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Lithgow becoming clean energy hub as coal-fired generator turns to batteries

Today Lithgow takes another leap toward being a clean energy hub with EnergyAustralia announcing a new mega-battery at its coal-fired power station site.

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Origin saves 87 million tonnes of climate pollution with Eraring closure

Origin’s announcement that it will close its Eraring power station in 2025 is a sign of the unstoppable momentum of change to cleaner and cheaper energy, according to the Nature Conservation Council.

“Origin’s announcement is a ray of hope for leaving a safe climate for our children," said Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian.

Singlehandedly, this announcement will avoid up to 87 million tonnes of climate pollution. That is more than the annual emissions of 167 countries, including Austria, New Zealand, and Greece.

"Origin's announcement means that over the next three and a half years, NSW’s clean energy industry will boom to ensure there is sufficient clean energy generation to continue bringing down power bills.”

“There is over $100bn of investment interest in clean wind, solar and batteries in the Hunter Renewable Energy Zone alone.”

“We need the NSW and Federal governments to step up and get the batteries, solar and wind farms, and transmission lines up and running by 2025 to ensure a seamless transition.”

“NCC welcome’s Origin’s commitments to provide tailored transition support to its workers, and to invest in new battery and pumped-hydro plants in NSW to provide clean energy on demand.


Background information:

Eraring Power Station, situated on the shores of NSW’s Lake Macquarie is the largest coal-fired power station in Australia.

Over the last five years, the Eraring power station emitted 69 million tonnes of CO2, making it the second largest climate polluting facility in NSW, narrowly behind AGL’s Bayswater power station which emitted 72 million tonnes of CO2 over the same period. It averaged 13.9 million tonnes per year over the same period, approximately 2.8% of Australia’s entire domestic emissions.

Table: Climate pollution from NSW coal-fired power stations

Source: Greenhouse and energy information by designated generation facility, Clean Energy Regulator


Coal power station emissions: Clean Energy Regulator, Greenhouse and energy information by designated generation facility

Australia annual emissions: 499 mt, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Coal communities urgently want governments to step up and support clean energy transition and coal clean-up: poll

As Australia’s ageing fleet of coal-burning power stations move closer to closure, an overwhelming majority of people polled in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and Hunter region of NSW agree that state and federal governments need to urgently step up to support both coal communities and industries to transition to clean energy.

The new polling comes as Australia's top polluter AGL prepares to deliver its 'market update' tomorrow, expected to include new climate targets and an earlier closure date for Loy Yang power station in the Latrobe Valley.

The YouGov poll, conducted for Environment Victoria and Nature Conservation Council of NSW, surveyed 600 people across the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

It found a strong appetite for governments to take a more active role in supporting both communities and industry to transition to renewable energy, including ensuring that companies take responsibility for the toxic legacy of their coal power stations and mines.

The poll found that, across Hunter and Latrobe Valley:

  • More than three quarters (76%) agreed that governments should do more to transition from burning coal to renewable sources of power to meet our future energy needs.

In Victoria’s Latrobe Valley:

  • Nine out ten (90%) respondents agreed that as Victoria’s coal burning power stations and coal mines are closed down, the state government should ensure power station owners are responsible for the complete clean-up of sites so that they are safe and can be used for other purposes.
  • Eight out of ten (80%) respondents agreed that governments should support heavy industry to switch to affordable, renewable energy to support local manufacturing sectors.
  • Seven out of ten (70%) agreed that the state government should plan to retire old coal burning power stations over the next decade - with support for workers to retrain to be part of a solid economic future for the Latrobe Valley.
  • A clear majority (57%) of respondents supported an early closure of Loy Yang if there is a solid plan to look after workers.

