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Coal policy decisions belong with politicians, not courts, Alberta lawyer argues

Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy, Government of Alberta speaks during an event to mark the start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

CALGARY — An Alberta government lawyer says decisions about environmental policy should be made by elected officials, not the courts.

Melissa Burkett is speaking at a court hearing that is to decide whether a request for a judicial review into Alberta’s decision to revoke a policy protecting the Rocky Mountains from coal mining can proceed.

She says the decision revoked a policy, not a law or a regulation, and was entirely within the responsibility of Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

She says when the policy was first adopted in 1976 it anticipated a thorough regulatory process, which now exists in the province.

Burkett argues that because the Alberta Energy Regulator would review any mine application, revoking the coal policy made little difference.

Savage revoked the policy last May without any public consultation, which area ranchers and First Nations say violated laws that have incorporated its guidelines.

The decision has been widely criticized, with petitions opposing it gathering more than 100,000 signatures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press