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Byron Shire
January 17, 2022

Coal joins tobacco and asbestos as one of the bad guys

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Gloucester herb farmer Karen O’Brien was jubilant at this morning’s news from the Land and Environment Court. Photo Tree Faerie.

Eve Jeffery

Court rules out Hunter Valley coalmine on climate change grounds

You could hear the cheers emanating from a small herb nursery in Gloucester this morning, as a few hundred kilometres away, the NSW Land and Environment court ruled out a new coal mine for the town.

At around 9.30am today, the court accepted the science and put the community’s well-being first, by rejecting a proposed open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley because of the greenhouse gas pollution it would produce.

‘The NSW Land and Environment court has effectively ruled that coal – just like tobacco and asbestos – is bad for us,’ said the Climate Council’s CEO, Amanda McKenzie. ‘I’m thrilled to see the law catching up with the science.’ 

In his landmark verdict, Chief Judge Brian Preston SC said the proposed Rocky Hill Mine, just outside of Gloucester would ‘be in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ both for its social impacts and because of the greenhouse gas pollution it would produce.

Chief Judge Brian Preston ruled that a new coal mine would increase greenhouse gas pollution when what is needed to meet the Paris climate agreement commitments ‘is a rapid and deep decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.’

The court heard expert testimony from Climate Councillor, Professor Will Steffen who emphasised that coal reserves cannot be developed if we are to to limit global temperature rise.

‘You cannot reduce emissions by increasing them,’ Professor Steffen told the court. ‘It doesn’t take Einstein to work that out.’

‘This landmark decision sends a clear message to the fossil fuel industry that it cannot continue to expand if we are serious about tackling climate change,’ said Professor Steffen.

All of Australia has been watching this case and waiting for this ruling. Liverpool Plains farmer John Hamparsum is one of thousands of Australians whose life and livelihood are threatened by a mine moving in. Photo Tree Faerie.

‘Today’s decision is a game-changer in Australian legal history and is a significant step towards tackling climate change,’ he said.

Law catches up with science

‘If I was proposing to build a coal mine right now, I’d be feeling pretty nervous,’ said Ms McKenzie.

‘We must continue to transition away from fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy with storage. The science says so, and now the law does too.’

The communities around the Adani project and the proposed Shenhua mine at Breeza are all watching this unfold very carefully.

‘As far as what it means to the Liverpool Plains farmers, we are heartened to see that sanity has prevailed in the decision process of mine approval,’ said Liverpool Plains farmerJohn Hampasum after he heard this morning’s decision.

‘When it is the wrong mine in the wrong place, they should not be allowed to be built.

‘Add in the impact on the global climate of releasing millions of hectares of stored rainforest leaves to be burnt as coal, we cannot afford to put further pressure on an already stressed climate.’

If the Rocky Hill Mine is unhealthy for the people of Gloucester, then the same would apply to the Carmichael Mine of the Galilee Basin and for the farmers on the Liverpool Plains.

Stay tuned.

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  1. With a few quick signatures the NSW Land and Environment court inked out a new coal mine for the town of Gloucester and away in that town a group of townsfolk celebrated in their way and cheered and danced around the benches of a small herb nursery.

  2. I’m sure Neil Armstrong wouldn’t mind me discombobulating his “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” to state that; That’s one small step for Gloucester, one giant leap for the end of coal mining for energy usage!.

  3. We have been sold out by ALP and COALition governments at every level, for so long, that the only mainstream hope to stop climate catastrophe was the courts. And today the NSW Land and Environment court came good!!
    In the fight against the fossil fools that own “our” governments this is a momentous day. Celebrate!


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