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Vales Point Submission Guide

Download this submission guide as a PDF.

Tell the EPA: No more exemptions for Delta’s polluting Vales Point power station

Why make a submission?

  • For the last decade, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has granted an exemption to emissions standards to Delta Electricity’s Vales Point coal fired power station. These standards, set under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 are the rules that determine how much pollution power stations and other polluting facilities can emit. The exemption granted to Vales Point power station mean it pollutes more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than it would otherwise be allowed to under NSW law.  
  • On 23 December 2020, Vales Point applied for another 5-year exemption. If granted, the power station will be able to keep emitting higher levels of NOx.
  • The exemption application means that Vales Point seeks to be allowed to emit up approximately double the limit set out in the Clean Air Regulation for power stations of this age.
  • NOx pollution contributes to numerous health problems, with particularly severe impacts on the respiratory system. Health impacts of NOx pollution particularly affect children, the elderly and people with chronic disease.
  • Right now, the public has an opportunity a window of time in which to convince the EPA to reject the exemption application and require Vales Point to install NOx pollution controls to reduce the power station's impact on public health.
  • Vales Point could install low NOx burners that would halve the amount of NOx it emits. This technology is already in use at the nearby Eraring coal power station.
  • Due to public concern about this pollution exemption, the EPA has taken the unusual step of doing community consultation before deciding about Vales Point’s pollution limits.
  • The consultation is open now and will close at 5pm on Wednesday the 10th November. They are accepting submissions via email or an online survey. 

How to make a submission 

To make your voice heard, you can email a submission to the EPA or complete their online survey. Consultation closes at 5pm on Wednesday the 10th November. 

Via email 

Write your submission 

  • Include the following in your written submission: 
    • introduce that you are writing about Delta Electricity’s NOx pollution exemption application for Vales Point power station. 
    • urge the EPA to:
      • reject Delta Electricity’s pollution exemption application
      • require Delta Electricity to install best practice pollution control technology.
    • explain how Delta Electricity's application is inadequate (see points attached). 
    • explain that you expect the EPA to uphold its responsibility to protect public health (see points attached).  
    • explain why reducing air pollution from Vales Point power station matters to you/your organisation.
    • finish your letter with your full name, address and organisation (if applicable).

Send your submission 

  • Send your submission letter in an email or as an attachment.  
  • In the subject line or email body include that you are writing with a submission. about Delta Electricity’s NOx pollution exemption application.
  • Send to: [email protected]

Take the survey 

1) Access the survey here:

2) In your responses: 

  • Indicate you ‘strongly oppose’ Delta Electricity’s pollution exemption application. 
  • When asked for specific comments about Delta Electricity’s application, state that it is inadequate (see points attached). 
  • When asked what your expectations are regarding air quality controls, explain:
  • that you expect the EPA to require Delta Electricity to install best practice pollution control technology
  • that you expect the EPA to uphold its responsibility to protect public health (see points attached)
  • why reducing air pollution from Vales Point power station matters to you/your organisation. 

Key points to cover in your submission 

Nitrogen Oxide pollution causes significant harm to human health

  • NOx pollution contributes to numerous health problems, with particularly severe impacts on the respiratory system.[i] 
  • It is well established that NOx pollution, even in very low concentrations, causes asthma. [ii] Growing evidence also suggests that exposure to NOx pollution can contribute to heart disease and premature mortality. [iii]
  • Health impacts of NOx pollution particularly affect children, the elderly and people with chronic disease.[iv] 
  • Health experts recommend strict standards on NOx emissions to protect the health of communities.[v]
  • NOx pollution also forms secondary fine particulates, which cause heart attacks, strokes and premature death.
  • Since the last exemption assessment in 2015 the US EPA has upgraded their assessment that chronic exposure to NOx causes respiratory disease.[iii]
  • Since the last exemption assessment in 2015, the World Health Organisation drastically reduced its guidelines for NOx and fine particle pollution. The WHO annual guideline for NOx of 10 ug/m3 (4.87 ppb) is regularly breached at monitoring sites close to the Vales Point power station. The WHO annual guideline for PM2.5 of 5 ug/m3 is breached across the Sydney Greater Metropolitan Area, and coal power station NOx is a significant contributor to this pollution.

