On July 16, satirical 'Billionaires for Coal' group rallied in Wollongong Mall to welcome a raft of state government decisions that will benefit the rich. The billionaires congratulated the NSW ALP government on its plans to expand coal mining and burning.
The June NSW budget included a $205 million expansion of Lake Macquarie's Eraring power station, the second biggest coal-fired power station in NSW.
The state government also released plans to build new coal-fired power stations. This is despite studies that show effective energy saving and energy efficiency programs would mean NSW has enough baseload power generation capacity for many years.
The state ALP government also gave approval for a $50 million expansion of longwall mining at the Metropolitan Colliery in Helensburgh, Australia's oldest operating underground coal mine.
Longwall mining does considerable damage above ground. It is known to cause land subsidence and cracks in riverbeds and streams. Critics say the expansion will mean immense damage to local water catchments that supply drinking water to Sydney and the Illawarra.
The NSW planning department also lifted a 7am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday curfew on coal-truck deliveries in Wollongong. Coal trucks can now operate 24 hours a day on Wollongong's roads. This will allow for the doubling of local coal output despite the impact on road safety and infrastructure, pollution and noise levels during the night.
Billionaires for Coal spokesperson, Paul Uder (aka Chris Williams from the Socialist Alliance) told Green Left Weekly: "These decisions will be wonderful for our wallets and purses. We are particularly ecstatic about plans to build more coal-fired power stations in NSW because it will stifle the development of sustainable forms of energy production.
"Allowing coal trucks to travel 24 hours a day, seven days a week is music to our ears," Uder said. "We don't live there, but local residents will now enjoy the serene sounds of air brakes, engines grunting and gears changing around the clock."
Resistance members denounced the government's decisions given they completely ignore what scientists are telling us about climate change — we need to phase out coal and move quickly to sustainable alternatives.
However, Uder was happy the NSW government was protecting the short-term profits of the big coal companies at the expense of people and planet.
"Most importantly these decisions send a clear message that our profits should come first," he said.