Provincial government reinstates 1976 Coal Policy

By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
After hearing the concerns of Albertans about surface mining in the Eastern Slopes, the Government of Alberta has reinstated a policy that had guided development in that area for more than 40 years.
On Feb. 8, the government announced they were reinstating the 1976 Coal Policy.
The policy was cancelled on the Friday afternoon before the May long weekend in 2020 and announced in a media release. No public consultation occurred prior to the cancellation of the policy.
The recent announcement includes reinstating the four coal categories, which dictated where and how coal leasing, exploration and development could occur.
Further, the minister of energy has issued a directive to the Alberta Energy Regulator so that:
• No mountaintop removal will be permitted and all of the restrictions under the 1976 coal categories are to apply, including all restrictions on surface mining in Category 2 lands.
• All future coal exploration approvals on Category 2 lands will be prohibited pending widespread consultations on a new coal policy.
“Albertans have spoken loud and clear and we have heard them. Not only will we reinstate the full 1976 coal policy, we will implement further protections and consult with Albertans on a new, modern coal policy. Alberta’s government is absolutely committed to protecting the majestic Eastern Slopes and the surrounding natural environment,” said Sonya Savage, minister of energy, in a news release.
The government also noted applying for or obtaining a coal lease in no way allows for exploration or development. It merely gives a company the ability to “stake a claim” to the minerals below.
All proposed coal projects continue to be subject to review by the Alberta Energy Regulator. In many cases, a federal impact assessment and joint federal-provincial review also occur. Projects can only proceed if approved through these regulatory processes and adhere to all existing laws and regulations.
Current exploration on Category 2 lands will continue, as per the 1976 coal policy. Of the six coal projects currently being explored on Category 2 lands, four began exploration under the 1976 coal policy. Two applications were approved after the 1976 coal policy was rescinded.
The Grassy Mountain application for coal development seven kilometres north of Blairmore is unaffected by this decision.
Coal lease sales on Category 2 lands remain paused.