CALGARY – Forty-seven environmental, Indigenous, health, civil society and faith organizations from across Canada have come together to demand Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson designate the Vista coal mine expansion for an environmental assessment.
In a letter published on July 13, 2020, groups including Climate Action Network Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Keepers of the Athabasca, Keepers of the Water and the West Athabasca Bioregional Society (see full list below) say Canada’s failure to designate Coalspur Ltd.’s plans to expand a thermal coal mine in Alberta for an environmental assessment clashes with the country’s international commitment to “powering past coal.”
“We don’t have time to be hypocritical when it comes to phasing out the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel,” the letter says.
Coalspur’s Vista thermal coal mine is located near Hinton, Alta. If built, the proposed expansion could almost triple the mine’s current capacity, leading to an increase in pollution, infringement on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and destruction of the habitat of an endangered species of trout.
The expansion will also worsen the climate crisis by causing massive emissions of carbon pollution when the coal is shipped overseas and burned in power stations, mainly in Asia. Vista’s expansion plans could lead to an additional 33 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year – the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as driving more than 7,000,000 passenger vehicles for one year.
“In signing onto this letter, 47 groups from across Canada are signalling to Minister Wilkinson that they are not prepared to stand by and watch coal make a comeback here at home. From local grassroots organizations to national charities, we are deeply concerned about this project and demand the government designate it for further assessment,” Ecojustice lawyer Fraser Thomson said.
“Our message to Minister Wilkinson is this: We are in a climate crisis. We can’t afford to be hypocritical, indecisive, or gradual when it comes to phasing out the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel.”
Organizations that signed the joint letter to Minister Wilkinson:
Alberta Environmental Network
Alberta Wilderness Association
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Northern Alberta
Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
CAN-Rac – Climate Action Network Canada
Castle-Crown Wilderness Association
Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada
Climate Change Toronto
Climate Justice Saskatoon
Creating Healthy and Sustainable Environments (CHASE)
Crooked Creek Conservancy Society of Athabasca
David Suzuki Foundation
Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition
Energy Mix Productions
Global Catholic Climate Movement – Canada
Grant Riverkeeper Labrador, Inc.
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Keepers of the Athabasca
Keepers of the Water
Lac St Anne Métis
Laudato Si’ Animator
North American Native Plant Society
Notinto Sipiy Conservation Authority
Our Lady of Sion
Protect Our Winters Canada
Shift: Action for Pension Wealth & Planet Health
Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul
Social Justice St. Joseph’s Parish – Salmon Arm
Southern Alberta Group for the Environment
The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Villa St. Joseph Ecology & Spirituality Centre
West Athabasca Bioregional Society
Women’s Healthy Environments Network
Youth Climate Lab
* Ecojustice lawyers are counsel to Keepers of the Water, Keepers of the Athabasca, and the West Athabasca Bioregional Society in this matter
Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.