By Cole Parkinson
Southern Alberta Newspapers
In late December, the provincial government announced they had received the independent Coal Policy report from the committee made up of five members.
Despite the provincial government stating they had received the report, they also highlighted the fact it would not be made public stating they would review the report before allowing the public to view it.
“The independent Coal Policy Committee has submitted both the engagement report and the final report, which contains their recommendations on Alberta’s long-term approach to coal. The government will take the necessary time to review the reports’ findings and recommendations carefully before they are released publicly,” reads a statement from Sonya Savage, minister of Energy. “I thank the committee for their diligence and hard work engaging with Albertans and in developing their recommendations. I also want to thank all Albertans, Indigenous people, communities and organizations that participated in the process and provided their valuable input.”
The board is made up of chair Ron Wallace (an internationally recognized expert in regulatory policies associated with environmental assessment and monitor), Fred Bradley (a former Alberta minister of the environment under Premier Peter Lougheed and served as MLA for Pincher Creek-Crowsnest), Natalie Charlton (executive director at Hinton and District Chamber of Commerce), Bill Trafford (president of the Livingstone Landowners’ Group, which represents landowners and supporters of the Livingstone-Porcupine area of Alberta), and Eric North Peigan (a member of Piikani Nation, a jeweler and silversmith by trade, and a small business owner).
With the report not being released for public viewing, many displayed their dismay over the fact Albertans would not be able to react.
“This report has been delayed three times now, and the Minister of Energy ensured that Albertans would know its contents on New Year’s Eve. Now, the government has turned tail once again and stated they will review the report and its recommendations before releasing to the public. No date has been committed for this public release,” stated NDP Critic for Environment Marlin Schmidt in a statement. “The UCP must stop delaying and release the Coal Policy Committee’s findings today. Enough obstruction.”
Schmidt continued to take aim at the process the provincial government has taken in regard to developing the new policy. He stated there was no further reason to delay allowing public release for Albertans to review.
“Since the UCP rescinded the 1976 Lougheed Coal Policy, quietly on the Friday before a long weekend, Albertans have made it very clear that they do not want coal mining in our most precious landscapes. Experts have made it very clear that coal mining in the eastern slopes would damage our watersheds and would cost the province more than it would benefit,” he said. “There is zero reason to hold this report hostage from Albertans. It’s ready now, and refusing to release it to the public is just another game being played by the UCP.”
The Alberta Wilderness Association also questioned why the report was not made public immediately following the government receiving it.
“AWA welcomes the Coal Committee’s submissions. We are very disappointed, however, in Minister Savage’s response. There is no democratic reason for not releasing the engagement report immediately. This is the report where the Committee details what it heard from 67 engagement sessions, more than 170 detailed written submissions, and more than 1,000 email submissions,” reads a statement from AWA. “The government’s desire to study the committee’s policy recommendations before responding to the final report justifies some delay in publicly releasing the committee’s final report and recommendations. But, this logic doesn’t apply to letting Albertans know what the committee heard.”
“Albertans deserve to hear today, not at some unspecified future date, what the Coal Policy Committee heard from Albertans,” said Ian Urquhart, AWA’s executive director.
The group also highlighted the fact many Albertans expressed opposition to many future coal developments in Alberta. With many showing passion about the future of coal production in Alberta, the AWA says the government should have prioritized releasing this document as soon as it was received.
“The thousands of Albertans who have spoken out knowledgeably and passionately about the future of coal in Alberta regard the future of coal as a very high priority,” Urquhart added. “Premier Kenney should respect these citizens and release the Committee’s final report by the middle of January at the latest.”