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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.” 

References 

[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.” 

Koalas 

“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    



State budget must encourage uptake of electric vehicles

The Nature Conservation Council today launched its campaign to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles in NSW as a new plank in its broader campaign to transition the state economy to 100% clean energy by 2030. 

The council’s Accelerate NSW campaign includes policies to: 

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

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

“We still have a long way to go to clean up the grid, but we can’t wait until that’s done to tackle the transport sector. 

“About 20 per cent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the vehicles, so electrification of transport is a key to tackling climate change.  

The measures we’ve outlined in our Accelerate NSW plan will kick start the industry in NSW and put us on the right track. 

“In the next two weeks, the NSW government is finalising its plans to support or tax electric vehicles as part of the budget process 

“We strongly urge the government to support the transition from petrol and diesel by waiving stamp duty for EV purchases, slashing rego costs and providing direct incentives that will encourage individuals and businesses to upgrade to EVs sooner rather than later. 

“I know that many government ministers understand that accelerating the roll out of electric vehicles benefits everyone. But there are also some who would prefer to slap a new tax on electric vehicles.   

“The government should be making electric cars affordable for everyone, because healthy air and a safe climate benefit us all.” 

The Nature Conservation Council has released a video and started a petition. We are urging people who want to see electric vehicles made more affordable to sign the petition and support the campaign. 

Petition: nature.org.au/ev 

 


Conservation movement ready to work with the new Labor leadership on koalas, climate, water and forestry

Statement by Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian 

“We welcome Chris Minns’ election as leader of NSW Labor and look forward to working with the new Labor leadership team to put climate action and the protection of nature at the top of the political agenda. 

“The people want an effective Opposition with a comprehensive set of policies to tackle our most urgent environmental issues and force the government to compete for votes in these vital areas of public policy.  

“We hope that the new Labor leadership team can start a race to the top against the Coalition in the critical areas of koala conservation, climate action and the reform of water and forestry management. 

“Labor has an opportunity and a responsibility to come up with a plan to end native forest logging in a way that supports workers into a sustainable plantation-based industry. 

“And Labor must take up the fight on land clearing, especially terrible proposals that would accelerate the extinction crisis for koalas. 

“The Coalition government is taking strong action on the energy transition and national parks, but is getting wrong on water, koalas, logging and land clearing. 

“The new leader must lead on climate action policies that go beyond a just energy sector transition and includes electric vehicles and agriculture. And end the false choice between jobs and a livable climate.  

“Labor must recommit to supporting a healthy Murray-Darling Basin through better water management and flow targets. 

“It must also show leadership on the pressing issue of native forest logging. Our forests and the wildlife they support are dying because of unsustainable logging.”