Vales Point Power Station is one of the state’s biggest polluters and its emissions cause significant harm to human health 

  • Vales Point contributes to the overall health burden from coal fired power stations in NSW. Research has shown that pollution from coal fired power stations leads to 477 deaths, 450 low-birthweight babies and 7,582 symptom days for children and young adults with asthma in NSW each year.[vi] This health cost to the NSW economy is estimated at over $1.4 billion each year.[vii]
  • The highest concentrations of NOx air pollution from coal-fired power stations is in the air where the power station is located. This means that communities near the power station are exposed to the highest concentrations of Vales Point NOx air pollution. Vales Point is located at Mannering Park on the Central Coast. The power station is one of the most urban power stations in Australia and is surrounded by the highly populated areas of Lake Macquarie, Gosford and Newcastle.
  • Research by Dr Ben Ewald, from the University of Newcastle, has found that 6% of asthmatic children in Lake Macquarie local government area (LGA) have asthma due to power station NOx pollution. In the Central Coast LGA, NOx pollution from power stations causes the disease in 5% of asthmatic children. This equates to 650 children with asthma in the local region who have asthma directly attributable to coal-fired power station NOx pollution.[viii] 
  • Eraring power station, located nearby, installed low NOx burners in 2012 and now emits NOx at approximately half the rate of Vales Point.

Air emissions standards for coal power stations in Australia are extremely lax compared to other countries 

Power stations in NSW are licenced to emit toxic air pollution at concentrations far greater than power stations in other jurisdictions. 

  • Vales Point is allowed to pollute up to 1500 mg/m3 NOx. In the EU, for example, the limit (annual average) for existing power stations is just 150 mg/m3.[ix] Vales Point complies with its licence, but the licence limits are decades out of date. 
  • To comply with tighter NOx emissions limits, coal-fired power station operators in Europe, the United States, and Asia have retrofitted pollution controls to reduce NOx emissions by up to 90%.[x] These measures are standard practice internationally.[xi]


Technologies to reduce NOx pollution are available, feasible and practical. 

  • There are two main technologies available to reduce NOx pollution, and Vales Point is fitted with neither: 
    • Low NOx burners (LNB): Retrofitting an existing plant with low NOx burners is the traditional starting point for NOx reduction and is usually the most cost effective, reducing NOx emissions by up to 50%.
    • Selective catalytic reduction (SRC): More expensive and effective technology that reduces NOx emissions by up to 90%.
  • The Vales Point Pollution Reduction Program Study found that installation of low NOx burners and/or SRC at Vales Point is technically feasible and could bring Vales Point NOx emissions below well below 500 mg/m3.[xii]
  • Nearby Eraring power station, which has already installed low NOx burners, demonstrates that NOx emissions can be significantly and feasibly reduced, leaving no reason to extend the exemption for Vales Point.


Rejecting the exemption application would have significant health benefits

  • Scientists from NSW health estimate that removing coal power station NOx emissions would result in 38,000 additional life-years for the people of Sydney.[xiii] 
  • Additionally, Newcastle epidemiologist Dr Ben Ewald estimates that 650 cases of childhood asthma are caused by coal power station NOx pollution in the Lake Macquarie and Central Coast region.
  • While the power station only occasionally breaches the 800 mg/m3 NOx limit in the clean air regulation, moving to full compliance would require the power station to reduce its average emissions and health burden significantly.
  • Engineering consultants commissioned by Delta Electricity identified a range of pollution control technologies that are technically feasible and would enable Delta to comply with the NOx limits in the Clean Air Regulation.[xiv]
  • Low NOx burners would halve NOx emissions, and are the cheapest technology that would guarantee compliance with the Clean Air Regulation.


Delta Electricity’s application is inadequate as it fails to quantify health impacts

  • Delta Electricity ignored a requirement from the EPA to assess the power station’s contribution to secondary particle pollution and ozone on the basis that the power station “does not have a discernible impact” on secondary PM2.5 and ozone.[xv] This is directly contradicted by all available independent research, including studies by NSW Health [xvi], International experts [xvii], and NSW Government scientists[xviii] which find that the five coal power stations in NSW are among the biggest contributors to PM2.5 pollution and that reducing NOx and SO2 emissions at power stations would cause significant improvement in the health of the people of the Sydney region.
  • Delta Electricity also ignored a requirement from the EPA to assess the direct health benefits of technically feasible NOx pollution controls, such as low NOx burners and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). If it had completed this assessment it would have found significant benefits.
  • Rather than assessing the benefits of installing technically feasible NOx pollution controls, Delta manipulated historical emissions data by selectively removing exceedances, and assessed the benefits of the manipulated emissions data. This assessment does not reflect any real-world engineering scenario, is misleading and false and should be rejected by the EPA. 


Fitting air pollution controls would financially feasible, and a small, reasonable cost in the scheme electricity generation. 

