Bylong steps up fight against coal mine after IPC bails

February 19, 2020
Bylong Valley. Photo: Battle for Bylong/Facebook

The Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA) has applied to join the case to defend the Independent Planning Commission’s (IPC) decision last year to reject South Korean utility giant KEPCO's controversial Bylong Coal Project. It comes as the IPC announced it would not take an active role in defending its ruling.

The IPC rejected KEPCO’s thermal coal project last September, which is proposed for the picturesque Bylong Valley near Mudgee, in central New South Wales. It cited “problematical” greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on groundwater as some of its reasons.

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), which has also applied to join the defence case, explained: “The IPC found that KEPCO’s Bylong Valley mine was contrary to the principles of ecologically sustainable development and cited impacts on groundwater, agricultural land and aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values…

“The IPC’s decision was met with swift outcry from the NSW Minerals Council and was a catalyst for a NSW government review of the commission, as well as proposed changes to the law and policy on regulation of greenhouse gas emissions currently being considered by Parliament and government.”

The original IPC decision had been hailed as a “historic victory” by Lock the Gate and BVPA. KEPCO said in December it would appeal the IPC decision in the Land and Environment Court. The appeal will take the form of a judicial review, rather than a merits-based appeal.

BVPA announced on February 15 it was applying to join the legal proceedings to defend and uphold the original IPC decision.

“We’ve been forced to take this action after it emerged … that the Independent Planning Commission and the NSW government are not going to actively defend their decision in court”, Bylong farmer and BVPA president Phillip Kennedy said on February 14.

“We can’t believe it, but we can’t stand by and let KEPCO get a clean run through court because our government won’t even stand by its own evidence-based decisions.

“But if our governments won’t act, it’s even more important that we — as a community — do. We’re literally the last line of defence now in this fight.”

Lock the Gate Alliance's Georgina Woods said it is “bizarre” that KEPCO’s legal challenge comes on the back of its Korean-based board marking down to zero the value of its Bylong mining rights.

The hearing on whether to accept BVPA’s application will take place on February 28, while the case hearing will be held on August 24–27.

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