Latrobe Valley Coal to Hydrogen Farce Continues

Edited Media Release from Friends of the Earth (FOE) 15.02.19

Environment group FOE has criticized the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to approve a trial brown coal to hydrogen project in Latrobe Valley* on the 14th of February as a costly distraction from action on climate change.

The project is led by the multinational corporation Kawasaki Heavy Industries. It involves building a test plant to extract hydrogen from brown coal from the Loy Yang to be exported to Japan. This trial project requires the dredging of Westernport to enable the export of the hydrogen from the Port of Hastings, and the injecting of carbon-waste into the seabed off Ninety Mile Beach using unproven and risky technology. “Kawaski’s brown coal project is yet another clean coal pipe-dream, a false-promise to the Latrobe Valley community and an expensive distraction in a time when we need urgent action on climate change,” FOE coal spokesperson Kate Wattchow said.

The Federal Government has committed $50 million in public funding to Kawasaki’s trail project, in addition to $100 million towards CarbonNet, who are leading the proposed carbon-waste injection project. “This project is entirely dependent on the successful injection and long term storage of carbon waste into the Ninety Mile Beach seabed, yet despite billions of dollars of investment in this technology it has failed to become viable in Australia,” campaigns coordinator Cam Walker from FOE said.

“Any assurance from advocates for this new brown coal project is not based on the evidence we see across Australia, which is that waste-carbon injection technology is not reliable. In Western Australia Chevron started a new gas plant in 2016 with the commitment they would be storing a majority of emissions, to keep Australia in line with its Paris Agreement targets. However in their continued failure to do so by March this year we will have roughly 6.2 million tonnes of extra CO2 added to Australia’s emissions. Because of this, the State Government and EPA’s approval of Kawasaki’s brown coal project is not in line with their own policies and standards.”

“The fact that the EPA has approved this project reveals a significant flaw in the approval process, as well as a disregard of the viability of the technologies involved and the impacts on the community of even a trial project,” Kate Wattchow said.

The coal to hydrogen trial plant in Latrobe Valley, the connected port expansions in Westernport, and the carbon-waste trial project on Ninety Mile Beach, are all opposed by local community groups. Opposition is broad ranging, though all groups share common themes of opposition based on the impacts on human health and the local environment, the need to act on climate change, and the wasteful spending of public funds.

“We are in a climate emergency and cannot afford to waste public funds, resources, and time with projects that prop up the fossil fuel industry,” Kate Wattchow said. “The EPA and Premier Andrews have a responsibility to Victorians to stop twiddling their thumbs and get serious about climate change.”

The full MR is here.

*I have blogged on this several times. See here and here.