  • Delta Electricity’s own assessment by Jacobs shows that NOx emissions could be halved by installing low-NOx burners for a total cost of approximately $88m including capital and operating costs.[xix]
  • Best-available technologies such as Selective Catalytic Reduction are also technically feasible, resulting in a total NOx emission reduction of over 90%.
  • For the year ending 30 June 2020, Vales Point power station turned a pre-tax profit of over $141 million.[xx]
  • Delta Electricity could halve NOx emissions from Vales Point for a cost that is a fraction of its annual profit.
  • Since the current owners of Vales Point purchased the power station for $1m, it has enjoyed seven years of exemptions to the NSW Clean Air Regulation. In that time the owners have extracted dividends into the hundreds of millions and increased the book value of the power station by hundreds of millions.

Granting a further 5 year exemption would breach the EPA’s a responsibility to protect public health 

  • The EPA must consider the impact that approving the application will have on local and regional air quality and amenity, including the principles of ecologically sustainable development. In particular, the objectives of the EPA set out in the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 include [xxi]:
    • protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in NSW; and
    • to reduce the risks to human health and prevent the degradation of the environment.
  • To achieve the above objectives, the EPA is empowered by the same Act to:
    • promote pollution prevention;
    • set mandatory targets for environmental improvement; and
    • promote community involvement in decisions about environmental matters.
  • Should the EPA grant the application, it will have failed to fulfil its statutory objectives.
  • Part 5 of the Clean Air Regulation (the relevant part of the Clean Air Regulation for Delta’s application) sets out a “ratchet mechanism” which provides for the phasing out of ageing activities or technologies to drive environmental improvements in industry.
  • If Delta Electricity is given a third consecutive exemption, it cannot be said that the EPA is adequately using existing mechanisms to result in environmental improvements and pollution reduction. 



i U.S. EPA. (2016), Basic Information About NO2. Available at: 

ii Knibbs, Cortés de Waterman, Toelle, Guo, Denison, Jalaludin, Williams (2018), The Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study (ACHAPS): A national population based cross-sectional study of long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution, asthma, and lung function. Environment International, 120, 394-403. Available at: 

iii U.S. EPA. (2016), Integrated Science Assessment (ISA) for Oxides of Nitrogen – Health Criteria. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC. Available at: 

iv U.S. EPA. (2016), Basic Information About NO2. Available at: 

v Clare Walter, Maxwell Smith et al. (2019), Health-based standards for Australian regulated thresholds of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone: Expert Position Statement 2019. Available at: 

vi Dr. Aidan Farrow, Andreas Anhäuser and Lauri Myllyvirta (2020), Lethal Power: How Burning Coal is Killing People In Australia. Available at: 

vii Johnson, Chris et al. (2020), Costs of Negative Health Outcomes Arising from Air Pollution from Coal-fired Power stations, Actuaries Institute of Australia Annual Hackathon. Available at: 

viii Ewald, B, (January 2021), Power station NO2 emissions and paediatric asthma in Central Coast, Hunter Valley and Sydney Local Government Areas 

ix Note this is the annual average limit. Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2017/1442 of 31 July 2017 establishing best available techniques (BAT) conclusions, under Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, for large combustion plants, table 3, page L 212/30. Available at: 

x Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.43-44. Available at: 

xi Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.43-44. Available at: 

xii Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.9. Available at: 

xiii Richard A.Broome, Jennifer Powell, Martin E.Cope, and Geoffrey G. Morgan, The mortality effect of PM2.5 sources in the Greater Metropolitan Region of Sydney, Australia, Environment International, Volume 137, April 2020, 105429. Available at: 

xiv Jacobs, Vales Point - Evaluation of Potential NOx Emission Controls, 2021. Available at: 

xv Katestone, Vales Point Power Station Air Quality Assessment for Group 5 Exemption Extension, October 2021, Available at: 

xvi Richard A.Broome, Jennifer Powell, Martin E.Cope, and Geoffrey G. Morgan, The mortality effect of PM2.5 sources in the Greater Metropolitan Region of Sydney, Australia, Environment International, 8 Volume 137, April 2020, 105429. Available at: 

xvii Aidan Farrow, Andreas Anhäuser and Lauri Myllyvirta, Lethal Power: How Burning Coal is Killing People in Australia (Report, August 2020). Available at: 

xviii Lisa Chang et. al., Major Source Contributions to Ambient PM2.5 and Exposures within the New South Wales Greater Metropolitan Region, Atmosphere 2019, 10, 138, available at: 

xix Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.10. Available at: 

xx Sunset Power International Pty Ltd, Financial statements, 2019. See: 

xxi Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991, s 6. Available at:  


Priorities for nature and climate in the 2021 local government elections  

Download PDF

Sign up to campaign in your local area!


