“EPA: Extreme Pollution A-OK” read a banner held up by protesters outside Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as it announced on May 20 a partial approval for the HRL Dual Gas project, which will use brown coal for electricity generation.
With a record 4000 submissions to the EPA opposing the project, the Stop HRL campaign group reacted with a spot protest outside the EPA during the announcement and a further protest of over 300 outside state parliament on May 24.
State funds of $50 million have been promised to support the project, along with $100 million of federal funding.
HRL applied for a two-turbine 600 megawatt demonstration plant, but the EPA approved only one turbine.
The May 21 Age said HRL was unhappy with the decision, saying: “Internal federal government correspondence … suggests the plant would not be economically viable at its reduced size.”
The same Age article reported that the four big banks had declined to fund the project, meaning that despite generous government support, HRL may still have trouble starting the project.
Stop HRL spokesperson Shaun Murray said on May 20: “Coal-fired power is Australia's biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to be moving towards clean renewable energy, not continuing our reliance on polluting brown coal.”
EPA CEO John Merritt said the same day that the HRL proposal is “best practice for this type of brown coal technology and will produce electricity with around a 30% improvement on current greenhouse gas emissions from coal fired power stations”.
But a briefing prepared by Friends of the Earth pointed out that the plant “is still as dirty as a black coal-fired power station”.
Friends of the Earth is supporting the campaign against HRL and also a campaign against expansion of Alcoa’s Anglesea coal mine and power plant.