Though they acknowledged it would not impact Airdrie directly, City council voted unanimously Feb. 1 to offer support to municipalities in southern Alberta that are advocating against the development of open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.
At the Feb. 1 meeting, Airdrie resident Jessica Jacobs submitted a letter to council as public correspondence, urging the City to take a stance against the Grassy Mountain Coal Project - an $800-million coal mining operation that has been proposed in the Crowsnest Pass.
“As an Alberta resident for my whole life, I am concerned and terrified by what I am reading and by what I am hearing about the new coal mines in our mountains,” she wrote. “I feel so strongly that this is a decision that will dismantle everything that Alberta stands for and everything that all Albertans have worked for.
“The way I see it [is] this is not a partisan issue, it’s about clean water and our environment. Those things bind us all together.”
Jacobs’ letter pertained to a decision last year by the Alberta government to rescind the Coal Development Policy of 1976, which prohibited open-pit coal mining on the eastern face of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta. The decision to remove the policy has landed the government backlash from around the province about possible environmental impacts.
“The impact of these mines going through is irreversible,” Jacobs’ letter stated. “The short-term economic gain is not worth the long-term consequences. The waters that will be affected serve as clean water for over a million Albertans and countless industries."
South of Calgary, the municipal councils of Okotoks, High River and Foothills County have also advocated against coal development in the Rockies. High River Town council recently issued a letter to the Province, urging the government to issue a stop-work order to coal exploration in the mountains, while Foothills County and Okotoks Town council have also expressed concerns about the impact a lack of coal policy can have in southern Alberta.
Discussing Jacobs’ letter on Feb. 1, Airdrie City council members echoed concerns about open-pit coal mining's environmental impacts. Deputy Mayor Tina Petrow moved to send a letter to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association advocating for the provincial government to reinstate the coal policy and to support High River Town council’s request for a stop-work order until significant public consultation has been conducted.
“After looking through the Calgary committee meetings this has gone through, Okotoks and High River, although it’s not a direct impact to Airdrie in a very substantial way, there are many indirect impacts that would definitely impact Airdrie, the region and our province,” Petrow said. “To me, I think taking some kind of stance on this as an advocacy position [is something] I would definitely support.”
Petrow said the Province’s rescinding of the coal policy was “out of character” for government, as there was no replacement policy prepared to take its place and it was done without public consultation.
“I know it’s been mentioned they’ve been looking to revamp that policy, but that should be done before rescinding the previous one, as well as having a robust public consultation,” she said.
Coun. Al Jones, who chairs the City of Airdrie’s environmental advisory board, said open-pit coal mining in the southern Rockies would put regional watersheds at risk.
“We have to keep in mind that no matter where that water originates, there’s always downstream,” he said. “I’m supportive of a letter. I don’t think we could do anything officially as a council beyond that. I’ll be sending my own private letter as a resident of Alberta, but I’m supportive of council doing a letter.”