Environment Victoria welcomes the release of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry report, and urges the government to implement the Board’s recommendations as well as broader reforms to ensure a disaster like the Hazelwood fire never happens again.
Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle today said:
“The recommendations that relate to fire prevention are a strong starting point for reforming what has clearly been an inadequate system, but the report does not adequately encourage accelerating mine rehabilitation as a way of protecting communities from future fires.
“All experts during the hearings agreed that rehabilitation is the most effective fire prevention method, and prevention is better than cure. Given this we are disappointed that there are no specific recommendations to accelerate rehabilitation efforts.
“The inquiry received work plans that show that unless further rehabilitation is required by the State Government the community will need to wait until 2028 before significant inroads are made into rehabilitating exposed coal faces, which is an unacceptable outcome.
“The electricity grid operator AEMO recently said that around 2000 MW of generation capacity could be retired from Victoria without affecting the reliability of electricity supply. This raises the very real risk that an existing generator like Hazelwood could close their operations and walk away very quickly.
“Given the oversupply of electricity it is time to start having the conversation about how much longer power stations like Hazelwood will be running, and what kind of legacy they’ll leave behind if rehabilitation of the mine doesn’t commence now.
“The report also cited evidence from both the Government and GDF Suez that rehabilitation will cost significantly more than the current $15 million rehabilitation bond, but the Board said such a review would be beyond their terms of reference.
“With no recommendation to review the rehabilitation bond, GDF Suez will continue to have little incentive to speed up their rehabilitation. The Government should be requesting that the Auditor General’s office assess the potential financial liability on the public purse, and environmental hazards to nearby communities of an unrehabilitated mine site,” said Dr Aberle.
The Board of Inquiry has no power to enforce their recommendations, but has recommended that the Auditor General oversee their implementation.
“That this disaster took place shows that much needs to change in the way coal mines are operated, and this report has laid a good foundation for reform. We look forward to seeing commitments from both the Government and GDF Suez to implement the recommendations and accelerating rehabilitation of the mine site.”
Dr Aberle is available for comment. Please contact Tim Norton 0402 077 721