Set ambitious targets for bushland and urban tree canopy cover

  • Set targets for urban trees and urban tree canopy cover. If a target already exists, review it.[1] Develop a plan to achieve the target.
  • Set a target for bushland cover. If a target already exists, review it. Develop a plan to achieve the target. Protect and restore remnant bushland, revegetate, protect significant trees
  • Enhance protections for remnant bushland and trees through Local Environment Plans and

Development Control Plans.

  • Invest more in bushland restoration through the control of weeds and feral animals.
  • Oppose removal of bushland and significant trees to enable development.[2]
  • When planning and executing bushfire hazard reduction measures, use the latest scientific advice to minimise environmental impacts.

Ensure a koala-friendly council

  • Pass the Nature Conservation Council’s Koala Friendly Council motion (available at

Create wildlife corridors

  • Identify potential wildlife corridors to link significant wildlife habitat remnants.
  • Invest in tree planting, revegetation and ongoing maintenance for these corridors.

Encourage use of native plants

  • Use more native plants in council parks and gardens.
  • Provide free native plants to home gardeners.



Clean up council operations

Set a target of net-zero emissions for all council operations by 2025 by:

  • Using 100% clean electricity for all council operations.
  • Making all council vehicles, including garbage trucks, electric.

Clean up local transport

  • Accelerate the installation of rapid charge electric vehicle stations by working with the local community, businesses and state governments.
  • Enhance active transport infrastructure by building and maintaining more and higher quality bike paths and footpaths.

Help locals, businesses and organisations slash their emissions

  • Create and implement a local-emissions reductions plans with clear targets.
  • Set ambitious energy performance standards for all new developments.

Support national and international movements to reduce emissions

  • Adopt the Climate Emergency Declaration, which is already supported by more than 2000 councils across 34 countries.[3]
  • Sign up to the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, Australia’s largest local government climate network, made up of over 145 councils from across the country, representing over half of the Australian population.[4]



Ensure a diverse and drought-resilient water system

  • Oppose the construction of new dams or other rainfall dependent water sources.
  • Invest in system-wide water efficiency.
  • Investigate stormwater harvesting and recycling.
  • Investigate the use of purified recycled water.

Reduce water waste

  • Encourage water saving in households with education and water saving devices.
  • Investigate current water wastage across the LGA and implement ways to reduce waste.
  • Subsidise rainwater tanks for residential use across the LGA.

Restore our rivers and waterways

  • Restore natural wetlands for benefits including stormwater management.
  • Set ambitious targets to improve the health of all rivers within the LGA.
  • Invest in the active restoration of riparian zone vegetation.


Sign up to campaign in your local area!



[1] The NSW Government has pledged to plant 1 million trees in Greater Sydney by 2022 and 5 million by 2030. It also wants to increase tree canopy cover in Greater Sydney from 16% to 40% by 2030. See Total Environment Centre and NSW Government.

[2] If a project is considered critical infrastructure, apply best-practice approaches to offsetting. First, try to avoid impacts entirely. Second, if impacts are unavoidable, minimise them by modifying the proposal. Third, as a last resort, offset the impacts by restoring and permanently protecting similar habitat nearby.



Mt Piper to close five years sooner than announced last month?

The Nature Conservation Council urges state and federal government to fast-track transition planning for Lithgow after one the nation’s leading energy experts warned coal-fired power generation could end in Australia by 2035 or sooner. 

The Australian Financial review reported today: 

Energy Security Board chairman Kerry Schott has predicted coal-fired power will disappear from the National Electricity Market by the mid-2030s if not earlier – cutting short the rated life of some generators by more than a decade.  

“This forecast has serious implications for Lithgow and makes the need for detailed, comprehensive transition planning more urgent than ever,” Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“Last month Energy Australia announced it would close its Mt Piper Power station in 2040, two years earlier than originally planned.  

“Now it seems that revised deadline is already out of date. 

“The people of Lithgow need the state and federal governments to support the development of industries that leverage Lithgow’s natural advantages — its skilled workforce and stunning natural assets, like the Gardens of Stone. 

“That means developing a detailed, comprehensive transition plan that includes strategies to develop the city’s eco-tourism and manufacturing potential. 

“Lithgow has tremendous opportunities, but it needs government support to realise them. 

“The 2035 timeline is still five years slower than climate science demands, so it's likely to be revised forward again. 

“Retirement of coal power stations by 2030 is crucial if we are to pass on a safe climate to our children.” 

