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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.” 

References  

[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  


No more pollution exemptions for the Vales Point coal power station

An estimated 650 children on the Central Coast and at Lake Macquarie have asthma because of pollution that comes from coal-fired power stations like the one at Vales Point. 

Even though the connection between emissions of nitrogen oxides and asthma is clear, the owner of Vales Point power station, Delta Electricity, has asked the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to let it keep polluting at levels 10 times higher than the European standard and 23 times higher than is allowed in Japan. 

Sign this form submission calling on the EPA to reject the application and force Vales Point coal-fired power station to clean up its pollution. 

1,171 signatures

Dear NSW Environmental Protection Authority,

Thank you for the opportunity to have my say on Vales Point power station's nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

I oppose Vales Point being exempted from emission standards that other power stations are required to meet.

Coal-fired power stations are the biggest NOx polluters in NSW.

Independent health experts have shown such facilities are responsible for hundreds of premature deaths and childhood asthma cases across the state every year. 

For the sake of public health, I call on the EPA to reject Vales Point's application.


You can also do your own submission by following our submission guide.

Add signature

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: https://yoursay.epa.nsw.gov.au/vales-point-power-station-exemption-application

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. 

 

References 

i U.S. EPA. (2016), Basic Information About NO2. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/no2-pollution/basic-information-about-no2 

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: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30125857/ 

iii U.S. EPA. (2016), Integrated Science Assessment (ISA) for Oxides of Nitrogen – Health Criteria. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC. Available at: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/isa/recordisplay.cfm?deid=310879 

iv U.S. EPA. (2016), Basic Information About NO2. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/no2-pollution/basic-information-about-no2 

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: https://www.envirojustice.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Expert-Position-Statement-PDF.pdf 

vi Dr. Aidan Farrow, Andreas Anhäuser and Lauri Myllyvirta (2020), Lethal Power: How Burning Coal is Killing People In Australia. Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/GPAP-Lethal-Power-full-report.pdf. 

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: https://www.envirojustice.org.au/australians-pay-a-deadly-2-4-billion-health-bill-for-coal-fired-power/ 

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: https://op.europa.eu/s/oIIl 

x Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.43-44. Available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nEnWDuWZXDIZ5GtU8xDUIb-VZfxOH90I/view?usp=sharing 

xi Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.43-44. Available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nEnWDuWZXDIZ5GtU8xDUIb-VZfxOH90I/view?usp=sharing 

xii Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.9. Available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nEnWDuWZXDIZ5GtU8xDUIb-VZfxOH90I/view?usp=sharing 

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: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105429 

xiv Jacobs, Vales Point - Evaluation of Potential NOx Emission Controls, 2021. Available at: https://yoursay.epa.nsw.gov.au/download_file/253/555 

xv Katestone, Vales Point Power Station Air Quality Assessment for Group 5 Exemption Extension, October 2021, Available at: https://yoursay.epa.nsw.gov.au/download_file/257/555 

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: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105429 

xvii Aidan Farrow, Andreas Anhäuser and Lauri Myllyvirta, Lethal Power: How Burning Coal is Killing People in Australia (Report, August 2020). Available at: https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2020-08/apo-nid307783.pdf 

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: https://nespurban.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Major-Source-Contributions-to-Ambient-PM2.5-and-Exposures-within-the-New-South-Wales-Greater-Metropolitan-Region.pdf 

xix Jacobs Group (Australia) Pty Limited (2017), Vales Point Power Station Delta Electricity NOX Pollution Reduction Study (PRS), pp.10. Available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nEnWDuWZXDIZ5GtU8xDUIb-VZfxOH90I/view?usp=sharing 

xx Sunset Power International Pty Ltd, Financial statements, 2019. See: https://reneweconomy.com.au/vales-point-owners-pocket-another-62m-dividend-from-coal-generator-bought-for-1m-19794/ 

xxi Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991, s 6. Available at: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1991-060  


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.

Read more

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. 


Pumped hydro plan will help to maintain Lithgow’s place as an energy hub

The Nature Conservation Council has welcomed plans to create a new hydro-electricity facility on the edge of Lithgow in the state’s central west. 

“Energy Australia’s plans to establish a pumped hydro-electricity facility near Lithgow will help the city maintain its position as a key player in the state’s electricity sector,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“This is the latest in a series of exciting developments for Lithgow over the past 12 months, including plans for a grid-scale big battery and an eco-precinct on the old Wallerawang power site, and a push to establish an electric bus manufacturing plant in the city. 

“These are the sorts of initiatives Lithgow needs to prosper as the economy moves past coal-fired power to clean, renewable wind and solar.” 

