Thursday, February 2, 2012

Proposed New Coal-Fired Power Station for Victoria

Victoria currently has 120 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. We have a legislated target – it is Victorian law – that we must reduce this by 20 per cent by 2020 – in other words come down by 24 million tonnes a year. I am told by Environment Victoria that if the HRL 600 MW power station proceeds, it will produce around 4 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. It’s hard to see how we can meet a target which is minus 24 million tonnes, if we proceed with projects that are plus 4 million tonnes.

The only money this project has so far is government money – the Howard Government allocated it $100 million in 2007, but the money has not yet been spent, as the conditions for spending the money haven’t been met. The State Government allocated $50 million – I understand most of this money has not yet been spent. No private money.

The Commonwealth Government is presently reviewing this proposed outlay, and the State Government should be doing the same. The Commonwealth Government is committed to producing a budget surplus next year, which is not easy given the global economic circumstances, and there are better ways to spend, or not spend, $100 million. And the State Government says it can’t afford to underground powerlines in bushfire prone areas, even though the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission says it’s a bad idea to have our electricity infrastructure and assets above ground on days of high fire danger risk.

The State Government says this power plant is necessary to meet Victoria’s power needs, but they put roadblocks in the way of renewable energy. They are requiring wind energy proposals to have the consent of every person living within 2 kilometres of the turbines! Seriously – have you ever heard of any other item of energy or transport infrastructure where this is the case – freeways, or airports, or power stations? I have constituents who are opposing the Brunswick Terminal Station upgrade who would give their right arm to have a 2 kilometre wide power of veto! The State Government is ringbarking renewable energy, while bankrolling fossil fuels.

On Monday the United Nations High Level Panel on Global Sustainability delivered its report to Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. It has some heavy duty players on it – I had the pleasure of listening to them at the United Nations in New York last year – Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Mozambique, Luisa Diogo. Now among 56 recommendations this Panel recommended that governments should phase out subsidies for fossil fuels by 2020.

Repeat – The United Nations High Level Panel on Global Sustainability has this week recommended that governments phase out subsidies for fossil fuels by 2020.

The HRL grants would be a good place for we Victorians to start.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Proposed changes to environmental laws will undermine protection of endangered species

I am concerned about proposed changes by the Baillieu Government to laws governing the protection of rare wildlife, specifically the following proposed change to the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007:

“Forest management planning and all forestry operations must comply with measures specified in relevant Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act Action Statements, unless determined by the Secretary that the requirements of an Action Statement do not apply, and any Flora and Fauna Guarantee Orders.”

I am most concerned that this will allow the Department of Sustainability and Environment Secretary to approve any and all forests planned for logging, regardless of whether endangered wildlife live there.  This will take out the required protection for threatened species and their habitat.

I believe this will undermine the legal framework that protects our biodiversity, along with the necessary transparency and accountability required to ensure proper enforcement of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act’s Individual Action Statements for species protection.

I would like to encourage those concerned about this issue to send their comments to the following email address of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.