Exempting Alberta coal mine expansion from federal review called 'hypocrisy'

CALGARY — Environmental groups say they are disappointed that Ottawa is exempting an Alberta open pit thermal coal mine expansion project from federal environmental review.

Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, says the Coalspur Vista Coal Mine project just east of Hinton in western Alberta doesn't need to be designated for federal review because it is subject to the provincial environmental assessment process.

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He adds issues of federal jurisdiction will be covered through other regulatory processes and, if the project proceeds, it will be subject to federal regulation.

Environmental group Ecojustice says the decision shows "hypocrisy" by a federal government committed to phasing out coal-generated electricity in Canada by 2030 but willing to export the same coal to other countries where it will be burned and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Wilkinson also announced that Canada will launch a strategic assessment of how new thermal coal mine projects will be examined in the future under the Impact Assessment Act adopted last summer.

The mine project proposes a westward continuation of the existing approved Vista Coal Mine to increase capacity from 10 million to 15 million clean tonnes per year to be transported by rail to West Coast ports and shipped to foreign markets.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2019.

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