Landmark greenhouse gas mine rulingadmin
APPROVAL for the development of a major New South Wales coal mine has been rejected in a landmark judgment by the NSW Land and Environment Court.
The court today ruled that Centennial Coal had failed to adequately consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from its proposed Anvil Hill coal mine in the Upper Hunter.
Justice Nicola Pain rejected Centennial’s environmental assessment, saying it did not assess the full volume of emissions from the mine, including large volumes of carbon dioxide released when mined coal is burnt by third parties.
The judgment sets a precedent for future mining developments in NSW to consider impacts on global warming when submitting an environmental assessment as part of the planing process.
“Climate change or global warming is widely recognised as a significant environmental impact to which there are many contributors worldwide, but the extent of the change is not yet certain and is a matter of dispute,” Justice Pain told the court.
“The fact there are many contributors globally does not mean the contribution from a single large source such as the Anvil Hill Project in the context of NSW should be ignored in the environmental assessment process.”
NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor, who was one of three parties to the court challenge by Newcastle activist Peter Gray, said the ruling could have significant statewide impacts.
“Today’s decision appears to be based upon a very broad interpretation of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act,” Mr Sartor said.
“It could have significant implications, not just for the mining industry, but for a range of other industries in this state.”
Mr Gray said he was surprised, but thrilled with the result.
“I wasn’t as prepared for a win as I would have liked to have been, but I’m overjoyed at the decision,” he said.
“I think this will have ramifications, not only for the planning and assessment process in NSW, but any major project in the future and it’s just great to see that the NSW legal system can cope with climate change.”
Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne said her party would move immediately to implement the judgment in Federal Parliament.
“We will insert a greenhouse trigger amendment into the Government’s environment Bill to be debated later this week,” Senator Milne said.
“It means the national minister for the environment will have to assess all projects, like Anvil Hill, which pollute the atmosphere.”
Under amendments to environmental planning legislation passed last week, Mr Gray said Mr Sartor could disregard the court finding and still approve the opening of Anvil Hill.
“However I don’t really expect he will have the gall to do so,” he said.
The Anvil open cut mine was expected to provide up to 10.5 million tonnes of coal per annum for 21 years, for sale primarily as fuel for power stations in NSW and overseas.
About half the mined coal was intended for export to power stations in Japan, with official annual emissions from coal mined in the range of 12.4 million tonnes ”“ just under one tenth of yearly global greenhouse gas emissions.