Around 50 people gathered on Friday morning at the big fig tree near the Condong sugar mill to join the world-wide #Bigbadbiomass protest against the use of biomass to create energy and to emphasise that burning biomass is not ‘environmentally friendly’.
This followed the action the previous day at the Broadwater Power Station, which is owned by Cape Byron Power (CBP) where about 15 people headed onto the site to take action.
According to those taking the action the largest fuel source at the Broadwater Power Station last year was ‘wood waste’. The protestors say that it burns around 46,000 tons of wood and 15,000 tons of sugar care per annum.
The also said that ‘It is unconfirmed whether plantation timber could also be counted as part of their “energy crops” which would increase their overall figure of wood burning,’ said the spokesperson.
‘We walked on site where there were both piles of woodchips and piles of logs. We took photos. And then as we were leaving they tried to lock the gate and parked a vehicle in the way to stop us from leaving. We reminded the driver that it was kidnap if they try to trap you or hinder you from leaving the premises.
‘Burning wood is worse than coal. We didn’t think they could find anything worse than coal but they did it – burning habitat.’
The issue of burning wood from NSW native forests for biomass electricity production and potential use in hydrogen production was recently raised by the NSW Legislative Council who ‘unanimously passed a motion expressing its concerns over the growing push by industry to burn NSW native forests for electricity and hydrogen production’.
Independent NSW MP Justin Field moved the motion on the International Day of Action on Big Biomass.
‘Native forest biomass is not renewable energy and is not “green” and I welcome the bipartisan support within the Parliament raising concerns about industries plans to burn and gassify native forests for energy,’ said Mr Fields.
‘We are standing for the tress. Don’t waste out forest,’ was the message that was put forward by rally organiser Scott Sledge President of Northern Rivers Guardian (NRG).
‘We have talked to the management of Cape Byron Power (CBP) company. They have refused to answer a number of points and have said that it is commercial in confidence.
Concerns raised by Mr Sledge included concerns over the application to burn commercial waste at the facility.
‘They would not tell us what the mix was and we are concerned about our native forests.
They are also seeking permission to use construction waste. It was my interpretation that that might include tyres because other places have done that.
‘They have recognised that there are concerns around the use of large trucks coming through Kyogle and Cawongla with the narrow roads. A truck has previously tipped at Cawongla and there are issues with the times that the trucks come through waking residents up etc.’
Responding to questions from The Echo CBP said ‘We are continually looking at ways we can innovate and implement new technologies into our operations. Our primary fuel source remains bagasse, the plant fibre left over from the sugar cane harvest each year after the cane juice has been removed by the sugar mills during the crush season.’
When the power station was first opened it was only for the burning of sugar cane waste to produce energy.
‘The plant’s current consent allows the use of various wood‐based fuel, largely comprised of waste timber from sawmill offcuts, local weed removal that has no other economically beneficial use or wood and plant fibre from purpose grown crops. These will be largely replaced by recovered timber fuel. The power stations are 100 per cent compliant with State, Federal and United Nations guidelines for renewable energy generation.
The suggestion that we are expanding our fuel mix to include plastics, foils and tyres is patently false and misleading,’ said the CBP spokesperson.
Dr Nola Firth Greens candidate for Tweed Shire Council reminded everyone that
‘The issue is about burning forests for energy under the guise of “waste wood” in the face of the fact that that we have one million species at risk of extinction and the biggest threat is deforestation,’ she said
Referring to Drax in the UK, the biggest biomass plant in the world burns 9 million tonnes of wood a year and gets more than £2 million in subsidies that is said to be ‘responsible for major deforestation in the south-east United States where it sources its wood’ Dr Firth said there are now plans to pursue similar avenues for wood chipping here in NSW.
‘Trees are classified as renewable because trees can regrow, but there in the Northern Rivers we understand that trees take a hundred years to grow. And now there are plans for it to happen here in the Northern Rivers [and NSW]. For example Newcastle shipping woodchip to Japan.’
Sean O’Shannassy, spokesperson for North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) said that ‘They call it selective logging but really it is clear felling areas. We need to end logging in all public native forests.’
‘Burning wood on a burning planet is a crime,’ said Greens Candidate for Richmond Mandy Nolan.
‘The proposal to burn building waste from Queensland includes burning about 90 per cent wood. We’ve called the waste company repeatedly to find out what will be in the other 10 per cent and have had no response. This project will open the door for waste incineration.
‘When you burn waste it doesn’t go away. It creates chemical that stay in the environment forever. They go in our water, in our soil, in our agriculture and in our children,’ she said referring to the 32,000 new chemicals since the industrial revolution.
‘8,000 of those are toxic to humans and 2,000 of those are endocrine disruptors. If we start burning waste that contains plastics and synthetics materials we’re in danger of releasing dioxins and furans into the local ecosystem.
‘It’s a massive mindset shift. We need to change how we view the entire supply chain. To meet net zero by 2030 it’s not just about targets it’s about action and the action has to be ending these industries.
‘On a burning planet, we shouldn’t be burning wood and we shouldn’t be burning waste – these are dying industries and we need a transition plan. Australia has been called out by the climate council as having the worst track record of any developed nation on climate action. In this progressive environmentally conscious region where we have so many other options that we’re doing this. What will they burn next?’