News | 10th Feb, 2012

Ferguson grants extension for contentious power plant project

Friday, 10 February 2012
Katharine Murphy, National Times

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson will this morning throw a lifeline to a contentious coal-fired power plant project in Victoria's Latrobe Valley that is subject to a legal tussle with state environmental authorities.

Mr Ferguson will also pledge $100 million of Commonwealth funds for CarbonNet — a carbon capture and storage project in the Latrobe.

The Greens are strongly opposed to the controversial HRL power plant project at Morwell. In granting the project a six-month extension, Mr Ferguson will make it clear that this is the last lifeline for a project that began under the Howard government.

Following this morning's announcement, green groups will likely accuse Mr Ferguson of a double standard after he pulled the pin this week on a dawdling solar project, the Moree Solar Farm, which was in line for $306 million in government help.

Mr Ferguson re-opened the bidding on the solar money, allowing three other shortlisted projects to have another shot.

The six-month extension to the controversial HRL Dual Gas project near Morwell will allow the project to meet the terms of a contract first established by the Howard government.

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The Resources Minister says this will be the final extension given to the project, which has been under way since 2009, and is the subject of a legal challenge by Environment Victoria.

Mr Ferguson has firmly rebuffed the green opposition, and argued the project, which aims to optimise brown coal and lower its emissions, should have the opportunity to proceed.

"Despite political pressure from the Greens and others, the Australian government has treated the HRL grant with the same measure of good faith that we've shown to other challenging clean energy technologies – including the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund grant to Solar Systems," Mr Ferguson says.

"The government is absolutely committed to a technology neutral approach and proper administration of grant programs in accordance with due process."

In Morwell this morning, Mr Ferguson will argue the $1-billion-plus CarbonNet project will provide job opportunities in the Latrobe — and preserve the value of brown coal as Australia moves to lower carbon dioxide emissions.

"I hope today's announcement takes us one step further to not only shoring up the value of Victoria's brown coal resource, but perhaps more importantly helping to secure the economic future of the Latrobe Valley," Mr Ferguson will say this morning at a function in the regional city of Morwell.

Mr Ferguson is accompanied for today's announcement by the Victorian Resources Minister, Michael O'Brien.


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