Climate impacts of coal before the court

The Wollar Progress Association represented by public interest environmental lawyers, Environmental Defender’s Office NSW, is bringing court action challenging a decision by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to allow the extension of the Wilpinjong open cut coal mine near Wollar, Mudgee. 

16 August 2017

The Wollar Progress Association says that the approval is invalid because the PAC hasn’t considered climate change impacts in the way it should according to NSW planning law. 

Wilpinjong Coal, a subsidiary of Peabody, sought permission to expand its open-cut mining operations for an additional seven years and develop a new open cut pit that will bring the mine closer to the village of Wollar. The Wollar Progress Association has long held concerns about the impact of the Wilpinjong mine on the local community and the environment.

CEO of Environmental Defender’s Office NSW, Sue Higginson, says “Our client is bringing this case in the public interest to uphold the law. We have laws in place that require downstream greenhouse gas emissions of mining projects to be fully considered; those laws must be followed by decision-makers and in this case our client alleges they were not.”

This is the first case to test the efficacy of the provisions of the State’s Environmental Planning Policy for mining which is designed to ensure the climate change impacts of mining are fully assessed. The PAC is required to consider the greenhouse gas emissions of mining projects, including downstream emissions such as those arising from the burning of coal.

A substantial proportion of the coal mined from Wilpinjong is planned to be burned at power stations within NSW, which the Association argues should have been considered in light of government objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Bev Smiles, from the Wollar Progress Association says “If this mine expansion goes ahead it will exacerbate climate change impacts in NSW and be the death knell for our community. We don’t believe the approval has been lawfully given so we are asking the Court to overturn the approval.” 

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