June 20, 2018

NSW government hamstrings court, protects coal mining in greenhouse gas case

SYDNEY, Wednesday June 20, 2018:  The NSW state government has moved to prevent the Land and Environment Court from standing up against the coal mining industry and protecting the environment, 350.org said today.  

“The Land and Environment Court could have set an important precedent today, recognising that greenhouse gas emissions must be considered when assessing the impact of coal mines, but the State Government has once again stepped in to protect its coal mining mates over our climate and environment,” said Blair Palese, CEO of 350.org Australia.

“In a clear case of moving the goalposts, the state government made secret amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act while this case was being considered by the court. On March 1, 2018, the government changed the Act, effectively wiping out two grounds on which the mine extension approval was challenged.*”

The Land and Environment Court late yesterday afternoon upheld approval of an extension to American mining giant Peabody’s Wilpinjong coal mine in the Hunter Valley.  Residents from the town of Wollar had challenged the approval, arguing the Mining State Environmental Planning Policy required decision-makers to consider the assessment of greenhouse gases with regard to state and national policies.

The Wollar Progress Association, represented by public interest environmental law centre EDO NSW, was seeking the judicial review of the Planning Assessment Commission approval of an extension to the Wilpinjong coal mine between Mudgee and Denman in the upper reaches of the Hunter Valley. This region is one of the most heavily mined for coal in the country and residents have felt dire health and environmental impacts for decades.

“It just goes to show how desperate the NSW Government is to shore up the failing coal industry,” said Palese. “Like the tobacco and asbestos industries, the fossil fuel industry will be held to account for the damage it is doing.”

“Fossil fuels release greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Failing to acknowledge the impact of our coal exports on the warming of the global climate is a willful negligence that we can no longer afford.”   

* Two grounds were wiped out by secret amendments to EP&A Act activated on March 1:

  1. Failure to consider the cumulative impact of EEC clearing in assessment of consolidated project
  2. Improperly constituted PAC

The first was wiped out be Schedule 4 [16] section 104A: surrender of development consents;

The second by Schedule 13 cl 7 – changes to PAC retrospective.

For more Information:

Louise Fraser, 350.org communications: 0438 993 068