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254  



Coal power likely gone by 2035: Schott 
Angela Macdonald-Smith and Mark Ludlow 
Oct 11, 2021 – 4.46pm 

Energy Security Board chairman Kerry Schott has predicted coal-fired power will disappear from the National Electricity Market by the mid-2030s if not earlier – cutting short the rated life of some generators by more than a decade. 

“Coal is inexorably leaving the system and I personally think it’s going to leave much faster than people initially thought. It really is struggling to make money,” Dr Schott told The Australian Financial Review Energy and Climate Summit amid intense debate about the future of coal in the push to net zero emissions. 

“It’s what coaches were to motor cars really, it’s no more viable. 

Some of Australia’s coal power generators are due to run until the late 2040s but they are being undercut by cheap renewables, which are also forcing them to run more flexibly. 

Coal power stations are also suffering more outages as they get older and less reliable, said Australian Energy Market Operator CEO Daniel Westerman, describing the economic conditions for their owners as “quite hard”. 

EnergyAustralia and Origin Energy have already brought forward closure dates for coal stations, while AGL Energy is also working towards an earlier exit than the 2048 date of its newest plant. 

AGL CEO Graeme Hunt signalled earlier closure dates were highly likely but emphasised that several “pre-conditions” had to be met to prevent a “crash landing” on the glide path of decarbonisation that could see the lights go out. 

Mr Hunt said there was still a need to keep power supply reliable and affordable at the same time as cutting emissions. 

He compared the effort around planning for coal plant closures as trying to land “on a runway that is moving towards us all the time” and warned that the energy price crisis playing out in Europe could start to be felt here if the transition is not managed well. 

“If we get the glide path wrong we could end up in the same place,” he said. 

AGL is due to release new climate commitments for its to-be-demerged businesses, Accel Energy and AGL Australia, in the documentation for the restructuring. 

Mr Hunt also effectively ruled out AGL resuming plans to build a gas-fired generator near Newcastle as part of its plans to replace the Liddell coal power plant, which is due to close in 2022-23. 

He said the federal government’s decision to get Snowy Hydro to build a gas power generator at Kurri Kurri made that now “far more unlikely” as the gap in the market had been filled by other investments. 

Out of coal by 2040 

EnergyAustralia chief executive Mark Collette – who runs another one of Australia’s largest carbon emitters – said the company would be out of coal by 2040.  

The supplier recently announced it would bring forward the closure of its Mt Piper coal-fired power station from 2042. 

“We see the clean energy transformation, and a commitment to net zero is all about reducing emissions while keeping reliability up. So that’s the game plan,” he told the Summit. 

“We have committed to be out of coal by 2040 because, in our judgment, coal will not be required in our energy system.” 

But Dr Schott predicted coal-fired power could be gone from the National Electricity Market by the mid-2030s.  

She said coal would still be exported to other countries whose energy systems were not as advanced as Australia, but it would not be needed for power generation here. 

The exit of coal-fired power is still set to cause issues for system stability for when the sun was not shining and the wind was not blowing. Renewables can already at times make up about 70 per cent of power generation, and are expected to reach 100 per cent by 2025. 

“This is terrific news for emissions reduction, but it means we do need to make changes to the system,” Dr Schott said.  

“It’s not an easy transition. 



EnergyAustralia to close NSW coal power early 

Angela Macdonald-Smith 
Senior resources writer 
Sep 23, 2021 – 2.24pm 

EnergyAustralia will bring forward the closure of its Mt Piper coal power plant in NSW as part of new commitments on emissions reduction including a 60 per cent cut by 2028-29. 

The electricity and gas supplier, which earlier this year brought forward the closure date for its Yallourn brown coal-fired generator in Victoria to 2028, committed to exit from coal power generation by 2040 and set a target to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

The target to exit coal brings forward the closure date for Mt Piper from the currently scheduled 2043 by at least three years, but EnergyAustralia did not give a specific date. 

EnergyAustralia’s Mt Piper coal power plant near Lithgow in NSW will now close by 2040.  

“While Mt Piper’s ultimate retirement date will be determined by several factors, we are committed to long-term planning and supporting the transition for our workers and our local communities,” EnergyAustralia chief executive Mark Collette said. 

The decision comes as rival AGL Energy faces escalating pressure over its coal power generation, with news on Wednesday of legal action mounted by Environment Victoria against it and other brown coal power generators in the state, adding to pressure already coming from shareholders and investors. 

Baseload coal power plants, which still supply almost 70 per cent of electricity demand in the National Electricity Market, are struggling with the collapse in wholesale power prices earlier this year and with the need to operate more flexibly given the influx of wind and solar power onto the grid. 

“The clean energy transformation is accelerating, with more renewable, storage and flexible energy technology available at lower costs than ever before,” Mr Collette said. 


