The president of the Coal Association of Canada says Alberta's plan to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030 will throw people out of work, hurt rural communities and undermine industries by boosting electricity costs.
Robin Campbell said the NDP government should instead invest in new technologies to help retrofit the plants so they can continue to burn coal, but with less pollution.
- Alberta coal phase out would be 'devastating' to the Town of Hanna
- Phasing out coal will save millions in health costs, doctors say
- Coal power plant shutdown could hit Alberta taxpayers
"We think the government should be investing in new technology and research to do a better job of reducing emissions," Campbell said.
"Making sure that we don't lose our competitive advantage when it comes to our other industries in the province that depend on electricity."
Campbell said the government could use money from Alberta's Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund, which large industrial companies pay into when they can't meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Along with the coal companies, about 3,000 miners as well as rural communities such as Hanna, Forestburg, Battle River, Wainwright, Wabamun and Keephills would be affected by the plant shutdowns, he warned.
"There is a lot of uncertainty out there and people are definitely concerned about their livelihoods and their families and
their homes," said Campbell, a former Alberta Progressive Conservative finance and environment minister.
Before he got into politics Campbell worked for the United Mine Workers of America union.
Alberta's climate change strategy includes introducing a broad-based carbon tax that would apply across the economy and phasing out coal-fired power generation.
These plants produce more than half of Alberta's power. But environmental experts note that they also produce about one-third of all the sulphur dioxide released in the province.
Campbell said the industry is willing to do its part.
But he said it doesn't make sense for the government to turn its back on a power source that helps provide an affordable, stable electricity supply to the province.
He pointed to Ontario, where electricity prices spiked after the government moved to retire coal generation.
The NDP government has said it has appointed a negotiator to help broker the orderly phase out of the plants that will be fair to the workers, the communities and the companies.
Details of the plan have not been released.
Campbell said everyone that is to be affected by the phase out plan is eager for more information.
"People are concerned about this. They haven't seen a plan."