Environment group Friends of the Earth has criticized the Environment Protection Authority’s decision to approve a trial brown coal to hydrogen project in Latrobe Valley on the 14th of February as a costly distraction from action on climate change.
The project is led by the multinational corporation Kawasaki Heavy Industries. It would involve building a test plant to extract hydrogen from brown coal from the Loy Yang mine to be exported to Japan. This trial project requires the dredging of fragile ecosystems in Westernport (home to an internationally recognised biosphere and RAMSAR listed wetlands) to enable the export of the hydrogen from the Port of Hastings, and if it reached full scale the injecting of carbon-waste into the seabed off Ninety Mile Beach using unproven and risky technology.
“Kawaski’s brown coal project is yet another clean coal pipe-dream, a false-promise to the Latrobe Valley community and an expensive distraction in a time when we need urgent action on climate change,” Friends of the Earth coal spokesperson Kate Wattchow said.
The Federal Government committed $50 million in public funding to Kawasaki’s trail project, in addition to $100 million towards CarbonNet, who are leading the proposed carbon-waste injection project.
“This project is entirely dependent on the successful injection and long term storage of carbon waste into the Ninety Mile Beach seabed, yet despite billions of dollars of investment in this technology it has failed to become viable in Australia,” campaigns coordinator Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth said.
“Any assurance from advocates for this new brown coal project is not based on the evidence we see across Australia, which is that waste-carbon injection technology is not reliable. In Western Australia Chevron started a new gas plant in 2016 with the commitment they would be storing a majority of emissions, to keep Australia in line with it’s Paris Agreement targets. However in their continued failure to do so by March this year we will have roughly 6.2 million tonnes of extra CO2 added to Australia’s emissions,” Cam Walker said.
“Because of this, the State Government and EPA’s approval of Kawasaki’s brown coal project is not in line with their own policies and standards.”
The EPA approved the project as a “Research, Development and Demonstration”, meaning that it has not had as high a standard of scrutiny regarding viability and impacts on the environment and community health as it would require under an Environment Impact Assessment.
“The fact that the Environment Protection Authority has approved this project reveals a significant flaw in the approval process, as well as a disregard by the EPA on the scientific viability of the technologies involved and the impacts on the community of even a trial project,” Kate Wattchow said.
The coal to hydrogen trial plant in Latrobe Valley, the connected port expansions in Westernport, and the carbon-waste trial project on Ninety Mile Beach, are all opposed by local community groups. Opposition is broad ranging, though all groups share common themes of opposition based on the impacts on human health and the local environment, the need to act on climate change, and the wasteful spending of public funds.
“Many people feel betrayed by the Andrews Government. Premier Andrews frequently references climate change as the need to grow renewables, however if he understood the reality of climate change or truly listened to affected communities he would not be pushing ahead with these projects,” Cam Walker said.
Friends of the Earth is calling on the EPA to retract the RD&D approval for Kawasaki’s brown coal project on the grounds of it being out of line with climate science and state emissions policies.
Friends of the Earth is also calling on Daniel Andrews to commit no more public funding towards the CarbonNet waste-carbon injection project, and the Kawasaki brown coal to hydrogen plant project, on the grounds that public funding should be committed to climate solutions for Victorian communities and not propping up the fossil fuel industry for private profit.
“We are in a climate emergency and cannot afford to waste public funds, resources, and time with projects that prop up the fossil fuel industry,” Kate Wattchow said.
“The EPA and Premier Andrews have a responsibility to Victorians to stop twiddling their thumbs and get serious about climate change.”
Kate Wattchow, Quit Coal Coordinator
0487 424 506