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Feds urged to do own review of proposed Alberta coal mine expansion

Last Updated Jul 15, 2020 at 3:38 pm EDT

A lawyer at the centre of a lobbying effort to stop a coal mine from expanding in Alberta says the federal government's refusal to do its own environmental review of the project is the ultimate in "climate hypocrisy." Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson speaks to media during the Liberal cabinet retreat at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Sudoma

OTTAWA — A lawyer at the centre of a lobbying effort to stop a coal mine from expanding in Alberta says the federal government’s refusal to do its own environmental review of the project is the ultimate in “climate hypocrisy.”

The existing Vista mine, which is owned by the U.S. coal giant Cline Group, began shipping coal in May 2019 and the company is now looking to double, or possibly even triple, its output.

Fraser Thomson is a lawyer for Ecojustice, one of 47 environment, Indigenous, health and faith-based organizations that this week wrote to Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson asking him to take a second look at the expansion.

Wilkinson declined in December to order a federal impact assessment of the project in Hinton, Alta., saying the potential risks to the environment and Indigenous rights would be dealt with by a provincial approval process.

Thomson says the mine produces coal solely for export to make electricity in Asia, which he says flies in the face of Canada’s international project to convince the world to stop using coal as a power source.

Canada is phasing out its coal-power plants by the end of this decade but Thomson says continuing to export thermal coal for foreign power plants undermines Canada’s efforts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2020.

The Canadian Press