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Coal company asks court to quash order for federal environmental review of Vista mine expansion

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday November 19, 2020 in Ottawa. A coal company is asking Federal Court to toss out a decision by Canada's environment minister that a proposed Alberta mine expansion should get a full federal environmental review. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld. ajw

A coal company is asking Federal Court today to toss out a decision by Canada’s environment minister that a proposed Alberta mine expansion should get a full federal environmental review.

Coalspur Mines says the decision was based on an unfair assumption that two separate projects are related and should be considered together.

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It says Jonathan Wilkinson’s decision was unreasonable and should be quashed.

The environmental law firm Ecojustice is arguing that legislation gives the minister the power to consider the cumulative effects of otherwise unrelated projects.

It says Coalspur’s plans far exceed the production threshold that triggers a federal review and comes very close to crossing the size threshold as well.

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It says quashing the review would give companies a green light to split up future plans into smaller projects that would avoid a federal review, which is more extensive than a provincial counterpart.

If Coalspur’s plans proceed, the Vista mine would become Canada’s largest thermal coal mine.

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