The NSW government has passed laws to keep a controversial coalmine open, but the opposition says the legislation significantly weakens protection of Sydney’s drinking water.
Legislation keeping Springvale coalmine, near Lithgow, in operation was passed in the state upper house late on Wednesday night.
It allows the mine to continue despite the NSW Supreme Court in August ruling against an extension because of the amount of waste water the project produces.
While Labor supported keeping the mine open, as it extracts coal used to produce 11 per cent of the state’s electricity, it said the government’s legislation acted as a trojan horse, with aspects of the bill eroding environmental protection laws.
“They’re using the potential threat to the state’s electricity supply to then overreach and reduce important protections to the Sydney water catchment,” opposition energy spokesman Adam Searle told AAP.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the legislation already provides sufficient safeguards.
“Those protections are there already and that was the premise by which I gave my support to the legislation,” Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
“For me, a condition of supporting the legislation was maintaining water quality. That is a key priority for our government.”
Energy Minister Don Harwin says the new laws will allow the mine to continue supplying the Mount Piper power station, putting downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices, and avoiding possible blackouts.
Centennial Coal says the approval will secure more than 600 jobs in Lithgow.
But the NSW Greens have accused the government of succumbing to pressure from coal and energy companies and sidestepping the courts.