Environment Victoria is considering legal action over the approval of a new brown coal and gas power plant for Victoria that will emit 30 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than traditional stations.
The Environment Protection Authority today allowed HRL Dual Gas to go ahead with its dual brown coal and gas demonstration plant at Morwell in the Latrobe Valley.
But the plant will be built with only half the capacity HRL wanted after the EPA granted partial approval – for a 300 megawatt plant rather than the 600 megawatt plant HRL had proposed.
Only one gasifier and turbine was approved, to be run on synthetic gas, known as syngas. A second gasifier and turbine, to be operated on natural gas, was rejected.
EPA chief executive John Merritt said the first gasifier and turbine met best practice, but the second did not.
Mr Merritt said the project would produce electricity with a 30 per cent improvement on current greenhouse gas emissions from coal fired power stations, a "significantly better environmental outcome than other plants".
He defended the EPA's approval of the plant which, he said, would be required to meet EPA noise and air quality standards.
"A proposal that contemplates using coal and delivering a 30 per cent improvement in its emissions is within the Act and we're required to assess it against that, and that's what we've done," he said.
But Environment Victoria chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said the plant would still damage the environment even though only part of it had been given the green light.
"It's a comprehensive failure on the EPA to live up to their duty of care to protect Victoria's environment and Victorians," she said.
She said Environment Victoria would consult with its lawyers and consider legal action against the decision.
"The (Environment Protection) Act says they need to consider best practice energy production, very clearly. Using coal is not best practice energy production," she said.
"The Act may need to be challenged to see whether the EPA is working within the standards set for them.
"We don't believe that's the case."
Ms O'Shanassy said the decision showed how out of touch the EPA was with the community, given the 4000 objections submitted.
She urged the Victorian and federal governments to withdraw their financial support of the plant and said the Baillieu administration would be unable to achieve its commitment to reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 if it went ahead.
Greenpeace said it would "do everything in its power" to stop the plant.
HRL management would not speak to the media, but issued a written statement, saying it had significant concerns with the EPA's 300 megawatt alternative.
The company says it is reviewing the decision and considering its options.
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