How the community stopped a coal-fired power station: A timeline

After years of campaigning, we've finally won our campaign to Stop HRL - a proposed new coal-fired power station in Victoria! This fantastic outcome was the result of years of hard work from people across the climate movement.

Here’s how it happened…


Premier Jeff Kennett awards a $100 million grant to company HRL Ltd. to build a 10MW demonstration plant to showcase their new technology for electricity generation – Integrated Drying, Gasification and Combined Cycle (IDGCC) technology.


The Bracks Government awards a new coal exploration licence to HRL so that the company can rely on their own coal resource for the development of a commercial scale power station. Environment Victoria and the Australian Conservation Foundation opposed the licence – the campaign to Stop HRL has begun.


Premier Bracks awards HRL a $50 million grant for development of a commercial scale 400MW coal-fired power station. This is intended to help leverage private funding for the $750 million power station.


The Federal Howard Government awards HRL a further $100 million towards the costs of their $750 million power station. HRL claim the power station will be operating by 2009.

July: Greenpeace and the Australian Climate Justice Program (ACJP) launch legal action with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against HRL referring to their technology as ‘clean coal’, claiming that it amounts to false advertising. The groups lose their challenge, however HRL stop using the term ‘clean coal’.


HRL signs contracts with the Brumby Government, moving the project closer to construction.


HRL rebrand their power station as the Dual Gas Demonstration Project in an attempt to dispel concern about their use of highly polluting brown coal in the project. They appear to think this name sounds less scary.

It is revealed by the media that HRL have lost their major financial backer – the Chinese company Harbin Power who were 50/50 join venture partners. HRL does not announce any other financial partners.

Victorian Planning Minister Madden gives the project planning approval, and rules that the project doesn’t require an Environmental Effects Statement (EES).


20 July: HRL submit their application for Works Approval for a now 600MW, $1.3 billion power station to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). The application shows that the greenhouse gas emissions from the proposal will breach new Victorian government limits on pollution from new power stations. Days later HRL quietly withdraw their application.

September: HRL resubmit their application for a Works Approval to the EPA. It is essentially the same, although through increasing their use of Natural Gas and decreasing the amount of coal the project will use, this version of their power station just scrapes in under the government’s new limits.

Four weeks later… 4,000 objections to the HRL proposal have been received by the EPA – a record. Just 13 submissions were made in support of the proposal. It is clear that the Victorian community do not support HRL’s project.


11 May: The EPA approves 300MW of the 600MW proposal. Environment groups are extremely disappointed by the decision. The company also expresses their disappointment with the outcome.

12 May: Australia’s big four banks all reveal that they will not fund the project. Key international banks including HSBC and CitiBank also confirm that they will not invest in the project. HSBC notes that HRL’s proposal exceeds their guidelines for pollution limits on new investments.

23 May: Hundreds rally against the EPA decision. Quit Coal (a community group opposed to the project) unfurl a massive banner from the roof of the building opposite Parliament House.

10 June: Environment Victoria, community group Locals into Victoria’s Environment (LIVE), Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) and Brunswick based individual Martin Shield launch a legal challenge against the EPA’s approval of HRL at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Environment Victoria and LIVE are ably assisted in their challenge by solicitors from the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) and pro-bono barristers Adrian Finanzio, Rupert Watters and Emma Peppler.
HRL also challenge the EPA approval, claiming the full 600MW proposal should have been approved.

24 Oct: The four week long VCAT hearing begins.

27 Oct: Environment Victoria is awarded legal standing by VCAT, meaning that our arguments must be considered by the tribunal in deliberations.


1 Feb: Hundreds rally in Melbourne against the state and federal government grants amounting to $150 million for the HRL proposal. Greens MP Adam Bandt and Labor MP Kelvin Thomson speak at the rally in support of stopping HRL.

9 Feb: Labor MP Kelvin Thomson tables a petition with over 12,000 hand-signatures against government funding of HRL in Parliament, Canberra.

Next day… Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson announced another extension for HRL’s federal government funding. But there are two important details – the extension is only for six months, and this time it’s final.

29 Mar: HRL win their legal challenge at VCAT, and are awarded full approval of their 600MW power station. Environment Victoria and other challengers lose. However an important condition is placed on the power station due to our challenge – HRL are not allowed to begin construction until another power station of the same size has signed a contract to close with the Australian Government.

16 Apr: HRL announce that they have halted development of their project indefinitely as a result of the VCAT condition. This is the clearest sign yet that HRL do not have their private equity for the power station.

27 Jul: Energy Minister Ferguson withdraws HRL’s federal government grant of $100 million. This opens the door for the Victorian government to withdraw their $50 million in grant funding. It’s impossible for HRL to proceed without this government funding…WE WIN!!!!

Finally in 2013…

22 Nov: The Victorian Government withdraw all but $16 million of their $50 million funding from HRL’s failed proposal. Now we’re turning our attention to stopping massive expansion plans for the coal industry. We hope you’ll join us.

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