Sydney's drinking water should not be polluted by a rogue coal mine

Monday, October 9, 2017 | Jeremy Buckingham

The Greens NSW energy and resources spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today criticised the Berejiklian Government for plans to introduce special legislation to allow the Springvale coal mine near Lithgow to pollute Sydney's drinking water and weaken protections for water quality in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.  

"Once again we see the big coal and energy companies essentially blackmailing the government to intervene in a decision by the courts.  The government should let the Court do its job as the parties to the case were aware of the consequences of the decision and were prepared to negotiate a sensible set of orders," said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

"Undermining the integrity of the courts and the Planning Act with special legislation is a shonky way to govern.  

"In the past we've seen corrupt former mining minister Ian Macdonald intervene with special retrospective legislation for the BHP Caroona coal project, and we saw the current Liberal-National government change the law to downgrade environmental and social considerations in planning decisions after Rio Tinto's Warkworth coal mine's extension was overturned by the Land and Environment Court. 

"The proposed changes to the Act means that an existing mine can be extended or modified just as long as it pollutes the water catchment just a little less that it currently does. This is a significant weakening of protections for our drinking water quality and has significant implications for other areas, such as mining under the Illawarra Escarpment. 

"Centennial Coal is a rogue operator with 913 recorded licence breaches at the Springvale mine between 2000 and 2015.  Environmentalists have been warning for years about destruction and pollution from this mine - it's not like the government was in the dark. 

"The government should have stood up to the blackmail and made Centennial Coal fast-track its waste water pipeline and water treatment plant and commit to stop its constant licence breaches and destruction of the environment.  

"Mt Piper power station has a coal unloading facility onsite for the delivery of coal by truck from mines other than Springvale, while the nearby rail line used to supply the now closed Wallarawang power station only a few kilometres away.  

"This is a lazy approach by the NSW Government, putting the interests of one coal mine ahead of Sydney's drinking water.     

"This shows the vulnerability of coal-fired power stations that they are so reliant on a constant coal supply from mines that destroy the environment. Nature provides solar and wind with a consistent and free supply of energy.

"Aging coal-fied power stations are now lurching from one crisis to another.  This highlights the failure of the NSW government to invest in renewable energy.

"The Greens will oppose this legislation and call on the government and Labor to maintain the integrity of our planning system and the protection of the drinking water supply for millions of people."

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Contact: Max Phillips 0419 444 916