In the past year ...

An open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from 200 conservation,
environmental and social justice groups with hundreds of thousands of

supporters in Canada on the opening of the 44th Parliament

From the letter:

... We must put in place stronger actions to cut greenhouse emissions. And we
must deliver a comprehensive plan — with timelines and targets — to halt and

reverse nature loss by 2030 and bring nature to full recovery by 2050.

Your platform commitments to establish new protected areas, reverse nature
loss, support Indigenous-led conservation, and restore and enhance wetlands,

grasslands and peatlands offer a strong foundation, and resonate across the

platforms of other major parties. To be effective and meaningful, implementation

of these commitments needs to advance climate action, biodiversity conservation,

Indigenous rights and social and racial equity. ...

For more information, click ... here.

Water Management a Key Issue in Municipal Election
Published 09 October 2021 The Lethbridge Herald (link)

Candidates for election to municipal office in southern Alberta are well advised to consider the future of water use for the communities they represent and for the environment. A summer of rapidly melting glaciers, extreme heat, little to no rainfall, and low river flow resulted in water shortage advisories, declared states of agricultural emergency, cut-off of water to irrigators, and curtailed recreation experiences for canoeists and fishers. More drought stress is predicted as climate changes. Nonetheless work is proceeding on the “single largest irrigation expansion in Alberta’s history” in the absence of public consultation and environmental impact assessment.

The $815 million agreement among eight irrigation districts, the UCP government and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank to expand irrigation agriculture by 15 per cent in the Bow and Oldman river basins was announced in December 2020 as a done deal.

For more information, click ... here

Voters need to make the right choice for environment.
Published 25 August 2021 The Lethbridge Herald  (click here)

The first international effort to understand the impact of releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere from the burning of oil, gas and coal was published in 1990. Over thirty years later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change continues to publish the synthesis of climate research based on the efforts of thousands of scientists worldwide. The latest report continues to tell the same message as previous ones, only with much greater clarity. It’s not looking good. ...

For more information click ... here.

Nathan Neudorf's letter muddies the waters.
Published 19 08 21 The Lethbridge Herald (click here)

I agree with MLA Nathan Neudorf’s opening statement in his Aug. 13 column from the Legislature that “in southern Alberta water truly is one of our most precious resources, and its safety, protection, and allocation are a key priority for all of us.” Unfortunately, the rest of his column muddies the waters.

The column fails to clarify that the Oldman River Basin Water Allocation Order (Order) its name does not apply to the entire Oldman River Basin but only to a reserve of 11,000 acre feet of water upstream of the Oldman reservoir from the upper Oldman, Castle and Crowsnest rivers. Water was reserved under the Order in 2003, just prior to closure of the entire basin to further water licences, as compensation to municipalities in the headwaters for flooding of agricultural land and other impacts from construction of the Oldman River dam. ...

For more information click ... here.

Environmental Sustainability for Lethbridge
Submitted to the Lethbridge Herald July 2021

Lethbridge has recently passed a new Municipal Development Plan (MDP) to direct decisions for the community into the future. One of the six main aspirations in the MDP is to be an environmentally responsible city, and this aspiration is well-reflected throughout the plan.

As an environmentally responsible city, Lethbridge would consider the natural environment as a foundation for life, culture and economy. ...

For more information, click ... (here)

Decision Statement from Minister Wilkinson on Grassy Mountain Coal Project ... declined.

"After careful deliberation and review of available and relevant information, which includes the Joint Review Panel’s Report, the Minister concluded the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects under CEAA 2012. The Government of Canada has determined those effects are not justified in the circumstances and therefore, the project cannot proceed."

Decision Statement (click here)

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 ...

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.