Vales Point coal pollution video

Bylong Valley spared from coal mining again

Bylong Valley has again been spared destruction by coal mining. The valley’s salvation this time was delivered by the NSW Court of Appeal, which this morning rejected KEPCO’s appeal against an earlier refusal. [1] 

The Korean mining giant had bought prime farmland in Bylong Valley near Mudgee in the state’s Central West and planned to construct a 6.5 million-tonnes-a-year coal mine. 

When the Independent Planning Commission rejected the plan in 2019, citing climate impacts among the grounds for its refusal, the company appealed to the Land and Environment. 

That court upheld the IPC decision but KEPCO appealed again [2], this time the Court of Appeal, which handed down its decision this morning.  

“Congratulations to Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, who have fought doggedly for years to save their beautiful region, and to the Environmental Defenders Office for so ably representing their client,” Nature Conservation Council Chris Gambian said.  

“Today’s decision should be the end of years of uncertainty for local landholders and communities who have fought a David-and-Goliath struggle to save their way of life and their beautiful valley.  

“It is a great victory for the people and comes off the back of the Southern Highlands community defeating the Hume coal project just a few weeks ago. 

“It is baffling that government resources are still being wasted on assessment of fossil fuel projects like these when the best scientific advice clearly against it.   

“We cannot afford to let the fossil fuel industry open any new mines or gas fields if we are to have a hope of keeping global temperatures within safe levels.” 


[1] Bylong Community Wins Again as Coal Mine Appeal is Dismissed, EDO, 14-9-21 

[2] Huge legal win sees greenfield Bylong Coal Project refusal upheld, EDO, 18-12-2020  

Submission to the Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment – Hawkins and Rumker potential release areas

Submission to the Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment – Hawkins and Rumker potential release areas

The Nature Conservation Council opposes the issuing of any new coal exploration licence.

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A history of the Gardens of Stone campaign

A History of the campaign to protect the Gardens of Stone

When Centennial Coal cancelled its Angus Place coal mine application this week, five threatened wetlands in the Gardens of Stone were saved and 123 million tonnes of coal was kept safely in the ground. That's equivalent to two years of NSW’s total climate pollution. 

But how did this victory happen in a state where coal companies are used to getting their way, no matter the cost?  

This is a longer email than we’d normally send. But it’s a ripper of a story so we wanted to lift the hood and share with you the backstory of how this campaign has played out. 

Almost ninety years ago, in 1932, Miles Dunphy proposed that this spectacular slice of Wiradjuri Country, the Gardens of Stone, should be protected as part of his vision for the Greater Blue Mountains National Park. 

Since then, the Blue Mountains National Park and World Heritage Area have been declared, but the last 39,000 hectares of the Gardens of Stone remain unprotected – because coal companies had an interest in mining deep underneath the ground. 

Over those ninety years groups like Colong Foundation for Wilderness, the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Lithgow Environment Group, Bushwalking NSW, the Colo Committee, National Parks Association of NSW, and the National Trust have kept the Gardens of Stone vision alive, and documented and resisted the irreversible damage that underground coal mining has done to the rare ecosystems, cultural heritage and spectacular cliffs and pagodas above. 

Image: Chris Jonkers and Julie Favell from Lithgow Environment Group in Carne West Swamp before it was destroyed by mining. Credit - Wolter Peeters/SMH 

Chris Jonkers and Julie Favell from 
the Lithgow Environment Group have been monitoring endangered wetlands for over thirty years, while Dr Haydn Washington from Colo Committee, and Keith Muir from the Colong Foundation for Wilderness spearheaded the campaign for many years, finding and publishing irrefutable evidence of the damage done by coal mines and achieving recognition of the unique ecology of the area.[1] 

For years, Centennial Coal denied they were damaging the wetlands and waterways, and paid consultants to convince state and federal governments that they wouldn’t drain these endangered ecosystems.  

However, decades of tireless work and mounting scientific evidence forced Centennial Coal to admit in its most recent application that it would completely drain five remaining endangered wetlands, destroying the habitat of some of NSW’s rarest threatened plant and animals. Yet even this admission wasn’t enough to stop the mine. NSW development laws provide a pathway for Centennial to simply pay for “offsets” while destroying the last wetlands.  

As the assessment process for the Angus Place expansion came to a head over the last two years, the campaign ramped up. 

Nature Conservation Council investigations last year revealed that the company was cheating on its greenhouse emissions assessment – it failed to account for 97% of the climate pollution it would cause. 

Over 1000 Nature Conservation Council supporters made submissions objecting to the mine, and campaigners from the Gardens of Stone Alliance groups pored over the thousands of pages of application documents to identify the incorrect assumptions, concerning impacts and hidden details. 

