Protest action slammed

Environmental protestors have been slammed by local emergency authorities for wasting “vital” resources, after occupying the side of a Yallourn Power Station cooling tower for more than 24 hours late last week.

Two protestors from anti-coal activist group Quit Coal were charged with trespassing offences on Friday under the Electricity Industry Act, after scaling the cooling tower in an aborted attempt to deploy a 21-metre banner reading ‘Government Funded Global Warming’.

The group is calling for the Federal Government to withdraw $4.5 billion in pending compensation for brown coal fired power generators, distributed between power stations to assist them mitigate the impacts of a carbon price.

Victoria Police incident commander Inspector Ron Gardner said the protest drew on “significant emergency resources”, including police, ambulance and fire vehicles and personnel, on a 35 degree day.

“Considering the weather and conditions of the maintenance wires (which the protestors scaled), we communicated some particular concerns about the dangers to the protestors (on Thursday) yet they decided to go ahead with the climb anyway,” Insp Gardner said.

“While citizens have a lawful right to protest, it does not need to impact so much on the public; but we had a duty of care to protect welfare of these (protestors); we had to call in a paramedic and health commander to set up a health management team.”

In response to the protest’s strain on resources, Quit Coal spokesperson Katy Smyrk said the Federal Government were irresponsible to continue propping up a “dirty industry”, and were endangering future generations by contributing to the “dangerous impact of climate change”.

In a statement on Thursday, State Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien slammed the protestors for threatening electricity on a 35 degree day.

However a spokesperson for EnergyAustralia said the protest did not disrupt power supply.

Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group’s Dan Caffrey came out in solidarity with the protestors.

“(Power stations) were originally paid this money as compensation for the carbon tax and on the tacit understanding that they would close before 2020 under the cash for closure scheme,” Mr Caffrey said.

“This scheme has now been abandoned and the price for carbon dioxide has fallen from $23 to about $13 a tonne, once carbon trading commences in 2015.”