Opinion: Coal mining in Alberta must be carefully assessed before allowing expansion

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Mr. Campbell claims that Alberta requires full reclamation bonding before a mine can proceed. If only! The latest figures from the Alberta Energy Regulator suggest there is a massive hole in the fund that is supposed to ensure mines are reclaimed. The potential liabilities for the fund exceed $30 billion, while it has assets of only $2 billion. Taxpayers may see a repeat of the Orphan Well Association debacle where the public faces bills of many billions to clean up behind companies that have exploited hydrocarbon resources owned by Albertans.

Mr. Campbell claims that Alberta has some of the strictest regulations for resource projects. Unfortunately, a recent letter in the Lethbridge Herald by Richard Quinlan, a retired biologist, paints a very different picture. He describes how a Hinton area coal mine violated regulations frequently but never faced significant penalties. The best regulations are worthless if they are not enforced.

At a point in time when it is crucial to make it clear to the world that Alberta’s oil and gas industry is, in Premier Jason Kenney’s words, “the most environmentally responsible and ethical producer in the world,” why would we endanger this important reputation and Alberta’s economic recovery by supporting coal production that is well understood to be a major polluter and contributing factor in global warming?

Finally, Mr. Campbell is unhappy that politics may influence decisions regarding the Vista mine. It might be more accurate to say he is concerned that decisions will be made by politicians who do not subscribe to his ideology. Fortunately, not all politicians believe that economics should always trump environmental concerns.

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