In the past year ...

Response from Minister Wilkinson on Tent Mountain Designation
28 June 2021

The Southern Alberta Group for the Environment (SAGE) requests that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change designate Montem Resources’ Tent Mountain Project for an impact assessment under section 9(1) of the Impact Assessment Act, SC 2019, c28, s1.

The Tent Mountain Project should be designated for a federal review because: ...

Original Letter: (here)

Response: Download here ...

Alberta Coal Policy: What’s the hurry?

Published in The Lethbridge Herald (here)
19 June 2021

The UPC government has created a committee to make recommendations towards a new Coal Policy for Alberta. This committee is expected to complete their evaluations by November this year. Considering that it took four years for the government of Peter Lougheed to develop the 1976 Coal Policy, and that Steve Allan’s inquiry has been allowed at least two years to investigate ‘unAlbertan activities’, it seems absurd that something as complex as a modern Coal Policy can be completed by autumn.

And what’s the hurry?

For more information, click ... here.

SAGE submission to the Coal Policy Committee
June 9, 2021

Download here ...

Getting Serious About Global Warming and Climate Change

Published in The Lethbridge Herald
04 June 2021

The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (Bill C-12) recently passed second reading in parliament. Though the science of climate change has been well established since the 1980s, and the first consensus report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published in 1990, there has been little achieved globally to meet the necessary zero-net-emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. This is also reflective of the Canadian response, as we have neglected to meet any emission targets these past three decades. We are speaking here of a ritual of failure.

What does ‘net-zero’ really mean? 

For more information, click ... here.

Albertans Want to Know How to Manage the Demand on Limited Water Resources

Published in Lethbridge Herald
13 May 2021 (link)

Editor: The UCP government’s “sector by sector approach to economic stimulus” (Lethbridge Herald 30 April 2021 MLA Neudorf presents party’s sector-based approach for economic recovery) is out-of-date, and out-of-step.

It is this narrow focus on promoting one industry absent a broader land use, environmental, social and public interest context that made Alberta a petro-state and has brought the current frenzy of opportunistic proposals for coal exploration and extraction in our Eastern Slopes.

Thankfully many Albertans think more broadly.

For more information, click ... here.

Time to Step Up and Protect Our Water

Published in The Lethbridge Herald (Link)
28 April 2021

The government of Peter Lougheed implemented the Coal Policy after substantial consultation and expert review over a period of four years. They decided to restrict coal development in the mountains. Their conclusion was that the Eastern Slopes were vital to the economy and the well-being of human population because this region was the primary source of clean water for the province.

Minister Nixon assures Albertans [Government Will Continue to Protect Alberta’s Water, Lethbridge Herald, April 17, 2021] that the water is being protected and that the rules remain unchanged. This assurance is difficult to reconcile with the numbers.

For more information, click ... here.

Oh, the wonderful things about green bins

Published in the Lethbridge Herald
22 April 2021

Lethbridge residents: You and I produce a lot of garbage, more than the national average. But we don’t have to; half of what we dump into a giant hole next to the Oldman River north of town is useful organic material that could become compost. 

But what’s the big deal? Why should you, dear citizen of Lethbridge, care about putting organic materials like banana peels or your lawn clippings into a big hole? 

For more information, click ... here.

Metallurgical Coal – What is it good for …?

Published in The Lethbridge Herald
24 March 2021

The eastern slopes region of Alberta is the source of the headwaters providing fresh water for wildlife and prairie communities living downstream. It has been a highly desirable destination for tourism and year-round recreational activities like camping, hiking and skiing, attracting residents and revenue. Despite vague assurances from the UCP government, allowing coal mining along the eastern slopes is still very much under consideration.

We have become more aware of the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal methods of coal extraction –risk to endangered wildlife, noise, air pollution and water pollution – but we haven’t heard much about greenhouse gas emissions. There is the perception being circulated that ‘metallurgical’ coal is somehow different and less damaging to the environment compared to ‘thermal’ coal. This is not the case.

For more information, click ... here.

March 16, 2021

To: The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

RE: Federal Review of Montem Resources’ Tent Mountain Project

The Southern Alberta Group for the Environment (SAGE) requests that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change designate Montem Resources’ Tent Mountain Project for an impact assessment under section 9(1) of the Impact Assessment Act, SC 2019, c28, s1.

The Tent Mountain Project should be designated for a federal review because ...

For more information, click ... here.

Response from Minister Wilkinson (Download here ...)

It's our river, but who gets the water?

Published in, Lethbridge Herald
25 February 2021

Water should be a top priority for everyone living in semi-arid southern Alberta. How much do you know about our water supply? Most of us know that residents of Lethbridge pay the city to pump, filter and chlorinate water from the Oldman River so that it flows from our taps on demand. We pay for it, so it’s ours, right? Nope. Technically, the water belongs to the crown and we are water ‘users’, not ‘owners’. Over many years, our government has developed rules for sharing this limited resource. With minor exceptions, you need a license to take water out of the river. Currently, in an average year, 68 percent of the Oldman River’s water is allocated for diversion. Since at least 50 percent has to pass into neighboring Saskatchewan, we often rely on water stored in reservoirs from the previous year.  A series of dry years means water shortages for license-holders. This has important consequences for us and the health of our environment.

