Over 100 people turned up for a Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal meeting at Isabelle Sellon School to show support for local coal development and listen to Danielle Smith, former leader of the Wildrose party. Photo by Tim Juhlin.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published 10:51 May 11, 2022

By Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal has been busy recently, with chairman Mike Dobie presenting its position on the benefits of local coal mines to the councils of the MD of Pincher Creek, Town of Pincher Creek and Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.

Another way CSCC has been advocating for local mine development is by hosting public information meetings, the most recent of which was held April 28 at the Isabelle Sellon School gymnasium in Blairmore.

Danielle Smith, former leader of the Wildrose party and host of the Danielle Smith Show on 770 CHQR Radio, attended as the keynote speaker. Smith rose to political prominence as leader of the Opposition in the provincial legislature in 2012, and she is seeking the UCP nomination for Livingstone-Macleod in the next provincial election.

Smith spoke about the need for the mining industry to improve its public engagement on the issue of developing mines in the area. One specific way she suggested companies approach their advocacy is to focus on net-zero carbon projects.

Since green energy initiatives like wind and solar power projects require steel, Smith argued “green energy” will not fully be environmentally friendly until metallurgical coal mining and steel production achieve net zero.

An important way net-zero emissions could be achieved is in supporting domestic industry. Rather than transporting coal to the coast by rail and then shipping it overseas for steel production and then having the product shipped to consumers around the world, Smith said a home-grown production industry would decrease the overall carbon footprint of solar and wind infrastructure.

Improved carbon-capture technology, Smith added, is also important in the industry reaching net zero, with technology using carbon dioxide to improve oil and gas flow, create carbon nanofibres, strengthen cement, and produce products like soap, plastic, ethyl alcohol and even vodka. 

“Net zero, I believe, is achievable and here in Alberta we can get there faster than everyone else,” Smith said.

Net-zero projects, she continued, would not require approval from a federal government that is hostile to traditional resource extraction and energy production.

“If we developed net-zero industry here, we would not run afoul of the federal government,” she said.

CSCC organizers said developing local industry would ultimately be healthier for the environment than denying local mining projects.

In particular, the group supports metallurgical coal development in the Crowsnest Pass because steel demand is expected to increase 20 per cent by 2050. CSCC says that if this demand is not filled by a jurisdiction like Alberta, with some of the best environmental regulations and policies in the world, countries with less stringent pollution rules like Russia and China will fill that need, securing for themselves an estimated $6-billion annual economic increase.

“In Canada we have better environmental regulations and policies than in those foreign lands, and the use of our high-quality coal will reduce the coal burnt per tonne of steel to the betterment of the global environment,” says Tim Juhlin, one of CSCC’s directors.

Dobie says he is happy with how the April 28 meeting turned out and that the CSCC will continue providing the public with information about the benefits of coal development in the Crowsnest Pass.

“Overall it was a success with a good turnout — just over 100 — and good questions. I was pretty pleased with it,” he says. “One of the things [MLA] Roger Reid has told us is to make noise, so that’s what we’ll do.”

More information on CSCC can be found online at citizenssupportivecrowsnestcoal.ca.

This item reprinted with permission from Shootin’ the Breeze, Pincher Creek, Alberta