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Conservation groups take aim at Redbank biomass proposal as it goes to court

The Land and Environment Court begins a five-day hearing from today (Tuesday) into whether the Redbank power station in the Hunter Valley can substitute wood for coal and be subject to no further assessments. 

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW, North East Forest Alliance and the Australian Forest and Climate Alliance are scheduled to give evidence objecting to the proposal on Wednesday.  

Conservation groups across the state are concerned about the impacts that burning a million tonnes of wood every year will have on the forests and biodiversity, the atmosphere and greenhouse gas emissions. They are also concerned about the impact on roads that will be subject to tens of thousands more heavy truck movements every year. 

Earlier this year, over 30 organisations signed an open letter condemning the plan to restart and convert Redbank power station to run on biomass.  

Nature Conservation Council Acting CEO, Jacqui Mumford said: “It takes decades to grow trees and forests but only seconds to burn them. This proposal will destroy forests and fast-track the extinction of forest species. 

"Biomass from native forest timber has no social license in NSW, and never will. 

“The community campaign against this proposal will be relentless — we will not rest until this proposal is withdrawn.” 

North Coast Environment Council spokesperson Susie Russell said: "It's clear from the documents supplied by the developer that this proposal will mean millions of trees that would otherwise be left to grow in the forest will be cut and burnt. That this can be proposed as a 'renewable green' energy, tarnishes the genuine renewable energy sector." 

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said: "There is a pretence that the burning of native forests for electricity is carbon neutral because new trees will grow to replace those burnt.  

“The reality is this powerplant will pump millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year and it will take decades or centuries for new trees to grow big enough to reabsorb it. 

"If the trees were left standing, they would sequester ever increasing volumes of atmospheric carbon as they age, buying us time as we transition to genuine renewable energy from solar and wind." 

Frances Pike of the Australian Forests and Climate Alliance said: "Redbank Power Station's wood burning ‘technology’ will emit particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), a pollutant so small and so dangerous it has no safe exposure threshold.  

“These particles can penetrate deep into lungs, bloodstream and vital organs and are responsible for death and systemic illness at a population scale. 
“In the interests of human health and survival, Redbank power station must not be allowed to burn wood.   

“It's already been rejected by the community and the approving authority.  Verdant Technology putting this proposal before the court wastes valuable time and taxpayer resources critically needed to solve, not exacerbate, emission damage." 

Dave Burgess of Redbank Action Group said: "Reopening one of Australia's most polluting power stations or export woodchips is precisely what the Hunter Valley doesn't need moving forward to a cleaner future.  

“The developer has been unable to say where the huge volumes of wood required to run it will come from.  

“A green light for Redbank would be a green light to kill threatened species on an industrial scale." 

Tom Ferrier of No Electricity From Forests said: “When we tell people there have been plans in the pipeline for many years to burn native forest hardwood for electricity, they’re in disbelief. 

“The 2021 NSW parliamentary Inquiry into ‘Sustainability of energy supply and resources in NSW’ found forest biomass should not be eligible for renewable energy credits.  

“It is not economically or environmentally sustainable, and generates significant carbon emissions. Surely that’s reason enough to reject this renewable rort.” 

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