Grassy Mountain Coal Mine

In 2015 Benga Mining Limited applied to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) for approvals under applicable legislation in Alberta to construct, operate and reclaim an open-pit metallurgical coal mine on the montane and subalpine lands of Grassy Mountain in the Crowsnest Pass region of southwestern Alberta. The application was considered by a federal-provincial joint impact assessment review panel, established under the Responsible Energy Development Act (Alberta) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (Canada), to exercise AER decision-making authority and assess the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the project under provincial and federal legislation. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) successfully applied to participate as an intervener in the impact assessment process to make submissions and give evidence on impacts of the proposed mine on critical habitat of the threatened Alberta population of westslope cutthroat trout.

CPAWS retained the Clinic as legal counsel to represent CPAWS at the impact assessment hearing which took place in the Fall 2020. As legal counsel, the Clinic advised and assisted CPAWS with hearing preparation, written argument, evidence submission, preparation of witnesses, cross-examination, final argument, and cost submissions.

The AER denied the coal mine application on the basis its potential for significant adverse environmental impacts, with particular attention given to impacts on critical habitat for westslope cutthroat trout. A rare and significant victory for wildlife species in Alberta threatened by resource development. The AER also granted CPAWS a cost award for legal services provided by the Clinic for the hearing, and notably the AER ruled that the fact the Clinic provided its services pro bono did not make CPAWS ineligible for a cost award.