Emission caps scrapped

The scrapping of greenhouse gas emission caps on new power generation projects has been interpreted as the latest move by the State Government to fast-track new brown coal projects in the Latrobe Valley.

This comes following news it had abandoned overall carbon emissions reduction targets adopted by the previous government in 2010, which aimed to reduce Victoria’s emissions by 20 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

State Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien said, in statement on Tuesday, the move was in line with the Federal Government’s decision last December to cut emissions standards or ‘CCS-ready requirements’ of new coal-fired power stations.

“The combination of Commonwealth policies and market conditions have the practical effect that no new coal-fired power stations will be economically viable unless they are based on modern technology with significantly lower missions,” Mr O’Brien said.

“In these circumstances, it is unnecessary and counter-productive for Victoria to proceed with a state-based emission standards on new power stations.”

This comes after the State Government’s hand was forced by a leaked cabinet submission document to reveal plans to recommence brown coal allocations, with an expression of interest stage due to being within the next two months.

Friends of the Earth campaign coordinator Cam Walker said the moves were part of a clear strategy to fast-track the establishment of new coal-fired power stations, and would “absolutely” increase the number of companies pursuing brown coal allocations through EOI process.

“They are actively embracing substantive expansion, doing everything it can in its powers to roll out any stumbling blocks; this is definitely part of the bigger picture,” Mr Walker said.

“The government has never formally released a policy and have not had the courage to lay it all out on the table; they are doing it all by a drip feed – they not prepared to trust the community, because they suspect they community wouldn’t like it.”

However Minister O’Brien dismissed this, and said the scrapping of the emission targets and caps were the results of the Climate Change Age act review, which was independent of its resource allocation strategy.

“It’s not a question of a policy coming out piecemeal, it’s coming out as legislation requires.” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr O’Brien said the brown coal allocations were not specifically aimed for generation purposes, and would attract EOIs from a broad range companies pursuing a variety of alternative uses of the brown coal resource.

Latrobe Sustainability Group spokesperson Dan Caffrey, said Victorians and Latrobe Valley residents were being left behind by a process that was completely ignoring the community concerns.

“There’s a huge acceptance of man-made climate change, and that knowledge is out there in the community, and here is the state just ignoring it and adding to the problem.”

A IPR-GDF Suez Hazelwood Australia spokesperson said they welcomed the announcement and that the responsibility for (carbon) policies should be vested at the federal level.