Victorian environmentalist groups have lodged a formal appeal against HRL Limited’s proposed Latrobe Valley demonstration dual brown coal and gas plant.
The appeal has been submitted in response to the EPA’s partial approval of the 300-megawatt Dual Gas project. It will now be the responsibility of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to decide the validity of the appeal.
The case poses interesting questions as to what extent VCAT is equipped to rule on cases that appeal to a global warming threat and moral responsibility.
Environment Victoria are but one of the groups appealing to the EPA in order to have the approvals retracted. In a statement from Environment Victoria, they demonstrated their agenda that the EPA must take greater responsibility in their approval decisions.
“We believe the EPA has failed in their duty to protect Victorian’s in their approval of brown coal power plant. In this day and age building new polluting technologies can’t be seen as best practice”, they said.
The basis of their argument is that while the demonstrate plant shows lower levels of carbon emissions than those in its class, if compared to technologies with a major sustainability foundation, its true polluting powers would be apparent.
The greater issue at present is the legal implications of this agenda. That is for the VCAT to require authorities to have a wider consideration of the types of developments available and for an applicant to have to prove not only that their application is in itself well designed, but that its also been well chosen from a number of design or technologies.
The scenario is that this will put a lot more burden on applications, and may have the counter affect of leaving the already dirty technologies to carry the load. They seem to be promoting the idea that in order to be able to develop a trial plant, one is required to be pushed to the leading edge of technology and take maximum risk, rather than improve incrementally in the carbon efficiency in this case of energy development.
VCAT may be asked to rule on highly technical question where the risk profiles of various potential technologies is subjective and speculative and there is a risk of decisions stifling development of technologies which are not currently popular but could be more successful in the longer term.
Previously it has been thought that governments and courts should stay out of the game of “picking winners” and leave that to private enterprise and the market.
It demonstrates the inevitable role that those of the green persuasion will seek to have in all aspects of developments and means that an applicant will need to be prepared to debate the merits of their projects, both inside courts and tribunals as well also in the press.
As far as Environment Victoria are concerned, it is obvious that rulings should be made with the country’s environmental future in the most fundamental regard.
“We need to be building genuinely clean energy solutions for the future”, they said.
While VCAT and other tribunals has developed a precautionary principle that the applicant must show that there is no unreasonable risk of harm, the wider application of that principle will inevitably effect economic development and activity.
Perhaps it will leave us with the position that it is better to have no job than a non green job. Meanwhile we can hopefully support our lifestyles by continuing to ship our coal and our related concerns about the global environment to China.