Mel Barnes

Tasmanian logging company Gunns now doubts its $3 billion pulp mill, planned for the Tamar Valley, will ever be built. The company told the Australian Securities Exchange on August 6 that its debts were somewhere between $50 million and $150 million. It said the steep decline in the price of woodchips and the high Australian dollar were to blame for its financial woes. Gunns said this meant the “board has been unable to reach a view” that the pulp mill project could go ahead.
The Sea Shepherd boat the Steve Irwin docked in Broome on August 6 to join community protests against the $30 billion gas hub proposed for James Price Point, in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation organisation, said it undertook the trip “to highlight the significance of the James Price Point marine environment as a habitat and feeding ground for humpback whales, dolphins and turtles”.
University of California professor Richard Muller publicly reversed his climate scepticism when he released the results of a climate study on July 29. The report showed that climate change was occurring and caused by burning fossil fuels. His organisation, Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST), concluded that the Earth has warmed 1.5 degrees celsius over the past 250 years. “I was not expecting this,” Muller said. “But as a scientist, I feel it is my duty to let the evidence change my mind.”
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in NSW has fined a coal seam gas (CSG) company $3000 after it twice polluted a creek in the Pilliga forest near Narrabri in NSW by discharging contaminated water. Explaining the fines, the EPA said it “issued two penalty notices with fines of $1500 each to Eastern Star Gas for discharging polluted water containing high levels of salt into Bohena Creek in March and November 2010”.
The pending approval for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub at James Price Point in Broome has come under fire after four of the five Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board members responsible for assessing the project stood aside due to conflicts of interest. Two of the EPA board members hold shares in Woodside Petroleum, the operator of the $35 billion project.
Billionaire mine-owner Clive Palmer has applied for one of his Queensland companies, the Yabulu nickel refinery, to be allowed to dump millions of litres of toxic water into the Great Barrier Reef.
The federal government announced on June 14 that it would create the “world's largest network of marine reserves” in Australia. It will form 33 new marine reserves, adding to the current 27.
Coal and gas developments proposed in Queensland are putting Australia's Great Barrier Reef at risk, says a report by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The report, released on June 1, said there were “a number of developments that, were they to proceed, would provide the basis to consider the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger”.
Bimblebox is an 8000-hectare nature refuge in the Galilee Basin in central-west Queensland. It is an important site of biodiversity and is being used as a site for many long-term research projects in land management. It also lies in the path of what is planned to be Australia’s largest coalmine. Nine huge mines have been proposed for the Galilee Basin. Waratah Coal, owned by billionaire Clive Palmer, has an exploration permit over the entire Bimblebox refuge.
Across NSW, dozens of local groups have organised to campaign against coal seam gas (CSG) mining. After years of using official channels of protest, they have been frustrated by the lack of response from the government and feel that they have no choice but to change tactics. In the Pilliga state forest south of Narrabri, 92 wells have been drilled to explore for CSG. In June last year, 10,000 litres of untreated saline CSG water were leaked into the environment.


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