In NSW’s Hunter Valley:

  • Eight out of ten of respondents (80%) agreed that the state government needs a plan to retire coal burning power stations in NSW over the next decade with support for workers to retrain to ensure a solid economic future for the local region.
  • Just over three quarters (77%) of respondents agree that the NSW government should do more to transition from coal to renewables
  • 68% of respondents agreed that so long as there is a plan to look after power station workers and the community, switching to renewable power over the next decade is the best option for NSW.
  • Over nine in ten (91%) of respondents agreed that retired coal power stations need to be rehabilitated.
  • 84% of respondents agree that the NSW government should support heavy industry to switch to renewable energy.
  • A strong majority (68%) believe that when coal power stations are retired, renewables and batteries should replace them.

Jono La Nauze, Environment Victoria CEO, said:

“This polling shows the Latrobe Valley community is urgently calling for a plan that will enable Victoria to move towards renewable energy while supporting the workers and communities that have powered the state for decades.”

“It's time for our governments to step up and show they are serious about developing the new industries and technologies that will create new jobs in these communities and enable all Victorians to reap the benefits of a transition to clean, renewable energy.”

“With the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasting that all Victorian coal power stations could close by 2032, the need for a community-led transition plan is more urgent than ever.”

“Currently the Latrobe Valley Authority is only funded until mid 2022. We’re calling on the Victorian government to extend this funding until the last power station closes, and to work with locals to build a community-led transition plan for the region.”

“These results also make it glaringly clear that communities living close to coal mines want the state government to ensure that the private companies clean up their giant holes in the landscape and make them safe for future use.”

Jacqui Mumford, Nature Conservation Council acting Chief Executive, said:

“These results reveal many residents in the Hunter are looking toward a future beyond coal and waiting for politicians to support that change.”

 “Pretending this energy transition isn’t happening helps no one. We need power station owners to come clean with realistic closure dates by 2030, so the community can plan ahead. We need all governments to take a much more active role in planning a transition for workers and the community”

“These results show that Hunter Valley locals want a clear plan to support our industries to make the switch to clean energy. It’s time for politicians to catch up with the community.”

Local community leaders in the Latrobe Valley region also welcomed the findings.

Tony Wolfe, senior operator at Loy Yang Power Station and Latrobe Valley community advocate, said:

“The owners of these sites have irreversibly changed the landscape while collecting massive financial rewards. The Latrobe Valley community  deserves to have our land returned in pristine condition, and the State government needs to ensure sufficient training and support for displaced workers so they can convert to the new clean energy industries.”

“This presents a perfect opportunity to engage our local indigenous communities to guide us on the future stewardship of this land,” he said.

The Yougov phone poll was conducted on a representative sample of more than 600 Australian voters aged 18+ in the Latrobe Valley and Hunter regions.

Legislating emissions targets would be a step forward for NSW

The Nature Conservation Council urges the NSW Government to support the ALP’s proposal make emissions targets legally binding by enshrining them in law. [1] 

The NSW Government has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and halve them by 2030. 

 “We have applauded the NSW Government for setting ambitious emissions reduction targets but have always been concerned that they are purely aspirational and not legally binding,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“There is currently nothing to prevent a new government or a new leader scrapping or reducing these targets at the stroke of a pen. 

“Enshrining them in legislation makes it much harder for a future government to crab-walk away from these commitments to the people of NSW. 

“Legislating these targets would also provide greater certainty for clean-energy investors and for the general public. 

“I would urge the NSW Government to either support Labor’s bill when it comes before the house or put up their own, along the lines of Victoria’s 2017 Climate Change Act.” 


[1] NSW Labor to propose new legislation to protect net zero emissions target, SMH, 6-11-21. NSW Labor wants emissions reduction targets enshrined in law, AUS, 6-11-21 

Rylstone should have been spared the trauma of the NSW Government’s coal obsession

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive, Chris Gambian said: 

“It is great news that the threat of coal mining, which has hung for almost a year over the heads of the Rylstone community, has now been lifted.   

“They should never have been subjected to the emotional trauma of resisting this outrageous proposal in the first place.  

“Now these good people can get on with their lives.  

 “The NSW Government should never again approve a coal or gas project in NSW.  

“We simply can’t afford it, for the climate, for nature and for our kids.” 

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254  

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:  

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.