The Bracks Government would seriously damage its environmental credibility if it allowed the country’s worst greenhouse polluting power station to expand, environment groups have warned.
“We are horrified by comments made by the Energy Minister Theo Theophanous that the Hazelwood expansion is a done deal. We would urge the Government to fully consider the massive environmental effects of the expansion before making any decision,” said Environment Victoria’s Executive Director Marcus Godinho.
“If the Government allows Hazelwood to expand, its credibility on climate change and the environment will be seriously damaged. They would be selling-out on an issue they boast to be national leaders on.
“Scientists say climate change has reached a new level of urgency. If Mr Theophanous signs off on Hazelwood’s expansion, his legacy will be to lock Victoria into more bushfires, more drought, more floods and more extreme weather.”
Australian Conservation Foundation Legal Advisor Charles Berger said the Government should respect due process and wait until the independent panel examining the environmental impact of Hazelwood’s expansion handed down its findings.
“The expert panel was reconvened specifically to examine greenhouse pollution from the expansion, but now the Government states that it will approve the expansion before the panel has even made its recommendations. This calls into question the integrity of the environmental effects process, and suggests that the Government regards the process as a hollow formality,” said Mr Berger.
Hazelwood, which uses 1950s technology, wants to expand the life of its Latrobe Valley mine from 2011 to 2031. If approved this would create 250 million tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution. To put this in context, Victoria’s 5-star energy efficient homes standard is expected to save 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses per annum – just a week of Hazelwood’s operations would cancel that benefit.
The Hazelwood power plant, the most greenhouse polluting in Australia, is seeking planning amendments and a licence to access additional coal, which would allow it to continue operating through 2031. Following a decision of the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) last October, an expert planning panel reconvened to consider the climate change impacts of the expansion. That panel has not yet issued its recommendations.
Mr Godinho said if the Hazelwood expansion went ahead, it would be a huge economic loss.
“The Bracks Government would approve Hazelwood to the detriment of new jobs, new investment and a boost to the Victorian economy,” said Mr Godinho.
“It will send a message to other companies that Victoria does not want to benefit from investment in new, clean energy. It would be a decision based on pandering to one British company.”