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May 13, 2021

Coal mine extension challenged on climate-change grounds

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In an Australian first, the NSW Land and Environment court will hear arguments about the consideration of the ecologically sustainable development (ESD) principle of ‘intergenerational equity’ in the context of climate change.

EDO NSW, on behalf of the Australian Coal Alliance (ACA), filed proceedings late Monday (April 16) challenging the validity of the January 2018 Planning Assessment Committee (PAC) approval of the Wallarah 2 longwall coal mine on the Central Coast.

EDO NSW CEO David Morris said, ‘The decision-maker in this case was required by law to consider the public interest in approving the project. In 2018, we say that requires them to turn their mind to the impacts decisions of today will have on future generations, and also to consider what we don’t yet know by applying the precautionary principle.

‘Our client will argue that the PAC, when considering the Wallarah 2 project, considered neither and in doing so acted unlawfully, rendering the approval of this large coal project invalid,’ he said.

Wallarah 2 will make a substantial contribution to greenhouse gas emissions – 264+ million tonnes of CO2 over the 28-year life of the mine. The PAC chose not to take into account emissions from the burning of coal mined at Wallarah 2. Our client will argue that the law, correctly applied, mandates a consideration of those impacts.

‘This type of legal action is at the very heart of our democracy’, Mr Morris stated, ‘aiming to ensure that our elected officials and their delegates follow the law.

‘We’re arguing that the law in this case wasn’t followed with respect to climate change impacts and the ESD principle of intergenerational equity. This case is by its very nature climate change litigation – and we’re seeing more and more of that in Australia.’

‘The science is unequivocal: continuing to approve coal mines in NSW – absent some other major change – threatens the goal of avoiding dangerous climate change under the Paris Agreement,’ he said.

The Wallarah 2 case

  • The case will be fought on 10 grounds, concerning greenhouse gas emissions, flooding impacts and compensation and risks to water supply.
  • Climate change is likely to also increase flooding events and the Wallarah 2 mine will create permanent landscape changes, including subsidence, which will alter and potentially exacerbate these flood events into the future.
  • The approval includes a future proposal from the mine operator to discharge at least 300 megalitres of treated water annually into the water catchment as compensation for any drops in water levels.

 


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