Environment Victoria today labelled Resources and Energy Minister Ferguson’s decision to extend a federal government grant to HRL’s troubled coal-fired power station as a shocker that undermines the credibility of the Gillard Government on climate change.
HRL received a $100 million grant from the Howard Government in 2007, at the time promising their power station would be up and running by 2009. Since then, HRL has missed all project deadlines, failed to attract finance and lacks the necessary environmental approvals to meet its original grant conditions.
Environment Victoria Campaigns Director Mark Wakeham said today: “The HRL project is a polluting power station that should never have received a government subsidy. This was the perfect opportunity for the Gillard Government to ensure its energy technology grants programs are consistent with Australia’s move to a clean energy future.
“It makes no sense to introduce a price on carbon to clean up our economy and at the same time bankroll polluting new coal-fired power stations.”
Mr Wakeham said the decision was all the more disappointing for the contradiction at play.
“Minister Ferguson has shown that he is prepared to demonstrate a double standard when it comes to government grants for new technologies.”
“Renewable energy grants recently reviewed, including the Moree Solar Farm and geothermal project grants, were withdrawn because the companies involved failed to meet grant deadlines. HRL is a repeat offender on this score and yet the Minister is prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate HRL’s request for an extension.”
“We call on the Minister to publicly release his Department’s grant review so that the public can see on what grounds the Minister has made his decision.”
Environment Victoria also questioned the state and federal Government’s decision to pour another $100 million worth of research into carbon capture and storage.
“Both governments appear happy to splurge taxpayer money on a technology that may be technically impossible and one that is likely to be too expensive to ever operate commercially.”
“Meanwhile the absence of coal industry funding from today’s announcement shows that while the industry talks up carbon capture and storage, it is not prepared to put its money where its mouth is.”
Mr Wakeham concluded:
“While today’s decision on HRL is deeply disappointing, at least HRL has only been given another six months to meet its grant conditions. On its past track record it is likely to fail again. Environment Victoria’s VCAT court case continues challenging the EPA’s partial approval of the power station. Meanwhile the community campaign grows to ensure that this polluting project never gets off the ground.”
“It’s time for our governments to get behind the overwhelming community support for renewable energy and stop pouring funds into polluting coal.
Mark Wakeham 0439 700 501