The NSW Government is one step closer to approving a ‘waste to energy’ incinerator in Casino as a state significant development, with the passing of a new regulation.
The umbrella legislation has been given an Orwellian name: The Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Thermal Energy from Waste) Regulation 2022.
It permits incinerators in four regional locations in NSW, including the Richmond Valley Regional Job Precinct, which has been purposefully established to ‘unlock new industrial lands’.
Jo Immig is a Northern Rivers resident and National Toxics Network Coordinator. She said, ‘Communities in all four regional areas are justifiably horrified and angered to learn the NSW government, without any transparent process, accountability or community consultation has named their regions as “strategic” places to build waste incinerators.
‘Richmond Valley residents are demanding answers as to how and why their council welcomed the possibility of an industrial waste incinerator without any prior consultation or regard for impacts on the community in the largely food producing shire,’ she said.
Beyond Richmond Valley
Ms Immig suggests that a waste incinerator in Casino would likely take waste from surrounding Northern Rivers shires, including Byron and Ballina, as proposed in the NSW North Coast Waste Investment Review (2020), which only considered waste to energy incineration options.
‘If waste incinerators are too polluting for residential areas in Sydney, then they’re not safe anywhere and especially not in food producing regions and biodiversity hotspots in the Northern Rivers,’ said Ms Immig.
‘It doesn’t matter how stringent the NSW Government claims its pollution requirements will be, international practice and independent science show these incinerators cause dangerous dioxin air pollution and toxic ash contaminated with PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ wherever they are.
‘Waste incinerators dressed up as “renewable energy producers” are effectively plastic burning facilities producing the dirtiest form of energy, worse than coal and gas, which will just worsen the climate emergency and lock in waste incineration for decades, completely distorting efforts to minimise waste and incentivise re-use and recycling for a zero-waste society.’
Selling waste to energy
Ms Immig says the state government has also produced an unreferenced ‘fact sheet’ which downplays the risks by trying to compare emissions from a waste incinerator, which would operate 24/7 for decades, to emissions from leaf blowers.
‘It’s utterly ridiculous and completely misleading. It’s just basic science to compare apples with apples and provide your references,’ said Ms Immig.
‘Apparently, the fact sheet was produced by external consultants, which begs the question who would produce something so misleading and why didn’t the NSW Environment Protection Authority provide the community with the information it deserves?’