Climate movement must stop new HRL coal plant

HRL HAS announced that a new coal power station in Victoria is going ahead, after signing a construction contract with a Chinese power company. It labels its planned 600 MWH demonstration power plant in the Latrobe Valley “dual gas”. In fact “Syngas” produced through gasification of brown coal will be the primary fuel, combined with some natural gas.

The proposal needs Environment Protection Agency (EPA) approval by January 15 to go ahead. The climate movement needs to do all it can do to affect the outcome, particularly by mobilising public protest.

Despite the claims that the plant uses “cleaner technology” the company was forced to withdraw its initial application to the EPA in August, as planned emissions breached the emissions standard of 0.8 tonnes per megawatt specified in Victorian premier John Brumby’s recent climate white paper.

State and federal governments have promised $150 million in subsidies to the plant. According to The Age there has also been, “talk of HRL asking the State Government for a special road for the plant and free land.” Such commitments show how hollow the Victorian government’s promise to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 is. HRL is also factoring the “cost of carbon permits” into its plans, which shows that a carbon tax will not stop this power station going ahead.

Only around 35 ongoing jobs will be created by the project, while it will add up to 4.2 million tonnes of CO2 each year (between 3 and 4 per cent of Victoria’s emissions).

HRL is a much better target for the climate movement than Hazelwood. Stopping it won’t affect existing jobs, and there would be far more jobs in the renewable energy equivalent of the new power plant. This is something unions can be won to fighting for. Climate activists should be campaigning for unions to take a position against the HRL proposal—the Trade Union Climate Conference in Melbourne in early October is a good place to start.

The climate movement must make HRL a line in the sand. If the plant goes ahead it will be a green light for continuing use of brown coal in Victoria. We must campaign for all new power stations to run on renewable energy.

By Chris Breen

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