Amager Bakke Waste to Energy Faility -Copehahagen Denmark with ski slope.
There are two issues that need to be addressed.
- The Energy to Waste Infrastructure Plan, Sep 2021 and
- Energy Australia and Regroups proposal to establish a Waste to Energy Facility at Mt. Piper.
On 10 September 2021, the NSW Government announced their Energy to Waste Infrastructure Plan https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/-/media/epa/corporate–site/resources/waste/21p3261-energy-from-waste-infrastructure-plan.pdf , not a draft plan but a completed plan.
The Government will prepare Regulations that will give effect to this plan before the end of the year. Regulations are not debated in the NSW Parliament (https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/bills/Pages/Legislative-process-explained.aspx)
Statutory instruments are rules, regulations, by-laws, ordinances, rules of the court or proclamations made under certain Acts. Statutory instruments are published in the Government Gazette or on the NSW Legislation website and a notice providing details of the instrument and gazette number is then tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Statutory instruments are not debated in the Parliament unless a member of either House lodges a motion to disallow part or all of that rule or instrument within 15 sitting days of the tabling of the notice.
The Plan restricts the development of the infrastructure to specific precincts in the following four Council LGAs:
- West Lithgow Precinct.
- Parkes Special Activation Precinct.
- Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct, and
- Southern Goulburn – Mulwaree Precinct.
At the Council meeting on the 27 September 2021, two reports were moved to be discussed together (https://council.lithgow.com/business-papers-for-ordinary-meeting-of-council-27-september-2021/) . The outcome was a vote of 6 to 3.
THAT Lithgow Council oppose the NSW Government’s Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan
The Council resolution will have no bearing on the Government’s decision to permit a Waste to Energy Incinerator to be constructed at the West Lithgow Precinct . So why vote against this plan rather than actively engage with government for a better outcome for our community?
It appears from the map that the West Lithgow Precinct may be the land owned by Energy Australia, but it is not certain this is the case. This lack of clarity raises a number of questions, specifically:
Was the Lithgow Precinct included in the Plan because of the current proposal by Energy Australia and Regroup?
If the Energy Australia proposal does not go ahead, does that preclude other operators from establishing Waste to Energy Facilities?
Regardless of what Energy Australia does, if there is land in this precinct they do not own, can another proponent build there?
I did not support this motion because it fails to actively engage the NSW Government on this issue. By not actively engaging with the Government, we cannot get answers to the above questions nor can the following occur.
- Council can’t have any direct input to how the Regulations are written to minimise impact on our community.
- Council won’t be requesting that the Government advertise the Regulations for public comment.
- Council can’t negotiate for additional benefits to offset the development of this infrastructure for our community if it is approved.
It also does not allow Council to seek clarification on the following point from page 3 of the report:
2. adhere to the precautionary principle where there is a greater risk of harm to human health due to proximity to high population areas (now and in the future), and in areas where there are regular exceedances to air quality standards from existing sources
When I asked for an explanation of this from the Environment Protection Authority spokesperson, the question was sidestepped. Are there health issues or a lack of political will to install them within Greater Sydney?
The elephant in the room is the second part of this blog:
- Energy Australia (EA) and Regroups proposal to establish a Waste to Energy Facility at Mt. Piper
As the crow flies, I live within four kilometres of the Mt Piper Power Station and I have read the Environmental Impact Statement for the EA proposal. I have no concerns with this proposal as it is using leading technology with minimal environmental or health impacts. My family has some serious health issues but I do not believe that the technology proposed will have an adverse impact on those issues.
The proposal involves burning waste that can’t be recycled or composted and does not include medical or nuclear waste. Buried, this waste creates greenhouse gases that leach into the atmosphere and contaminants that leach into groundwater.
The concept of Waste to Energy is not new and currently there are 2,179 facilities around the world (https://www.mswmanagement.com/collection/article/13036128/the-current-worldwide-wte-trend).
The best long-term plan for waste management would be no products manufactured using materials that can’t be recycled. Of course, this would exclude wind turbines and numerous batteries required to service them.
When the proposal was first announced the then Mayor, Councillor Stephen Lesslie, publicly stated:
“We get extra power for New South Wales; we make sure that the base load for energy in New South Wales is maintained”
“It’s up to the proponents of this to convince the citizens of Lithgow what they’re putting forward has benefits over and above any potential down side to the project
From early 2017, Energy Australia commenced preparing an Environmental Impact Statement and commenced an extensive public consultation process (https://majorprojects.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/mp/01/getContent?AttachRef=SSD-8294%2120191210T080236.413%20GMT ) . The project was discussed at Council and was in the media.
Of the 97 public (individuals) submissions received by the Department of Planning only 26 were from Lithgow residents, 22 of which opposed the proposal. (https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/11541/submissions/12921/3251?query=&classification=All&page=8) That I supported the proposal is a matter of public record. I could have requested my name be withheld but I didn’t.
The closing date for submissions on this proposal was the 28 February,2020 and at the Council meeting on the 24 February2020 no decision was made on the proposal by Council. The Department of Planning was advised that
‘Council has no position on the matter at this time’ (https://majorprojects.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/mp/01/getContent?AttachRef=EXH-2648%2120200303T013742.366%20GMT)
Any Councillor opposed to this project could have moved a recission motion which would have placed Council’s response on hold. Not one Councillor choose to do so or to raise the matter prior to the release of the Waste to Energy Infrastructure Plan.
I am of the opinion that Energy to Australia will pursue pumped hydro in preference to Waste to Energy.
The waste proposal was designed to supplement the coal supply not replace it, nor was the waste to be burnt with the coal. Given that the life of Mount Piper has been reduced by two years, it is unlikely this proposal will be financially viable.
If the EIS meets the Government’s standards, then the proposal will be referred to the NSS Independent Planning Commission and public hearings will be held on the matter and the community will once again have the opportunity to speak to it.