30 billion deficit for existing reclamation, anger will rise. There may not be much profit (or dividends) left after realistic reclamation bonds are levied. Considering water treatment costs for the toxic stew of chemicals produced by mining will have to persist for decades, maybe centuries after mines close might make you ask, is the risk worth it? Once burned, twice warned—Albertans are no longer willing to have the costs of environmental liabilities dumped on them.
Here’s a thought for you—instead of investing in something black, consider shifting to green, and not for purely altruistic reasons. It’s just pragmatic capitalism. Recent market signals have been clear about companies needing to reduce risks from climate change and the policies enacted by governments to combat it. Mining and burning coal will be on the outside of this especially as newer technologies for steel-making render coal obsolete.
If none of this sways you, here is a candid suggestion—find yourselves some other, less well-informed jurisdiction willing to lift up its skirts and sell its virtue for the illusionary promises of wealth and jobs. It’s not going to happen in Alberta.
Lorne Fitch is a Professional Biologist, a retired provincial Fish and Wildlife Biologist and a former Adjunct professor with the University of Calgary.
In response to my e-mails to Australian colleagues and friends, asking them to distribute Lorne Fitch’s open letter, I received a very detailed response with much useful information:
“I just took a little walk in our woods and thought about this. Of course, many of the messages in the letter are very familiar to those of us in Australia trying to battle coal. You should see the struggle over the Carmichael mine, for example.
Coaking (metallurgical) coal is a much harder battle ebcasue perceived to be ‘cleaner’ and ‘essential for steel’, though hydrogen is coming (thank you Sanjeev Gupta).
One of the major successful opposition strategies used here is to go after the supporting companies – the banks, insurance companies and infrastructure companies (like Siemens, who build the railways). This campaigns use activist shareholders to force company opposition to new projects. It’s worked. https://www.marketforces.org.au/about-us/
There is a shift though, so we can hope: https://www.theguardian.com/…/malcolm-turnbull-backs…
I was pleased to see Atrum are one of the other companies coming for Alberta coal but getting cold feet as your state government appears to be responding to opposition – or at least ‘consulting’: https://www.cbc.ca/…/atrum-coal-andrew-caruso-alberta…
What I might do is compile a pithy email for some of our conservation groups as a ‘cover letter’. Do you also have any groups that are organising against these mines that they could contact? I’ll then forward the letter on.
FYI anyone wanting to reach out to groups in Australia who are active in similar campaigns might like to contact:
An outstanding group to which I contribute (because we need more lawyers): https://www.edo.org.au/about/
Farmers are incredibly powerful if they get involved. Some of ours might be good to form an alliance: https://www.edo.org.au/shenhua-watermark-coal-mine/
Is there a Canadian equivalent? I would eat my hat if there were not! Know thine enemy:
There are some very big players in the list of Aussie companies mining in Alberta. Head of the list is Hancock, owned by Gina Reinhart, which owns Riversdale. They’re huge. This case studies below looks at opposition to two of their major metallurgical coal mines in Qld. And the ‘Drug Dealers’ Defence’:
http://envlaw.com.au/alpha-coal-mine-case/http://envlaw.com.au/kevins-corner/ And this: https://www.reuters.com/…/us-canada-coal-rinehart…
Montem are equally interesting.
Peter Doyle, the CEO has worked at Atrum, Glencore/Xstrata and Wood Mackenzie. All huge. Glencore have an interesting strategy: https://www.australianmining.com.au/…/australia-to…/ Atrum are huge, but appear to have cold feet – for now. Let’s hope coal process stay down and hydrogen replaces anthracite in steel making.
Tim Roberts, their major shareholder, is also linked to Cabin Ridge via it’s owner, Warburton Group, who’s chair is… Tim Roberts.
One of the major strategies in Australia is for coal and gas companies to build ‘alliances’ with first nations. Australian first nations are incredibly divided and often hostile to each other, so it’s easy to ‘buy off’ support for a new mine. Aussie coal miners are experts at this.
The mines also fight back. Chinese companies and Blackrock, for example, are often lurking in the background: https://www.smh.com.au/…/major-banks-sideline-gomeroi…
Anyway, if you know anyone wanting to reach out to experienced Australian activists, please feel free to pass this on.
Onward and upward
Coal policy must consider all effects of mining by Mark Goettel, Lethbridge Herald, April 9, 2021.
The proposed Grassy Mountain and Tent coal mine areas are the headwaters of the Oldman River which supplies much needed water to the semi-arid southwestern Alberta and Saskatchewan regions. Cities, farms and animals depend on this water.
Open pit mining exposes toxic elements and dust. Residual rock slurries are produced as tailings. Toxic elements from these can leak into the headwaters. and other proposed mines threaten our headwaters and rivers.
Consequently, it is of great concern to learn from an article published in the Lethbridge Herald, that Minister Savage declares that water is under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Parks, that the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) makes decisions regarding coal projects, and that water is not going to be part of the coal policy review.
This does not make any sense.
Does this mean that all of these current coal leases that are now allowing removal of trees, building of roads and drilling had not received environmental assessment by Albert Environment and Parks prior to being issued by the AER? Even before the mining begins, these undertakings are causing harm.
Further, open pit coal mines along the eastern slopes will affect many aspects of our lives.
Health: All of Southern Alberta depends on this water for human consumption. I am having trouble understanding why one would want to jeopardise this?
Agriculture: Alberta is a main exporter of agricultural products which rely on fresh clean water for irrigation and livestock. High levels of toxic selenium and otherwise contaminated water would threaten this prime industry.
Environment, Wildlife and Endangered Species: The area in question is rich with precious wildlife which will be exceedingly affected by the mining activities and destruction of habitat. These headwaters are important for endangered fish species and are frequented by species at risk such as grizzly bears. The area is an important wildlife corridor between Waterton, Kananaskis and Banff Parks.
Tourism: Alberta depends heavily on tourism. This area attracts fishers, hunters and campers from all over the world. It is also used intensively by the residents of Alberta for leisure activities.
Jobs: Industry has promised 400 jobs. How can that be guaranteed? Open pit mines are becoming highly mechanized. How long will these 400 jobs last?
Sustainability: What the guarantees that there will be demand for this coal far into the future? The main importer of this coal will be China. However, China is fast moving towards self sustainability. the end of 2019, China’s second-largest steelmaker announced it’s plan to construct a hydrogen-based steelmaking facility which will produce 1.2 million tonnes/year.
What will happen when the demand for coal suddenly dries up? The mining company will declare bankruptcy and the Alberta taxpayers will end up with the high cost of cleanup, reclamation, health costs and losses in agriculture and tourism for many years to come.
Albertans love their mountains, their beauty, wildlife and nature. These are the very attributes that Alberta is known for worldwide.
The coal policy review must take into consideration effects on all aspects that the mines would potentially affect including water, health, agriculture, tourism and wildlife, not just jobs!
Comment by biff:
another smart letter – ty.
what better name for a minister in charge of rape, pillage and plunder of our natural and needed lands: savage.