Local tourism operators also voiced their concerns about the mine – Thomas Ebersoll from Newnes Hotel gathered 11,000 petition signatures opposing the mine, and Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley voiced their concerns about over 100 workers who would lose their jobs if the streams and rivers the resort relies on dry up due to the mine.  

The Colong Foundation and Gardens of Stone Alliance commissioned economic analysis showing that Lithgow has a bright future by protecting and investing in its natural heritage, with eco-tourism set to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the region.  

The Nature Conservation Council teamed up with Lithgow Environment Centre to tell the story of the wetlands being turned to ashes by longwall mining on social media.   

And this year the Nature Conservation Council and Gardens of Stone Alliance organised a field trip for journalists and Members of Parliament to tour the area and see what was under threat with their own eyes. 

Members of Parliament tour the Gardens of Stone:  Rose Jackson MLC, Jo Haylen MP, Catherine Cusack MLC and Justin Field MLC. 

After the ‘Parliamentary Friends of Nature’ trip, Members of Parliament from Labor, Liberal, Greens and Independents all worked to protect this spectacular region. Government MP Catherine Cusack made a strong speech in parliament and took the issue up with the Planning and Environment Ministers. 

A flurry of media stories inspired local seven-year-old Leo Williams to hold a lemonade stall in support of the Gardens of Stone, earning him a trip to Parliament to meet Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Independent MP Justin Field to advocate for protection of the area. 

Leo Williams’ lemonade stand to raise awareness and money to save the Gardens of Stone. 

Meanwhile the demand for coal was slowly waning as solar and wind power reduce the need to mine more coal. The NSW renewable energy roadmap that passed parliament in late 2020 prepares the state for a future without coal generation which took away the mining company’s trump card.  

Over in Thailand Centennial Coal’s parent company Banpu announced a plan to turn away from fossil fuels, which the Nature Conservation Council leveraged locally to point out the inconsistency of opening a new mine in Australia to mine coal until 2053.  

Finally, in the face of a growing wave of public, political and scientific opposition, and declining demand for their product, Centennial Coal withdrew their application. 

Centennial Coal has already stated that they will submit a new coal mine proposal in the region, albeit ten times smaller, further from the World Heritage Area and using a less damaging bord and pillar mining technique.

What’s Next? 

With the Angus Place coal mine expansion withdrawn, this clears the way for protecting the final 39,000 hectares of the Gardens of Stone and implementing the Destination Pagoda tourist management plan for the reservation. 

Destination Pagoda is a plan written by Ian Brown and Elizabeth Dudley-Bestow for boosting the Lithgow economy by protecting and investing in the untapped scenic and ecological values of the region.
Learn more about Destination Pagoda and what the reservation would look like 

The NCC team will be working hard toward this historic protection in partnership the rest of the Gardens of Stone Alliance, building on ninety years of hard work by so many luminaries in the NSW environment movement. 

A huge thanks to the thousands of people who have supported this campaign, from writing submissions, to making regular donations, to being members of their local environment group. 
But the battle is far from over. If you’d like to know more about how you can get involved in the campaign, sign up here or visit one of the Gardens of Stone member groups: Lithgow Environment GroupBlue Mountains Conservation SocietyColong Foundation for Wilderness or the National Parks Association of NSW to learn more about what they are doing to move this important campaign forward. 

Slaying of zombie gas exploration licences welcome, but Narrabri gas project should also be canned

The Nature Conservation Council welcomes the government's announcement today that 8 out of 12 ‘zombie’ petroleum exploration licenses (PELs) will be cancelled, and calls for the remaining PELs on the Liverpool Plains to be cancelled as well. 

“Coal seam gas industrialises the landscape and threatens water quality and quantity, so we welcome the cancellation of these eight zombie PELs.  However, it is disappointing the government has not extinguished licenses relating to Santos’ Narrabri gas project,” said Chris Gambian, Chief Executive of the Nature Conservation Council. 

“This highlights that if the 850 gas wells planned for the Pilliga Forest area near Narrabri are allowed to go ahead, the gas field will eventually creep into other areas, including the highly productive Liverpool Plains.

"Australia produces more than enough gas to meet its current needs if properly managed. New gas mining projects will inevitably be white elephants as the world transitions away from fossil fuels.

“The Coalition promised to deal with land use conflict between mining and agriculture when it came to power a decade ago, but we continue to see a confused approach, with some areas being protected, while other areas are opened up to coal and gas.  

