The Biomass Action Group (BAG) and Bellingen community members joined together last Friday to challenge Cape Byron Power (CBP) and its claim of ‘never burning native forest residues’.
The group say that in NSW, licenses for burning biomass are jointly signed by Environment Minister Matt Kean and Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
They say CBP was created in part by a former business development manager from UK energy generator Drax Power. Two projects in Condong and Broadwater burn sugar cane waste, although this is not the only feedstock.
The Biomass Action Group say that trucks laden with molasses, hoppers filled with native forest salvage logs, burnt pine logs, and woodchips have created huge mountains of wood behind locked gates – this is all burnt in the furnaces of Broadwater mill to generate electricity.
Environmental scientist and spokesperson for BAG Shaunti Kiehl, said CBP claims to be ‘a leader in responsible and sustainable biomass power generation’. ‘How can any company that burns native forests be sustainable given climate change and the bushfires?
Protesters counted four trucks an hour
‘BAG and Bellingen Shire community members were positioned outside CBP’s chipping facility at Broadwater and counted four trucks an hour, including a large red truck from Tarkeeth forest. This truck had previously been verified leaving the Tarkeeth forest in the morning.
Caroline Joseph of the Bellingen Environment Centre said that Rifle Range Road was bustling with trucks full of all types of wood. ‘This activity seems totally unregulated, as does the definition of “waste”.’
The Bellingen community discovered the commencement of the bioenergy experiment at Tarkeeth through breaking news on 2 TripleB community Radio station. ‘Many people challenge claims that Tarkeeth is a plantation,’ said Ms Joseph.
‘Tarkeeth is a recovering native forest sixty years old sitting on steep slopes of fragile soils between the Bellinger and the Kalang Rivers, where the fresh water meets the salt water.
‘It is vital habitat, especially for koalas after the bushfires.
‘Part of the process of creating so-called “forest residues” includes taking whole tree roots from the ground. These are chipped on site and trucked hundreds of kilometres to be burned. Where’s the carbon logic of that?’