Longtime southern Alberta landowner Bobbi Lambright says she isn’t about to let emotion colour her concerns about coal mining activities on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
She was at a news conference in Calgary Monday as Alberta’s opposition NDP announced plans to introduce a private member’s bill that would ban future coal mining and related activities in the region.
“This is not just an emotional reaction on the part of people who love the beautiful mountains,” said Lambright, who’s also a member of the Livingstone Landowners Group.
“You also recognize very quickly when you go in and start to blast literally tens of thousands of acres of mountains and deposit waste rock in the valleys you are opening the door to a level of destruction and disruption that is unprecedented.”
The proposed legislation comes as Alberta’s United Conservative government is to hold public consultations at the end of this month on expanding coal mining in the area.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley says, if passed, the bill would also permanently cancel all coal leases on so-called Category 1 and 2 lands and stop planned changes to water allocations in the area.
Public consultations are scheduled to begin March 29, but so far no details have been released.
“The minister has not released the details around what will be included around her hastily announced consultations. But she did make it clear…that the goal of the consultations will be to develop a coal mining policy, not to protect our mountains,” Notley said.
The fact that no guidelines have been released has Notley wondering if it’s just a public relations exercise.
“Even if they are doing consultations we don’t know if they won’t continue to have backroom deals and backroom meetings with coal lobbyists that still ultimately end with the same outcome,” Notley added.
Lambright said her group has ideas of what should be included such as taking a land-use focus and taking into account independent third-party information.
She said the landowners group intends to take part in the consultations but would like some guidance.
“We are not aware of any of the details of how the consultations will unfold,” Lambright said.
The UCP revoked last spring a 1976 policy that had protected the Rockies and their eastern slopes from open-pit coal mines.
Opposition built and spread until it included small-town mayors, First Nations, popular entertainment figures and a broad spectrum of Albertans.
The government reinstated the policy last month and promised there would be public input on coal-mining and no more leases on the most vulnerable land would be sold.