New freedom of information documents reveal the Berejiklian Government has reversed its position on the consideration of downstream greenhouse gas emissions in coal mine decisions in six months, following pressure from the NSW Minerals Council.
The documents show that during a meeting involving Planning Minister Rob Stokes and the Minerals Council in June the Government did not agree with a coal lobby proposal to remove downstream greenhouse gas emissions from decisions about mining projects by planning authorities like the Independent Planning Commission.
A Departmental briefing note defends the inclusion of downstream emissions in the consideration of mining projects, arguing that:
these emissions are a consequence of the proposed development and are therefore a relevant consideration under the EP&A Act – the weight to be given to them is a matter for the consent authority to determine.
The consideration of scope 3 emissions in development assessment processes is well established in many other jurisdictions and has been a factor in the assessment of mining projects in NSW since the commencement of the Mining SEPP.
To address its concerns, the NSWMC may request the Mining SEPP be amended to remove the requirement to assess downstream emissions. However, this would not prevent GHG emissions being considered and may create more uncertainty as it would still be open to a consent authority to consider such matters.
Barilaro met with Peabody & Glencore
Ministerial diary disclosures indicate that Deputy Premier John Barilaro met with proponents of the United Wambo coal mine Peabody and Glencore on 29 July.
On September 18, the same day the Bylong coal mine was refused in part due to its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, the Planning Minister again met with the Minerals Council, as well as Peabody and Glencore.
Legislation to remove the requirement to consider downstream emissions in decisions about coal mines and gasfields was introduced by Planning Minister Rob Stokes on 23 October. Yesterday, 500 people protested against the Bill in solidarity with communities suffering the impacts of catastrophic bushfires.
The Bill has been referred to a committee for consideration.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “These documents show that six months ago the Government was comfortable with the long-standing law ensuring the climate change consequences of new coal mines in New South Wales are not ignored, only to completely reverse its position following sustained pressure and lobbying from the Minerals Council.
Malign influence on public policy
“We’re dismayed that the mining lobby continues to exert this undue and malign influence on public policy in New South Wales, on matters that have profound consequences for all of us and while people across the state are suffering so terribly from the impacts of climate change.
“The mining lobby does not does not want us to address the contribution NSW coal makes to fueling deadly climate change, but that is indefensible.
“On an issue of this importance, the Government should have undertaken broad public consultation. We all have a stake in this.
“We’re calling on the Government to withdraw this Bill.”