A lot has happened in the Canadian coal industry. Two big coal mine proposals had slipped through the national environmental review framework’s gaps.
Environment Minister Wilkinson has a key power to guarantee that projects do not fall through the cracks. This appears to be a no-brainer, yet the coal sector has been outraged and has brazenly criticized the Minister for these actions.
The Canadian Coal Situation
Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. The phase-out of traditional coal power is a vital step that governments must take in order to combat climate change. In 2017, Canada demonstrated worldwide leadership by founding the Powering Past Coal Alliance.
Canada has vowed to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. Despite these pledges, the country continues to export coal for use in other countries.
Canadian coal and American coal are extracted and shipped to Canada for export. The climate emergency makes it impossible for countries like Canada to boost their thermal coal supplies.
Why Weren’t These Coal Initiatives Evaluated Automatically?
Despite their massive environmental and social implications, these two projects were approved by the government impact assessment system.
How could that be? It’s because of a federal regulation known as the Project List, which is essentially a list of all the project types that must be reviewed by the federal government.
Before the Project List was announced last year, there was a lot of business lobbying to undermine it so that fewer projects would be examined. And the industry succeeded, leaving us with a super short project list that requires only a few projects to be evaluated.
However, the environment minister holds the authority under the regulation to include projects on the list if officials feel they require federal control. That is exactly what occurred.
Concerned citizens petitioned Minister Wilkinson to conduct a federal review of these two activities. And, to the Minister’s credit, he responded to those people.
The mining industry was outraged by the Environment Minister’s responsible decisions. Based on their responses, it appears that industry lobbying groups and the firms they represent simply do not want any of their projects to be subjected to federal examination.