“The conservation movement also welcomes the announcement that gas exploration in the far west will not go ahead.  The community in the far west - farmers, first nations and conservationists alike - is opposed to unconventional gas fracking the fragile environment. 

“Gas is a fossil fuel and when fugitive emissions of methane from extraction and leaks from the vast pipeline network are taken into account, it has a big climate impact.  

 “Other jurisdictions in Australia and around the world are implementing plans to wean households and industry off gas and onto renewable electricity. We accept that will take time, but NSW needs to start planning for a future beyond gas now rather than go along with the pantomime of a ‘gas led recovery’,” he said. 

Strong budget for climate action and nature

The NSW Government has delivered a strong budget for climate action and nature, investing significantly in clean energy and koalas and extending the Saving Our Species Program for another five years. 

“This is probably the best budget for climate and nature we have seen from the Coalition in NSW, and we commend Minister Matt Kean and others involved for securing much-needed funding for these areas,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

Climate and energy 

“We have already welcomed the government’s significant commitment to renewable energy, with the injection of $380 million in energy infrastructure, and its new policy to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles with a $500 million package announced on the weekend.   

“The government has also wisely allocated $300 million to help ensure the sustainable future of coal mining communities, noting that these communities need support as the global economy moves away from carbon-based energy options.” 


“The extra $193 million for koala conservation is also very welcome, even though it is unclear how the government will spend the money. 

"While funding may help stem the decline in koala numbers, it is only part of the solution. It must be part of a comprehensive strategy that includes strong legal protections for koala habitat.” 

Threatened species  

“There’s money to keep the Saving Our Species (SOS) program going – that's also very welcome because there are some great projects funded through that scheme. 

"Funding is down $25 million, which is disappointing, but it is a relief that the government has committed to extending the scheme with another $75 million over five years.” 

National parks 

“There is money for acquiring new national parks, which is very good, and over the past six months there have been announcements about acquisitions in the far west of the state. 

"It would be good to see some more acquisitions on the coast, particularly the Great Koala National Park.” 

Natural Resources Commission 

“The 25% funding cut to the Natural Resources Commission's operating budget is baffling given the critical importance of an independent assessment of the government’s natural resource management programs. 

“Over the past few years, the NRC has highlighted significant shortcomings in the design and delivery of the government’s land-clearing laws and water-sharing plans. 

“Cutting resources to this body by a quarter will considerably constrain its ability to provide quality assessment and analysis to ensure programs are delivering on their stated objectives.” 

$500m electric vehicle package jump-starts the road transport transition in NSW

The NSW Government’s almost $500 million package to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles [1] is the beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine’s 120-year monopoly on road transportation in NSW. [2] 

“This is an historic and very welcome package from a government that has significantly increased its commitment to climate action over the past few years,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.  

“It will not only reduce the climate impact of road transportation, it will reduce the health impact that cars have on people by improving air quality across our congested cities. 

“I commend the Premier and all the ministers who have made this possible, including Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, Transport Minister Andrew Constance, Deputy Premier and Regional NSW Minister John Barilaro, and Environment Minister Matt Kean.” 

The package includes: 

  • Cash rebates and stamp duty exemptions on purchases of new EVs;  
  • Targets for a converting the government fleet;  
  • Cash incentives for companies to install charging station across the state;  
  • Transit lane access for peak-hour EV commuters; and 
  • Postponing an EV road user charge until 2027 or when EVs make up 30% of new vehicle purchases. 

“Making the state’s vehicle fleet run on 100% clean energy is the next big challenge after transitioning the electricity grid in NSW,” Mr Gambian said. 

“We still have a long way to go to clean up the grid, but the government has shown today that it understands the urgent need to also tackle the transport sector. 

“About 22 per cent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the vehicles, so electrification of transport is a key to tackling climate change. [3] 

“The government’s electric vehicle package signals the beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine as the dominant mode of road transport in this state and the dawn of a new, clean energy era.” 

Earlier this month the Nature Conservation Council launched its campaign to convert the state’s fleet to electric vehicles. The council’s Accelerate NSW campaign includes policies to: 

  • Waive stamp duty for EV purchases
  • Reduce registration fees for EVs
  • Provide direct incentives for individuals and businesses to upgrade to EVs
  • Mandate EVs for all new government fleet purchases  
  • Set EV ambitious vehicle targets for the NSW fleet 

“We are very pleased that the government has acted on most the of priorities we have identified,” Mr Gambian said. 

[1] NSW to abolish stamp duty on electric cars in an effort to boost uptake, SMH, 20-6-21 

[2] The Motor Car in NSW, 1900-1937, Lester Hovenden, Sydney University, 1981  

[3] NSW Emissions, NSW Government, 2021