For more information, click ... here.

Parks, Recreation and Coal Mining

Published in The Lethbridge Herald

The eastern slopes region of Alberta is recognized as important habitat and a migration corridor for wildlife ranging from Yellowstone to the Yukon. Roughly 53,000 square kilometers of this corridor has been opened to coal mining by the UCP government without public consultation, and seemingly without consideration.

This region is the source of the headwaters, it is an important carbon sink, and it preserves local biodiversity. It has also been a highly desirable destination for tourism and year-round recreational activities like camping, hiking and skiing, attracting residents and revenue. Can we have both coal mining and natural areas for wildlife and nature-based recreation?

For more informaton, click ... here.

 

Radon Risks in your Home

Published in The Lethbridge Herald

As winter has arrived and we shut in for another COVID-19 lockdown, it is timely to consider the health of your indoor environment. An emerging health concern in our homes is a high level of radon.

You may not have ever heard of radon, but it is an invisible, odourless, tasteless, radioactive gas formed by the disintegration of radium, which is a decay product of uranium found in the soil. Radon can enter a home from the surrounding soil and accumulate over time, particularly in spaces that are not well ventilated.

Radon is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada.

For more information, click ... here.

 

December 14, 2020

To: Nathan Neudorf, MLA Lethbridge-East

CC: Shannon Phillips, MLA Lethbridge-West
      Joint Review Panel: Grassy Lake Coal Mine

RE: Coal Mining in the Oldman River Headwaters & Water Abstraction

The Southern Alberta Group for the Environment (SAGE) is greatly disappointed with the UCP government’s unilateral decision to open another 2000 hectares of land in our headwaters for coal extraction. It defies comprehension that this lease offering would be advanced just after the public hearing on the Grassy Mountain Coal Project concluded and prior to the Joint Review Panel making its recommendations.

Proceedings of the Joint Review Panel hearing for the proposed Grassy Mountain Coal Mine include serious, deeply concerning issues regarding impacts on water and air quality, human health, adjacent residents and local communities, indigenous traditions, wildlife habitat and migration corridors, species-at-risk, a nascent ecosystem-based tourism industry, as well as the availability of water for the ecosystem and downstream users.

For more information, click ... here.

Coal, Calcite and Cutthroats

Published in The Lethbridge Herald, (here)
26 November 2020

Calcite build-up on streambeds is an environmental hazard of open-pit mountaintop coal mining proposed in the headwaters of the Oldman River. As with selenium pollution, described in a previous article, water flowing through waste rock accumulated during the coal mining process dissolves calcium carbonate and carries it downstream. Unlike selenium, calcium carbonate is not considered a toxic pollutant in water. However, when calcium carbonate reaches a high enough concentration, it solidifies into calcite. The process is similar to the buildup that forms in tea kettles and humidifiers. Calcite coats the stream bottom and, in effect, turns it into concrete. In some cases streambed sands and gravels can only be broken free with hammer blows.

Where calcite accumulates, the stream bottom becomes uninhabitable to invertebrates that form the base of the aquatic food chain. Aquatic plants are smothered. Trout that use an undulating movement to flush sediment and excavate hollows in loose gravels for laying eggs, referred to as redds, can no longer spawn.

For more information, click ... here.


Selenium's Impact on the Environment

Published in The Lethbridge Herald (here)
23 October 2020

As residents living along the Oldman River anticipate the impacts of open-pit coal mining in our headwaters, we should know more about the potential changes in water quality and their effects on river health and, therefore, our health.

Open-pit coal mining involves the removal of rock that sits above the coal seams that the mining company targets for extraction. This rock, or overburden, is typically dumped into the river valleys near the mine where it is exposed to weathering. It is the weathering process that releases pollutants like cadmium, nitrate, sulphate, iron, uranium and selenium into the environment over time – in the form of particulates in the air but, more significantly, into river systems.


For more information, click ...
here.


     
How Does Your River Look Today?

Published in The Lethbridge Herald (here)
18 September 2020


The next time you cross the Whoop-up Drive bridge, glance over the edge and consider your Oldman River. What do you see? Ask yourself, 'is there too little or too much water?' and 'should I be concerned?'  Take a moment to consider how the flow you see compares with flows during this and other years.

Seasonal and annual variability is the key to understanding river function.

For more information, click ...  here.



Is Mountaintop Coal Mining in the Oldman headwaters worth the Risk?

Published in The Lethbridge Herald (here)
15 August 2020

For the first time in four decades, headwaters of the Oldman River are again under threat from open pit coal mining.

Expansive scars of coal mines on Tent Mountain south of Coleman and Grassy Mountain mine north of Blairmore, projects that fizzled out by 1980, remain stark reminders of companies that left without cleaning up their mess. The Alberta Coal Policy adopted by the Lougheed government in 1976 restricted coal exploration and development along the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains due to 'marginal economic benefits' and 'important environmental values, such as wildlife migration and headwaters areas'.  With rescinding of that policy by the current government, coal companies are back proposing to reopen and expand surface mining on Tent Mountain and Grassy Mountain and explore large areas of mountainous country west of the Livingstone Range north to the Highwood River.

Coal mining, particularly surface mining in mountains, is one of the most brutal assaults by humans on the Earth. 

For more information, click ... here.