Environment groups trying to stop the construction of a new coal-fired power station in Victoria say it would add millions of tonnes to Australia's annual greenhouse gas pollution.
In what's been described as a legal case with enormous implications, environmentalists took the first step on Friday in their appeal against the Environment Protection Authority's decision to approve the dual brown coal and gas demonstration plant in the Latrobe Valley.
Lawyers representing groups including Environment Victoria argue HRL Limited's proposed coal-fired power station will add significantly to Australia's greenhouse pollution.
Following a brief directions hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham said even though the price on carbon will significantly increase the operating costs of the plant, it could still go ahead because of the financial support it was receiving from the Victorian and federal governments.
"We believe the EPA made a wrong decision to approve the polluting power station, because when they assessed best practice they only compared the power station with other brown coal power stations, not the full range of options for generating electricity," he said.
"If the power station goes ahead it will add millions of tonnes to Australia's greenhouse pollution every year, much more than genuinely clean power stations would."
In approving the proposal in May, EPA chief John Merritt said the project will produce electricity with about a 30 per cent improvement on current greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power stations.
The plant was granted partial works approval, for a 300-megawatt dual brown coal and gas demonstration plant rather than the 600MW plant HRL had proposed.
Simon Molesworth QC, for the EPA, said the case would raise issues of great public significance.
"There's absolutely no doubt the consequences of this case are enormous," he told VCAT on Friday.
"It raises the issue of climate change, greenhouse gases.
"This is a once-in-a-decade case."
Barnaby Chessell, for HRL subsidiary Dual Gas, said the proposal was of state significance and should be dealt with quickly.
Mr Molesworth and Mr Chessell told the preliminary directions hearing the matter could not be resolved through mediation.
More than 4200 people objected to the application for the EPA works approval.
No date has been set for the hearing.