The Guardian • Issue #2076

WA confirmed as climate pariah

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2076
The open pit of the Greenbushes mine, Western Australia.

The open pit of the Greenbushes mine, Western Australia. Photo: Calistemon – Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed)

Grassroots activists Lock the Gate Alliance have condemned the WA Cook government’s release of thousands of square kilometres for oil and gas exploration across the state.

“At a time when WA should be transitioning to a renewable energy powered economy as quickly as possible, the Cook government is digging in its heels in support of fossil gas,” said Lock the Gate WA spokesperson Simone van Hattem.

“The largest of these tenements is a staggering 7070 square kilometres in size – that’s about three times the size of the ACT.

“Unconventional or not, gas projects are fuelling the climate emergency. These projects will also industrialise rural and regional communities and harm the environment. In the Kimberley, Buru Energy has cleared tens of thousands of kilometres through the most intact savannah woodland in the world, all in pursuit of what it claims to be ‘conventional’ gas.”

The new land release extends close to the spectacular Edgar Range, where scenic tourism flights are often conducted. No one is going to want to take a scenic flight over a gas development.

Unlike other states, the WA Cook government has no 2030 emissions reduction goals. This release of thousands of square kilometres to oil and gas companies indicates it has no plan to get with the 21st century and decarbonise.

“The severity of the climate crisis means governments must act now, or West Australians will face worsening severe weather events including unbearable heatwaves and unprecedented droughts,” warned van Hattem.

Meanwhile in Queensland, authorities have been urged by Lock the Gate to keep a close eye on repeat offender Whitehaven Coal, with reports the NSW-based coal company is close to sealing the deal to buy two BHP-owned mines in the Bowen Basin.

The company is also trying to progress its Winchester South coal mine – a project that, if built, would mine 15 million tonnes of coal per annum, be responsible for millions of tonnes of carbon emissions, would use 155 million litres of water per year, and clear 2000 hectares of vegetation.

In the last 10 years Whitehaven has been found guilty or investigated for breaches of the law on more than 35 occasions, many of them including multiple offences. The company has been prosecuted numerous times and has incurred more than $1,497,500 in penalties to date.

Separately, Whitehaven is facing a shareholder backlash amid concerns from investors that pay rises for CEO Paul Flynn do not reflect the company’s overall performance.

Lock the Gate Alliance coordinator Ellie Smith said, “As far as coal companies go, Whitehaven is bottom of the barrel. Whitehaven was found guilty of unlawfully taking one billion litres of water at the height of the worst drought in living memory at its Maules Creek coal mine.

“Right now, Whitehaven is in court over accusations its blasting was so loud, it damaged the hearing of workers at a neighbouring coal mine.”

Smith noted that Whitehaven has been warned, fined, and prosecuted dozens of times for crimes committed at its NSW coal mines, yet has shown no signs of changing its behaviour, and that Whitehaven no doubt sees these penalties as just the cost of doing business.

“Whitehaven simply isn’t worth it. Its Winchester South proposal must be rejected, and its attempts to gain a foothold in Queensland by buying up existing mines should be prevented.”

Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland director Dr Coral Rowston said, “It’s a real shame BHP has refused to do the responsible thing here and leave the coal in the ground.

“BHP had a real opportunity to be a climate leader, but is instead flogging off its dirty assets to another company – one with a really bad criminal history.

“This sale is going to lead to more emissions at a time when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and scientific experts are screaming at governments and companies to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

“A giant fire, made worse due to fossil fuel-driven global warming, is right now tearing through world renowned Carnarvon Nationl Park and threatening neighbouring properties – and it’s not even summer yet.

“Central Queenslanders can’t afford the climate crisis to worsen. We can’t afford any more coal.”

Lock the gate

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