Climate Change Irrelevant in Coal Mine Decision

Social, legal and health issues related to unrestrained expansion of coal mines in Australia.

Climate Change Irrelevant in Coal Mine Decision

Postby HVPA_research » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:24 pm

* Archived from Rivers SOS mailing list *

http://www.watoday.com.au/business/climate-change-irrelevant-in-coal-mine-decision-20120327-1vw77.html#ixzz1qJT0Aknz

WE HAVE EXCELLENT REASONS TO KEEP MINING AND BURNING COAL. THE QUESTION IS: "WILL NATURE ACCEPT THESE ARGUMENTS?"

If a State Court can decide that the scope of the State Environmental Protection laws stop at the Queensland border, then that clearly points to the need for an Australian Environment Protection Legislation to cover these issues on a National Level.

But even if there was appropriate Federal legislation, then, on the logic used in this case, they would say that coal exported outside Australia would be "irrelevant".

This decision clearly makes a mockery of any statements Ministers and Shadow Ministers make about concerns about Global Warming.

What are the citizens of Australia to do, when legal appeals on sensible scientific basis get rebuffed as "irrelevant"?

This is being sent to the Hon Tony Burke MP, the Hon Greg Hunt MP and the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP. I do so in the hope of getting sensible replies from each of those Politicians who are all on record as caring about the role of Australia in contributing to Global Warming.

Denis Wilson
Chairman
Australian Water Campaigners
PO Box 3158
Robertson NSW 2577

Thanks to Sharyn Munro for picking up this story.

Climate change 'irrelevant' in coal mine decision
March 27, 2012 - 2:15PM Paddy Manning (in WAtoday.com.au)
Queensland’s Land Court has recommended the state government approve Xstrata Coal’s massive new thermal coal mine at Wandoan, in the Surat Basin, and deemed objections based on the mine’s likely contribution to climate change as ‘‘irrelevant’’.

The Wandoan project, in planning for years and potentially the largest thermal coal mine in the southern hemisphere, was challenged by environment group Friends of the Earth (FoE) on the grounds that it would be responsible for 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime - equal to twice Australia’s annual emissions - and displace 11,000 hectares of agricultural land.

In a decision handed down this afternoon, Land Court president Carmel MacDonald recommended approval of the project, subject to groundwater monitoring and make-good obligations, and to excision of certain lands, but found that the concept of the environment in the state’s environment protection law was ‘‘limited to Queensland's environment’’.

‘‘The reference in the ESD (environmentally sustainable development) principles to ‘the global dimensions of environmental impacts of actions and policies’ appears to allow the Court to take into account the global impacts of the project,’’ Justice MacDonald said.
‘‘But whilst the FoE argue that limiting the consideration of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions to the extraction of the coal would be inconsistent with this principle of ESD, it is my view that the court can only be concerned with the global impacts of the "mining activities" which are the subject of the environmental authority application before the court - that is, the physical activities of winning and extracting the coal that may be authorised.

‘‘Activities which may be carried on under the authority of a mining lease under ... do not extend to the transportation and burning of the coal in power stations.

‘‘Most of the evidence led by the FoE centred on GHG emissions from the use of the coal in power stations, ie, scope 3 emissions. In my view, this evidence is irrelevant to the court's task.’’

Justice MacDonald said the evidence established the project’s own emissions would contribute to climate change, and FoE argued this should outweigh all other factors to be taken into account in the assessment of the project and that this should lead to a recommendation that the environmental authority be refused.

‘‘I do not accept this submission,’’ she said. ‘‘It also follows from what I have said above that I do not consider that the project is unsustainable within the meaning of section three of the EPA (Environment Protection Act).

‘‘Stopping the project will not result in any, or any substantial, difference in the levels of GHGs in the atmosphere. If the project proceeds, the evidence indicates that it will have a comparatively minor adverse impact on the environment in terms of its GHG emissions.

"In the circumstances, I do not consider that the climate change issue outweighs all other issues so as to justify a recommendation under the EPA that the (application) be refused.’’

The parties to the case were preparing statements at the time of writing.

In a speech earlier this month, Xstrata Coal chief executive Peter Freyberg slammed green groups funding an anti-coal campaign which included proposed litigation to stop new coal mine developments.

‘‘Tying Australia’s legal system up with numerous cases with the intention of delaying coal projects rather than a bona fide legal complaint is an abuse of our judiciary and a waste of taxpayers’ money, for a cause that will cost Australia jobs, tax revenues and the many benefits the coal mining industry brings to rural communities and the nation as a whole,’’ Mr Freyberg said.

‘‘Any impact on Australia’s coal exports will be immediately offset by exports from other countries which do not invest in low emissions technologies and often produce lower quality coal in a less efficient, environmentally responsible and safe manner than Australia’s world-class mining sector.

‘‘Destroying one country’s coal industry is not an appropriate response to concerns about the climate change impact of coal.’’

Wandoan is a key component of Xstrata’s growth strategy and will be the company’s largest single investment in the country, encompassing a greenfield mine development and related rail and port infrastructure investment of over $7 billion dollars.

Mr Freyberg said at full development the Wandoan project had potential to deliver an additional 100Mt of thermal coal per annum, over more than 30 years.

Xstrata, which owns 75 per cent of the project alongside partners Japan’s Itochu and Sumitomo, is seeking to sell 20 per cent of the Wandoan project. It is also subject of a $US90 billion friendly merger proposal with fellow Swiss-based commodities trader and 30 per cent owner, Glencore.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson Bradley Smith said the decision was a “huge disappointment”.

“We demonstrated to the court and Xstrata that this project will exacerbate climate change, and they're going ahead anyway.

"Xstrata did not contest the reality or impacts of climate change. They're planning on building this mine knowing that it will create the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 72 countries combined,” said Dr Smith. “It's unfortunate that our laws allow multi-billion dollar companies like Xstrata to ignore the outcomes of their reckless actions.”

Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/business/climate-change-irrelevant-in-coal-mine-decision-20120327-1vw77.html#ixzz1qJT0Aknz

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