Energy Australia proposes to pump water from Lake Lyell to a reservoir it plans to build high on the side of Mount Walker, west of Lithgow.  

During times of peak power demand, water will be released from the reservoir to drive electricity turbines before returning to Lake Lyell. 

Recent developments and announcements for Lithgow 

  • Big battery. Neon is building a big battery on the site of the decommissioned Wallerawang power station site. [1]  
  • Eco-precinct. An eco-precinct is also planned for the Wallerawang power station site. [2]  
  • Bus manufacturing. The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils is lobbying to establish an electric bus manufacturing plant in Lithgow. [3]  
  • Pumped hydro. Energy Australia announces plans for pumped hydro.  [4] 

References 

[1] Neoen plans massive 500MW big battery west of Sydney, 11-1-2021, RenewEconomy  

[2] Bettergrow's exclusive agreement for Wallerawang Power Station site extended, 3-4-19, Lithgow Mercury.  

[3] Why regional NSW could emerge as a hotspot for electric bus manufacturing, 8-10-21, The Driven  

Electric Dreams: Local EV bus manufacture needs investment vision, 8-2-21, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils  

[4] EnergyAustralia excited about pumped hydro possibility near Mt Piper, 3-6-21, Energy Australia  

 


$600M should be spent on batteries, not gas

The $600 million the Morrison government plans to spend on a new gas peaking power plant at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley would be much better spent on battery storage.  

The government announced today [1] that it would spend more than half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ hard-earned money on a gas plant that will probably operate only one week a year. [2] 

That sort of money would buy seven batteries the size of the one the South Australian government installed to firm its energy supply in 2017,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. [3] 

Instead of lumping taxpayers with a $600 million white elephant, they could leave a legacy of more than 700 MW of clean, on demand capacityAs a practical engineering solution, the government’s announcement it just doesn’t add up.   

This announcement is nakedly political, timed to occur just a few days before the Upper Hunter by-election. 

Once again, the federal Coalition has put short-term political opportunism and the interests of their fossil fuel donors ahead of the long-term interests of Australians and the climate. 

Scott Morrison is spending money on fossil fuels like a drunken sailor. The problem is that taxpayers and the climate will be left with the hangover long after he last left politics.”  

References  

[1] Federal government will spend $600 million on new Kurri Kurri gas plant in the NSW Hunter Valley, ABC, 18-5-21 

[2] Hunter Valley gas plant ‘would only operate a week a year’, SMH, 13-5-21 

[3] The original installation in 2017 was the largest lithium-ion battery in the world at 129 MWh and 100 MW. 

 


Wollar is collateral damage in Barilaro's chaotic coal “strategy”

Nationals Leader John Barilaro has thrown the community of Wollar near Mudgee under a coal truck by using a new process to open up land for exploration without consulting the people who live there. [1]

“Wollar already has three massive coal mines on its north-western flank – Ulan, Moolarben and Wilpinjong. The creation of new mines east of Wollar will make the village virtually unliveable,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“Ulan and Wilpinjong continue to have massive impacts on the local community, wildlife and water supplies.

“Opening up the east of the valley for more mining will create a 40km-long death zone through what was a very beautiful part of the state. It’s a crying shame.”

Mr Gambian said the decision to issue exploration licences before consulting affected communities broke the government’s 2014 promise to give communities a say before exploration permits were issued.

“The NSW Government set up the Strategic Release Framework in 2014 to quell public anger about the vast areas of prime farmland and wildlife habitat being destroyed by coal and gas projects,” Mr Gambian said. [2]

“The government boasted at the time that the framework incorporated recommendations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Chief Scientist and that it would restore public confidence in the process.

“Under the framework, the community had the right to comment very early in the process through a Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment.

“But the government has removed that right for some communities by introducing a new process called Competitive Allocation, which sidesteps community consultation and goes straight to the issuing of exploration licences.

“It is an outrageous betrayal of community trust. Farmers and communities are yet again collateral damage in the Nationals love affair with big coal.

“And the government’s approach appears to be completely ad hoc. Just up the road at Rylstone, locals are being given the chance to participate in a preliminary assessment of a proposal to open that beautiful area for mining. The government’s approach is cruel and chaotic.”

References

[1] https://www.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/nsw-government-to-release-wollar-site-and-prohibit-open-cut-at-dartbrook

[2] https://resourcesandgeoscience.nsw.gov.au/miners-and-explorers/programs-and-initiatives/strategic-release-framework-for-coal-and-petroleum-exploration#:~:text=The%20Strategic%20Release%20Framework%20for,for%20coal%20and%20petroleum%20resources.

 

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