The cancellation of a proposed new coal project in the Latrobe Valley needs to mark the first step towards proper economic diversification of the region, Environment Victoria said today.
The Andrews Government has today announced a review into government funding to coal projects over the past 15 years, as well as confirming that the Shanghai Electric project to export brown coal briquettes to China has been withdrawn.
Environment Victoria’s Safe Climate Campaign Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said today:
“We welcome this review of past government funding for coal projects. For too long we’ve thrown good money after bad pursuing polluting pipedreams in the Latrobe Valley. Government support for the coal industry over decades has come at the expense of support for other industries in the region.
“We welcome the Energy Minister’s acknowledgement that we need a transition plan for the Latrobe Valley. With the poor prospects for the future of the coal industry, it is not a moment too soon to be looking to diversify the local economy to more sustainable industries.
“Shanghai Electric’s project was promised $25m in public money. We expect that these funds will now be reserved to support non-coal opportunities in the Latrobe Valley.
“It is encouraging that the government’s future coal policy will incorporate the findings of both the Climate Change Act review and the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry. There is clear evidence that coal can’t be part of the future if we’re to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Recent years have highlighted the problems that Victoria’s coal mines are causing: catastrophic fires, destabilising land in nearby towns, and pollution being pumped into our rivers.
“After the announcement of the closure of coal power stations in Port Augusta earlier this year, the Mayor of Port Augusta was interviewed on ABC Gippsland and said the most important thing for the Latrobe Valley was to start preparing for life after coal.
“Its not just these speculative coal projects that are in doubt. Some of our ageing power stations are on their last legs and are becoming more expensive to maintain.
“Unless we see the writing on the wall and really start preparing a vision for the Latrobe Valley after coal, we’re doing the local community no favours,” said Dr Aberle.